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Expeditionary Logistics in Its Truest Form

Along the San Diego freeway (Interstate 5) near the entrance to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, sits a dusty field and a bare beach. Sites like these can be found around the globe in all regions of strategic importance to the U.S. military. However, several months ago this barren, open plain and lonely stretch of beach was crowded with over 2,700 military personnel, hundreds of vehicles, and dozens of watercraft conducting Exercise Pacific Strike 2008.

Pacific Strike is the annual U.S. Transportation Command-sponsored joint logistics over-the-shore (JLOTS) exercise. It was carried out at Camp Pendleton from 15 June to 15 August 2008. The commanding officer of the 8th Theater Sustainment Command from Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, served as the joint task force commander. The commander of Naval Beach Group 1 from Coronado, California, served as the JLOTS commander. And the commanding officer of the 45th Sustainment Brigade from Fort Shafter, Hawaii, served as the reception, staging, and onward movement commander.

JLOTS is a key enabler to many combatant command operation plans. It allows a heavy force to be moved from ship to shore without the benefit of a modern deepwater port. In recent military operations, a large modern port in Kuwait has been available for offloading the bulk of the heavy equipment and supplies. However, during World War II and the Korean War, numerous invasions needed to be supported from ship to shore, including the Normandy invasion and General Douglas MacArthur’s bold assault on Inchon in Korea.

In planning for both military missions and disaster response or humanitarian assistance missions around the world, JLOTS enables commanders to mass combat power from the sea in regions without a suitable deepwater port or with a port that has been rendered unusable. The strategic flexibility JLOTS offers is critical to keeping adversaries off balance as they attempt to anticipate U.S. military operation planning. Recently, the military has not needed to employ JLOTS in support of combat operations. The lack of necessity, coupled with budget cuts that have hampered JLOTS training exercises, has limited the exposure of many Army and Navy personnel to this critical warfighting skill set.

Exercise Mission

Pacific Strike 2008 was the largest JLOTS exercise ever conducted during peacetime. The mission was to move the 3d Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, from ship to shore and onward to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, for predeployment training before it headed to Iraq. Thus, unlike most exercises, JLOTS 2008 had a real deadline with repercussions if the offload did not go smoothly. JLOTS planning began in earnest in October 2007, with leaders mapping out command and control nodes, deconflicting timelines, and ensuring an adequate force flow to accomplish the mission. [“Force flow” refers to movement of personnel and equipment from home station to the area of responsibility.]

Major Navy units participating in this exercise included Expeditionary Strike Group 3, Naval Beach Group 1, Amphibious Construction Battalions 1 and 2, Beachmaster Unit 1, Assault Craft Unit 1, Expeditionary Health Services Pacific, Naval Cargo Handling Battalions 1 and 12, and Maritime Expeditionary Security Group 1. Army units participating included the 8th Theater Sustainment Command, 45th Sustainment Brigade, 24th Transportation Battalion, 169th Seaport Operations Company, 368th Seaport Operations Company, 331st Causeway Company, 705th Transportation Company, 443rd Transportation Company, 481st Heavy Boat Unit, 175th Floating Craft Maintenance Unit, and 109th Quartermaster Company.

Systems Used

Pacific Strike used all of the JLOTS technology available to support ship-to-shore movement. This family of systems included the offshore petroleum discharge system (OPDS), the elevated causeway (modular) (ELCAS[M]), the Army trident pier, the Army and Navy roll-on-roll-off discharge facilities (RRDF), the floating causeway administration pier, and a large-scale tent camp for a life-support area.

The Military Sealift Command activated four vessels for use in this exercise. The SS Cape Mohican carried Amphibious Construction Battalion 1’s lighterage from San Diego, California, to Camp Pendleton. [Lighterage refers to small powered and nonpowered craft that move material from ship to shore.] The large, medium-speed, roll-on-roll-off (LMSR) USNS Pililaau was used to move the 3d Brigade from Hawaii to Camp Pendleton. The SS Chesapeake was the OPDS tanker, and the auxiliary crane ship SS Flickertail State carried Army lighterage and the ELCAS pier components from Norfolk, Virginia, to Camp Pendleton.

Both services also used a host of smaller logistics watercraft essential to moving the cargo from ship to shore. These included legacy Army and Navy lighterage, the improved Navy lighterage system (INLS), Army and Navy landing craft utility, lighter amphibious resupply cargo amphibians, tugs, utility boats, and a large logistics support vessel.

Set Up

First into the field were the Seabees of Amphibious Construction Battalion 1. Starting from pop-up tents with meals, ready-to-eat, and water for sustenance, they began construction of the tent camp that would eventually house 2,700 Soldiers and Sailors with a full range of life support. The life support area included dozens of command and control tents, a 700-seat galley [dining facility]; barbershop; laundry; showers; morale, welfare, and recreation facility; movie tent; gym; chapel; and over 250 berthing [sleeping] tents.

This was an expeditionary tent camp. No life support facilities existed before 15 June, and the field was empty again at the conclusion of the exercise. Unlike many U.S. military experiences at camps in Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan, the life support area had no KBR facilities, no commercial vendors doing laundry, and no third-country nationals working in the galley. The entire operation was planned and executed by Soldiers and Sailors.

