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Supporting SSAs in Iraq With a
Hub-and-Spoke System

At the onset of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the receipt, issue, and tracking of supplies became one of the biggest challenges for the Theater Distribution Center (TDC), Logistics Support Area (LSA) Anaconda at Balad, Iraq, and the supply support activities (SSAs) throughout the theater. Problems in managing internal misships, external misships, and serviceable excess at LSA Anaconda were breaking the ability of the SSAs to support units. The solution was the development and implementation of a hub-and-spoke system to provide more timely receipt of parts and materials by units and reduce losses caused by misshipments. Hub-and-spoke operations at LSA Anaconda offer lessons for other LSAs and SSAs facing problems caused by misshipments.

“ Internal misships” were those misshipments that were destined for SSAs within LSA Anaconda. “External misships” were those misshipments intended for SSAs located outside of LSA Anaconda, such as those at the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment, the 4th Infantry Division (Mechanized), and the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). “Serviceable excess” included parts or materials that exceeded authorized stockage levels and were returned to the corps distribution center (CDC) for onward movement.

The hub-and-spoke system was designed to relieve SSAs at LSA Anaconda of the need to transport internal misships by delivering all materiel to the correct SSAs at LSA Anaconda within a 24-hour period; to consolidate and transport external misships to the CDC for onward movement to units throughout the Combined Joint Task Force 7 (CJTF–7) area of operations; and to transport serviceable excesses to the CDC.

Iraqi Freedom Supply Challenges

In early March 2003, LSA Anaconda was established to support warfighters and conduct combat service support (CSS) operations. However, the LSA did not receive the support it needed from the TDC. The commander of the 7th Corps Support Group (CSG) put together a Forward Assistance Support Team (FAST) comprising SSA warrant officers and senior noncommissioned officers to function as the CSG’s LSA liaison. The goal was to expedite receipt of classes of supply for the six SSAs to be stood up at LSA Anaconda.

The FAST identified CONEXs (containers express), MILVANs (military-owned demountable containers), and classes of supply designated for LSA Anaconda. The team monitored and established a 7th CSG lane at the TDC, ensuring that the lane was not pilfered for supplies and that logistics trains going to LSA Anaconda received priority. The FAST stood up an air port of debarkation lane to ensure the rapid forward movement of aircraft-on-ground (AOG) parts to support combat and medical aviation units at LSA Anaconda. The FAST was able to get supplies destined for LSA Anaconda pushed forward and established “Red Ball Express”-type logistics trains, where supplies would be pushed directly to the LSA and distributed to the six SSAs.

Impact of Misshipments

Internal misships increased the man-hours of labor that had to be devoted to handling misshipments, increased the use of materials-handling equipment (MHE) because supplies had to be handled multiple times, increased the use of transportation assets needed to redirect misshipments back to the CDC for forwarding, delayed the receipt of parts at supported units, and minimized overall SSA operational capabilities.

External misships to SSAs adversely affected the throughput of supplies at LSA Anaconda and throughout CJTF–7, minimized CDC effectiveness in support of CJTF–7, and inflated the demand for parts. External misships also increased the use of CDC MHE, delayed delivery of parts and materials to units, and minimized the operational capabilities of SSAs throughout CJTF–7.

Backlogs at SSAs at LSA Anaconda and throughout CJTF–7 limited SSA mission capabilities. Internal backlogs turned LSA Anaconda SSAs into misship warehousing facilities and misship distribution centers; exhausted unit transportation assets, which had to be used to move redirected misshipments; and delayed deliveries to supported units by more than 72 hours.

External backlogs outside LSA Anaconda minimized CDC effectiveness in support of CJTF–7 units, increased MHE hours because of double and triple handling of supplies, delayed delivery of parts to CJTF–7 units by at least 1 to 2 weeks, minimized SSA operational capabilities throughout CJTF–7, inflated the demand for parts throughout CJTF–7, and taxed the capabilities and assets of SSAs.

