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BCT Logistics in Al Anbar Province

In June 2005, the 2d Brigade Combat Team, 28th Infantry Division (2–28 BCT), Pennsylvania Army National Guard (ARNG), deployed to Al Anbar Province, Iraq, and began a year of sustained counterinsurgency operations against Al Qaeda and various Sunni extremist organizations. The 2–28 BCT was composed of a dynamic team of Army National Guardsmen from 34 states. The BCT was attached to the II Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) and Multi-National Force-West (MNF–W) and given its own battlespace in and around the volatile city of Ramadi. Upon the 2–28 BCT’s arrival in theater, the MEF gave it one Marine infantry battalion and one Army maneuver battalion for the duration of the deployment. In addition, the BCT’s partnered Iraqi Army units grew from approximately one brigade when it arrived in Ramadi to more than three brigades when it redeployed.

During its 12-month deployment, the 2–28 BCT received an average of 42 significant activities per day in the form of small-arms fire, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), complex attacks, or indirect fire within its assigned area of operations (AO). Within this tactical environment, the 2–28 BCT logistics team began the difficult work of sustaining the brigade and its Iraqi Army and Police partners.

Logistics Command and Control

The 2–28 BCT deployed as a legacy organization. As such, the 228th Forward Support Battalion (FSB) (Pennsylvania ARNG) was an Army of Excellence support battalion and lacked the robust, organic distribution capability of a modular brigade support battalion. Logistics in Iraq was service-provided, and the 2–28 BCT operated without the logistics enablers that would have been provided by a main support battalion (MSB). MNF–W had both a Marine logistics group (MLG) and an Army corps support group (CSG) that provided general support (GS) logistics to units operating in Al Anbar Province.

Geographically, the units of the BCT operated from four forward operating bases (FOBs) and were separated by Lake Habaniyah and the city of Ramadi. The MLG was in the eastern AO and occupied Al Taqqadum Air Base, which was the principal Marine GS supply point for Al Anbar Province. The 2–28 BCT’s supporting corps support battalion (CSB) also occupied Al Taqqadum Air Base. Consequently, the 228th FSB(–) and support operations office (SPO) occupied Al Taqqadum Air Base in order to tie into the corps support area and available MLG logistics assets.

The BCT headquarters, other subordinate units, the FSB medical company, and one maintenance company occupied Camp Ramadi in the western AO. Doctrinally, the SPO and BCT S–4 office should collocate. However, given the dispersion of the BCT’s maneuver battalions, the decision was made to operate in a split-operations mode. To ensure synchronization of logistics to the BCT, the SPO placed a strong liaison officer (LNO) in the BCT S–4 office.

The SPO LNO and the BCT S–4 plans officer collaborated for logistics planning. The LNO also coordinated directly with the two FSB companies at Camp Ramadi to ensure that direct support (DS) was being provided to BCT units in the western AO. The SPO traveled from Al Taqqadum Air Base to Camp Ramadi and participated in all brigade-level military decisionmaking processes (MDMPs). While planning for the Ramadi saturation operation in the spring of 2006, the SPO shuttled between the MEF G–4 staff at Camp Fallujah and the 2–28 BCT staff at Camp Ramadi. In the interim, the SPO and BCT S–4 communicated continuously via digital nonsecure voice terminal and secure email, and logistics support to the brigade was continuous.

Ideally, the SPO and BCT S–4 would collocate, but that arrangement is not essential. The success of logistics synchronization within a BCT often comes down to intangible assets: personalities. Regardless of location, if the SPO and S–4 and their respective staffs have a positive, professional working relationship, logistics will work for the BCT. If not, it will fail.

Tactical Transportation

One of the greatest logistics challenges that the FSB faced during its deployment was a shortage of organic transportation assets. Because the BCT operated as part of the MEF, it lacked the benefit of an MSB’s organic truck company. For example, it was not uncommon to wait a month to receive needed heavy equipment transporter (HET) support. During the first 3 months of the deployment, all HET support came from a single Marine HET platoon based at Camp Fallujah. The vast number of taskings for the Marine HET platoon throughout Al Anbar Province and the lack of HET assets within the supporting CSB on Al Taqqadum Air Base forced the BCT either to find creative solutions for meeting HET requirements or to wait until the movement control team could send HETs from Kuwait. Fortunately, the 620th CSB on Al Taqqadum Air Base redeployed and the new 44th CSB had several HETs and provided responsive HET support to the FSB for the remainder of the deployment. HETs were the only assets capable of evacuating battle-damaged combat vehicles over long distances from the battalion FOBs to the FSB cannibalization point on Al Taqqadum Air Base.

