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The Keys to a Successful Combat
Logistics Patrol

Logistics convoy skills learned during enhanced situational training at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center should prove valuable to Soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In today’s asymmetrical operating environment, logistics Soldiers conducting logistics operations inside forward operating bases are relatively safe. However, when they leave those fortified enclosures, the threat becomes more menacing because the enemy actively hunts high-payoff targets such as logistics convoys. Because of this, logisticians now refer to logistics convoys as combat logistics patrols (CLPs) and approach their planning, coordination, and execution as deliberately as any other combat operation.

This is a living process, and only through timely lessons learned from deployed units can Army combat training centers such as the Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC) (formerly the Combat Maneuver Training Center) at Hohenfels, Germany, remain current on what works and what does not when planning CLPs. Observer-controllers must integrate into training the lessons learned from CLP operations. To do that, JMRC trainers travel to areas of operations to observe firsthand new threats and new tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP) that can be incorporated into future enhanced situational training exercises and simulated combat operations.

To help ensure success and avoid many of the pitfalls commonly associated with convoy operations, 12 important tasks must be completed (see chart at right) and sufficient time must be allotted before a CLP begins to fix any problems identified during the performance of these tasks. These tasks, which are taught at the JMRC, are discussed below.

Battalion Fragmentary Order

The initiation of a mission requirement usually comes from the support operations officer (SPO), who passes the CLP requirement to the support battalion S–3. The S–3 generates a written fragmentary order (FRAGO) laying out the specific requirements for executing the CLP in the next 24 hours. The requirements of the CLP are driven by the SPO, and the resourcing of the CLP is driven by the support battalion S–3. Therefore, it is incumbent on both officers to synchronize the logistics efforts that will drive CLP execution.

To keep the CLP on schedule, the SPO must anticipate logistics requirements at least 72 hours before the resources are needed and synchronize the projected requirements with the brigade and battalion task forces at least 48 hours out. Last-minute events, such as loading and offloading of supplies and equipment and changing start times, could cause CLP personnel to miss briefings and rehearsals. This could lead to a lack of synchronization of the entire CLP operation. Therefore, the SPO, brigade S–1 and S–4, and task force S–1 and S–4 must agree at least 48 hours in advance of the CLP execution who and what the CLP will be hauling where and when.

After the requirements for the CLP are defined and the CLP leader has received a FRAGO from the battalion S–3, the CLP leader obtains an update on the weather, terrain, potential threat, road conditions, and chokepoints along the route and gives a confirmation backbrief to the battalion commander, executive officer, support operations officer, and S–3. At this point, the company in charge of executing the CLP begins identifying vehicles that will go on the CLP, the supplies that will be carried, the personnel who will accompany the CLP, and the internal and external CLP security required.

Air and Ground Security

It is important to coordinate air-ground integration, ground route reconnaissance, close air support, or a combination of all three well in advance of the CLP. After the CLP leader receives the FRAGO, he backbriefs the battalion leaders, and the company responsible for executing the CLP identifies the vehicles and equipment it needs. The support battalion staff submits air mission requests for an air CLP escort, an air sweep of the proposed CLP route, on-call close air support, or a “dry-run” of the potential danger areas along the CLP route. Even the most basic air coverage along the route can help to avoid or mitigate potential CLP interdiction and could mean the difference between a successful mission and one that results in lost supplies or equipment or injured personnel. Often, air assets are not available for CLP missions because of other operational requirements, so it is important to include ground security vehicles in the CLP and, if possible, forward of the CLP to reconnoiter the route. As a rule, it is best to submit air mission requests as far in advance as possible to give the aviation elements enough time to integrate the CLP into their mission planning.

The smaller the CLP, the easier it is to command and control, but the actual size of the CLP depends on mission, enemy, terrain and weather, troops and support available, time available, and civil considerations. At least 3 ground security vehicles should accompany a 10- to 12-vehicle CLP, with 1 additional security vehicle for every 3 additional vehicles in the CLP. The three security vehicles in the CLP should be positioned in the front, middle, and rear of the convoy. The front security vehicle leads the CLP and, if necessary, blocks incoming traffic from the route of march until relieved by the rear security vehicle; then it again takes the front position.

The second vehicle in the CLP should be a 5-ton or larger vehicle with a manned crew-served weapon. This vehicle can serve two purposes: It can remove obstacles in the road, and it serves as the number-one vehicle if the designated number-one vehicle has to block traffic temporarily. The middle security vehicle in the CLP serves as the “blocking and tackling” vehicle and pushes out any civilian traffic that attempts to enter the CLP.

The third security vehicle performs rear-area security, keeps civilian vehicles from entering the CLP, and blocks traffic when the CLP has to turn at major intersections.

