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Logistics Training and Advisory Teams: A Concept in the Making

Field Manual (FM) 3–24, Counterinsurgency, says, “Success in counterinsurgency . . . operations
requires establishing a legitimate government supported by the people and able to address the fundamental causes that insurgents use to gain support.” Developing and maintaining a strong host-nation security force is the key to success for such a government. That government’s legitimacy is then developed and strengthened by its ability to deal with basic issues such as developing infrastructure and local businesses. A strong host-nation security force allows the government sufficient room to grow and deal with the serious issues that plague an emerging and struggling democracy.

Coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan are successfully helping the host nations develop their security forces. The basic training and modernization of security forces in these countries is producing forces capable of engaging and winning against insurgent forces. In the complex environment of Iraq, training the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) presents a huge challenge to coalition forces. The dichotomy of social issues, such as sectarian divisions and tribal and family affiliations, requires astute military planners at the brigade and battalion levels to form partnerships capable of understanding these issues and building responsive teams. The success of coalition force partnerships is determined by the ability of the chain of command and military planners to recognize the power of such social issues and their ability to determine the course of growth within the host nation’s security forces.

Partnerships in Iraq

During Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) 07–09, the 2d Brigade Combat Team (BCT), 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), established a successful partnership with the 6th Iraqi Army Division (IAD). Through its partnership efforts, the 2d BCT supported the 6th IAD’s tremendous growth. Brigade planners developed a brigade-level ISF planning cell that coordinated the efforts of 14 military transition teams (MiTTs). Staff-level partnerships were developed from the ISF battalion levels to the 6th IAD staff and commander. The 2d BCT battalion staffs mentored and trained their Iraqi Army counterparts daily in areas such as intelligence, operational planning, soldier training, administrative procedures, and personnel management.

The logistics system is critical to the success of any army. In addition to the above-mentioned partnerships and focus areas, the 2d BCT’s 526th Brigade Support Battalion (BSB) developed a partnership with its 6th IAD logistics brethren to meet the 6th IAD’s critical logistics shortcomings. A logistics training and advisory team (LTAT) was formed in November 2007. This effort and the efforts of other BSBs in Iraq led to the creation of an XVIII Airborne Corps standard for follow-on BSBs to use in their efforts to assist ISF commanders in developing a responsive and credible logistics system.

Over a 13-month period, the 526th BSB LTAT saw significant growth in its partnered Iraqi Army brigades. Brigade and battalion commanders in the 6th IAD began to adopt logistics policies to streamline and improve their unit-level systems. Their efforts, combined with the efforts of the 526th BSB LTAT, resulted in a dramatic improvement in maintenance and supply policies and, more importantly, a dramatic rise in the operational readiness rate of their M1114 up-armored high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle fleets.

Establishing an LTAT

It is important to describe the ISF landscape that existed in western Baghdad when the 2d BCT arrived in the area of operations. Two Iraqi Army brigades, the 54/6 and 22/6, operated primarily in western Baghdad, along with other Iraqi Army and National Police units. The 6th IAD headquarters and its related units operated in the Karkh, Kadamiya, and Mansour districts, backed by an almost nonexistent ISF logistics system. The operational readiness float rate hovered around 25 percent for critical systems such as the M1114. Troop and cargo-moving trucks, which were Polish- and Russian-built, were at a staggering 90 percent not-mission-capable rate.

Engine repair parts were not available at the unit level and were mired in bureaucracy at the Taji national-level repair shop. Authorized stockage lists and prescribed load list repair parts were foreign concepts for the division. Units did not have supply personnel, such as company-level supply sergeants, because few of the supply slots on the modification table of organization and equipment were filled. Unit-level supply procedures were nonexistent. The ISF used a manual supply system that further complicated the logistics common operational picture. The cultural factors of patronage, sectarianism, and old-fashioned graft produced an ISF logistics system mired in bureaucracy and inefficiency.

The planning factors used by the 526th BSB planners proved successful and can be used in both Iraq and Afghanistan by follow-on BSBs to establish LTATs. First, BSB planners must develop a desired end-state for their efforts. Second, a dedicated team must be built to partner with the host nation’s military logisticians at every level. Third, LTAT members must learn the host nation’s military logistics infrastructure and policies. Fourth, links between the BSB LTAT and the coalition force division ISF cell and G–4 office are critical and must be established before the partnership activities commence.

Even with the serious logistics problems in emerging armies in nations like Iraq and Afghanistan, a successful logistics partnership can be established. Utilizing the four principles mentioned above, BSBs and other support units can establish a viable LTAT. Logistics partnerships are a critical part of the MiTT advisory concept and will enhance the overall growth and development of host nation security forces.

