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Ensuring CLP Success

The 15th Brigade Support Battalion (BSB) conducts nightly combat logistics patrols (CLPs), delivering supplies to the 2d Brigade Combat Team (BCT), 1st Cavalry Division, within the Baghdad area of operations. The battalion conducted an in-depth train-up for CLP procedures before deploying to Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) 06–08, to include company lanes training, convoy live fire, and a rotation to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California. Within the first 2 months of deployment, the battalion refined its procedures to become more efficient at supplying the 2d BCT. Currently, the battalion supports customers at two separate forward operating bases (FOBs).

CLP Commander Certification

Every CLP commander in the 15th BSB must be certified by the battalion commander before leading a CLP. The CLP commander undergoes a thorough question-and-answer session with the battalion commander during his CLP brief. The CLP commander gives his operation order (OPORD) to all CLP personnel in the presence of the battalion commander, and the battalion commander conducts an OPORD after-action review (AAR) with the CLP commander. The battalion commander rides with the CLP commander during the execution of the CLP and determines certification after the CLP returns to home station. The battalion commander conducts these certifications to ensure uniformity of standards among all of his CLP commanders.

Synchronization

Before a CLP ever leaves the gate, the battalion staff plans, synchronizes, and coordinates to ensure smooth operations once the CLP reaches its destination. The support operations office (SPO) uses its reporting tools to predict CLP loads 72 hours out and locks CLP loads in 24 hours out in order to allocate haul assets. The SPO and S–3 conduct a synchronization meeting daily with the A Company truck master, gun truck platoon leader, supply support activity (SSA) platoon leader, CLP commanders, and an executive officer from each company. During this meeting, haul assets are identified, gun trucks are allocated based on CLP length, and start times are determined by the S–2, based on enemy activity patterns. The SPO then informs the company commander of the mission requirements, and he selects the CLP commander. Once a CLP commander is selected, he selects his assistant CLP commander, and they usually have 72 hours to plan for the mission.

Plan Development

Once the CLP and assistant CLP commanders are identified, the CLP commander gives the assistant a warning order that includes the mission, destination, quantity and type of vehicles needed, and start time. The assistant coordinates with the gun truck platoon and other battalion sections to complete the mission manifest. He determines which gun truck squad is assigned to the mission, the vehicle bumper numbers, weapon serial numbers, battle roster numbers, and other pertinent information.

The CLP commander analyzes the route and recent significant activities (SIGACTS) with the S–2. He also coordinates with the S–3 and SPO on points of contact, materials-handling equipment required, and grids for equipment pickup. Once the CLP commander has completed gathering information from the staff, he can complete the plan.

First, he focuses on developing the timeline that includes battalion mandatory times for the operation. To develop a daily battle rhythm for CLPs, the 15th BSB set mandatory hard times for issue of the OPORD and precombat checks and inspections.

Second, he should develop a thorough understanding of the route by using previous CLP back briefs, satellite imagery, and map reconnaissance. The S–2 shop can provide the CLP commander with satellite imagery of the route. The brigade’s goal for the 15th BSB is to push understanding of the route down to the lowest level so that any Soldier in the CLP can successfully complete the mission.

Finally, the CLP commander must develop an order of march. This is important because counter remote-controlled IED (improvised explosive device) electronic warfare (CREW) systems have to be emplaced to ensure that maximum coverage is provided to every convoy vehicle. Placement of CREW systems becomes extremely critical as the number of vehicles in the CLP increases.

After the CLP commander has completed these three steps, he develops the OPORD. He is also responsible for completing the risk assessment and an OPORD brief. By this time, the assistant CLP commander has a completed manifest identifying which vehicles have CREW systems. The CLP commander identifies ground commanders for separate missions at the destination and ensures that one noncommissioned officer (NCO) is in every vehicle.

The CLP commander, assistant CLP commander, and gun truck NCO in charge analyze the plan and make improvements where needed. For example, the CLP commander ensures that the aid and litter team, recovery team, and landing zone team are identified and located at optimal points in the CLP. They also ensure that Duke and self-screening vehicle jamming systems are placed in the most beneficial locations within the convoy and identify which vehicles would separate from the CLP if it were necessary to evacuate the combat surgical hospital (CSH). After this meeting of the CLP leadership, the plan is finalized and ready to be briefed to the battalion commander. All of these steps are usually completed within 24 hours of the mission start time.

