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The First Team: Achieving Anticipatory Logistics

As director of logistics at the U.S. Central Command, the author helped to craft logistics plans for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, as commander of the 1st Theater Sustainment Command, he is in a position to execute those plans. In this article, he shares his perspective as he moved from strategic planner to operational commander.

While serving as the director of logistics for the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), I learned that nothing is easy about sustaining the logistics mission in the CENTCOM area of responsibility. Insurgent violence, political instability, and complex ethnic and religious issues all continue to challenge even the best of plans. Time has not lessened the criticality or complexity of this mission. If anything, the tasks ahead present even more challenges, with the primary concern being security. I knew then that our mission was historic and that great opportunities would present themselves to logisticians eager to hone their craft.

Spartan Field Kitchen
A driver loads a nonoperational high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle from Iraq onto the MV Liberty at the Port of Shuaiba, Kuwait. The Liberty will carry 6,000 tons of military cargo to the United States. Port operations are essential to the 1st TSC's efficient drawdown of equipment from Iraq. (Photo by Natalie Cole, 1st TSC PAO)

As the commander of the 1st Sustainment Command (Theater) (TSC), it has been my unique opportunity to execute the plans I helped craft and to witness at first hand the dedication and innovations that our "team of teams" achieves daily at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and in Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

In this article, I will illustrate how the 1st TSC maintains a finger on the pulse and a steady eye on the potential "foxes in the vineyard" in an uncertain environment throughout the CENTCOM theater and how mutual collaboration of the "Log Nation" has achieved anticipatory logistics.

Integration and Communication
As logisticians, we seek to anticipate the sustainment needs and requirements of operational commanders before they do. In my experience, effective, integrated partnerships remain the best way to synergize operations across an expansive, complex area composed of multiple stakeholders.

The First Team achieves this integration through continuous strategic communication at all levels to clearly disseminate the necessary vision and way ahead. Whether in personal one-on-one discussions through professional products or during collaborative forums, we establish and sustain continuous communication with our counterparts, commanders, and other strategic partners to ensure that we identify needs, assess capabilities, and exploit innovations.

Everyone in the First Team remains collaboratively engaged to achieve this level of comprehensive anticipation of our customers' needs, whether that customer is a commander running convoy escort teams, a staff member requiring more information, or a family member struggling to resolve a home-station issue. As our field continues to expand and evolve and as our force continues to age and new professionals enter the professional pool, I believe it is imperative to share in real-time lessons learned through professional outreach with future commanders and staffs.

The 1st TSC's Support of CENTCOM
In June 2007, CENTCOM's main effort remained Operation Iraqi Freedom. The command had over 5 years of experience in rotating forces in and out of Iraq and in sustaining those forces with a well-oiled logistics network based in Kuwait. Planning was underway for the surge and the subsequent Iraqi drawdown. Operation Enduring Freedom still remained an economy-of-force effort, with most of the forces and sustainment reaching Afghanistan via the land route through Pakistan.

Today, the First Team simultaneously supports Operations New Dawn and Enduring Freedom and the CENTCOM mission to promote partnerships among nations, respond to crises, and deter or defeat state- and nonstate-sponsored aggression.

With its headquarters based at Fort Bragg, the 1st TSC is in close proximity to Third Army, which is now headquartered at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina. At Fort Bragg, we enjoy positive relations with the Army Forces Command, the U.S. Army Reserve, the XVIII Airborne Corps, and the 82d Airborne Division. Through both proximity and experience as the sole theater sustainment command in the CENTCOM area of operations, the 1st TSC plays a vital role in this historic phase of our Nation's engagement strategy.

Since assuming command of the 1st TSC in July 2010, I have been in awe of the First Team's dedication, expertise, and effective integration of National Guard, Reserve, and joint logistics professionals. Modularity and geographical dispersion across a complicated battlespace have never deterred this command from having the foresight to plan effectively or being innovative in making nontraditional and traditional applications of sound logistics and sustainment.