Developing a Desired End-State

The first planning factor is to decide what you want to accomplish—develop a desired end-state. Before executing any logistics partnerships with host-nation security forces, the partnered units must conduct a careful assessment. The 526th BSB planners conducted several assessment visits with the 54/6 and 22/6 brigades down to the battalion levels. The BSB planners consulted MiTT chiefs and logistics officers for assistance in developing an accurate common operational picture of the Iraqi Army brigades and battalions. Iraqi brigade and battalion S–4s were also interviewed and made an integral part of the assessment process.

Iraqi Army unit-level logisticians were made a part of the solution process for their unit-level logistics issues. When the initial assessment visits were completed, BSB planners developed a comprehensive partnership plan and a way ahead.

Sustainable security for Iraq was the overarching goal and could not be reached without sustainable logistics. BSB planners determined that the Iraqi logistics social and tribal networks are the current driving forces behind a stagnant logistics system in the 6th IAD. To reach sustainable security in western Baghdad, the 6th IAD needed significantly improved operational readiness rates, trained Iraqi Army mechanics and supply personnel, trained MiTT logistics officers with the ability to guide their counter-parts, and most importantly, a results-oriented logistics system.

To overcome these significant logistics issues, BSB planners determined that standardized training packages should be used to train Iraqi Army logisticians. These standardized training packages needed to be able to provide critical feedback to MiTT chiefs and their counterpart Iraqi commanders. Training had to be relevant and flexible enough to react to unit-level changes. MiTT logistics officers had to be familiar with the characteristics and policies of the ISF logistics system. Logistics relationships between the unit-level logisticians and the strategic-level logisticians at the Taji National Depot needed to be strengthened with a working information flow system to provide visibility for MiTT chiefs and their counterparts.

An LTAT concept of operations must be broad in nature and have the ability to react to unit-level changes. As in the case of the ISF logistics system, the driving force behind change is at the national and strategic levels. An LTAT at the unit level will succeed when the concept of operations can adapt based on changes at higher levels of host-nation command.

Building a Dedicated Team

In addressing the second planning factor—build a dedicated team to partner with the host nation’s military logisticians at every level—BSB planners must take into consideration their current mission set and requirements when developing their LTAT. Mission support to the BCT is the primary mission. BSBs deploying to Iraq will deploy to a very mature theater, and the traditional BSB mission sets used during forced-entry operations are no longer required. Therefore, nonstandard mission requirements like the LTAT concept are workable.

The 526th BSB’s personnel represent more than 60 military occupational specialties and can provide a host-nation military unit with valuable training and experience. The 526th BSB LTAT task organization was developed to meet the 6th IAD’s logistics needs. To facilitate the coordination requirements with the coalition force brigade and division ISF cells, the LTAT officer in charge (OIC) must be a field-grade officer.

Other critical members of the team included the Muthana logistics cell and the Taji logistics cell. The Muthana logistics cell’s mission was to partner with the 6th IAD G–4 and work division-level logistics issues. The Taji logistics cell’s mission was to partner with ISF logisticians at the strategic level at the Taji National Depot. In addition, this team partnered with the 6th Motorized Transportation Regiment headquartered in Taji, whose doctrinal mission was to provide transportation support to the 6th IAD. The maintenance, supply, and medical training teams acted as the BSB’s bedrock training teams and were supplemented by specialty training teams.

The BSB materiel management cell assisted MiTT chiefs and the LTAT OIC with critical logistics information. The officer and senior noncommissioned officer managing this section needed the ability to process large volumes of logistics data and assist the LTAT OIC in developing new courses of action to alleviate issues that arose from changes in the ISF’s growing logistics system.

Performance indicators, such as overall operational readiness rates, critical-systems operational readiness rates, Taji Wheel Shop production rates, and Iraqi Army requisition approval rates, were tracked on a daily and weekly basis. This information assisted BSB planners and MiTT chiefs in their partnership efforts. Such information allowed for targeted partnership topics with the 6th IAD’s counterparts. More importantly, this information provided the brigade commander with the ability to present a current logistics common operational picture to the 6th IAD commander.

Military Logistics Infrastructure and Policies

The third planning factor is for LTAT members to learn the host nation’s military logistics infrastructure and policies. After assuming the LTAT partnership, it was clear that MiTT logistics officers and their ISF counterparts did not understand the host nation’s logistics system. BSB planners overcame this issue by developing a MiTT logistics officer training manual. This manual provided a reference document for MiTT logistics officers to use in researching the Iraqi Army logistics system while diagnosing and fixing issues at the unit level. The manual also allowed MiTT logistics officers to provide daily training and mentoring for their Iraqi Army counterparts when needed. But most importantly, the manual acted as a tool for developing Iraqi solutions to logistics problems. Buy-in was created by ISF solutions, and belief in the logistics system began to grow at the unit level.

