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Sustaining the Momentum: The 1st Corps Support Command in Iraq

Maintaining, equipping, arming, and feeding the forces supported by the 1st Corps Support Command (COSCOM) (Airborne) during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) 3 was an immense job. The COSCOM’s mission required detailed plans, careful preparations, enormous amounts of materiel, and the combined talents of thousands of Soldiers, contractors, and Department of Defense civilians. It required that COSCOM personnel realize their full potential obtained through years of training. The success of the 1st COSCOM in accomplishing its mission is proof that, when coupled with focus, personal discipline, ingenuity, and flexibility, our Soldiers have the right tools to fight and win any kind of war, in any place, at any time.

This article describes how logistics support for OIF 3 (which was renamed OIF 04–06) was orchestrated, from the 1st COSCOM’s mission and organization to the conduct of operations broken out by its lines of operation. It includes an assessment of the COSCOM’s performance and essential observations. The overarching intent is to enhance logistics support on future combat fronts by providing useful observations based on the 1st COSCOM’s experiences during its OIF 04–06 tenure.

1st COSCOM Mission and Organization

The 1st COSCOM’s mission was twofold: to provide logistics to the Multinational Corps-Iraq (MNC–I) in order to maintain the corps’ momentum and to partner with Iraqi logistics forces to develop the Iraqi Army logistics system. To accomplish these missions, the 1st COSCOM was composed of five corps support groups (CSGs), one area support group (ASG), one brigade-sized corps distribution command (CDC), and two brigade combat teams (BCTs), for a total of nine brigade-sized units. The COSCOM consisted of 40 percent Active Army Soldiers, 34 percent Army National Guard Soldiers, 25 percent Army Reserve Soldiers, and, eventually, 1 percent Iraqi National Guard Soldiers. COSCOM personnel totaled close to 18,500 Soldiers at any given time, and up to 25,000 during surge periods, and were based in five geographic logistics hubs. Approximately 9,000 civilian contractors augmented the COSCOM logistics structure in the supply, services, and maintenance fields; they were part of an Iraq-wide civilian logistics support force of more than 30,000 personnel.

The CSGs conducted sustainment operations to support MNC–I. Three CSGs also partnered with three Iraqi motorized transportation regiments. The ASG ran the garrison activities at one of the largest support bases. The two BCTs provided base security and escort-and-security support for over 150 combat logistics patrols (CLPs) per day; these patrols put nearly 2,500 vehicles on the road daily. Altogether, over 4,600 Soldiers were traveling on the roads of Iraq every day in more than 300 gun truck missions.

The 1st COSCOM had quality subordinate leaders across the board and clear objectives before it deployed from its home base at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Leaders at all levels ensured that subordinates understood how their missions impacted the XVIII Airborne Corps commander’s intent before they deployed. All conducted convoy live-fire exercises, rock drills, professional development sessions, Standard Army Management Information Systems (STAMIS) gunnery exercises, and other deployment execution training events to ensure they were ready to accomplish their missions. The COSCOM’s culminating event before deployment was the XVIII Airborne Corps mission rehearsal exercise. It involved every subordinate support group commander, including the Army National Guard and Army Reserve commanders. The COSCOM’s Battle Command Training Program senior mentors also attended and provided valuable insights throughout our preparations.

To maintain focus on all of the missions the COSCOM received each day and ensure synchronization of combat service support (CSS) in the Iraqi theater, COSCOM leaders prioritized all actions by lines of operation. The lines of operation kept the command focused on the areas that were significant to ensuring its success in providing logistics to MNC–I. A key leader was assigned responsibility for each specific line of operation to ensure effective coordination with adjacent staff, major subordinate commands, and higher headquarters. The COSCOM performed weekly analyses throughout the deployment. The lines of operation were: provide CSS, protect the force, and train Iraqi security forces (ISF).

Provide CSS

On an average day, the 1st COSCOM delivered 1.3 million gallons of fuel, produced and issued over 3 million gallons of water, processed hundreds of requests for repair parts, moved 110,000 cases of bottled water and 200,000 meals, and provided materiel management for over 30,000 pieces of equipment—all while keeping its own fleets at or above Army standards. To do this, the COSCOM partnered with the Army Materiel Command (AMC) to leverage the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP) as part of the logistics support team. Over 20,000 civilian LOGCAP contractors in Iraq certainly enhanced support to the military force. They allowed the COSCOM to increase surge capabilities when necessary and freed military forces to serve in other capacities, such as military training and assistance missions. LOGCAP also provided continuity while forces rotated through deployment cycles.

