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Lessons in Adaptation:
The ICTC on the Nonlinear Battlefield

The author provides insights in leadership and management from his case study
of an inland cargo transfer company in Operation Enduring Freedom.

The term “global war” refers to more than just battlespace maneuvers; it connotes the require-
ments of a globally thinking logistics chain. That logistics chain is where the inland cargo transfer company (ICTC) is ideally suited for use. From railheads to port operations, through receiving, staging, and onward integration functions and convoy movement, the ICTC is perhaps the most adaptable logistics formation in the Army. Many lessons in management can be learned from the effective employment of an ICTC.

Analyzing the Support Process

Army logisticians have long been students of the concepts and principles associated with the question, “How can we better serve the warfighter?” The mere idea of applying expertise and professional skills in the service of warfighters often leads logisticians to overanalyze the doctrinal intricacies of their supported combat units. The complex and elaborate mission sets of maneuver units determine our approach to support in general, but we must not fall short in identifying the complex mission sets in our own formations.

As important as the endstate is, we must not lose sight of the process. We typically summarize a sustainment unit’s deployment in numbers of items or in tons of supplies moved; however, rarely do innovation and sensible process improvement persist. On the other hand, focusing on processes without regard to the outcome suggests irresponsibility on the part of leaders at all levels.

Operational Demand

During the past 6 years (and possibly longer), many ICTCs have supported Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) with few adaptations to task organization. However, the demand for resources persistently changes. As our customer units adapt to the changing face of the enemy, our support concept should adapt as well. As ICTC assets are moved to the farthest reaches of the battlespace, the task organization of those assets should adjust to align with the process of managing the supply chain.

Maneuver commanders continuously evaluate their areas of operation to best determine the means in which they will maximize their assets against the opposition. This far too often requires sacrifices to be made in one area—speed, for example—in order to preserve combat power. Speed might be sacrificed by choosing a formation or terrain that is more advantageous to protecting the force. The same concept holds true for sustainment units.


When assessing the requirements for assets at multiple forward operating bases (FOBs), key planning tasks must be consciously centered on establishing equilibrium among mission command, administrative functions, and maintenance functions.

Decision points for this planning model focus on current mission statements and core support objectives set by the supported unit commander, as well as on forecasted unit movements and the presence of U.S. units in otherwise unoccupied locations. While planning, an ICTC commander will mediate between the organizational objectives of each supported FOB and those of the direct higher command element.

Generally, unclear and underdefined scopes of responsibility exist throughout the ranks of the ICTC’s parent echelons. For this reason, establishing a baseline of operational control at the ICTC command level is imperative.


The Army has applied modularity to nearly every organizational structure down to the company level. The ICTC is an ideal candidate for the downward push of the modular concept beyond the company, and even platoon, level. This push does not necessarily call for drastic adjustments to the personnel and equipment structure of the company, but it does require a more thorough assessment of mission requirements during the sourcing for deployment in order to meet specific mission objectives.

Although it has become common to deploy the ICTC as a series of detachments, the detachments are not aligned with the mission sets of each supported unit. Once in theater, these units are forced to reorganize into small teams for the purpose of supporting a larger number of FOBs.

These diminutive personnel support packages are determined solely by the need for a particular expertise. If the ICTC is deployed just to provide experienced materials-handling equipment (MHE) operators, then the unit’s competencies are clearly not understood and its capabilities and effects are degraded exponentially.

The ICTC’s task organization must be centered on capitalizing on its organic 88-series military occupational specialty (MOS) Soldiers.

Leadership in the ICTC must be decentralized down to the squad level, and often the team level, to maximize its capabilities. The command cell must colocate with the battalion headquarters not only to benefit from more centralized administrative and maintenance support but also to engage actively with the support operations section.

Perhaps the most important ally with which to maintain an open rapport is the joint transportation office (JTO). This entity exists to pursue and report all unit movements, including personnel and transportation of cargo and materials. Movement information is key to predicting personnel and equipment assets needed at each critical logistics hub.

The second benefit of a partnership with the JTO is that commanders at all levels, from operational to strategic, can receive valid information that allows for a more legitimate and justifiable sustainment force package when creating the request for forces during the sourcing phase of unit deployment screenings. Athough this type of preparation and planning is not necessarily available to the majority of commanders at the user level, it is important to take note of those enablers whose influence is well within reach.

The movement control team (MCT) is presently the most probable consumer of ICTC assets in a direct supporting relationship. The relationship between the MCT and the ICTC is one of operational control. In this relationship, the ICTC commander maintains absolute control of all administrative and maintenance functions and the MCT commander provides mission-related guidance. The direction of all administrative and maintenance-related activities should be handled by the ICTC headquarters element.

Organizing each imbedded team to resemble one another is the most effective use of resources. However, personnel alignment is not absolute with a predetermined model, and if it were, it would likely hinder efforts to meet the commander’s intent.

The suggested design of a team should relate to the actual mission set and key tasks of, for example, the MCT. Once these are identified and communicated, the commander will then have positive influence and control over how his assets are engaged. But in order for this to occur, commanders must take full advantage of the relief-in-place/transfer-of-authority process, not only to communicate administrative policies but also to amend task organization.

Current operational configurations must be fully communicated to the incoming command only after a thorough mission analysis has been conducted with the approval of the next higher level of command. The ideal model for forward cargo transfer operations consists of a heavy concentration of cargo specialists, one or two transportation management coordinators, and one or two motor transport operators. Maintenance personnel would be predetermined as well, based on the type and amount of equipment and with consideration for the ratio of contracted versus government MHE.


Theater pre-positioned equipment is basically exhausted because of the operational demand placed on it over the past 9 years. The current configuration of such equipment in Regional Command East consists of a combination of civilian-contracted MHE and government-owned items.

While the ICTC commander maintains ownership of the equipment, the MCT commander’s involvement is a decisive factor in mission success. Even if the ICTC direct support maintenance team is located far away at another FOB, the MCT headquarters section must maintain responsibility for establishing maintenance support at each respective FOB.

Information Technology

When it comes to information technology and signal capabilities, the ICTC provides the necessary computers and other automated equipment and the MCT provides technical support. The ICTC should formulate a compliance team with the assistance of the battalion staff. This team will frequently conduct site visits to each of the supported FOBs to maintain friendly and professional relationships, which are best made in person.

Maintenance readiness reporting is not possible through the ICTC’s Standard Army Maintenance System (SAMS) “box” for each FOB. The supporting maintenance units are responsible for loading the information into their SAMS boxes and for ordering parts as needed. This practice can significantly skew the ICTC commander’s operational readiness rate, however, because only MHE information is located with the headquarters element.

This case study on leadership and the management of resources is designed with the intent of fostering a discussion of processes and planning improvements. Commanders are certainly not to approach these concepts and theories with expectations of achieving self-actualization or enlightenment; however, when advanced emphasis is placed on the value of adaptation, the benefits will be overwhelming.

Captain Nicholas G. Catechis is the company commander of the 453d Inland Cargo Transfer Company. He has a bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration from Texas State University and a master’s degree in human relations from the University of Oklahoma, and he holds adjunct professorships at both the University of Houston and Central Texas College. He is a graduate of the Field Artillery Officer Basic Course and the Maneuver Captains Career Course.

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