begins at the corps distribution center’s reception
point. This step is critical to all follow-on processing.
Our unit, the 319th Corps Support Battalion, arrived at Logistics
Support Area (LSA) Anaconda in Balad, Iraq, in February 2004
to support Operation Iraqi Freedom II. In peacetime, the battalion
is assigned to the 172d Corps Support Group (CSG), U.S. Army
Reserve, headquartered at Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. When deployed,
the 172d CSG (and thus our battalion) is assigned to the 13th
Corps Support Command from Fort Hood, Texas. In Iraq, our battalion
was tasked to take over area support functions, including management
of general support and direct support class I (subsistence),
nondivisional direct support, LSA water production and distribution,
and operation of the corps distribution center (CDC) at Balad.
Although the previous unit had done a good job in setting up
the CDC under very bad conditions, we quickly noticed that improvements
could be made in several areas.
Logistics Flow in Northern and Central Iraq
Materials arrive in the CDC from the theater distribution
center at Camp Doha, Kuwait, and from the arrival and departure
air control group in Balad. The CDC has a reception point,
which screens incoming traffic, and three main yards: the
handles classes II (clothing and individual equipment), IIIP (packaged petroleum),
IV (construction materials), VI (personal items), and IX (repair parts);
the general support class I yard; and the onward movement yard. The CDC arrival
departure movement control team (MCT) controls traffic and documents the
cargo moving through the CDC. All traffic enters the CDC through the reception
and exits through the departure point checkout station.
CDC Reception Point
Cargo processing begins at the CDC reception point. This step is critical
to all follow-on processing. The CDC receives sustainment cargo and pushes
to the appropriate satellite node. When we arrived in Iraq, the entrance
to the CDC was located next to the multiclass yard and convoys were staged
in an area
outside of the yard. Some convoys had to wait for long periods of time to
be processed, often because line haulers arriving in the yard had to wait
to clear the CDC to download their cargo. Pallets and containers blocked
other pallets and containers, while liaison officers from the supported units
what they wanted loaded next. This caused control and security issues because
cargo was being downloaded and routed on the spot while other vehicles were
forced to wait to come into the yard. The reception team also stages convoys
so, at any given time, 100 or more vehicles from three or four countries
were staged in the CDC.
Initially, the inbound radio frequency identification (RFID) tag interrogator
was perched on top of the CDC control building near the sustainment cargo,
a position that could adversely affect the tags on the cargo stored in the
Multiple pinging of the RFID tags on containers that sit in the arc of an
interrogator depletes the tags’ batteries and can cause an information
jam in the interrogator system. To prevent these problems from occurring,
the front gate
and the inbound interrogator to the front of the staging area so they would
operate more efficiently and save tag battery life. We also moved a team
and a civilian MCT to the new front gate to log in all types of packs, RFID
tags, pallet ID numbers, and CONEX (container express) numbers. The moves
improved security and control and, most importantly, improved the overall
Our multiclass yard is broken down into several different areas. One is the
mixed-pallet and frustrated cargo area. It is operated primarily by soldiers
from the 51st
Maintenance Battalion’s 574th Supply Company from Mannheim, Germany, with
augmentation from Halliburton Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR). Their job is to
receive packs that are mixed or frustrated. Mixed packs are CONEXs or pallets
whose contents have multiple Department of Defense Activity Address Codes (DODAACs)
and are destined for several different supply support activities (SSAs). Packs
that have items with multiple DODAACs but are headed to the same SSA are not
considered mixed. Automated logistical specialists (military occupational specialty
92A) break down the mixed pallets and segregate their contents on pallets to
be shipped to each of the many logistics nodes served by the CDC. If enough cargo
for one location is received in 24 to 48 hours, a “pure” 463L
pallet is shipped. Partial pallets are sometimes shipped so critical supplies
reach their destination on time.
Sometimes a pallet is labeled “pure,” but when it is broken down
at the receiving SSA, it is found to contain items that belong to another
SSA. When that happens, the items must be shipped back to the CDC as retrograde
cargo. In effect, cargo is shipped several times by the same transportation
avoid this, greater effort should be made to increase the number of pure
shipped to the theater.
Another part of the multiclass yard is designated as the “retro” area.
