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Iraqi Transportation Network

While deployed to Iraq in 2009, the 3d Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) (ESC) worked with coalition forces, the local Iraqi community, and business leaders to set up the Iraqi Transportation Network (ITN). This program strengthened the nation’s trucking industry and reduced the number of coalition convoys on highways throughout the Iraq theater of operations.

ITN is an all-Iraqi consortium of tribally-owned trucking companies that move cargo across Iraq for Iraqi Security Forces and coalition forces. ITN’s goals are to establish a robust Iraqi trucking industry, improve intertribal and provincial relations, and open new trade opportunities among Iraqi regions. As business expands, greater regional cooperation will be encouraged, which will, in turn, increase civil capacity.

ITN was designed in 2007 as a tribal engagement project. The first contract was awarded early in 2008. The plan was to set up Iraqi-owned and -operated commercial ground transportation companies. ITN provided tribal involvement with each trucking firm and formed the basis for an Iraqi logistics system capable of providing robust support to both military and commercial customers. ITN drivers completed more than 5,900 missions, without incident or loss of cargo, over a year and a half.

Once ITN vehicles arrive at a forward operating base, a force protection company escorts them from the entry control point to the central receiving and shipping point. When ITN convoys are ready for movement, they are escorted back to the entry control point.

Advantages

With hard work and positive attitudes, local tribal members are providing a reliable, effective, and timely transportation network. ITN puts the Iraqi Security Forces a step closer to self-sustainment and provides an economic base on which the Iraqis can build. As one of many transitional initiatives in Iraq, ITN is critical to establishing a durable Iraqi logistics system. For example, before ITN was formed, one canning business could not operate at full capacity because no transportation network was available to move its goods to local markets.

Another advantage of ITN is that it reduces the number of military convoys on the road. This reduces the risk to coalition personnel and equipment because ITN convoys do not need a military escort outside of the wire. Coalition convoys, however, need up to seven escort vehicles when moving cargo within the area of responsibility. ITN trucks are not required to use the same routes or travel at the same speeds as coalition convoys, so it takes ITN convoys half as long to make deliveries.

ITN currently has some restrictions on what it is permitted to move. However, it moves a variety of cargo, such as construction materials, water tanks, shower trailers, and water bottles. In the future, ITN will be the building block for commerce, as well as a transportation support system for coalition forces and the Iraqi Army.

Challenges

One major challenge to implementing additional ITN enhancements, such as truck stops, is the requirement to meet with the local sheiks and their entourages. These key leaders are a part of each tribe and federation of tribes in the provinces. Coalition forces must identify meeting locations that are both secure and do not infringe on existing tribe or federation political arrangements.

Another challenge is screening drivers to identify those who meet all coalition forces’ base-entry requirements. ITN partners must determine the staffing and equipment requirements needed to process driver applications quickly. They also must determine the best locations for possible application centers and develop contract requirements for current and future state operations.

The Multi-National Corps-Iraq staff standardized the reporting and command and control systems needed to track the flow of convoys across Iraq. The 3d ESC support operations section (SPO) planned, coordinated, and monitored the movement of all ITN trucks from the time they entered the base until they exited it. The SPO also conducted ongoing reviews of ITN to improve the network. Two suggested improvements from these reviews included the use of the Iraqi railroad system and development of the truck-stop concept. These improvements will help build up ITN by assisting in distribution management along the major routes in Iraq.

With the truck-stop concept, ITN will set up oases much like U.S. truck stops and eliminate the need for an ITN holding area at coalition bases. ITN trucks will be able to drop their cargo and move to a truck stop to receive their next mission. This will move products to the marketplace more efficiently, optimizing time and cost sharing while increasing reliability and economic growth.

Iraqi Railroad

In February 2009, ITN tested the Iraqi railroad concept by conducting a proof of principle. ITN used the Iraqi railroad to successfully move cargo from Taji to the Port of Umm Qasr; this was the first time since 2004 that the railroad was used to move cargo. A 20-car train owned and operated by the Iraqi government carried 40 containers to the port. The operation was an important step in linking Iraqi trucking, railroad, and port operations.

The railroad is critical to the rebuilding effort in Iraq. Using the Iraqi railroad to move more cargo during the withdrawal of U.S. troops will decrease the number of coalition trucks on the road. Iraq has a geographic advantage that will allow it to function as a central hub for moving cargo from the port at Umm Qasr to Turkey, Syria, and Jordan. The successful use of the railroad will be a critical component of Iraq’s transportation infrastructure.

Future Operations

The 3d ESC developed comprehensive tools to standardize how its subordinate commands tracked ITN convoys across multiple battlespace boundaries. The 3d ESC coordinated the sustainment functions associated with integrating ITN into other “Iraqi First” initiatives, like the Iraqi railroad program and the truck-stop concept. The 3d ESC staff also explored using ITN as a part of its lift support in future responsible withdrawal missions. This included the possibility of using ITN for Iraqi Army or civilian sector missions as well as coalition forces transport.

Another significant opportunity for ITN is the potential to build the economy. The ITN program could have a major effect on the growth of Iraq as it starts moving toward a steady state and Iraq becomes a strategic partner. By expanding local distribution networks, ITN will link local markets to the distribution chain, provide a more balanced import and export market, and promote business growth.

Coalition forces must seek ways to incorporate this tribal trucking consortium into their routine distribution operations. Sustainment units need to find ways to use ITN to support the responsible withdrawal of materiel as the coalition forces footprint decreases in the months ahead. Coalition leaders must continue to encourage tribal and federation leaders to develop new ITN companies in their areas to support current and future business opportunities. This will be even more critical as coalition forces restructure into fewer bases that are farther away from major population centers in Iraq.

Key stakeholders at the Multi-National Division-Iraq and Iraqi Army levels must work now to integrate new opportunities with training initiatives that will increase the capabilities of the ITN program. ITN must become proficient in new materials-handling procedures and agreements such as those required for integration into the Global Freight Management System. Senior contracting agencies should continue to review and update existing ITN contracts that will expand opportunities and provide coalition forces commands with greater access to this support organization.

Lieutenant Colonel Michael J. Falk, USAR, is an Active Guard Reserve officer assigned as the chief of logistics of the United States Property and Fiscal Office of the Connecticut Army National Guard. He holds a B.S. degree in business administration from Norwich University and is a graduate of the Quartermaster Officer Basic Course, the Combined Logistics Officers Advanced Course, the Associate Logistics Executive Development Course, and the Army Command and General Staff College. He has been recognized as a Demonstrated Master Logistician by SOLE—The International Society of Logistics and the Army Logistics Management College.

The author thanks Lieutenant Colonel David C. Cook and Captain Carey W. Menifee for their help in writing this article.

 
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