The COSCOM’s leaders quickly realized that the scope of the logistics effort in the complex battlespace demanded that the COSCOM decentralize the execution of support while maintaining a centralized repository agency to capture and synchronize logistics requirements and ensure that COSCOM personnel met the commander’s intent. This command and control system was based in the CDC, which was collocated with the COSCOM headquarters. The CDC synchronized logistics support for the entire corps and maintained visibility of all logistics operations and assets throughout Iraq through the 1st COSCOM Fusion Cell. (See related article on Distribution Management in the 1st COSCOM).

The 1st COSCOM Fusion Cell synchronized requirements with distribution capabilities and then tracked commodities to their final destinations. The cell consisted of class I (subsistence), II (clothing and individual equipment), III (petroleum, oils, and lubricants), IV (construction and barrier materials), and V (ammunition) commodity managers, the Movement Control Battalion’s Operations (S–3) Section, and a brigade tactical command post that linked convoy escorts to the CLPs moving the commodities.

The support started with the daily receipt of the major subordinate commands’ logistics status reports. These produced support requirements, which were translated into distribution requirements by the commodity managers. The distribution requirements were integrated into the MNC–I movement control program, which locked CLPs into a 48-hour movement schedule. The movement control program was approved through MNC–I fragmentary orders each day. The Fusion Cell’s Highway Traffic Division tracked the CLPs to their final destinations through the Movement Tracking System (MTS), Battle Command Sustainment Support System (BCS3), Deployment Asset Visibility System (DAVS), and Blue Force Tracker (BFT). The CDC also placed liaison officers and distribution management teams in each major unit throughout the theater to ensure the daily synchronization of commodity distribution.

Protect the Force

Concurrently with setting up the CSS structure for successful operations, the 1st COSCOM established efficient and effective standards and conditions to protect its forces, both on and off the forward operating bases (FOBs). The COSCOM understood the two main threats to its Soldiers to be indirect fires into secure bases and the improvised explosive device (IED) variants encountered on the roads.

Within secure bases, technology and techniques were used to negate or mitigate threat effects. Basic FOB force protection actions included emplacing sandbags and concrete barriers around all nonhardened structures, such as living areas, post exchanges, dining facilities, entry-control points, and work areas. The COSCOM posted guards, procured and emplaced the most recent surveillance and explosive detection technologies, and established security procedures for personnel working at the entrances to all high-occupancy areas.

The premier force protection effort was the establishment of a Logistics Support Area Joint Defense Operations Center (JDOC). The JDOC synchronized the force protection activities of the Air Force and other operational aviation and security elements, tenant base defense and external security elements, the base emergency response system, and a joint intelligence center. It was commanded by the commander of the Army BCT at the LSA, had an Air Force deputy commander, and was jointly manned. The JDOC was outfitted with the most up-to-date technology for predicting, detecting, surveying, and responding to attacks or other emergency situations. The COSCOM also used a base-wide alarm system and communications infrastructure to alert all personnel in the event of an attack.

For forces leaving secure FOBs, the most common and dangerous threat—the IED—was countered by an aggressive up-armoring program, which was resourced through AMC’s Field Support Brigade-Iraq (AFSB–I), and by continual assessments and modifications of the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) used by escort units. One of the major techniques used to ensure security was to vary the escort-to-CLP composition to account for increased or decreased threat possibilities.

By enforcing force protection standards and procedures both on and off the FOBs, the COSCOM experienced a marked improvement in Soldier morale. The command also ensured that its Soldiers had everything they required to execute their missions safely while living and working on FOBs. Housing, recreation, food, mail, and communications were all available within the confines of a secure area. Soldiers were able to call, email, and write their families regularly, which was a tremendous advantage. As a result, their morale remained high and their health and welfare strong.

Train ISF

One of the keys to a successful logistics operation for any army is the ability to independently move supplies from where they are stored to where they are needed in an efficient and reliable manner.- With this in mind, it was critical to ensure that the Iraqi Army became proficient in warehousing and transportation operations. It was equally important for us to design a training program for the Iraqi soldiers and track their progress carefully. Three CSGs of the 1st COSCOM partnered with three Iraqi motorized transportation regiments, the Iraqi National Supply Depot, and two regional base support units.

