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Preparing the Iraqi Federal Police Sustainment Brigade for the Future

The transition team working with the Iraqi Federal Police Sustainment Brigade had an interesting challenge: to teach police officers who were not logisticians how to execute a logistics operation.

There we were, sitting in a smoke-filled conference room on an Iraqi Federal Police (FP) compound in central Baghdad. Our 12-person transition team was in the middle of the relief in place/transfer of authority with the outgoing team, and we were getting our in-brief from the unit we would be advising. “The previous transition team helped us to progress to a highly functioning unit; we hope the incoming team will help us get to the next level,” said Brigadier General Ala’a Norri Yassen, the Iraqi Federal Police Sustainment Brigade (FPSB) commander.

With that in mind, we quickly came to the conclusion that to get the FPSB to the next level, we would focus our efforts on programs and systems that would ultimately lead to one overarching goal—to make the FPSB a self-sustaining organization.

During its time in Iraq, the transition team helped the FPSB become a more self-sufficient organization by establishing certified schoolhouses and train-the-trainer programs, establishing fix-forward maintenance support, conducting regular leader development training and logistics conferences, and developing sustainment battalions.

FPSB Organization

The FPSB is a logistics unit staffed with policemen (shurta) who have no formal logistics training. It resembles a U.S. Army brigade support battalion, with a headquarters section and four functional battalions (maintenance, logistics, transportation and fuel, and medical).

The FPSB provides logistics support to FP units (the FP headquarters and four divisions) comprising nearly 43,000 personnel. The brigade works directly with the Ministry of Interior (MoI) to request and receive logistics support and supplies for the FP units and coordinate the distribution of materials.

Schoolhouses and Train-the-Trainer Programs

The first self-sustaining course was the Instructor Drivers Trainer Course. Our transition team initially developed, resourced, and executed this course. After a few months of data collecting, we found that many of the FP high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle (HMMWV) mechanical problems could be prevented at the operator level.

To address this, we convinced the FP leaders to partner with us in a train-the-trainer program for HMMWV operators. The course was designed to educate 50 shurta on the basic principles of HMMWV operations, such as preventive maintenance checks and services, driving operations, and safety. The course also certified these shurta as instructors so they could conduct the class for others in the FP force. This program was a great success for the FP trainers. They now conduct sessions on their own, certifying additional shurta as licensed HMMWV operators. The FP leaders also have developed their own doctrine based on the training course.

The FPSB developed the Basic Medic Course, which is based on the U.S. Army’s Basic Medic Course taught at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. In a combined effort, our transition team, the Iraqi Transition and Assistance Mission Surgeon’s Office, and the FP leaders and medical staff transformed a previously unused building into a medical training facility with a full spectrum of training aids (from bandages to computerized mannequins).

The 6-week training course accommodates up to 40 students per session. After completing the course, students are certified (under the authorization of the MoI) as fully qualified medics. The MoI fully supports the facility and the instruction it provides. This ensures that long-term support and stability will be provided for years to come.

The third significant training program that the FPSB established is the maintenance training and repair school. The transition team assisted in procuring a U.S.-funded contract that established a training facility at the old Muthana Airfield in central Baghdad. Over the next year, 150 mechanics and 50 mechanic instructors trained and returned to their FP units to supervise and instruct their units’ maintenance operations. The trained mechanics have the skills to conduct most of the –10- and –20-level tasks that were performed by the FP maintenance battalion. This allows the maintenance battalion to focus on major repairs and, in turn, create a more productive maintenance program throughout the FP.

Fix-Forward Maintenance Program

The second major achievement enabling the FPSB to become a self-sufficient organization was the establishment of a fix-forward maintenance program. In the maintenance battalion, we initially found an organization that was functioning adequately and had very capable and skilled mechanics but was not supporting its customers in the most effective manner.

The FPSB leaders had implemented a maintenance program in which all maintenance, no matter how trivial, was conducted by the maintenance battalion only at the battalion’s location. This included procedures such as changing tires and batteries, fixing headlights, and other tasks that normally would be considered operator-level tasks.

We presented the FPSB with the concept of conducting more fix-forward maintenance work by sending out maintenance support teams to the units rather than having every vehicle evacuated back to the maintenance battalion. The FPSB leaders initially resisted the concept, but they eventually gave it a try.