After the SPO returned from the BCT predeployment site survey in March 2005, it was clear that lack of responsive transportation was a significant problem within the AO. So the FSB created a transportation section out of hide at Mobilization Center Shelby, Mississippi, to meet the forecasted mission requirements. This ad hoc transportation section consisted of 25 Soldiers, with half based at Camp Ramadi providing DS to units there and half based at Al Taqqadum Air Base supporting BCT units in the eastern AO.

Two FSB personal security detachments also were created. These detachments provided the FSB S–2/3 with organic, well-trained security assets that were used in a variety of different roles, such as combat logistics patrol (CLP) escorts, quick reaction force (QRF) escorts, Iraqi Army and coalition force (CF) leave run escorts, and brigade support area defense missions.

Doctrine is only a guide. The operational environment ultimately dictates mission requirements. In combat, leaders must be flexible and willing to break with doctrine to ensure mission success.

Because of the enemy threat within the BCT’s battlespace, KBR truck assets would not operate on BCT main supply routes (MSRs). So, transportation support to CF and Iraqi Security Force (ISF) units was left completely up to military assets. When transportation requirements exceeded the FSB’s capabilities, the BCT would either employ palletized load system (PLS) assets from the Utah ARNG 2d Battalion, 222d Field Artillery Regiment’s (2–222 Field Artillery’s) service battery or the SPO coordinated with the 44th CSB to reinforce truck support. On some occasions, the FSB was forced to use supply support activity (SSA) personnel, mechanics, and headquarters personnel as drivers, assistant drivers, and gunners in order to meet rapidly emerging ISF transportation requirements. This caused a degradation of logistics support to the entire BCT. Through April 2006, the FSB ad hoc transportation section ran over 170,000 miles within the BCT’s battlespace.

In 2005, during the October referendum and December elections, more than 1,000 concrete barriers of all sizes and hundreds of pallets of class IV (construction and barrier materials) were pushed to the many election sites by the FSB and 44th CSB truck assets. During the spring of 2006, the BCT constructed six hardened Iraqi police stations and company-sized ISF combat outposts within the heart of Ramadi. Emplacement of these sites was transportation intensive and included movement of thousands of concrete barriers and hundreds of pallets of class IV construction materials. The FSB’s truck assets included up-armored M923 5-ton cargo trucks, M1088 tractor trucks, and PLS truck systems. The military occupational specialty (MOS) 88Ms, motor transport operators, would frequently change systems to meet the specific mission requirements, such as ISF troop transport missions, CF and ISF leave runs, movement of class IV, or routine sustainment pushes.

Combat Logistics Patrol Protection

The primary threat to BCT CLPs along MSRs was command-detonated IEDs. For example, on the eastern portion of one BCT MSR, the distribution platoon of the 2d Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, was hit by IEDs more than 50 times within a 6-month period while conducting routine CLPs between the battalion FOB and the brigade support area. As a result, the FSB S–2/3 developed tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP) that called for conducting CLPs at night only in blackout conditions, using night vision goggles (NVGs). Infrared chemlights were used very effectively as a means of marking routes, switchback lanes across the MSR medians, and large IED holes scattered along the MSR. Since the insurgents with the IED triggers did not have night vision capability and could not gain a solid reference or trigger point, the IEDs usually detonated with minimal damage to CF vehicles and, most importantly, with no CF casualties.

Problems arose when non-BCT units that were not proficient with NVG operations or third-country national contractor trucks with white lights joined BCT convoys. The FSB S–2/3 worked with the supporting CSB to ensure that their 88M Soldiers were trained and familiar with the FSB’s TTP. TTP were also developed to handle third-country national white light convoys that joined FSB CLPs. In addition to NVG usage, the FSB S–2/3 coordinated with the BCT S–3 for IED route clearance support by MEF Buffalo and Meerkat assets before all FSB CLPs. Despite these efforts, the insurgents were still capable of rapidly reseeding IEDs after MSRs were cleared. CLP start point times were continuously changed to eliminate predictability for insurgents.

All Soldiers should arrive in the combat zone fully trained to conduct NVG operations. This would ensure continued CF dominance of night operations and will greatly reduce risk to Soldiers.