The COSCOM devised a training program according to the basic Army Training and Evaluation Plan (ARTEP) standards. Training began with developing and assessing a mission-essential task list (METL) and identifying supporting missions and tasks. After this was achieved, the command began individual and leader training and then proceeded to collective unit training. The standard crawl-walk-run method was used to build Iraqi confidence and graduate soldiers and units that could support operations for Iraqi Army divisions. The standards were clear and well documented, so they could easily be picked up and improved by any U.S. Army unit during its rotation cycle in theater. During the COSCOM’s year, it saw the three Iraqi motorized transportation regiments become capable of independently supporting their divisions.

Assessment Summary

An assessment of the 1st COSCOM’s operations reveals two major points. First, the command successfully provided logistics for MNC–I to maintain its momentum. Second, it successfully partnered with Iraqi logistics forces and helped them become proficient at providing logistics support to their army. Three motorized transportation regiments are now operating independently, and the regional base support units and the National Supply Depot have started to provide support to Iraqi forces in their areas.

The command’s success can be attributed to dedicated Soldiers and civilian contractors who took pride in providing superior support. The Soldiers were magnificent; they did a great job. The Army’s leadership continued to support us with the funding and resources needed to undertake numerous initiatives, from vehicle add-on-armor upgrades, to the continued use of DAVS, to base defense.

The 1st COSCOM, like other major support commands, also found opportunities to enhance the lives of the Iraqi people living around us. It provided oversight to reconstruction efforts that were extremely productive. These efforts included construction of over 24 water filtration systems, which provide clean water to over 20,000 Iraqi citizens; distribution of humanitarian aid packages, containing such items as clothing, school supplies, hygiene items, and toys, to over 18,000 Iraqis; and funding for the construction of three new health clinics, 16 new or renovated schools, and 65 kilometers of road projects throughout our area of responsibility.

Essential Observations

What follows are some specific observations resulting from the 1st COSCOM’s experience in Iraq that could help guide other units. Some are new techniques, and some are simply a validation of old techniques that still work. Some the command did from the start, and others were learned on the go. The bottom line is that the Army’s equipment, training philosophy, and programs are on target and prepare leaders and Soldiers to fight and win wars. The Army has all the skills it needs to be successful, as long as those skills are constantly exercised in tough and realistic venues.

Distribution Management

Gain battlefield in-transit visibility (ITV). Knowing where key commodities are as they transit a complex battlefield is a combat multiplier. Attaining such knowledge requires a closed-loop supply chain management process that links strategic-level systems and enablers to the tactical-level warfighter. It takes a synchronized and resourced ITV system, as well as Soldiers and movement control teams (MCTs) that are trained on proper use of the systems, to make ITV happen 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. MCTs are the center of gravity in executing the distribution plan. Ensure that they are equipped and trained to provide visibility and movements command and control.

Establish a fusion cell. The need to gain a logistics common operating picture resulted in the creation of a fusion cell. This cell integrated commodity managers, a BCT tactical assessment cell, and a transportation integration cell (the S–3 section of a movement control battalion). All were committed to synchronizing requirements with distribution assets.

Use BCS3 as the baseline system. CSS units are expected to have total asset visibility within the distribution network. However, many stovepipe systems do not provide all of the required information or processes. The 1st COSCOM used BCS3 as its baseline system. It then embedded an automated transportation movement request (TMR) system and tied it to MTS and DAVS to gain real-time visibility of CLP movements. The COSCOM used radio frequency identification tags and a fixed-site interrogator system to gain visibility of the contents of a shipment, MTS to track the truck carrying that shipment, and DAVS to query the items the truck and CLP were carrying. All these actions were visible on BCS3.

CSS Readiness

Readiness is anticipation and responsiveness. Logistics systems are designed to give the user the ability to anticipate force requirements so he can place capabilities where the requirements arise. The 1st COSCOM had great success at the COSCOM level by dipping two levels down and capturing data provided at the BCT level; it provided support based on the data. It also was evident that tracking pure fleets did not allow the command to be responsive to emerging requirements on the asymmetrical battlefield.

Class IX is key. Allow no class IX (repair parts) to sit for more than 24 hours. With 20 distribution hubs stretched across Iraq (both air and ground hubs), a movement baseline is needed to keep commodities flowing. This is especially true of class IX, which is a key ingredient to maintaining combat readiness. In coordination with the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) J–4, the CENTCOM Deployment Distribution Operations Center, the U.S. Transportation Command, and others, the 1st COSCOM spanned the vast area of operations by opening additional airfields across Iraq closer to the FOBs they supported. The Air Mobility Command flew class IX parts directly from the continental United States, which decreased customer wait time and the number of CLPs traveling through hot zones.

