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Expeditionary Logistics:
Dawn of a New Joint Logistics Reality

When the 64th Corps Support Group deployed to Iraq,
it had to change the way it did business.

Focused logistics is a key tenet of Army logistics transformation. Its goal is to provide rapid response, asset visibility, and improved agility tailored to sustain strategic-, operational-, and tactical-level forces. As the Army transforms, its leaders are finding that modularity and transformation require a mindset and a set of conditions that produce different capabilities—particularly the ability to execute expeditionary logistics. Army logisticians must be adept and flexible enough to support either expeditionary or protracted operations.

Operations in Iraq are changing the traditional roles of the services. The Marine Corps is learning to be a protracted-operations force, breaking from its traditional theater-opening force (expeditionary) role as units stay in the theater for months. Army maneuver units are learning to fight as a leaner force. Transformation and the struggle against violent extremism are driving logisticians to be more capable, nimble, and expeditionary in supporting light and heavy forces simultaneously.

Establishing new paradigms while the fighting force transforms is very difficult. Accepting change, let alone embracing it, is often daunting in a profession that is steeped in doctrine and tradition. History has shown that gaining widespread acceptance of good ideas is easier when necessity and the survivability of the fighting force are the driving factors behind change.

Out of necessity, the U.S. military is much more “purple” (joint) than it has ever been. As the Army changes to a modular institution to support a dynamic environment ranging from high-intensity operations to support operations to stability operations, logisticians are required to look vertically within their own services for solutions to problems and horizontally across service lines to find the tools that work best.

Today’s military exists in a unique and dynamic time and environment in which it is transforming its organizational structure and equipment while fighting in a very permissive environment. Even the tactics, techniques, and procedures written less than 5 years ago are proving to be of little value to an Army operating with a changing force structure. This article will describe how the 64th Corps Support Group (CSG) transformed from a legacy Force XXI CSG to a brigade-level combat service support (CSS) organization that serves as an example of logistics support in a modular and joint environment.

Expeditionary Logistics

In the far western sectors of Anbar province in Iraq, the 64th CSG is at the forefront of expeditionary logistics. Organizationally a legacy CSS element, it has adapted and task-organized its force structure so that it now looks less legacy and more expeditionary. In the logistics circles of Operation Iraqi Freedom 05­07, use of the term “expeditionary logistics” has become common. However, finding an accurate definition of this term is easier said than done, with the term usually being defined more by examples and deeds than by Army doctrine. Although many definitions are available for the term expeditionary, most of them mention the Marine Corps or Navy in relation to military service abroad. Obviously, this is not what the word means to Army logisticians currently serving in Iraq.

So, what is expeditionary logistics? You can “Google” it, “Yahoo” it, or dive deep into Army logistics doctrine, and you will not find a clear-cut definition of expeditionary logistics. Months of executing “graduate-level” logistics in the deserts of Iraq has allowed us to gain a clearer understanding of the term. Expeditionary logistics can be defined as uninhibited logistics provided by a task-organized CSS element tailored to support maneuver elements with multi-echeloned support in a single support package. In this definition, “uninhibited” means that the supporting element is not tied to a specific equipment set or bound by conventional constraints (the specifications of a modification table of organization and equipment), and is capable of providing organic- to general support (GS)-level support.

Metamorphosis

As a legacy CSG designed to provide direct support to echelons-above-division units and GS to armored heavy divisional assets, the CSG’s modification table of organization and equipment was not designed to support the mix of Army, Navy (Seabees), and Marine Corps forces that were in the area of operations that it supported. However, as a caterpillar transforms to a butterfly, the 64th CSG transformed. Out of necessity and the desire to provide the best support to very austere locations in the Jazirah Desert of Iraq, the 64th CSG quickly tailored itself to support any force, anywhere, anytime.

Based on the capabilities of the supported unit and mission, enemy, terrain and weather, troops and support available, time available, and civil considerations, the 64th CSG, through its corps support battalions, stood up both forward logistics elements and logistics task forces. Over a 3-month period, the 64th CSG supported Army, Marine Corps, and Navy units over an 84,000-square-mile area by executing expeditionary logistics.

Expeditionary Logistics in Action

In the 64th CSG, we executed container delivery system drops to Stryker elements. We designed ration and water racks that could withstand the beating of 10 hours of cross-country driving in the desert. We borrowed and embraced Marine Corps bulk water hauling containers, called “sixcons,” to transport water because our own semi-trailer mounted fabric tanks would not withstand the trip. We went from being a linear battlefield-oriented CSG outfitted with line-haul transportation assets to a CSG with corps support battalions that look and function more like divisional forward support battalions. We traded our fleet of 5-ton commercial-style tractor-trailers for palletized load system trucks and our 7,500-gallon bulk fuel tankers for 2,500-gallon tactical fuel delivery systems. Although we had no slingload equipment, we obtained slingload systems and cross-trained with units that were slingload-qualified so we could execute slingload operations.

The CSG provided multi-echeloned support through its corps support battalions that were embedded in cavalry squadron combat trains. We provided rations and ammunition to firebases, moved M1A2 Abrams tanks into battle positions for the Marine expeditionary unit, provided direct support to a parachute infantry regiment, and provided operational rations for over 54,000 joint and coalition personnel.

Tenets of Expeditionary Logistics

The four tenets of expeditionary logistics are—

  • Modularity: Capable of task organizing or plugging into various supported elements.
  • Flexibility: Able to transform or adjust quickly to changing support packages based on a fluid, asymmetric environment.
  • Adaptability: Able to support different services using equipment sets and doctrine that are familiar to the supported units.
  • Dexterity and agility: Capable of providing multi-echelon support using different support packages tailored to the supported units.

Ten years ago, it would have been unheard of for a CSG designed to support a mechanized heavy force to execute container delivery system drops and slingload operations. Similarly, it would have been unrealistic to expect a CSG to task-organize its corps support battalions into lean forward logistics elements and logistics task forces that would be embedded into Marine regimental task forces to support high-intensity urban operations. These accomplishments of the 64th CSG during Operation Iraqi Freedom 05­07 set a standard for other CSGs.
ALOG

Major Brian M. McMurry is the Operations Officer of the 64th Corps Support Group, which is deployed to Iraq. He has a B.A. degree in political science from Washington University and a M.S. degree in business (procurement and acquisition) from Webster University. He is a graduate of the Quartermaster Officer Basic Course, the Combined Logistics Officers Advanced Course, and the Army Command and General Staff College.