The mission of 10th Mountain Division (Light
Infantry) from Fort Drum, New York, in Afghanistan during Operation
Enduring Freedom IV was to deny sanctuary to and destroy Al
Qaeda and Taliban forces operating in Afghanistan. Transporters
of the 10th Forward Support Battalion (FSB) were charged with
using all available means to provide, as quickly as possible,
the supplies the warfighters needed to sustain their mission.
This was a challenging mission.
Because Afghanistan has been at war for over 20 years, its economy has been extremely
deprived, hindering the development and maintenance of its transportation network.
Slightly smaller than Texas, Afghanistan has a road network of only 21,000 kilometers,
18,207 kilometers of which are unpaved (compared to approximately 123,000 kilometers
of state-maintained roads in Texas). The poor highway system, coupled with the
rugged Hindu Kush mountains, makes surface traffic a transportation challenge
that significantly affects mission accomplishment.
During Operation Enduring Freedom IV, Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan hosted
three transportation elements. The first element, the transportation cell from
the 10th FSB Tactical Operations Center, consisted of a transportation lieutenant;
two noncommissioned officers (NCOs) with military occupational specialty (MOS)
88N, transportation management coordinator; and two enlisted soldiers with MOS
88M, truck driver. The 88Ns were organic to the 10th FSB, and the 88Ms were attachments
from D Company, 710th Main Support Battalion (MSB). Together, they coordinated
inbound and outbound surface movements.
The second element, the central receiving point (CRP), was part of the FSB. The
CRP had six stake-and-platform (S&P) trucks and three family of medium tactical
vehicles (FMTV) trucks that were operated by 18 88M truck drivers who were attached
from D Company, 710th MSB. A first lieutenant and a staff sergeant led the CRP
detachment. This slice element was necessary because the FSB did not have an
organic truck platoon. The CRP’s primary mission was to receive Air Force
463L and DHL pallets of materiel and deliver them to destinations at Kandahar
Airfield such as the ammunition supply point, the class I (subsistence) facility,
or the multiclass warehouse. (DHL is a commercial shipper that delivers high-priority
items, mail, and fresh fruits and vegetables to Afghanistan.)
The third element was the movement control team (MCT). It consisted of a container
management team, a rough-terrain container handler (RTCH) team, a team of load
planners, and an air movement team, all of which were subordinate to the 330th
Transportation Battalion based at Bagram Airfield. The MCT’s mission included
joint movement center (JMC) request prioritization and container management.
A JMC request is the document used by the joint movement center to prioritize,
track, and ensure proper planning of cargo requirements. Since the MCT worked
closely with the Air Force, it was collocated with the arrival and departure
airfield control group.
All three of these transportation elements worked closely at Kandahar Airfield.
Because of force protection concerns, Army transporters had few, if any, missions
with their own assets outside the Kandahar Airfield perimeter. Afghanistan is
still too dangerous a place for supplies to be moved by military ground vehicles.
The Army did not use its own vehicles to deliver supplies because adequate military
police support was unavailable and inadequate force protection would put soldiers
in unnecessary danger and the delivery of supplies at risk. Therefore, local
drivers delivered supplies to the forward operating bases (FOBs).
Surface transportation missions on Kandahar Airfield were limited. The Air Force
offloaded the airplanes carrying supplies and brought the cargo to the central
receiving point. Then the CRP delivered the cargo to a variety of locations at
the airfield. Most items, except for ammunition and fresh food, were delivered
to the multiclass warehouse by S&P trucks.
Doctrinally, this was not a typical CRP mission. The CRP should have been the
breakdown point, but Kandahar Airfield did not have the space or personnel to
break down all the pallets. Normally, cargo brought to the CRP would have been
broken down and the customers would have picked up their supplies. However, Kandahar
Airfield was designed primarily for passenger transport, not cargo, so all supplies
that arrived by air and surface were delivered directly to the customer instead
of to the CRP.
container handlers like this one are used to reposition
containers so that inspectors can check the seals
before the containers are brought onto the base.