The FP 3d Division, located in Mosul, was the first to execute this concept. We convinced the FP leaders that fixing the vehicles forward in Mosul would allow those units to remain in the fight and not have to be pulled back to conduct sustainment missions. After agreeing, the FP maintenance battalion put together an inspection team that went to Mosul to identify the maintenance requirements for the fleet there and develop a list of the parts needed to bring up deadlined vehicles. Once the inspections were complete, the team returned to Baghdad, got the needed parts and mechanics, and returned to Mosul to fix the vehicles. All 33 of the deadlined vehicles were repaired.

The FPSB embraced this system and finished repairs on all of the 3d Division’s HMMWVs. Once this was complete, the FPSB began with maintenance of the 1st Division’s vehicles and worked its way through those of the 2d and 4th Divisions.

Professional Logistics Conferences

The third major milestone achieved by the FPSB was the establishment of professional logistics conferences.

In the FPSB logistics battalion, we found that what appeared on the surface to be a very simplistic logistics system was actually a sophisticated and detailed supply process. For a unit that provides general supply support to an organization of 43,000 personnel, everything seemed very small. Storage capacity was limited to about 20 shipping and storage containers and a handful of buildings. The offices were clean and tidy, despite the volume of paperwork that crossed each desk daily. As we became more familiar with the operation, we saw that units were not receiving supplies for two reasons: a lack of understanding of the system and a lack of supplies coming from the MoI level.

The FP is still a relatively new organization, and its supply system has only been functional for a few years, so the processes were still unfamiliar to some units. As we watched and learned the process for requesting and receiving supplies, we shared that information with the transition teams throughout Iraq to guide their FP counterparts in the direction that the FPSB was moving. As the ways in which coalition forces could provide direct support to their Iraqi counterparts became increasingly restricted, this knowledge provided transition teams with the tools to help their FP counterparts rely on their own supply system for support.

The FPSB also embraced the idea of a monthly logistics conference as a forum for answering units’ questions and sharing information. The FPSB decided to have two monthly conferences—one for logistics and one for maintenance and transportation. The conferences began as a combined effort between U.S. transition teams and their FP counterparts, but by the second month of conferences, the FPs had made the events their own. The FPSB now hosts these conferences monthly, and although attendance by the FP logistics officers is high, the U.S. presence there is very limited. The lack of U.S. forces’ involvement is a prominent indicator of the success and sustainability of these conferences.

Sustainment Battalions

One reason units were not receiving supplies was the lack of predictable resupply from the MoI. As an organization that is not constitutionally recognized, every request for supplies that the FP submits to the MoI is treated as an unfunded requirement. This means that the MoI does not establish a standard allotment of supplies for FPs. Instead, everything must be asked for and issued at the MoI’s discretion.

Although the logistics battalion is an effective organization, the limited availability of supplies cannot support the quantity of supplies needed to keep the FP running, especially as it continues to grow. FP leaders realized this and began developing sustainment battalions at each division. Through numerous visits and phone calls by both the U.S. transition teams and the FPSB leaders, the FPs have established these new battalions to mirror the sustainment brigade on a smaller level.

The transition team’s efforts in assisting and advising the FPSB have helped it become a much more effective and self-sufficient organization. The FP’s potential is unlimited. It has a system that works and will expand to support any needs that arise. The FP leaders are devoted to supporting the policemen at the lowest levels and have intentionally built checks and balances into their supply system to discourage corruption. They are focused on accountability. The foundation for their future success rests in their commitment to teach and train so that personnel at all levels understand the process.

As my team departed, we asked ourselves how we accomplished the things we did. We listened to our counterparts and did not waste time on things we “thought” would be good for them but instead recommended courses of action based on what they wanted (within reason and especially within budget). What might make sense and be a feasible course of action for U.S. forces may actually be more trouble than it is worth to our Iraqi counterparts. They have to live with the great ideas and their second and third order effects while we go home in a year. How did we determine what was really best for them? We just asked!

Major Henry S. Groulx is attending the Army Command and General Staff College. He deployed to Iraq as the team chief of a military transition team assigned to mentor and advise the Iraqi Federal Police Sustainment Brigade and Iraqi Federal Police Explosive Ordnance Disposal Directorate. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and is a graduate of the Armor Officer Basic Course, Scout Platoon Leaders Course, and Tank Commanders Certification Course.

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