This area is run by the 574th Supply Company, augmented by the 302d Cargo
Transfer Company, an Army Reserve unit from Fort Eustis, Virginia, and KBR.
cargo from the satellite SSAs is backhauled to the CDC, where it is determined
to be serviceable, unserviceable, or misdirected. In the first few months,
a lot of cargo was shipped back and forth among SSAs, the CDC, and the theater
distribution center because the retrograde cargo was not properly processed
labeled through the Standard Army Retail Supply System (SARSS). For example,
when an unserviceable major assembly was retrograded to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait,
or the theater distribution center, often the original materiel release order
and military shipping label would still be on the container. When this happened,
the unserviceable major assembly was shipped back to the CDC. Because about
1,000 major assemblies pass through the CDC each month, we missed some of
were labeled improperly, and they were sent back to the SSA that had retrograded
them 2 weeks earlier.
cargo, much of it in improperly processed and labeled
containers, sits in the retrograde area of the multiclass
yard. Some of the containers have multiple labels
all over them (inset).
One thing we did to stop these reshipments was
enforce the procedure for processing retrograde through SARSS.
We notified the SSAs that we would no longer receive undocumented
or unprocessed retrograde cargo starting 1 July 2004. By
the end of July, the quantity of undocumented or unprocessed
retrograde cargo had dropped dramatically.
A redistribution warehouse with an active SARSS was set up in Balad in an effort
to save time and money. SSAs can ship serviceable or excess stocks there rather
than back to the warehouses in Kuwait. “Orphaned” and found-on-installation
stocks (items on hand but not on any unit’s hand receipt) can be sent to
the redistribution warehouse for processing rather than to the CDC.
The main area of the CDC multiclass yard is devoted to cargo lanes. The 7th Corps
Support Group’s 71st Corps Support Battalion from Bamberg, Germany, and
the 372d Cargo Transfer Company from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, had done a good
job setting up six lanes. Each lane is designated for use by certain SSAs or
service areas. Now, empty trailers are staged in the lanes, and incoming cargo
is transloaded from sustainer trucks to the trailers in the appropriate lane.
Onward Movement Yard
As part of the new CDC operation plan, we stood up a loaded-trailer staging area
that we call the CDC onward movement yard. When trailers are fully loaded and
documented, they are staged in this yard. This helps the transportation units
that are building convoys by allowing them to come in and hook up to the appropriate
trailer without having to wait to be uploaded.
Because this new setup works so well, we are now preloading class I. We know
that 10 to 20 class I trailers are needed each day, so we try to keep as many
of them staged as possible. This has increased the efficiency of the yard even
further. Moving cargo directly onto trailers dramatically cuts the time required
to process a convoy. Before, it took 6 to 12 hours to process a convoy because
CONEXs and pallets had to be moved to make space for new ones coming in. Now,
it is just a matter of moving cargo from one trailer to another. Because of the
reduced processing time, transportation units spend less time at the CDC and
more time on the road. They now can move more cargo without more equipment or
personnel. There is less wear and tear on equipment, and, since most of the cargo
is never set on the ground, there is less gravel and dirt on the pallets and
in the trailers. Cargo is now being handled only once instead of multiple times.
We knew we needed to automate the CDC if we were ever to have an economical operation.
The number of misdirected shipments and reshipped commodities was just too high.
Operating independently of other logistics nodes was costing us too many resources,
so we decided that we could justify the costs associated with improving our communication
We now have two Transportation Coordinator’s Automated Information for
Movements System II (TC–AIMS II) machines in the CDC that we use to burn
tags and print MSLs. We also have a mobile Deployment Asset Visibility System
(DAVS) that we use to interrogate RFID tags without a hard connection to the
Internet or a power supply. We use it to “look inside” a container
to get the consignee information without breaking a lock or seal. When we need
to find a certain RFID tag in our large yard, the DAVS scans and captures information
on all the tags in a specific area. This is particularly helpful because RFID
tags sometimes are placed where they are hard to find and may be overlooked.
Since we arrived in Iraq, we have been able to obtain an Automated Manifest System-Tactical
(AMS–TAC) for the CDC. With
it, we can receive and ship cargo, burn RFID tags, and maintain in-transit visibility
and total asset visibility (ITV and TAV) of the shipped items. Before AMS–TAC,
RFID tags or pallet IDs on a mixed pallet often became disassociated with the
transportation control numbers (TCNs) on the pallet when we broke it down. This
did not mean that the cargo was lost, but tracking it was a problem. Disassociated
RFID tags had to be cross-referenced manually with the correct TCNs, which was
extremely complicated and time consuming. Those factors, plus the likelihood
of human error, rendered the manual effort unproductive.