FMTV trucks frequently were used to carry humani-
tarian aid and medical supplies. Frequently an FMTV truck with
a ring mount for a .50-caliber machinegun served as a gun truck
on civil affairs missions. Soldiers from the medical, civil
affairs, psychological operations, and military police companies
and a Romanian infantry guard force traveled to neighboring
villages to provide humanitarian aid and medical assistance
and to deliver food and blankets.
Providing humanitarian aid was secondary to supporting combat operations. If
supplies could not get to the warfighter by rotary- or fixed-wing aircraft, the
CRP had to be ready to deliver the supplies wherever they were needed.
Jingle Truck” Deliveries
Since the CRP did not push supplies forward, the military contracted for host
nation delivery trucks, known as “jingle
trucks” because of the decorative metal tassels hanging from the bottom
of the truck frames that jingled when the trucks moved. The FSB contracted these
trucks through two Afghan Government officials. The NCO responsible for these
contracts was known as the “jingle man.” The contract price was based
on the destination and the type of truck used. Fuel tankers and trucks that could
carry 20- and 40-foot containers were available.
Although serviceable, these trucks would not pass standard U.S. specifications.
Units needing supplies to be pushed to them at outlying FOBs sent requests to
the FSB. The FSB, in turn, negotiated delivery contracts with Afghan Government
officials. The units were responsible for loading the trucks and guarding the
drivers while they were on Kandahar Airfield. They also provided an inventory
of all the supplies that were to be transported in each truck. A memorandum with
a copy of the inventory attached to it was given to the driver so the truck would
be allowed to enter the FOB. This gave personnel at the FOB an accurate inventory
of the contents of inbound trucks so they could monitor pilferage.
Since reliable in-transit visibility was not available in Afghanistan, FSB personnel
and Afghan Government officials needed a receipt to verify that the supplies
were delivered to the proper FOB. When the customer at the FOB received the supplies,
he signed the driver’s memorandum and returned it to him. The delivery
charge was added to the invoice only after the driver returned with the signed
memorandum. The Government officials were paid monthly for all completed missions.
The transportation cell NCO in charge (the “jingle man”) pushed an
average of 90 trucks a month to the various FOBs.
to transport supplies are known as “jingle
trucks” because of the sound their decorations
Another FSB mission was inbound surface movement, which was managed by two enlisted
soldiers. Inbound trucks were brought to Kandahar Airfield every morning by the
transportation cell and inspected by a Romanian guard force of 10 infantrymen.
Military police dogs searched the trucks for improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
If the dogs did not detect any IEDs, the Romanians searched the trucks and drivers
for contraband. The RTCH team, which consisted of the RTCH operator, an NCO,
and two ground guides, was also present during this process. When two 20-foot
containers were loaded on a truck, they were positioned with their doors facing
one another. The RTCH operator would move one container to permit the transportation
cell to check the seals applied by the shipper. If the seals were not visible,
the RTCH operator would turn the container so the transportation cell could verify
that the correct seal was on that container.
When determining delivery priority under current Army practice, delivery to a
combat zone always takes precedence over delivery to a nondeployed unit in the
continental United States, and a deadlined pacing item (mission-essential piece
of equipment) takes precedence over zero-balance replenishment items (parts that
are not currently in stock). The priority of the part determines the mode of
transportation. A critically required repair part can be ordered and shipped
by a contracted commercial carrier such as DHL. In Afghanistan, most class IX
(repair parts) was received from the United States. Class IX deliveries were
prioritized based on the mission. Parts were normally consolidated in containers
at one of several stateside depots. Most repair parts were sent by air to Kandahar
Airfield via Germany. Low-priority parts may have been shipped by sea to the
port of Karachi in Pakistan. However, most class IX was flown into theater. The
priority of an item determined whether it was shipped by military or commercial
air. Military air was slower because of the bottleneck that occured at the transfer
point at Manas Airfield in Kyrgyzstan. Military aircraft flew to Manas, but fewer
connecting flights departed to Kandahar, which created a chokepoint that generated
a backlog. To address this problem, the FSB transportation cell prioritized flights
out of Manas by submitting JMC requests for needed parts through the MCT.
