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The Effect of the Responsible
Drawdown of Forces
on Class I Sustainment

During the drawdown of troops from Iraq, class I managers found
that they had to change the way they conducted business to continue
to provide Soldiers with the support they needed.

The responsible drawdown of forces in Iraq had a ripple effect on the management of commodities
across the Iraq joint operations area (IJOA). For class I (subsistence) managers, the drawdown was
not simply the reduction of U.S. forces in Iraq; it meant supporting a larger footprint with fewer resources and adjusting to constantly changing demands.

Base closures, redeployments without replacements, and the transition of theater contracts in and out of the IJOA also created a chaotic whirlwind of events. The purpose of this article is to discuss the class I challenges encountered by the 3d Sustainment Brigade’s general supplies office, how those challenges were addressed, the results of actions taken, and potential alternatives to those actions.

Managing Change
The brigade had to constantly balance the level of support during the drawdown. Multiple factors affecting sustainment required leaders to be aggressive and think beyond the 96-hour forecast. Adjustments and readjustments were made to adequately support units in the IJOA.

The 3d Sustainment Brigade subsistence section primarily processed orders that supported 22 mobile
kitchen trailer (MKT) accounts, accounted for operational rations (meals ready-to-eat [MREs], halal meals, kosher rations, and unitized group rations), and provided bottled water and ice in U.S. Divisions North and Center (USD–N/C). The mission seemed easy enough: to support personnel with an accurate quantity of bottled water and operational rations.

Proper execution determined the success of the mission. Planning factors, such as the availability of
transportation assets, the frequency of movements to and from forward operating bases (FOBs), and even the performance work statement agreed on by the contractor and the Government, were pieces of the puzzle that could not be ignored. Therefore, if one piece was missing from the sustainment puzzle, the mission would inevitably fail. Preparing for the drawdown forced commodity
managers to “step out of the box” and look at the big picture.

Managing MREs
The first challenge encountered was in managing MREs. It seemed that, with the existence of dining facilities and MKT accounts, MREs were no longer being used. The 3d Sustainment Brigade processed an average of 150 sets of food orders each week for the MKTs that it managed.

In order to accurately predict MRE use, we in the class I section used historical data to identify trends. We formulated a monthly stock objective for the FOBs that we supported across USD–N/C. The previous month’s daily average issue was used to determine a stockage objective based on 25 days of supply. Each month, we analyzed the MRE consumption rate at the FOBs and determined a new stockage objective.

For example, FOBs with large headcounts that averaged a daily consumption of no more than five cases of MREs in 1 month were assigned a stockage objective of 125 cases. However, one concern was justifying a stockage objective of 125 cases of MREs on a FOB that supported a combined headcount of more than 20,000 military and civilian personnel. The headcount was too large for this stockage objective. With one case of MREs holding 12 individual meals, it takes 1,000 cases per day to support 4,000 personnel if each person eats 3 MRES. The analysis we conducted indicated that because MREs were not the primary meal source, storing MREs based on headcount did not make sense. A large number of MREs could be needed in case of an emergency; however, it was not practical or efficient to store a large number of cases that in most circumstances would not be needed.

Basing the stockage objective on history was a method, but it was not the only factor. The time and distance from Joint Base Balad to direct support hubs and spokes, the average time required to receive MREs directly from the prime vendor in Kuwait, and the frequency of ground and air transportation were all factors in determining a stockage objective. Nevertheless, no perfect equation could determine the final stockage objective, so adjustments were made monthly.

The Effects of Communication Gaps
Other factors greatly affected the way MREs were managed in our area of operations. Factors such as the total number of MREs available across USD–N/C, expiration dates, and money lost because of degradation caused by lack of use and the extreme temperatures in Iraq affected decisions on the management of the meals.

Throughout the deployment, the method used to forecast MRE requirements was effective approximately 80 percent of the time. It seemed as if once every quarter, there was an MRE “crisis,” where the sustainment brigade forecast showed green status for at least 96 hours but the FOB would actually be at a red or even black status. These occurrences were not due to a lack of MREs or of transportation assets to move them but to a lack of communication from the unit of issue. It seemed that many units had no MRE issue plan and no thought of future MRE consumption, which caused a complete absence of predictability.

What caused a crisis for battalion commanders, support operations officers, and commodity managers could have been prevented by maintaining open channels of communication, ranging from asking the higher command for advice and guidance to giving the brigade a warning of the planned issue of an unusually high amount of MREs.

Meal Cycles
One alternative we explored was getting the meal cycles of units that were not on an A–A–A cycle. Initially, we assumed that everyone in Iraq received three hot meals a day. However, this was not necessarily the case for units that routinely conducted missions outside of their FOBs.

The idea of having the units we supported provide us with their meal cycles seemed reasonable, but it was quickly discarded when units began using historical data to project future requirements. This comfortable routine killed the meal cycle concept, which units perceived as an additional obligation. Though continuous improvement was a goal, the idea of fixing something that was not broken prevented the implementation of a plan that would minimize unfavorable incidents affecting on-hand quantities.