Periodically recheck supply support activity (SSA) stocks. Because the 1st COSCOM found constant shortages in high-demand parts, it established SSA authorized stockage list review boards and added the appropriate line items to improve fleet readiness. It was essential that it maintained the right parts based on use and historical data. For example, because of the impact that shortages of tracks had on fleet readiness during the summer of 2004, the command identified and pre-positioned tracks for M1 Abrams tanks, M2/3 Bradley fighting vehicles, and M88 recovery vehicles in anticipation of surge requirements in the summer of 2005.

Team with AMC. Early on, the COSCOM established a close partnership with AMC’s AFSB–I, thereby linking AMC resources with the single logistics commander’s support requirements. This close relationship was critical in synchronizing new equipment fielding, off-the-shelf technology, and support from program managers, LOGCAP, and logistics assistance representatives (LARs) and offices (LAOs).

Training ISF

Soldiers are the same. By establishing partnerships with equivalent Iraqi units (a U.S. company partnered with an Iraqi company, a U.S. battalion commander partnered with an Iraqi battalion commander, and so forth), the 1st COSCOM ensured that it could enhance similarities in the profession of arms. Success in training the ISF was a result of giv-ing each U.S. commander the “authority” at his level to provide training, define what support missions the Iraqi unit was capable of executing, and validate the Iraqi unit’s readiness level. Iraqi soldiers are professional and want to succeed. The COSCOM imparted the Army’s Warrior Ethos to them, and they adopted it.

U.S. training doctrine works. The 1st COSCOM used simplified U.S. training processes and methodology (such as METL-based and crawl-walk-run training) to account for differences in equipment. It also established a dedicated ISF support cell at the sustainment brigade and higher levels to bring multifaceted capabilities to the training and to exercise command and control over the Iraqis’ progress. This worked in training the Iraqi motorized transportation regiments. The COSCOM trained them to be Iraqi forces, not U.S. forces.

Force Protection

Up-armor vehicles. Protecting Soldiers and convoys across dangerous terrain is the responsibility of every commander. The 1st COSCOM decided that all military vehicles leaving Kuwait or an FOB would be armored. The command steadily improved on this standard by increasing its armor level. All vehicles operating outside of FOBs, including contractor vehicles, must be armored.

Know the bill that must be paid for force protection. In an insurgency, a force protection price is paid to maintain unimpeded support. On average, the 1st COSCOM committed 15 percent of its force to base force-protection operations (such as towers, entry-control points, local national escorts, and high-value target protection) and nearly 25 percent of our force to CLP security missions. These percentages varied according to the size of the base and unit, because smaller bases and units had fewer forces from which to draw and therefore extracted a higher cost.

Maintain a committed force protection cell. A force protection cell, under the G–3, maintained a “warfighter” focus and concentrated its attention on base defense and CLP operations. This element is one of the more critical “directed telescopes” available to the commander. The cell collected, analyzed, established, and disseminated TTPs and guidance and provided force protection quality assurance and quality control. It constantly analyzed escalation-of-force incidents and IED attack trends and published critical force protection information in command force protection advisories and fragmentary orders.

Assign a BCT to provide CLP escort security.
To provide security to the large number of support vehicles traveling Iraqi roads, the 1st COSCOM needed a dedicated force protection unit. MNC–I provided the command with a BCT to support this mission. The BCT brought capable command and control and communications assets to manage the 150 CLPs the COSCOM escorted on an average day.

Establish and manage the gun truck ratio. The 1st COSCOM established gun truck-to-CLP ratios so that convoys had enough gun trucks to meet the threat, and it capped the total number of vehicles in each CLP. The ratio was based on the ranges of weapon systems and the size of the element that could be commanded and controlled over typical vehicle separation distances. The command modified the ratio depending on the threat. The COSCOM force protection cell constantly reviewed the threat and made adjustments accordingly.

Maintain a reserve. The 1st COSCOM maintained and equipped a force it could “flex” to provide additional force protection to CLPs. This allowed the command to support unexpected or surge operations.

Command and Control

Emphasize situational awareness. A commander must maintain situational awareness at all times. His staff must be focused on providing him with critical information by following the commander’s critical information requirements (CCIRs). The commander must empower his staff to provide information as it is received rather than lock them into providing information only through time-constrained briefings. Commanders should help their staffs by continuously emphasizing their CCIRs.