With AMS–TAC, the TCNs of items used to build pure pallets are scanned,
and, when the tag is burned, the data go to the ITV server in Germany. When a
shipper searches global transportation network (GTN) or ITV Web sites for the
TCN, the new associated TCN and tag number, or “bumper number,” is
Automated systems work well under ideal conditions, but we soon learned they
do not work well in dusty Iraq in the middle of July. We are not discouraging
the use of automation; rather, we are pointing out that automation has its limits,
and smart business practices must be used to keep things going when automation
Automation runs on electricity, and it is a day-to-day battle to keep the generators
running at the CDC. Dust and heat take a heavy toll on air filters, oil, and
hydraulics. Scanners tend to operate for only 20 to 25 minutes when the temperature
is above 98 degrees Fahrenheit.
The condition of the pallet or CONEX labels is very important. All packs shipped
must have a Department of Defense [DD] Form 1387 (military shipping label [MSL])
and a DD Form 3148–1A (issue release/receipt document [IRRD]), or similar
document, on them. (See Army Regulation 710–2–1, Using Unit Supply
System Manual Procedures, for more information on labeling.) The MSL contains
the TCN, the number of items in the pack, and the consignee. The materiel release
order, which is generated by SARSS or another AMS–TAC, contains the document
number, national stock number, routing identification number, unit of issue,
quantity, commodity, requirement code, and unit price. If the labels have extraneous
marks on them, the AMS–TAC scanners have a hard time reading them. Retrograde
cargo is processed manually each day, but the barcodes on those labels are needed
to automate the documentation.
are fully loaded and documented, they are staged
in the CDC onward movement yard. Trucks come into
the yard and hook up to the appropriate trailers
without having to wait to be uploaded.
Because currently published unit DODAACs are
used to determine where cargo goes, it would be helpful if
the correct DODAACs were included on both the MSLs and the
IRRDs. Placing these documents where they can be scanned easily
from the ground while the packs or items are sitting on a flatbed
trailer also would dramatically improve the ITV and TAV of
RFID tags get damaged, batteries run down because of extensive pinging, and some
tags are not burned properly. Also, when the electricity goes, so does the interrogator.
We may go hours or even days before we can fix it ourselves or get someone to
fix it. We do not stop our operations during this time. We still record every
piece of sustainment cargo passing through the CDC. To prepare for inevitable
automation failures, we developed a manual system to track cargo. As cargo comes
into the yard, we fill out an improvised form we call a “drop placard.” On
it we record all of the necessary ITV data, as well as information ITV cannot
capture, such as the name and type of the hauling unit.
Once the cargo is processed into the appropriate lane, the drop placard is taken
to the MCT at the front gate, and they produce an inbound report of pertinent
data. When a trailer is completely loaded, we tag it with a “pull placard.” This
tells the trailer transfer point team or the KBR tractor team to pull that trailer
to the CDC onward movement yard. When transportation units arrive to haul the
trailers, the departure point MCT uses the pull placard to produce an outbound
report of cargo that has left the CDC. We also use the pull placard to record
the classes of supply that are loaded on specific trailers. Twice a day, we record,
by unit supported, location, and class of supply, what has been received in the
CDC; what is staged; and what has left. We currently record each RFID tag and
pallet ID number on drop placards and pull placards. We then turn those placards
over to the inbound and outbound MCTs to be entered into a spreadsheet.
AMS–TAC is a very handy and capable system, but it is menu driven. This
means that it looks for a certain sequence of barcodes. For example, in the receiving
mode, the AMS–TAC barcode scanner first seeks the TCN of the unit that
shipped the scanned cargo to that location. It then asks for various other barcodes
and, eventually, for the document number barcode.
We are developing a process that will use personal data assistants (PDAs) with
built-in scanners to read these additional barcodes. We want to use the PDAs
to build a quick list of RFID tag and pallet ID numbers, which will increase
the accuracy and productivity of our on-site cargo recordkeeping. The PDAs also
will read nonstandard barcodes similar to those used by commercial shippers.
We often receive packages that have commercial barcodes on them, and it would
be helpful to be able to cross-reference those barcodes with standard DOD barcodes.
Automation does not work well without communications. When we arrived in Iraq,
we had only a single-channel, ground and airborne radio system (SINCGARS) that
worked some of the time. We had no phone, Internet connection, or handheld radios.