Establishing LTAT and ISF G–4 Links

Links among the BSB LTAT and the coalition force division ISF cell and G–4 shop are critical and must be established before partnership activities begin.

Early in the 526th BSB’s assessment phase of its LTAT operation, the LTAT detected a lack of coordination among the various levels of the ISF logistics system. Likewise, links within coalition force staffs are essential to the success of any LTAT program. A program cannot succeed without being linked to the brigade ISF cell, various other staff agencies at the BCT level, the division ISF cell, G–4, and the corps C–4 ISF cell.

A BSB LTAT program must be able to see the strategic level when planning partnership activities. This is critical because of the LTAT’s direct connection to Iraqi Army logistics decisionmaking processes at the strategic level. Without the linkage to the strategic level of MiTT partnerships, the division ISF cell, and G–4 ISF logistics planning, visibility of ISF logistics activities is nearly impossible and the BSB LTAT’s impact on partnered units becomes negligible. More importantly, visibility of strategic-level plans and decisionmaking, both on the ISF and coalition sides, increases the probability that actions taken at the LTAT level will support this higher-level planning.

Reinforcing the ISF logistics system is critical to the long-term growth of the Iraqi Army. Visibility from the unit to the strategic level is a strong connection and links the BCT level to actions taken by higher-level staffs. Not only must links to embedded provincial reconstruction teams (ePRTs), BCT ISF cells, S–9 staffs, and joint program management office activities provide expert advice; staff and resident experts must be made available to the BSB LTAT to sustain the partnered units’ growth and conduct joint partnership activities.

In a governmental system with departments, or ministries in the case of the Government of Iraq, that seem to operate independently, linking to the ePRT governance section at the BCT level is important to addressing issues such as host-nation army division fuel and oil distribution. Likewise, class VIII (medical materiel) distribution and request issues can be linked to the Ministry of Health.

When it is critical to engage local businesses to develop and strengthen an existing military logistics system, the BCT S–9 and human terrain team can be of invaluable assistance. [A human terrain team consists of Army and civilian experts who can try to close the cultural gaps between U.S. forces and Iraqi soldiers and politicians.] The BCT joint program management office cell can also provide LTATs with guidance on developing packages to improve infrastructure on host-nation army bases.

Military planners must remember that logistics partnerships are just as important as the traditional MiTTs that partner with a host-nation unit and teach its leaders how to conduct proper military planning and bring the fight to the enemy. Sustainable security cannot be attained without a strong sustainable logistics structure in place for the host-nation military unit. Maneuver commanders must understand that resourcing an LTAT program is critical to the success of its partnered units. Host-nation leaders in both Iraq and Afghanistan must understand that operational planning teams must include a resident staff logistician.

Through coaching, teaching, and mentoring, we must encourage our host-nation military commanders not to consider operational planning complete without first completing a strong logistics assessment. We, as partners, must encourage the development of a culture that encourages the growth of logistics experts within their ranks. Establishing an LTAT program will allow host-nation military units to develop a path to success and good stewardship of their internal assets.

A dedicated LTAT team in a BSB or other coalition force units, combined with a working knowledge of the host-nation logistics infrastructure and policies, will create buy-in by partnered units. BSB planners and logisticians must not put a coalition face on host-nation problem solving, but they must set out to coach our brethren to find their own solutions. Support from the BCT staff is critical to the long-term effectiveness of the LTAT program within the BCT.

During its OIF 07–09 deployment, the 526th BSB LTAT saw huge successes from its efforts. Operational readiness rates improved to a steady 85 percent for M1114s. Division-level policies for submitting and processing of the Iraqi Army Form 101 (the basic Iraqi Army supply and logistics support request form) were implemented—the first of their kind. The 6th IAD implemented class IX (repair parts) prescribed load lists and authorized stockage lists. The flow of class IX from the strategic to the unit levels improved drastically when compared to late 2007.

Iraqi Army brigade and battalion commanders began to insist on staff-level logistics meetings, and Iraqi Army officers and noncommissioned officers began to discuss logistics issues and implement their own solutions within their units. MiTT chiefs and maneuver commanders encouraged the implementation of logistics training within their counterpart units. These efforts were successful, and the logistics indicators within the 6th IAD improved dramatically. Sustainable security in western Baghdad was achievable when backed by an improving sustainable logistics system within the 6th IAD.

Major Michael F. Hammond is the aide de camp for the deputy commanding general of the Army Materiel Command. He has deployed three times in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He has a master’s degree in logistics and transportation management from North Dakota State University.

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