Class I (subsistence) was distributed primarily from the prime vendor based in
Bahrain. Most class I was shipped through the Arabian Sea in 20-foot containers.
After it was disembarked at the port of Karachi, it was stored in a holding area
according to purchase order number. (A purchase order could consist of 2 to 15
containers.) The port shipped the class I by purchase order when supplies were
called forward. Pushing items by purchase order caused problems when only one
item or container was needed and the entire purchase order was shipped. The class
I yard at Kandahar Airfield had limited space, which reduced its capacity for
containers, so holding excess containers strained an already austere capability.
The port became a holding area. However, problems with in-transit visibility
and insufficient jingle trucks to move supplies created a bottleneck at the port,
which caused a backlog of containers. Frozen food storage was another problem.
The refrigerated containers (reefers) required power to keep the food at a subfreezing
temperature for the journey to Kandahar Airfield. Yet few generator sets (“gensets”)
were available to provide power, and prime power needed to operate the reefers
at Kandahar Airfield was limited. As a result, if a reefer arrived at the airfield
without a source of power (either prime power or generator power), the class
I staff had to keep the genset used to power it during shipment. This slowed
down the transportation process and added to the backlog at the port. These problems
will be alleviated with the new cold storage facility that was built in 2004
and with increased prime power. Fresh fruits and vegetables were shipped twice
weekly by commercial air.
Class IIIB (bulk petroleum) was pushed from refineries near
Karachi. It was transported to Kandahar Airfield in 10,000-gallon
jingle fuel tankers. The biggest concern
with fuel delivery was force protection. Fuel trucks make good targets for
terrorists. However, an extensive inspection of fuel trucks
entering the airfield reduced
the IED risks.
prepares to deliver fuel to forward operating bases.
The FSB encountered several difficulties at the tactical level. For instance,
in-transit visibility of trucks en route from Kandahar Airfield to the various
outlying FOBs was limited, and the time it took to get to the different FOBs
varied. The FSB had no way of knowing if the truck arrived until it had returned
to Kandahar, which could be up to 2 weeks later. The jingle trucks also had no
license plates, so they were hard to differentiate. If a truck was attacked,
there was a report stating that a jingle truck had been attacked, which was vague
since all trucks in Afghanistan are referred to as jingle trucks. After the report
came in, it took time to figure out which truck was hit, which FOB it was supplying,
and what emergency resupply actions were required. This had a significant impact
on the reliability of supply deliveries.
Because of the lack of in-transit visibility and the inherent dangers of a combat
zone, the terms of U.S. military contracts with the Government officials were
usually generous. The contracts
often made it difficult to enforce the timely arrival of supplies. For example,
by contract, a driver may have had 4 days to deliver supplies to a designated
FOB, when the trip took only 7 hours. This time difference was a buffer in anticipation
of possible problems, such as maintenance troubles and attacks by anticoalition
militias along the way.
Another problem was pushing fuel forward. In Afghanistan, there was no standard
method or equipment for cleaning fuel tankers properly. When a tanker truck was
requested, there was no guarantee that it could carry fuel without contaminating
it. Fuel transported in the vehicles was often too dirty to be used at the forward
bases. As a result, aviation-grade fuel had to be slingloaded to the FOBs.
During the 10th Mountain Division’s deployment, the transportation cell,
the CRP, and the MCT quickly adapted to the constraints imposed by long supply
lines over difficult terrain. This flexibility was evident in the judicious use
of host nation vehicles, attention to safety details, and the optimization of
on-hand organic assets. Therefore, critical supplies were delivered in a timely
manner, both to the forces at Kandahar Airfield and at the outlying FOBs. This,
in turn, proved crucial to the success of the mission to support Operation Enduring
Freedom IV ALOG
First Lieutenant Mary K. Blanchfield is the Assistant S–3 for the 10th
Brigade Support Battalion (BSB) at Fort Drum, New York. She was the Movement
Control Officer for the 10th FSB in Kandahar, Afghanistan, when she wrote this
article. She has a bachelor’s degree from Stetson University in Florida
and is a graduate of Officer Candidate School and the Transportation Officer