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Contracted Transportation

Contracting has become an important force multiplier in current military operations. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, for example, Kellogg, Brown, and Root (KBR) and the Iraqi Transportation Company (ITC) provided essential transportation augmentation for the 541st Combat Sustainment Support Battalion (CSSB) of the 15th Sustainment Brigade. Since there were not enough military transportation assets on the battlefield, these contracts helped the CSSB fulfill its transportation requirements. Both groups of contractors formed strong working relationships with the 541st CSSB by focusing on constant communication.

When the CSSB planned combat logistics patrols (CLPs), both KBR and ITC procedures had to be considered. Conducted twice daily, truckmaster meetings brought together unit truckmasters and transportation personnel from the CSSB’s support operations office (SPO) to discuss the mission requirements for the next 24 to 96 hours. Here, trucks were assigned to specific missions and any issues with common-user land transport assets were addressed.

Kellogg, Brown, and Root

Iraq for quite some time, so the CSSB felt comfortable working with them. KBR’s assets included seven 8,000-gallon fuel tankers and 50 tractor-trailers. This augmentation was equivalent to about one squad of fuelers and almost one light-medium truck company. KBR provided a liaison officer who met with the SPO transportation section once a week and ensured that KBR was meeting the mission intent. KBR also provided a senior operations coordinator who performed the same job as a truckmaster in a military transportation company.

The senior operations coordinator for KBR played an important role in planning and resourcing CLPs that involved KBR assets. He attended all truckmaster meetings and coordinated closely with the SPO transportation section. Once all missions were sourced and all loads were planned, the senior mission coordinator assigned the loads to KBR drivers. If there were any issues, the senior operations coordinator came back to the transportation section to work them out. All KBR personnel who drove in the CLPs attended the convoy commander’s CLP brief to ensure that the tactics, techniques, procedures, and battle drills were known throughout the CLP.

Iraqi Transportation Company

The ITC had been doing transportation missions in Iraq for a while, as well. The ITC’s assets included seven 8,000-gallon fuel tankers and 42 tractor-trailers. Like KBR’s augmentation, this was equivalent to about one squad of fuelers and almost one light-medium truck company. The ITC had a manager who worked directly with the platoon leader assigned to the ITC mission.

The ITC was made up of local nationals from all over Iraq, so working with them was slightly different than working with the Americans of KBR. Because of the threat of attack by insurgents, the ITC drivers met in locations that regularly changed and then came through the gates together. During the convoys, one U.S. Army noncommissioned officer always accompanied the ITC trucks and served as a loadmaster to ensure that the load was properly secured and that all paperwork was in order. As a security precaution, the ITC drivers did not attend the CLP briefs like KBR drivers did; instead, the ITC got a convoy brief from the convoy commander at the ITC motor pool before leaving the forward operating base (FOB).

There were some challenges to having the ITC involved in the CLPs. For example, there had to be at least one Arabic language interpreter on every CLP. Another problem was that the ITC trucks were the only vehicles that were not up-armored. All of the other vehicles that left the FOB, including KBR vehicles, had been up-armored. The Iraqi manager of the ITC regularly came to meet with our battalion to address these types of concerns in an open forum. This relationship kept the operation running smoothly and made the mission happen.

Contracted transportation assets were force multipliers, but a great deal of planning had to accompany the augmentation. Whether dealing with the ITC or KBR, communication was the key to meeting mission requirements and priorities of movement for all classes of supply. Communication built working relationships and made working together easier to accomplish.

Captain George Plys is the Transportation Officer for the 541st Combat Sustainment Support Battalion of the 15th Sustainment Brigade. He has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Washington State University, and he is a graduate of the Transportation Officer Basic Course and the Combined Logistics Captains Career Course.