Final Approval

On the morning of the mission, the CLP commander, accompanied by his company commander, briefs the battalion commander. The battalion commander requires four items: a risk assessment, OPORD, CLP OPORD brief, and mission manifest. Once he approves the plan, no changes may be made to add vehicles or Soldiers without his approval.

During the briefing, the CLP commander also briefs the battalion commander on his planned actions once he arrives at his destination (actions on the objective), the location of the designated staging area, and the route the CLP will use when departing. With the approval of the battalion commander, the CLP commander is ready to brief his plan to all CLP personnel.

OPORD Issue

Designating a briefing room with aerial maps and a projector is essential so that the CLP commander has the tools he needs to brief his personnel. CLP briefs are conducted at 1500 hours daily. Every Soldier who participates in the CLP must attend this briefing, or he is not permitted on the CLP. The S–2 begins by providing detailed information on the most recent enemy SIGACTS and current enemy tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP) and how they may affect the mission. Next, the CLP commander issues his OPORD. This briefing covers the mission, route, order of march, timeline, medical and recovery plans, battle drills, and communications. After the briefing, all CLP personnel are turned over to the assistant CLP commander to conduct vehicle staging and rehearsals.

Rehearsals and Battalion Checks

During rehearsals, Soldiers line up on foot in the order of march and walk through actions on contact, actions during breakdown, vehicle recovery, and casualty evacuations. Soldiers backbrief their specific missions during this time to ensure that all personnel understand the mission at the release point. After rehearsals, the battalion staff conducts mission checks at 1800.

During battalion checks, the S–1, S–3, S–6, electronic warfare officer (EWO) (an attached Navy officer), B Company maintenance, and SPO conduct precombat inspections. The S–1 checks the manifest, identification cards and dog tags, weapon serial numbers, vehicle bumper numbers, and any other sensitive items. The S–6 checks for proper operation of the Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below (FBCB2) and Blue Force Tracker (BFT) systems and single channel ground and airborne radio system (SINGCARS) radios.

During this time, the CLP commander plots his route on his FBCB2 screen. The EWO ensures that all CREW systems are functioning and every vehicle is within the 50-meter radius of the Duke coverage. The B Company automotive shop conducts a final walkthrough to check quality assurance and quality control on all trucks. The SPO shop ensures that secondary loads are correct and secured properly.

While battalion checks are taking place, the assistant CLP commander inspects every Soldier’s uniform for the proper equipment. He also ensures that each vehicle has a combat lifesaver bag and a proper vehicle dispatch. After all checks are completed, convoy personnel are told when to return and released for rest time.

Start Point Minus 1

CLP personnel report to the staging area 1 hour before start point (SP) and conduct guard mount—an open-ranks inspection of the full combat uniform. The assistant CLP commander inspects weapons for cleanliness, ensures that Soldiers have eye protection and earplugs on hand, and ensures that each Soldier is in complete combat uniform. All personnel complete one last check on their FBCB2 or BFT and call a radio check in to the CLP commander. Once the CLP commander has made radio contact with all vehicles, CLP personnel gather for the most recent S–2 update. This briefing is short and covers events that have occurred since the briefing at 1500, route status, and the enemy’s most likely course of action. Finally, the chaplain delivers a prayer, and Soldiers return to their vehicles.

All personnel then mount up and the CLP commander can call in for route and air status and begin movement to the designated departure gate. Once near the gate, the CLP commander calls for an SP time. An SP time is given, and the lead vehicle commander informs the FOB gate guards of the unit departing and the number of vehicles and personnel on the mission.

The lead vehicle commander then escorts the convoy to the loading area, and all crews begin to arm their Rhino, CREW systems, and crew-served and individual weapons. The mission begins as soon as all vehicles report their four statuses to the CLP commander. Reports sound like, “Gun truck one is red, red, red, amber.” This means that every vehicle has turned on their Rhino and Warlock force protection systems, gunners have locked and loaded their M240B or M2 machineguns, and all individual weapons have one magazine loaded but no round chambered.