Keeping track of critical materials-handling equipment and orchestrating movements
and operations in the yards were impossible.
One of our first tasks was to get phones in the multiclass yard and the class
I yard. Although this proved to be a challenge, we eventually were able to get
a very small aperture terminal (VSAT), which is a small earth station for satellite
transmission. With the VSAT, we can receive and transmit CDC-related data to
everyone, which is a great boost to our operation.
The CDC is a very busy area. At any given time, we may have 4 or 5 rough-terrain
container handlers and 10 to 15 forklifts working in the yards and containers
and pallets are being moved around constantly. In such a setting, land-based
communication lines do not hold up very well. Even when the land lines are buried,
they eventually are cut somehow. One way that we are working around this problem
is by using the Combat Service Support Automated Information System Interface
(CAISI). This system gives us the ability to run a wireless network to the various
operations nodes in the CDC yard. Currently, we are trying to get a CAISI client
module for the ammunition supply point (ASP). However, since we have already
assigned the nine Internet Protocol (IP) addresses allocated to us by the VSAT
system administrators, we currently do not have an IP for the ASP CAISI.
The soldiers in the CDC come from both the Active and Reserve components and
have various military occupational specialties. Most of them had no specific
training for this operation before their deployment because no one has ever done
what we are doing here. Our processes are new. We have improvised by creating
forms and using some equipment for purposes other than those intended in the
original design. We operate in all kinds of weather on an installation that is
one of the most frequently attacked installations in the theater. Everything
is dirty, usually hot, and often broken. In many ways, ours is a thankless job,
but our soldiers get the job done, and they do it better each day.
CDC Wish List
Based on our deployment experiences so far, we have compiled a “wish list” of
things we think would improve our operations. Here are some of the items on that
• Some of the packs that come into the CDC look like travel trunks that
have been riding around on a train for awhile—they have labels all over
them. There should be one global label with barcodes that can be read by any
scanner. An alternative would be scanners that can read any barcode. Both labels
and scanners should be constructed so they will survive in hot, dusty, and windy
• Everyone understands and plays by the same
logistics rules, so all major logistics nodes should have the same types and
quantities of equipment such as materials-handling equipment and communications
sets and outfits.
• A single collection point for the immediate area would enhance the overall
logistics operation. Currently, transporters have to stop at several outlying
logistics nodes, which delays shipments and frustrates cargo. Units sometimes
refuse to download cargo
because it is not theirs or they do not want it. These deliveries needlessly
put the drivers and their trucks at risk.
• Transportation organizations with different equipment create logistics
constraints. Civilian tractors and trailers do not work well with their military
counterparts. We need more consistency of equipment and organizational structures.
The CDC has come a long way since the 319th Corps Support Battalion arrived at
LSA Anaconda. Four separate Army units, a team of marines, and at least three
contractors operate military and civilian equipment in the CDC. Together, we
have processed more than 15,350,000 pieces of cargo weighing over 800,000 tons
(or 1,400 to 1,500 truckloads each week) while five divisions and many nondivisional
units were deploying and redeploying. Most cargo, frustrated or not, is cleared
out of the CDC in 12 to 36 hours. Because we serve over 160,000 military and
civilian personnel, we are sometimes the object of both gratitude and scorn.
Although we are operating at about 98-percent accuracy (measured by the amount
of cargo processed versus documented misdirected shipments attributed to the
CDC team), we expect the negatives to decrease and our systems to improve even
more as we acquire better facilities. Our focus now is to achieve 100-percent
accuracy, and do it faster, cheaper, and safer than ever before. ALOG
Captain Bret D. Jones, USAR, is the
Transportation Officer in the Support Operations Office of
the 319th Corps
Support Battalion, 172d Corps Support Group, which
is currently deployed to Balad, Iraq. He has a bachelor’s degree in
air transportation/airport management from Northeast Louisiana University.
He is a graduate of the Transportation Officer Basic and Advanced Courses
and the Combined Arms and Services Staff School.
Lieutenant Colonel Emmett C. Schuster, USAR, is the Commander of the 319th
Corps Support Battalion, 172d Corps Support Group, which is currently deployed
to Balad, Iraq. He has a bachelor’s degree in entomology from Texas Tech
University and a master’s degree in health services administration from
the University of Kansas. He is a graduate of the Field Artillery Officer Basic
and Advanced Courses, the Combined Arms and Services Staff School, and the
Army Command and General Staff College.