Maintenance Operations

Much of the BCT’s time at Mobilization Center Shelby was spent conducting mandatory First Army individual and collective training. The training was maneuver-oriented and focused primarily on survival on the battlefields of Iraq. Although this training was vitally important, the training schedule rarely allowed the BCT maintainers to practice and train on their technical MOS skills. The first chance the BCT had to conduct hands-on maintenance training was at the end of the post-mobilization training cycle, when mechanics provided maintenance support to the BCT Bradley and tank ranges in April 2005. The 3656th DS Maintenance Company (Mississippi ARNG) maintained the BCT’s fleet during most of the time spent at Mobilization Center Shelby. Maintenance management was a training priority for the First Army trainers at Mobilization Center Shelby. The FSB established the BCT’s Standard Army Management Information System (STAMIS) architecture and maintained the daily 026 Report, originally by disc drop from the Standard Army Maintenance System-1 and later via email. The brigade conducted daily maintenance meetings, which helped build the maintenance team within the BCT.

First Army also authorized BCT units to increase unit prescribed load lists and permitted both FSB maintenance companies to build a substantial shop and bench stock before deploying. These measures provided the BCT with enough on-hand stockage of class IX (repair parts) to sustain itself through the first 30 days in theater.

Since post-mobilization training of ARNG support units is maneuver based, it is imperative that premobilization training is focused on building technical MOS skills. If not, combat service support Soldiers arrive on the battlefield poorly trained in their core, individual MOS-specific tasks.

The BCT’s equipment density in Iraq eventually consisted of nearly 1,700 pieces of rolling stock, 200 generators, 2,400 radios, and more than 7,000 small arms and weapon systems. Fortunately for the BCT, maintenance units at both the organizational and DS levels had a core of experienced, full-time maintenance technicians who were able to bring their traditional ARNG Soldiers up to MOS proficiency after they arrived in Iraq.

Army Forces Command mobilization planners provided the FSB with an additional maintenance company, the 779th GS Maintenance Company (Tennessee ARNG), in order to successfully maintain BCT equipment once deployed to Iraq. Without the additional maintenance company, the BCT would have struggled to sustain an acceptable operational readiness rating once in Iraq, given the density of supported equipment.

FSB maintenance units completed a total of 7,700 DS work orders in Iraq. This included the maintenance support teams supporting the 1st Battalion, 110th Infantry Regiment (Pennsylvania ARNG); 1st Battalion, 172d Armor Regiment (Vermont ARNG); 2-222 Field Artillery (Utah ARNG); 876th Engineer Battalion (Pennsylvania ARNG); and 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Battalion (Regular Army). In addition to supporting BCT equipment in Iraq, the 779th GS Maintenance Company provided a significant level (622 DS work orders) of area support maintenance to numerous non-BCT units that operated from Camp Ramadi for short durations, to include MEF units, Task Force 145, and other special operations units operating in the Ramadi area.

While in Iraq, the 2–28 BCT was able to sustain an operational readiness rate of 95 percent. This only could be achieved by a dedicated and technically proficient maintenance team at both the organizational and DS levels, effective maintenance management at all levels, and the enablers provided by the combat service support automation management office (CSSAMO) and a supporting class IX management structure. This team was built and trained at Mobilization Center Shelby and improved continuously throughout the deployment in Iraq.

Recovery Operations

Recovery operations in Ramadi were combat operations. Operators were routinely engaged by small-arms fire while on site attempting recovery of CF, ISF, and civilian vehicles along BCT MSRs. Insurgents deliberately targeted recovery personnel responding to vehicle IED attacks.

The 779th GS Maintenance Company built and employed a recovery QRF that was on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at Camp Ramadi. The QRF was tasked by the BCT S–3 and was required to respond to any mission within 15 minutes. The team consisted of an M88 recovery vehicle, which was fabricated with ballistic glass to protect the operators and .50-caliber machinegun gunner, and up-armored heavy expanded-mobility tactical truck wreckers. The QRF would tailor the equipment package based on the mission assigned by the BCT S–3.

Typically, the maneuver unit requesting the recovery support would link up with the QRF at the FOB gate and provide security en route and at the recovery site. This allowed the QRF to focus on recovery operations instead of force protection. Most vehicles needing recovery were victims of IEDs, engulfed in flames when the QRF arrived and immobile. The QRF would use up to 15 portable fire extinguishers to extinguish the flames in order to make an initial approach to the vehicle. Sometimes the QRF would have to wait until the onboard ammunition “cooked off” before it could approach the vehicle.

