Following the President’s orders to reduce the U.S. military presence in Iraq, U.S. Forces-Iraq has been busy closing bases, retrograding equipment, and transitioning from combat to stability operations.
I clearly remember visiting my father’s office as a child and seeing a picture frame with the quote, “People working together, without concern for who will get the credit, can accomplish anything.” Needless to say, for those of us serving in Iraq, teamwork and selfless service are the key values that led to our overall success in the responsible drawdown of forces (RDoF).
Foundations of Drawdown Success
On 1 September 2010, following orders from the President, 50,000 military personnel remained in Iraq in support of Operation New Dawn. During the past year, we have closed 263 bases, retrograded over 1.5 million pieces of equipment, including over 25,000 pieces of rolling stock, and transported over 100,000 personnel by rotary- and fixed-wing aircraft—remarkable accomplishments to say the least.
We, U.S. Forces-Iraq (USF–I), are successfully accomplishing the RDoF because of dedicated, hard-working Soldiers, because of noncommissioned officers who ensure that standards and discipline remain high, because of commanders at all levels who issue clear and concise intent, and because of civilians, both Department of Defense employees and contractors, who directly support the mission and are ready to do what is needed to accomplish it.
We are also supported by remarkable partners like the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics; the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Army, G–4; the Army Forces Command; the U.S. Central Command; the Army Materiel Command; the Defense Logistics Agency; and many other agencies. Together, we have already accomplished something that many said we could not do: We have executed the RDoF with precision even while bringing home more equipment and personnel than the Army has since leaving Europe and the Pacific after World War II.
Our drawdown began in 2008 after the peak of the surge operations and will continue until the completion of our mission on 31 December 2011, as set forth in the security agreement between the United States and Iraq. The drawdown has been a continuous process that began after violent extremists began steadily losing ground at both the operational and tactical levels at the peak of the surge operations. The severe degradation of extremist violence was clearly evident in early 2009.
The drawdown is possible because of the increased capabilities of the Iraqi Security Forces and the overall improvement of the security environment. These factors allow USF–I to continue to transition from combat operations to stability operations. Improved security allows for continued progress toward a long-term bilateral relationship—an enduring partnership—with a sovereign, secure, and self-reliant Iraq.
Operation New Dawn, which began 1 September 2010, is about advising, assisting, and training the Iraqi Security Forces, conducting partnered counter-terrorism operations, and providing support to provincial reconstruction teams and other organizations as they help Iraq build civil capabilities. However, even though Operation New Dawn has begun, we continue to set conditions for the final RDoF.
Sustainment During the Drawdown
Our drawdown plan must ensure that the commander has maximum flexibility to control the measured pace of the redeployment of U.S. forces based on assessments of the security environment and the progress of the new Government of Iraq’s transition, including the readiness of the Iraqi Security Forces.
As we are planning for the final RDoF, we must effectively and efficiently execute daily sustainment operations for a force structure that consists of just under 50,000 servicemembers and 75,000 civilian contractors. The concept of support in Iraq is challenging and requires a constant flow of commodities, such as the 1.2 million gallons of JP8 fuel that we receive and distribute every day across the Iraq joint operations area (IJOA).
Currently, we distribute commodities over main supply routes that span from Harbor Gate in the north to Umm Qsar in the south (roughly a distance equal to the length of California). Undoubtedly, our sustainment convoys must stay vigilant against indirect fire, direct fire, and of course, improvised explosive devices.
The commodities required to sustain a force that at one time numbered over 200,000 troops and civilians are monumental in number. Thus, the RDoF is not just the retrograde of rolling and nonrolling stock. It is also the “right sizing” of commodities so that we still have enough to sustain the 125,000 troops and civilians remaining without having more than we require. Classes III (petroleum, oils, and lubricants), V (ammunition), and IX (repair parts) are very difficult commodities to right size because they are demand oriented. A drawdown in force structure does not necessarily equate to a proportional drawdown of a commodity, and no two commodities are measured in the same way.
Class III. Bulk fuel use by U.S. and coalition forces steadily increased from an initial consumption of 170 million gallons in 2003 to a peak of 1.1 billion gallons in 2008 during the surge. The total consumption for 2009 was 853 million gallons. At the height of the surge, there were almost 30 million gallons of fuel in storage bags throughout Iraq. Only a third of that amount of fuel is on the ground today.
The expeditionary sustainment command (ESC) is responsible for keeping the fuel flowing throughout the IJOA by balancing the tasks of predicting consumption and ordering the correct amounts and types (JP8, diesel, or gasoline) from the correct sources. ESC elements receive the fuel, conduct quality control testing, store it, and redistribute it throughout Iraq. During Operation New Dawn, the anticipated reduction in fuel consumption will enable USF–I to remove roughly 50 percent of the bulk storage bags currently in place and reduce fuel orders to the Defense Logistics Agency.
Class V. Concurrently, the number of ammunition holding areas in Iraq dropped by over two-thirds, from a high of 19 in 2008 to 6 in 2010. In 2003, there were only 3. Oddly, the highest tonnage (over 14,000 tons) of ammunition was in 2005 while there were only 10 storage areas. When USF–I had 19 ammunition storage areas, only 10,000 tons of ammunition were on hand.
As USF–I reduces the onhand stocks of class V, we will reduce the number of holding areas proportionately. USF–I ammunition managers worked closely with the ESC to develop new models for class V operational and sustainment loads, since no existing models accurately reflected the composition or employment of advise and assist brigades (AABs) as opposed to brigade combat teams. The force mixes were different because of the fielding of the mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle and the up-armored high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle in lieu of heavy combat vehicles, and the missions conducted by AABs varied among, and even within, U.S. divisions.
Class IX. At the height of the Iraq surge, over 22 supply support activities (SSAs) operated in Iraq, stocking approximately 140,000 total lines of repair parts and other items. Because of the massive reduction in supply stocks, seven SSAs located at key distribution hubs remain in support of the AABs. Each remaining SSA has approximately 6,000 lines—a reduction of nearly two-thirds. The remaining SSAs will be reduced even further as each AAB redeploys with no backfill.
Critical to the success of class IX operations for the remaining months in Iraq is the ability to distribute from supply hubs to “spokes” and to partnered bases. This constant balancing act will be more complicated in the near future as the lines of communication expand because fewer assets and units will be spread out over the same geographical area. A continued partnership with the Iraqi trucking network may alleviate some of this problem by increasing the local-haul capability to fill the gap in resources.
We did more than just follow the President’s direction to reduce the force structure to 50,000 personnel no later than 1 September 2010. As well as accounting for and successfully retrograding over 25,000 pieces of rolling stock and 1.5 million pieces of nonrolling stock, we reduced our overall commodity posture to best support the remaining forces inside the IJOA. These missions were accomplished while simultaneously advising, training, and assisting the Iraqi Security Forces, partnering with them for counterterrorism missions, and supporting the transition of the Department of State into the mission lead.
The President has mandated that all forces, equipment, and commodities must be out of the IJOA by 31 December 2011. What we just did was hard, but what we will do is going to be harder.
The USF–I staff and all of our partners are fully engaged in mission analysis to determine the best way to execute the RDoF. But remember, “People working together, without concern for who will get the credit, can accomplish anything.”