Exercise Logistics

As the Pacific Strike J–4, I was the JLOTS commander’s principal assistant for logistics. I was responsible for all aspects of life support (galley, laundry, barber, tents, cots, tables, and chairs), contracting for services (port-a-johns, trash, recycling, gray water removal, rental vehicles), material (logistics yard, freight routing, priority 03 ordering, government purchase card), fuel, mail handling, coordinating commercial bus transportation to and from the aerial port of debarkation, and budget management. The total exercise budget was over $20 million, with nearly $2.5 million used for life support and operations and maintenance needs.

During the peak period of operations, nearly 100 Army and Navy personnel worked to support over 2,700 camp residents. Offload operations continued 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The J–4 organization was fully integrated, with Army and Navy leaders from the Active and Reserve components in place throughout. For example, all cooks, regardless of service, wore brown t-shirts and all food service attendants wore green t-shirts. These t-shirts told all who came to work in the J–4 organization that our mission was to support the joint force to the best of our ability, regardless of our service affiliation.

With tent camp construction underway, much of the required lighterage and heavy equipment to support JLOTS began arriving by sea. The SS Cape Mohican allowed fully loaded improved Navy lighterage system and Navy lighterage causeway sections to be driven onto a large elevator on the stern and rolled onto rails on three decks. This float-on-float-off technology allows for quick assembly of sections into causeway ferries for transit through the surf zone onto the beach to support cargo discharge. This capability is one of the key enablers of JLOTS.

The arrival of the SS Chesapeake and the legacy OPDS brought another key ingredient of logistics planning into play—fuel. OPDS allows the pumping of 1.2 million gallons per day of fuel from sea to shore. This fuel is pumped via underwater flexible pipelines or conduits to a beach termination unit. From there, the fuel is moved over land to large, collapsible storage tanks set up and operated by Soldiers or Marines.

JLOTS Ship-to-Shore Equipment

The next components of the JLOTS system to arrive, the ELCAS(M) and the Army trident pier, came by rail and aboard the SS Flickertail State from Norfolk. The ELCAS(M) is an amazing piece of engineering. Seabees use heavy construction equipment and cranes to build a steel pier from the beach into the ocean using 8-foot by 40-foot pontoon sections and steel pilings. ELCAS(M) can be built out to 3,000 feet to ensure it passes safely over the surf zone. The head of the ELCAS pier contains two 200-ton cranes for offloading cargo. The pier roadway is 24 feet wide, allowing for two-lane truck traffic. In calm conditions, the ELCAS(M) system can be used to move over 370 20-foot equivalent units of cargo during 24/7 operations.

The Army trident pier is constructed of non-powered pontoon sections that are driven onto the beach by a flotilla of modular warping tugs [the craft used to move the causeway sections and tend the completed structure]. The pier extends from the beach through the surf zone and allows for Army and some Navy watercraft to unload rolling stock. Although it is a capable piece of equipment, the fact that it floats on the water leaves it susceptible to surf damage. Thus, before it was even used during JLOTS 2008, the Pacific Ocean damaged the platform and it was not used in completing the mission.

The final pieces of the JLOTS mission set were the RRDF platforms. These large floating platforms are assembled from nonpowered causeway sections and towed by warping tugs into place alongside the vessels to be offloaded. Large ramps are lowered from the Military Sealift Command ships onto the RRDF platforms, and rolling stock is moved from the ship down the ramp onto the RRDF and then driven onto causeway ferries for transport to a beach, the ELCAS(M) pier head, or the trident pier. When the USNS Pililaau arrived, the Army placed RRDFs on the portside of the vessel and the Navy RRDF was positioned astern. RRDFs allow for a much more efficient rate of cargo transfer than lift-on-lift-off by crane.

As the warfighting equipment of the 25th Infantry Division was brought ashore, it was handed over to the reception, staging, and onward movement force assembled on the beach. The 45th Sustainment Brigade Soldiers loaded equipment and rolling stock onto a large number of Army and commercial trucks for the trip to Fort Irwin.
Navy cargo handling battalion personnel operated the cranes onboard the SS Flickertail State and the USNS Pililaau. Maritime expeditionary security force inshore boat units provided seaward security. Finally, there was a large presence of both Army and Navy Reserve personnel. Many key units were comprised solely of reservists. Other Active forces relied on reservists to round out their manning to sustain 24-hour operations. JLOTS demonstrated the “total force” concept envisioned by the Navy.

JLOTS 2008 was a huge success. The 3d Brigade’s equipment was delivered to Fort Irwin ahead of schedule, the operation was completed safely, and all forces were retrograded home. Pacific Strike validated to the U.S. Pacific Command, the U.S. Transportation Command, and U.S. Army Pacific that the Army-Navy team of JLOTS professionals can move a heavy force from ship to shore anywhere in the world to support both combat and humanitarian missions.
ALOG

Lieutenant Commander Richard A. Paquette, USN, is the Director of Contracts for Fleet and Industrial Supply Center Jacksonville, Florida. He was the supply officer for Amphibious Construction Battalion 1 in Coronado, California, when he wrote this article. He holds a B.S. degree in history from the United States Naval Academy and an M.S. degree in management (acquisition and contracts) from the Naval Postgraduate School.