Lost parts increased equipment not-mission-capable rates by 30 to 90 days. Internally lost parts at LSA Anaconda inflated demand for parts, fostered multiple orders for parts, exhausted the supply system, overwhelmed both transportation and MHE assets, and increased the funds spent on local purchases of parts and equipment. Parts lost outside LSA Anaconda increased spending on contracted haulers, exhausted organic transportation and MHE capabilities, increased the number of retrograde items to be managed and transported, increased demand for warehouse space to accommodate retrograde items, and limited the operational capabilities of CJTF–7 units.

Hub-and-Spoke Operations

The concept of operations for the hub-and-spoke system developed out of the need to redirect misshipments between the two primary SSAs at LSA Anaconda, the 240th Quartermaster Company (Direct Support) and the 147th Maintenance Company (Direct Support), both of which are part of the 7th CSG. Each SSA was receiving misships meant for the other SSA, and each lacked the transportation and MHE assets to redirect shipments for issue to supporting units quickly and responsively. So the 413th Quartermaster Battalion (Supply and Services), an Army Reserve unit, was tasked to assist and minimize the impact of misships to the two SSAs.

Two 30-foot trailers staged at the 240th Quartermaster Company were dedicated to handling 147th Maintenance Company misships. The misships were identified, loaded on the trailers, and pushed to the 147th Maintenance Company, where they were off-loaded. The trailers then were loaded with 240th Quartermaster Company misships and returned to the 240th Quartermaster Company yard. The frequency of misships to the two SSAs dictated that supplies be moved every other day, with an average volume of 11⁄2 trailer loads. The support the 413th Quartermaster Battalion provided in handling misships allowed the two SSAs to concentrate their efforts on servicing their supported units.

The hub-and-spoke system then was expanded into an internal system that supported all six SSAs at LSA Anaconda. The other four SSAs were A Company, 7–159 Aviation Maintenance Battalion [part of the 7th CSG]; B Company, 7–159 Aviation Maintenance Battalion; the 588th Maintenance Company [part of the 19th Maintenance Battalion, III Corps Artillery]; and the 349th Quartermaster Company (Direct Support) [a California Army National Guard unit]. Fifteen 30-foot trailers were dedicated and staged to receive, transport, and redistribute misships among the six SSAs. The frequency of internal hub-and-spoke misships dictated support 6 days a week, with an average daily volume of 51⁄2 trailer loads.

The final concept of operation expanded the “Anaconda Express” hub-and-spoke system to manage both internal and external support of SSAs throughout CJTF–7. The hub-and-spoke system had proven effective at managing misships at LSA Anaconda, but LSA Anaconda was still receiving misships from other LSAs, retrograded supplies, and unidentifiable frustrated supplies. The focus of the external mission was to support the management of frustrated CJTF–7 misships and serviceable excess. Using seventeen 30-foot trailers staged in support of the SSAs at LSA Anaconda, support was extended to include 1011th Quartermaster Company (Direct Support) frustrated cargo, CJTF–7 misships, and serviceable excess. Frequency of support dictated operations 6 days a week, with an average daily volume of seven trailer loads. Using the hub-and-spoke system, frustrated supplies and serviceable excesses were identified and redirected to other LSAs and the TDC to be put back into the sup-ply distributions system.

The LSA Anaconda hub-and-spoke system increased SSA productivity as the system assumed the task of transporting internal and external misships. It also expedited delivery of needed misshipped materials to SSAs and to other logistics nodes in CJTF–7. Finally, the hub-and-spoke system reduced the number of items lost in transit.

When a theater of operations is opened and the primary plan of support is not adequately responsive to customer units, alternate courses of action must be developed to support supply and distribution activities. Using a hub-and-spoke system as an alternative course of action improved support to SSAs, LSA Anaconda, and CJTF–7 until the theater distribution system became responsive.

Captain Paul E. Williams, USAR, is an Active Guard/Reserve (AGR) officer serving as the S–2/3 Plans Officer with the 167th Support Group (Corps) at Londonderry, New Hampshire. He has a B.A. Degree in History from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and is a graduate of the Quartermaster Officer Basic Course and the Combined Logistics Captains Career Course.