A Company, 24th Brigade Support Battalion (BSB), 170th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, assumed operational control of the Regional Command North (RC North) multiclass supply support activity (SSA) at Camp Deh Dadi II, Afghanistan, in early March 2011. The SSA’s primary mission was to receive, process, and issue classes II (clothing and individual equipment), IV (construction and barrier materials), VII (major end items), and IX (repair parts) in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
As RC North’s ground support warehouse, the SSA maintained an authorized stockage list (ASL) comprising 5,157 lines with 163 customer units. Using Afghan trucks helped to enhance efficient throughput, which enabled the SSA to maintain the highest level of customer support. Local nationals subsidized the workforce by providing manual and operator labor; this freed Soldiers to perform counterinsurgency duties inside the wire and injected money into the local economy. The use of liaison officers (LNOs) located at the SSA made it possible to streamline the receipt and issue of equipment and supplies to outlying battalions.
Support operations were conducted bilaterally by retrograding excess or unserviceable items through coordinated operations and the routine turn-in of items for onward movement. The mission always came first, allowing commanders to plan and execute their wartime missions with logistics support serving as a combat multiplier, not as a hindrance.
|A Soldier of A Company, 24th Brigade Support Battalion, loads class IX (repair parts) onto a load-handling-system trailer for movement to a
forward operating base in Afghanistan.
Partnering With the Locals
Supply distribution throughout RC North increasingly relied on Afghan trucks to sustain a continuous logistics pipeline to the warfighter. The relative stability of northern Afghanistan permitted the SSA to routinely use Afghan trucks to move equipment and supplies across the RC. Most delivery of class II, III, IV, and IX items was made by unescorted Afghan trucks moving 20- or 40-foot containers that were fixed with one-time seals.
The relative stability of RC North allowed emerging standard operating procedures to be executed with a 100-percent success rate. Afghan trucks were given 7 days to travel from their point of origin to their destination. In many cases, the suspenses were met, but the timeliness of a delivery was not guaranteed without an escort. Class VII, mail, sensitive items, priority supplies, and parts traveled with the A Company convoy security platoons on Afghan and military trucks.
SSA capabilities were further enhanced through the employment of 11 local Afghan men ranging in age from 20 to 35. Their jobs allowed them to provide for their families while gaining skills that might help them in the future. These motivated locals were eager and willing to work, accomplishing their daily tasks so that Soldiers could focus on military occupational specialty-specific jobs within the SSA. Much of their workload was physical labor; however, under the tutelage and watchful eye of SSA personnel, they assisted the storage section’s efforts to replenish and reorganize the ASL.
Using Liaison Officers
The 2d Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, in Kunduz Province to the east, and the 1st Battalion, 84th Field Artillery Regiment, in Faryab Province to the west, supplemented the SSA, located at Camp Deh Dadi II in Balkh Province, with embedded LNOs under the direction of the 24th BSB support operations officer. The duties and responsibilities of an LNO encompassed the receipt, inventory, preparation, and onward movement of equipment, repair parts, and supplies. As subsidiaries to the 24th BSB’s S−4 and battalion maintenance officer, the LNOs were responsible for signing for, inventorying, and accounting for every item from receipt to delivery.
The task organization of the LNOs with the A Company SSA effectively mitigated challenges with property accountability and provided company commanders with a clear line of custody. The flow of information, using itemized reports, through the LNOs to commanders on the disposition of repair parts and supplies was essential to the warfighter’s planning and execution of missions. The LNOs also partnered with A Company’s convoy security platoons as they jointly loaded Afghan and unit trucks for onward movement as part of tactical convoy operations to their units’ respective combat outposts (COPs), forward operating bases (FOBs), and camps.
Processing Retrograde Items
Within 1 month of the transfer of authority to the 24th BSB, Operation Clean Sweep was launched. The force assigned to the operation constituted only 60 percent of the SSA’s manning requirements, and 85 percent of those personnel were in their initial term in Afghanistan.
Nonetheless, the Soldiers successfully processed more than 4,000 retrograde items in support of the operation. This equated to the removal from COPs, FOBs, and camps and the onward movement of 492 463L palletized loads, 80 20-foot containers, and 56 truckloads of retrograde items that had accumulated from a decade of war. The execution of Operation Clean Sweep injected over $11 million of recoverable, nonexpendable, and exchange pricing items into the logistics pipeline. Operation Clean Sweep forged the way for a theaterwide retrograde operation in the fall of 2011.
The common practice associated with retrograde is to ship it from the aerial port of debarkation, Camp Marmal, through Bagram, Afghanistan, to its destination in Kuwait. However, the 24th BSB made a deliberate shift from air to ground movement to increase throughput and efficiency. Ground movements, despite the distance traveled from Afghanistan to Kuwait, were faster and cheaper and reduced LNO requirements at the ports.
For items leaving by air, 463L pallets packed for retrograde had to meet strict Air Force standards before shipment. Although loads departed the SSA in accordance with the Air Force standards, transportation, handling, and marshalling of the pallets created deficiencies. The induction of shipments into the frustrated cargo yard created a minimum delay of 1 to 2 months for onward movement of items and increased Soldier requirements. The mission of these Soldiers was to accompany the loads, correct deficiencies from transit, and ensure acceptance of the items for onward movement.
Meeting the Demand for Construction Materials
RC North’s limited infrastructure strained to support the development of COPs, FOBs, and camps established by the troop surge. The result was an immediate increase in demand for class IV items. Prior units did not account for class IV on the SSA’s ASL. A class IV yard began to take form as inventories were conducted on more than 100 40-foot containers that contained lumber, HESCO barriers, concertina wire, and barbed wire. Nearly 60,000 pieces of lumber in the containers had not been accounted for previously.
These supplies were crucial to the development of FOBs and COPs throughout RC North. The rapid movement of class IV materials to Camp Deh Dadi II caused the camp’s detention costs for carrier containers to rise above those of all other camps in Afghanistan, to nearly $150,000 a month. In September 2011, the SSA began the daunting task of redistributing class IV items from carrier containers to Government-owned containers in order to reduce the monthly detention fees. On 12 November 2011, the SSA sent the last carrier container out of the camp’s gate, successfully contributing to the brigade’s effort to establish and maintain fiscal responsibility.
Logistics support from the A Company, 24th BSB, SSA served as a combat multiplier and not as a variable that battlefield commanders had to take into account before executing missions. Hurdling all obstacles that emerged with common practices and outside-the-box thinking forged a logistics pipeline of support to Soldiers throughout RC North. Success was met through a partnered effort with Afghan support and a common vested interest in accomplishing the mission.