Each CLP security vehicle should carry a mix of .50-caliber and MK19 crew-served weapons. Each vehicle must be equipped with a Blue Force Tracker (which gives detailed information on both friendly and enemy units) or other internal and external communications systems with messaging and satellite communications capability.

Quality Control

A CLP quality control process identifies maintenance issues. The process begins with operator-level preventive maintenance checks and services (PMCS), but it also includes communications system checks, organizational and direct support maintenance if needed, load inspections, and weapons checks. This is a deliberate process that helps avoid many of the pitfalls that can lead to a failed CLP mission. Successful units have a designated maintenance team that executes technical inspections of all CLP vehicles, weapons, and communications equipment before every mission. The quality control process must be completed at least 12 hours before the CLP begins in order to identify and correct problems and, if necessary, swap out faulty vehicles or equipment.

At the end of the quality control process, the maintenance quality control team provides the CLP leader or noncommissioned officer in charge (NCOIC) a checklist on the status of all CLP equipment, including information on what equipment was fixed on the spot and what could not roll with the CLP because of a deadline fault.

Intelligence Update

Twelve to 24 hours before CLP execution and again 30 minutes before, the battalion S–2 and S–3 provide the CLP officer in charge (OIC) with an intelligence update that includes information on weather, terrain, obstacles, chokepoints, and potential threats. Then, during the CLP brief, the OIC and NCOIC update all CLP participants so that they will have the most current situational awareness possible.

CLP Leader Backbrief

While the quality control process is being conducted under the supervision of the CLP NCOIC, the CLP leader backbriefs the support battalion leaders on how the CLP will be executed and prepares a FRAGO for the CLP leaders and Soldiers. The briefing should cover command of the CLP, route of march, security, CLP makeup by vehicle type, communications platforms and the frequencies that will be used, start and release point times, CLP rehearsal time, and a CLP risk assessment.

CLP Leader and Soldier FRAGO

After the intelligence update, a FRAGO is issued to the CLP leaders and Soldiers. All vehicle drivers and transportation coordinators should receive a copy of the FRAGO from the CLP leader. This FRAGO should include a statement of the CLP mission; the execution timeline that includes vehicle staging time; precombat inspection (PCI) and precombat check (PCC) times and checklists; CLP rehearsal time; the equipment, personnel, and supplies that are being delivered; radio frequencies that will be used and the point at which the CLP will switch frequencies when crossing unit boundaries; a strip map; command and control down to the last Soldier in the CLP; and a risk assessment signed by the battalion commander if warranted by the expected threat level. As soon as the CLP FRAGO is issued, CLP Soldiers, NCOs, and officers start loading the vehicles with the required equipment and supplies and begin the PCIs and PCCs.

PCIs and PCCs

PCI and PCC execution should begin approximately 4 hours before the CLP start time to allow time to resolve any unforeseen problems with equipment and personnel. PCIs and PCCs are the oil that keeps the friction out of CLP operations. Skipping any portion of these processes can result in mission failure and risk Soldiers’ lives.

Every Soldier and NCO conducting checks must carry and use PCI and PCC checklists and have on hand any technical manuals on the equipment being prepared for the CLP. Key items to check during the PCI and PCC include overnight gear, weapon and communications systems, water and food stocks, safety items, ammunition, landing zone marking equipment, combat lifesaver bags, night vision goggles, and cold-weather gear. Without a checklist and an NCO to check that Soldiers have what they need for the mission, the potential for mission failure increases exponentially.

Operator-Level PMCS

As with the PCI and PCC processes, the vehicle PMCS process is deliberate and includes not only vehicle supervisors and NCO’s but also a maintenance team capable of making on-the-spot corrections.

Communications Systems Checks

During operator-level PMCS, CLP Soldiers conduct both internal and external communications checks to identify and remedy potential communications glitches.

Rehearsal

The best way for a CLP operation to be successful is for the CLP to conduct a thorough rehearsal. The rehearsal agenda shows which vehicles are in the line of march; where the weapons check will be conducted; the start point location; the route of march; key terrain features along the route; chokepoints; potential problems associated with driving through urban areas; potential ambush areas; and actions to be taken on contact, when crossing friendly boundary lines, moving into a friendly forward operations base, and at the release point. To be effective, the rehearsal must include everyone in the CLP and use a terrain model that is similar to the area the CLP will cover. The rehearsal area should be quiet and free of distractions. The CLP leader should ask the Soldiers questions during and after the CLP rehearsal to ensure that everyone understands the mission.