This small headquarters of less than 500 personnel has facilitated and managed the responsible drawdown of forces in Iraq while building up forces in Afghanistan and supporting subsequent surges; the development of the Northern Distribution Network in Afghanistan; the rapid fielding of new equipment such as the mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle; and the critical management of contracts and contractors across a diverse and challenging theater. The extended First Team includes a task organization of several units and over 20,000 individuals, including civilians.

The First Team truly functions as a modular, multi-component, joint command. Together, our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Coastguardsmen, both Active and Reserve, and our civilians remain engaged throughout all the countries in the CENTCOM area of responsibility to provide seamless and continuous sustainment, ensuring that the warfighters have what they need at the right place and at the right time. The experience of the First Team, culled from mutual, extended time in the theater (having maintained a forward presence there since 2007), is routinely shared during inbound units' predeployment training to guarantee their rapid integration and seamless transition.

CENTCOM's Area of Responsibility
The 1st TSC shares its expertise routinely with partners and allies, building relations in Afghanistan, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, the United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, and Yemen.

Our battlefield remains complex, supporting operations that span 6 million square miles and encompass 20 countries, 4 time zones, more than 570 million people, 49 ethnic groups, 60 languages, and 27 religions. This area holds 58 percent of the world's oil and 46 percent of the world's natural gas. In this huge and complex region, key leaders must circulate to stay connected to their commanders and customers.

The 1st TSC's Structure
The command team spends about 75 percent of its time forward in Kuwait, Iraq, or Afghanistan. Over one-third of the staff remains deployed at all times. The other two-thirds of the team are either getting ready to deploy or are conducting training for those units preparing to deploy, providing the most up-to-date information for operating in the theater. Our deputy commanders come from the U.S. Reserve community and remain with us for 12 months, providing indispensible continuity.

The 1st TSC commands or oversees several subordinate units, personnel and financial management centers, and customs and fuel groups and maintains administrative control of Task Force Sinai. This creates the need for standing operating procedures to manage the constant turnover throughout the organization and to institute effective, rapid integration processes for these units, whether they are Active, National Guard, or Reserve.

The organization's operational control of critical sustainment is further achieved by partnering with strategic agencies, such as the Army Materiel Com-mand and the Defense Logistics Agency, and by fully integrating subordinate units, such as our sustainment brigade, to facilitate, track, and manage millions of dollars in equipment, fuel, supplies, repair parts, warehouses, and contracts and thousands of personnel daily for Third Army.

Our sustainment brigade provides dedicated line-haul of U.S. equipment and supplies from Kuwait into and out of Iraq and provides airdrop support into Afghanistan. The security force brigade provides dedicated force protection, camp command cells, and convoy escorts to the sustainment brigade. The transportation brigade, under tactical control from the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, coordinates vessel support and ensures customs procedures meet the standard of the local port authorities.

Our regional support group manages wash racks and tracks property and personnel movements at the gateway in and out of theater. The financial management center handles central funding, accounting, and banking services while setting policy and internal controls for financial operations. Our personnel directorate provides integrated and synchronized human resources support while conducting casualty and postal operations.

Spartan Field Kitchen
Two Soldiers lay out weapons for customs inspection at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. They work for Operation Move Iron, which helps Soldiers redeploying from Iraq and Afghanistan as individuals or in small groups get home faster by signing for and shipping weapons. The 1st TSC initiated the operation to ensure that all Soldiers clear customs in Kuwait and get home as quickly as possible. (Photo by Natalie Cole, 1st TSC PAO)

The Last Year
Sustaining the enduring logistics mission has provided the First Team with unparalleled expertise and positioned the command to amply execute our Nation's strategy.

Over the past year, the First Team created a separate theater gateway at Camp Virginia, Kuwait, which hosted the historic 4th Stryker Brigade, 2d Infantry Division, self-retrograde in August 2010. Aggressive renovations have been completed to enhance that austere locale with scanners and displays, thus expediting tired troops' travel home. These improvements proved much more than motivational during the personnel surges this past Christmas.