The QRF became highly trained at hasty recovery operations and, in most cases, was able to limit onsite recovery time to 10 minutes. The QRF in Ramadi successfully executed numerous recovery missions without suffering any personnel casualties. Battalion task force recovery personnel also executed many similar recovery missions in their respective battlespaces. During the deployment, the BCT lost a total of 94 vehicles, including 8 M1A1 Abrams tanks, 19 M2A2 Bradley fighting vehicles, and 45 M1114 and M1151 up-armored high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles (HMMWVs), to IEDs. Each of these vehicles had to be recovered to the FOB by skilled recovery personnel and then evacuated again from the FOB to the FSB cannibalization point before being retrograded to a theater Defense reutilization and marketing office.

Although it is very difficult in peacetime to replicate combat recovery operations, ARNG unit commanders should place a high priority on getting assigned Soldiers qualified with additional skill identifier H8, wheeled vehicle recovery, and conducting realistic premobilization recovery training using code H (unserviceable) wheeled and combat vehicles.

Class IX Management

The FSB made very effective use of LNOs by placing several class IX expeditors at Logistics Support Area (LSA) Anaconda and Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. The maintenance officer in the FSB SPO routinely sent emergency high-priority parts requests to these expeditors, who would conduct walk-through requisitions at the many tactical, multiclass SSAs at LSA Anaconda and Camp Arifjan. The critical parts were then placed on “Iraqi Express” ground convoys from Kuwait to the BCT SSA in Iraq or on CLPs, helicopters, or Sherpa airplanes from LSA Anaconda. LNO expeditors were also used to track and expedite the BCT’s reparable items that were evacuated for repair to the many forward repair facilities at LSA Anaconda.

During the deployment, the BCT evacuated and returned several hundred items to LSA Anaconda to higher echelon maintenance facilities. The BCT maintenance effort could not have functioned effectively without the expeditors posted at the main supply and repair hubs in theater. The right LNO in the right location can be a tremendous asset for any unit.

The MEF MLG supply maintenance unit (SMU) was used extensively in support of the BCT. This MEF GS supply activity for Iraq was located at the same FOB as the FSB and maintained 20,000 lines of multiclass supplies. This source of supply was a tremendous help in supporting the BCT. The FSB routinely conducted emergency walk-through requisitions at the SMU for urgently needed items not readily available in the BCT’s SSA. A few examples of the items requisitioned were common item high-priority repair parts, Soldier personal protective equipment items that were zero balance at the central issue facility at LSA Anaconda, and bagged Portland cement used by the 876th Engineer Battalion for use in filling IED craters on BCT MSRs.

Although the SMU and the FSB were located at the same FOB, their respective service-provided management information systems did not communicate with each other. Consequently, manual, labor-intensive, walk-through requisitions had to be used to receive needed items. Since joint warfighting is upon us, the Department of Defense should field a joint logistics automation network so that all services can requisition supplies from a single, unified system.

The theater class IX referral process was problematic throughout the deployment. For example, if a unit had a valid class IX requisition and the part was sitting at another tactical SSA in Iraq, the part would still have to be shipped from the continental United States (CONUS) because the theater distribution system in Iraq was not in place to push the part to the requesting SSA. In order to get a part from another tactical SSA in Iraq, the maintenance officer would have to find the part through the corps/theater ADP (automatic data processing) service center and then personally contact the SSA chief who stocked the part and request that the SSA ship the part to him on a gentlemen’s agreement. If the SSA was not willing to ship the part, the requesting unit was out of luck or had to build a convoy to go and get the part themselves.

The BCT also experienced high requisition wait time (RWT) for parts that arrived via CLP from the joint distribution yard in LSA Anaconda. Because of the dangerous nature and unpredictability of the MSR’s throughout Iraq, it would take up to 3 weeks to receive high-priority parts from LSA Anaconda, which meant a unit could receive a part faster from a depot in CONUS than from a depot in Iraq. The BCT SPO coordinated with the 3d Corps Support Command (COSCOM) staff and the 27th Movement Control Battalion and was able to establish a daily C–130 channel flight from LSA Anaconda to Al Taqqadum Air Base, which decreased the RWT from weeks to several days.