As FOB closures in Iraq accelerated, the meal cycle for the decreasing U.S. footprint gradually changed. Contracted dining facilities transitioned into Armyrun MKTs to accommodate the decrease of resources. Consequently, MREs were reincorporated into the meal plan, allowing for precise predictability.

Iraqi Transportation Network
One inevitable change that had a significant impact on our operation was a reduction in convoy escort teams that provided security for the logistics movements to our supported areas. The decrease of convoy escort teams meant a reduction in the number of trucks that would be on the road. What may have seemed like a minor change had second and third order effects on how units conducted logistics missions.

One way the class I section mitigated the effects of convoy reduction was by using a local movement contract known as the Iraqi Transportation Network (ITN). We used ITN to move bottled water to our supported areas in USD–N/C. The benefit of using ITN to move
commodities was that convoy escort teams were not required to escort the movements. ITN had a
6-day movement window to deliver its cargo. It became the primary resource for moving
bottled water, even though the contingency plan was to use regularly scheduled sustainment
convoys to support the units in our area of operations.

The 6-day movement window forced an increase in the amount of bottled water moved at one time. The theater used a 10-day stockage objective that allowed flexible operations in periods of restricted movement. Increasing the amount moved through ITN ensured that there was room for managing contingencies without degrading support to units. Within 2 months of beginning to use ITN, we were transporting more than 150,000 cases of bottled water weekly to supported units.

Prime Vendor Change
As preparations for drawdown were underway, the Iraq theater was also preparing to transition from one subsistence prime vendor, Agility, to a new prime vendor, Anham. We had to guarantee that our customers had all the transition details. Constant communication with the new prime vendor was imperative in understanding changes in the concept of support.

One massive change was the way Anham planned to distribute class I in theater. Agility had supported the theater from warehouses located in Turkey and Kuwait. Locations in northern Iraq from Habur Gate to Contingency Operating Base Speicher primarily received class I arriving from an Agility warehouse in Turkey. Locations from Joint Base Balad south to Tactical Assembly Area Virginia received class I from Kuwait. Anham inherited a huge mission, and it planned to support the IJOA from only one warehouse in Kuwait.

This new distribution plan caused some concern about the time it would take to move class I from south to north without the goods degrading. Would fresh fruits and vegetables survive the move from the south? Anham conducted two test runs to the north that originated in Kuwait. The results of the test runs were positive, with the movement to Contingency Operating Base Speicher averaging 4 days.

We researched the shelf life of frequently ordered fresh fruits and vegetables and the temperature that each item required to sustain that shelf life. The 4- to 5-day movement from Kuwait to northern Iraq cut into the shelf life, but it was manageable. The transition of distribution operations from Turkey to Kuwait began in the middle of September and ended in the last week of November.

As the Anham contract began to take shape in the IJOA, operations appeared seamless. Required delivery dates were met. Any problems that Anham seemed to encounter did not affect operations. However, that soon changed with the first complaint about the receipt of spoiled fruits and vegetables in the north. Images of rotten tomatoes, cauliflower growing bacteria spores, and
nectarines covered in mold set off a red alert to all of the units Anham supported.

Would this be the norm for fresh fruits and vegetables coming from Kuwait to the north? That question had to be answered, especially since Anham guaranteed that the support it provided to the units would be equal to that of Agility. The answer certainly had to be no. Commodity managers in the 3d Sustainment Brigade had to simultaneously find a way to resolve the problems with Anham and restore the confidence of supported units.

The time it took to release the fruits and vegetables from the warehouse, the time allotted to load vehicles, the delivery time, and the time each truck remained in the movement control team yard before moving forward were closely monitored. Ten days, beginning from the release at the warehouse to consumption, was the standard set for fresh fruits and vegetables to maintain freshness. These measures forced the contractor to take responsibility for any mishaps that inconvenienced the units in USD–N/C and caused potential delays in class I deliveries. The
gradual transition between contractors allowed mistakes to be made and lessons to be learned as FOBs began to receive class I from the new prime vendor.

The drawdown had an enormous effect on class I operations throughout Iraq. Commodity managers were forced to discontinue routine operations and develop ideas to continue to support units on the ground while the gradual reduction of forces and resources was underway. This was not as simple as supporting the shrinking number of personnel with fewer class I rations; it meant factoring in the closures of bases and dining facilities, the reduction of convoy escort teams, and the impact of those events on operations. The drawdown had a domino effect on all support operations.

So what does it take to provide class I support to personnel spread across hundreds of miles of land, ranging from the northern Iraq border at Harbur Gate down to Victory Base Complex and the surrounding areas in Baghdad? The answer is simple: patience, analysis, and constant communication. At times, operations were conducted routinely, and at other times, problems
seemed to be at every turn. The solution was to continue what we did well and improve on what we did not while striving to provide excellent customer service to the units we supported.

Captain Sophia Obamije was the general supply officer of the 3d Sustainment Brigade while deployed to Iraq in 2010 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom 10–11 and Operation New Dawn. She holds a bachelor’s degree in operations research from the United States Military Academy. She is a graduate of the Ordnance Officer Basic Course and Combined Logistics Captains Career Course.


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