CLP Briefing

The CLP briefing before rollout is the last opportunity the CLP leader and NCOIC have to meet face to face with the Soldiers and NCOs conducting the CLP. Therefore, it is essential that, during the briefing, every Soldier confirm that he understands the mission and his role in it. Typically, a CLP briefing includes a roll call; an explanation of the mission; threats or enemy actions that could be encountered; friendly force boundaries the CLP will be moving through; the route; hazards along the route; start and release point times; planned halts; actions during unplanned halts; convoy and catch-up speeds; coordinating instructions; radio frequencies to be used and by whom; the chain of command within the CLP; rules of engagement; the location of each medic, litter, and combat lifesaver; the location of towing equipment for use in case of a breakdown; actions during a rollover; actions on contact; and call signs.

Threats that the CLP may encounter include everything from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to simple or complex ambushes to a crowd of locals who are upset that the CLP is slowing down or stopping traffic. Every theater has different rules of engagement, but it is important that all Soldiers in the CLP be able to act quickly when faced with threatening situations. One way to teach the rules of engagement is to use the four “S’s”: Shout (a verbal warning to the threat), show (make your weapon system plainly visible to indicate that you are serious), shove (if possible, push the threatening vehicle out of your CLP), and shoot (first to disable the vehicle and then to defeat the threat if necessary). If the threat is deemed an immediate risk to life or property, the CLP Soldier can skip any or all of the four steps and immediately eliminate the threat.

Once the CLP brief is completed and every driver, truck commander, passenger, and gunner understands all of the instructions outlined in the CLP rehearsal and the CLP brief, a final check of the communications system is made, individual weapons are loaded and locked, and crew-served weapons are test-fired. The CLP is now ready to roll.

End-of-Mission Debrief

If any actionable events occur during the CLP, they are communicated immediately to higher headquarters via Blue Force Tracker, satellite radio, or some other communications system that can send real-time information to other CLPs or combat patrols traversing the same route and other friendly forces operating in the area. Once the CLP mission is complete, the CLP leader briefs the support battalion S–2 on the entire CLP operation in order to capture any observations that the CLP Soldiers made along the route. The battalion S–2 records any significant observations so that they can be communicated to higher headquarters and integrated into the bigger operational environment picture.

Do These Steps Work?

When I compared the enhanced situational training that rotating units receive at the JMRC at Hohenfels with what was actually occurring down range, I found that most of our TTP training was sound. In fact, I found that units that went through the JMRC before deployment found our enhanced situational training extremely beneficial to their CLP operations. However, I found that some actions were not executed as taught at the JMRC. I believe that future units could benefit from a review of, and more thorough preparation for, those actions before deployment. Here are some points to remember.

Secure the CLP as you would secure your own perimeter; nothing moves in or out of the CLP until it reaches the release point. At all planned and unplanned halts, secure the entire CLP. Anything that is not organic to the CLP does not move in, near, or through the CLP. Place a 5-ton or larger vehicle in the center of the CLP as a blocking or shoving vehicle in case a vehicle not organic to the CLP attempts to enter the order of march. Move the CLP down the center of the road in order to avoid hazards along the sides and require oncoming traffic to move to the left of the CLP. This provides a safety zone for the CLP and protects it from anything that could be thrown into a vehicle; it also gives the CLP the maximum possible distance from IEDs, vehicle-borne IEDs, and any other threats.

Use the leapfrog method to secure and move the CLP at turns and intersections. Use the clock method to identify hazards or anything else out of the ordinary while the CLP is moving down the route. For example, if 1200 is the direction of travel, anything identified in the road for 360 degrees can be assigned a specific clock position. This instantly gives every occupant in a vehicle the ability to locate the object of interest. Continuous communication in and among the vehicles is crucial; it ensures that every Soldier in the CLP has situational awareness.

Some of the biggest hazards that CLPs face are not from enemy action but from local nationals, traffic, and accidents. Therefore, CLP vehicle operators must drive defensively to reduce the possibility of an accident or incident that would jeopardize accomplishment of the CLP mission. It makes no difference to the enemy if he defeats us with a roadside IED, a vehicle-borne IED, an ambush, or an accident. The result is the same: The mission is not accomplished and lives are placed in jeopardy.

Today’s asymmetrical operating environment demands that, now more than ever, changes in our TTP for CLPs must be identified, updated, integrated in our training, rehearsed, and embedded into our ever-changing and growing standing operating procedures. The JMRC and other combat training centers are dedicated to remaining current and focused on the continuously changing operating environments of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom and ensuring that every deployed Soldier receives the best possible enhanced situational training before deployment.
ALOG

Lieutenant Colonel Frederick V. Godfrey is a brigade support battalion trainer at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center at Hohenfels, Germany. He has master's degrees in liberal arts from Louisiana State University and military arts and science from the Air Command and Staff College. He is a graduate of the Quartermaster Officer Basic and Advanced Courses.