SSA Operations

The 228th FSB SSA was the largest tactical BCT SSA in Iraq. It consisted of 5,500 lines stored in parts trailers and on 463L pallets and had a footprint of over 4 acres. In addition to supporting dedicated customers, automatic referrals from other SSAs were established by the 3d COSCOM, which indirectly caused a net increase in customers. Most notable was a MEF armored task force that operated in western Al Anbar Province, which was a direct customer of a sister SSA at Al Taqqadum Air Base operated by the 44th CSB. At times, this had a draining effect on the brigade by taking high-priority class IX, like Abrams tank and Bradley fighting vehicle engines and transmissions, and leaving the BCT’s organic units and SSA without any class IX. When asked, the SSA would also reciprocate with the Marine SMU on Al Taqqadum Air Base and provide MEF units with critical common item class IX repair parts if they were available in stock.

Customer wait time (CWT) and RWT in Iraq are critical to the success of any unit’s maintenance posture. Shortly after the BCT arrived in Iraq, it became apparent that a shortage of personnel within the SSA was negatively affecting the CWT and the RWT for all of the SSA’s dedicated customers. This had a direct and immediate negative effect on the materiel readiness of the BCT. The amount of parts and supplies that BCT units were ordering far exceeded the processing capability of the SSA on a daily basis because of the shortage of SSA personnel. During the deployment, the SSA averaged 950 receipts and 650 materiel release orders daily.

During the periods preceding the October referendum, December elections, and the Ramadi saturation operation in the spring of 2006, the SSA experienced tremendous peaks of up to 1,500 receipts daily. In order to lower the number of days it took a part to reach the customer and meet the Department of the Army theater goal of 20 days, additional FSB personnel were required to handle the high volume of parts and supplies in both the receiving and storage sections of the SSA. Competing priorities within the BCT and troop-to-task issues within the FSB caused the SSA’s strength to vary from a low of 25 personnel to a high of 50. Eventually, the BCT headquarters assisted in arranging for additional BCT personnel to be assigned to the SSA to meet this increased demand. SSA-assigned personnel were “fenced” and exempt from internal FSB taskings. The increase in SSA personnel resulted in a reduction of RWT to 12 days.

ISF Support

Without a doubt, the greatest logistics challenge to the BCT in Iraq was providing logistics support to the ISF, which included both the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police. By the time the BCT redeployed, over a division’s worth of ISF units were operating throughout the BCT’s AO. ISF units had virtually no internal logistics capability. Logistics support to ISF was supposed to be provided by Ministry of the Interior or Ministry of Defense contracts. The only exceptions were class IIIB of both mogas (motor gasoline) and JP8 and class V (ammunition), which were provided entirely by the FSB.

In some cases, the dangerous nature of the Ramadi area caused contractors to fail to perform to standard, go missing, or be killed by insurgents. As a result, the BCT was forced to provide “back-stop” logistics support to the ISF to ensure mission success.

Rapidly emerging and unforecasted logistics requirements became standard operations for the FSB. This had the effect of desynchronizing normal logistics support to BCT units and draining precious logistics assets and capabilities. For example, during the month of April 2006, the eastern Ramadi Ministry of Defense contractor provided only 4 truckloads of food to sustain 1,200 Iraqi Army troops. The remaining food convoys either never arrived or arrived with food that was completely rotten and had to be thrown out. On one occasion, an Iraqi contractor arrived at the brigade support area on Al Taqqadum Air Base and needed an escort to an Iraqi Army camp in eastern Ramadi. The contractor did not want to be observed by the insurgents as collaborating with CF or Iraqi Army units. Therefore, the FSB had to hide him and his vehicle and equipment in the back of a container and transport them to the Iraqi Army camp so that he could perform his contracted services. Building internal logistics capability for the Iraqi Army should occur in the near future, and it should become a command priority.

The deployment of the 2–28 BCT in Operation Iraqi Freedom 05–07 was a great demonstration of joint logistics warfighting. The logistics success of the BCT was a direct result of the courage, dedication, and professionalism of the thousands of Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force logisticians who worked together to ensure mission success in an often confusing and violent area of operations. Soldiers, Marines, Seamen, and Airmen overcame interservice cultural and doctrinal differences to achieve a unity of logistics effort that effectively sustained CF and ISF units within the Ramadi area.

Major Mark D. Pike, PAARNG, is the surface maintenance manager for the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. While deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom 05–07, he served as the support operations officer for the 228th Forward Support Battalion. He has a bachelor’s degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.