Mission Execution

The 15th BSB’s convoys are required to travel at 20 miles per hour and maintain 25-meter intervals. This TTP is used to counter the current explosively formed projectiles (EFP) threat and ensure the ability of CREW systems to cover all vehicles in the convoy. The best countermeasure against EFP is the human eye spotting the explosive before it is detonated. Crews of fast-traveling vehicles are unable to spot and react to threats.

Once a CLP arrives at its destination, each truck commander ensures that all weapons in the vehicle, including crew-served and individual weapons, are clear. After the senior occupant ensures that the crew-served weapon is clear, all occupants clear their individual weapons at the clearing barrel. The senior occupant observes and checks the chamber of each weapon as Soldiers conduct clearing procedures. Once all vehicles have cleared their weapons, they report their status back to the CLP commander. Reports sound like, “Gun 2 is green, green, green, green.” This means that the Rhino and CREW systems have been disarmed and crew-served and individual weapons are clear.

After the CLP reaches its destination, it is imperative that the time-on-ground is as short as possible. The 15th BSB travels during the Baghdad curfew hours, and, if time is wasted at the destination, the CLP may be forced to drive with local traffic during heightened enemy activity times. For this reason, a ground commander is identified for each mission at the destination. Each ground commander is responsible for the safety of the operation at his sight. He is also responsible for reporting to the CLP commander any problems he encounters and when the mission is completed. An efficient operation usually takes the 15th BSB from 40 minutes to 7 hours on ground, depending on its complexity.

After completing the mission, all vehicles proceed to a designated staging area for consolidation and reorganization. Reorganization can be difficult, given the size of the vehicles and the operating space. To alleviate confusion and mitigate risk, rehearsals are conducted to ensure that every Soldier knows his task, purpose, and location on the battlefield. Once all vehicles have merged at the staging area, the assistant CLP commander ensures that the CLP is in the correct order and conducts a radio check with every vehicle.

When reorganization is complete, the CLP proceeds to the gate and requests route and air status and an SP time. Once the CLP is cleared for SP, the CLP exits the FOB and again conducts arming reporting. When the CLP returns to home station, it proceeds to the gate and its personnel clear weapons and head to the briefing room to be debriefed by the battalion S–2. The SPO has representatives on the ground to receive a mission debrief also. After these debriefs, the CLP commander conducts an AAR. The AAR is critical because it shapes the TTP for future operations and allows each Soldier to provide feedback. After the AAR, repair parts are downloaded at the SSA, bulk fuel is
downloaded into the fuel system supply point bags, trucks are refueled, and any maintenance issues are addressed by the standby maintenance crew.

CLP Council

In addition to daily CLP AARs, the 15th BSB conducts biweekly CLP councils. This is a forum for discussing TTP to counter the current and emerging enemy TTP. The participants include the battalion commander, CLP and assistant CLP commanders, gun truck platoon personnel, company commanders, and the battalion S–3 and SPO. During the council, the EWO provides updated information about CREW systems and the group discusses ways of improving CLP efficiency. The 15th BSB refines its CLP standing operating procedure based on the outcome of the CLP council.

When this article was written, the 15th BSB was 6 months into a yearlong deployment. It had traveled over 50,000 miles and conducted 250 CLPs through the Baghdad area of operations, and it had not suffered injuries or vehicle loss of capability. The hallmark of the 15th BSB’s success is the deliberate troop-leading procedures outlined in this article. The battalion staff hopes that this article offers their fellow logisticians a way to conduct resupply missions in a combat environment.
ALOG

Captain Amy E. Cronin is the deputy for support operations of the 2d Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, which was deployed to Iraq when she wrote the article. She was the commander of A Company, 15th Brigade Support Battalion, from October 2005 to April 2007. She holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering psychology from the U.S. Military Academy and is a graduate of the Quartermaster Officer Basic Course.

First Lieutenant Gregory Sterley is the gun truck platoon leader for B Company, 15th Brigade Support Battalion. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Bowling Green State University and is a graduate of the Ordnance Officer Basic Course.