Define CCIRs.
A commander must be personally involved in defining the essential information that he wants to be made aware of at all times. These CCIRs must be reviewed and updated as the situation changes and all subordinate commanders and staff aware of what the commander wants to be told immediately (his “wake-up criteria”).

Designate liaison officers (LNOs). A commander must pick his “best and brightest” to represent him at critical nodes and ensure that they understand his intent. The 1st COSCOM’s LNO to MNC–I was a hand-picked major who was articulate, intelligent, capable of independent thinking, and, most of all, trusted. If the commander is not hurt a little by losing the immediate presence of the individual selected to be his LNO, he many not have selected the right person. The LNO must have time to correspond directly with the commander and his staff so he can begin working on issues immediately.

Use “directed telescopes.” The 1st COSCOM used key individuals and appropriate staff sections as directed telescopes. These subject-matter experts can personally observe and “drill down” into critical procedures in order to report the commander’s intent and reaffirm adherence to guidance and standards. During the COSCOM’s rotation, they included the inspector general, CSS cells, safety staff, and a force protection cell.

Institute a command information program. A commander has to use every tool available to get his message out to secure unity of effort, maintain discipline, and tell the command’s story. The 1st COSCOM used the public affairs office, family readiness groups, and the media that connect the Soldier to home. A commanders’ personal presence strengthens this communications efforts.


Maintain a command presence. “Lead with your eyeballs, not a computer screen.” A commander must survey the scene of the action. He should visit units to instill confidence and check adherence to standards. His personal presence allows him to be at the central point at the right time to influence the battlefield. Half of the 1st COSCOM commander’s time was spent away from his headquarters with Soldiers at FOBs. The commander’s presence at an event conveys the importance of that event to his warriors.

Set and sell standards.
The commander and command sergeant major have to establish standards early and get subordinate commanders and command sergeants major to buy into them. Standards are simple and easy to understand (“sound bites”) and should be addressed at every meeting with Soldiers and leaders. The 1st COSCOM had the “Blackjack Rules,” which defined in easy-to-understand terms what was critical for the command to execute. The Blackjack Rules (see below) gave simple standards that each Soldier could follow. Remember, the “basics” work.

Concentrate on team building. The 1st COSCOM built its team early on and included all leaders in its training and gatherings before, during, and after deployment. This included the National Guard and Reserve leaders. The first time the team meets should not be on the battlefield. All commanders in the COSCOM understood the nature of their units under the modular concept and provided the resources to resolve any potential issues. Given the number of companies that rotated in and out, the commander must understand the nature of the units that will be part of his organization. Any issues that units have before they are attached to his command will become his issues, so he should help solve them early on.

Define a vision and instill a message. From the beginning, a commander must tell subordinates what is important to him. At every opportunity, he must reemphasize his vision and remain consistent. From the outset, the 1st COSCOM’s leaders stated that there goals were to maintain the momentum of the corps and to protect the force. The leaders talked about these goals at every opportunity and promulgated the Warrior Ethos throughout the command.

In discussing the success of the 1st COSCOM in OIF 04–06, it is important to acknowledge the personal sacrifices of each Soldier who served. It also is necessary to recognize the families of these Soldiers, who were at home waiting for their loved ones to return. They, and the American people at large, are the Army’s backbone in difficult times. Without their support, our Soldiers would not have been able to do the great things they did every day.

Brigadier General Yves J. Fontaine is the Deputy Chief of Staff, G–4, at U.S. Army Europe and 7th Army in Germany. He was the Commanding General of the 1st Corps Support Command from July 2003 to December 2005. He commanded the COSCOM during Operation Iraqi Freedom 04–06 from November 2004 through October 2005. He has a B.S. degree in business management from LaSalle University and a master’s degree in business from Webster University and is a graduate of the Ordnance Officer Basic and Advanced Courses, the Army Command and General Staff College, the School of Advanced Military Studies, and the Army War College.

Major Donald K. Wols was the 1st Corps Support Command Secretary General Staff from July 2004 to December 2005 and served in that capacity during Operation Iraqi Freedom 04–06. He has a B.A. degree in philosophy from Northwest Nazarene College and is a graduate of the Infantry Officer Basic Course, the Combined Logistics Officers Advanced Course, and the Army Command and General Staff College.

The authors acknowledge the contributions to this article of Colonel Albert E. Ballard, Jr., Deputy Commander of the 1st Corps Support Command; Colonel Mark W. Akin, Commander of the XVIII Airborne Corps Distribution Command; and Colonel James G. Currie, Assistant Chief of Staff, G–3, of the 1st Corps Support Command.