Further innovations, such as the mobile redistribution property accountability teams (RPAT) and Operation Move Iron, paved the way for the successful drawdown of 130,000 troops to 50,000 and the movement of equipment for the transition to Operation New Dawn.

With the surge of 33,000 personnel in Afghanistan, mail and rest and recuperation (R&R) travel increased dramatically. First Team units worked to allocate additional aircraft to assist with the increase in R&R traffic, and postal teams were pushed forward to handle the surge in holiday mail downrange. Both were unprecedented efforts by the First Team.

The 1st TSC's continuous assessment of operational needs ensured priority availability of critical equipment, supplies, repair parts, contracts, and containers; this process was enabled and enhanced through RPAT yards in Iraq. That template for success is again being implemented in Afghanistan for the "Surge Recovery" directed by the President.

The First Team's positive door-to-door control of assets afforded the U.S. Government flexibility for responding to the unexpected humanitarian requirements of the 2010 floods in Pakistan and ensured 100-percent rapid fielding of lifesaving mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles. This knowledge of asset management is reapplied as we continue to field new equipment and systems in support of the Army's modernization efforts.

Spartan Field Kitchen
An Airman looks on as bundles of JP8 fuel fall to the ground during an airdrop above Afghanistan. While most fuel is delivered by tanker trucks, some of the most remote forward operating bases receive fuel by airdrop. Airdrop missions are one way the 1st TSC supports the warfighter through "antici-patory logistics." (Photo by SGT David Reardon, 1st Sustainment Brigade PAO)

Current Operations
As we enter this perilous stage of our transition in Iraq, the 1st TSC continues a proactive and aggressive stance by using continuous assessment and threat reduction techniques and procedures to safeguard the force. Force protection for our Soldiers remains a top priority. Our intelligence teams stay fully integrated to ensure timely and thorough ongoing threat analysis. We mitigate our forces' risks through effective rapid fielding of improved protective systems and equipment and aggressive force protection training.

Our convoy escort teams have the best up-armored vehicles in the Army inventory, with technologies to counter the improvised explosive device threat. We aggressively pursued the rapid integration of the Caiman Plus fleet into the convoy escort and security teams, which is saving countless lives. Personal equipment, area surveillance, and predeployment training assistance are a few of the other methods we employ to protect the force.

Establishing viable relations with key leaders enables 1st TSC leaders, working with international partners, to stay engaged to effectively facilitate and safeguard troops and equipment. The First Team staff routinely assists in the predeployment training of all inbound units to ensure current threat situational awareness, countermeasures, and mitigation techniques are known and that troops are proficient before their units' assumption of mission or transition of authority.

Throughout the year, we use social media and attendance at Yellow Ribbon Program events to maintain the flow of information to our families, at Fort Bragg and throughout the United States, in concert with our National Guard and Reserve partners. We remain engaged with our home-station communities through participation in scholastic events, sponsorships, and visits. All subordinate units sustain aggressive command information programs, which the First Team supports and facilitates. The social media venues provide families a preview of what often will be reported in the press, ensuring that we keep our families, as the first community, informed first.

Without a doubt, the 1st TSC and its subordinate units have been "getting after it" to ensure that all service members have what they need before they need it, or as we like to put it, providing "anticipatory logistics." Whether providing Soldiers with equipment, supplies, ammunition, or plane rides home to see their families, the First Team acts with one mind, one heart, and one purpose. We will never lose sight of the purpose, motivation, and end state of those whom we support. Every day that we are deployed is dedicated to the warriors in the field. As the arrow pointing to the 10:30 position on our patch symbolizes, the 1st TSC will always accomplish the mission before the 11th hour. Hooah!

Major General Kenneth S. Dowd is the commander of the 1st Sustainment Command (Theater). He previously served as the assistant deputy chief of staff for logistics at U.S. Army Europe; the executive officer to the Army G–4 and the director of logistics, engineering, and security assistance at the U.S. Pacific Command; and the director of logistics at the U.S. Central Command, where he directed all logistics and engineering planning and operations in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

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