|Logistics Challenges in Support of
|by Major James J. McDonnell and Major J. Ronald
The fundamental challenge of providing combat
service support (CSS) in Afghanistan from late 2003 to mid-2004
was changing the focus from an expeditionary operation to a steady-state
operation. Previously, the mission was viewed in the short-term,
but by Operation Enduring Freedom IV—the fourth unit rotation
to Afghanistan, which took place from July 2003 to May 2004—it
was necessary to establish tactics, techniques, and procedures
to facilitate long-term success in providing CSS. The change
was made more complex by the requirement to cede half of Kandahar
Airfield to the Afghan Government by the end of 2004. This obligation,
while daunting, afforded logistics planners a clean-sheet approach
to developing capabilities for the long haul. The following account
details how the soldiers of the 10th Forward Support Battalion
(FSB) of the 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) overcame
these logistics challenges while stationed at Kandahar Airfield.
Predeployment Site Survey
The battalion’s deployment process began months before the unit’s
departure when a predeployment site survey (PDSS) team visited the operating
area. This visit was critical to determining what personnel and equipment had
to be deployed to support mission requirements. Having personnel on the ground
provided the incoming unit with an assessment that could not be matched by other
means. The PDSS team had to gauge the available infrastructure and equipment
that would be left behind by previous units in order to plan the battalion’s
deployment accurately. The PDSS team also collected email addresses and phone
numbers (to include secure systems) from members of the departing unit so the
incoming unit could coordinate directly with their predecessors.
The geography of Afghanistan was a dominant factor in developing the CSS template.
Because Afghanistan is a landlocked nation with mountainous terrain and a deteriorated
road network, it was apparent that
time-sensitive support had to be transported by air. However, depending on air
creates a logistics system with a single point of failure, so contracted surface
transportation also was employed.
Surface transportation in Afghanistan is fraught with peril because of anticoalition
militias that often try to prevent the delivery of supplies. Without a correspondingly
large security element, military supply convoys to outlying firebases are subject
to ambushes. However, such a security force would draw troops away from offensive
operations. As a result, the 10th FSB coordinated with host nation military commanders
for the use of “jingle trucks” (the name comes from the metallic
tassels that adorn the vehicles). Jingle trucks were configured for dry, refrigerated,
and liquid cargo. Units identified requirements to the “jingle man,” the
noncommissioned officer in charge for transportation operations, who then negotiated
the type and number of vehicles for the mission with the host nationals. The
drivers were provided safe passage through different friendly militia areas in
order to transport supplies to the firebases. Personnel and time-urgent or sensitive
cargo traveled by CH–47 Chinook helicopter on scheduled flights to the
Class I (subsistence.) Food was shipped by sea to Karachi,
Pakistan, from the Bahrain-based prime vendor. In turn, foodstuffs, both dry
and frozen, were transported
to Kandahar Airfield by Pakistani-contracted vehicles. Class I was the greatest
logistics challenge because of the number of transportation nodes and conveyance
modes involved. The process
began with a requisition from the Kandahar Airfield’s food service technician
to the Joint Logistics Command (JLC) in Bagram, Afghanistan. The JLC consolidated
food orders from Kandahar and the other base camps in the combined joint operating
area (CJOA) and sent the order to the prime vendor based in Bahrain, who filled
the requisition. Six weeks later, the order was shipped across the Arabian Sea
to the port of Karachi. The containers were stacked and warehoused at the port
because of limited space and power shortages at Kandahar Airfield. The inventory
carrying costs were borne by the port until space and power shortages at Kandahar
Airfield were eased.
A scarcity of vehicles (especially those capable of carrying refrigerated cargo)
and the lack of reliable asset visibility and in-transit visibility prevented
|The 10th Forward Support
Battalion at Kandahar Airfield in southeast Afghanistan
provided support to firebases from Spin Buldak to
to Orgun E and units fighting in south or east Afghanistan.
FSB from specifically calling forward those items that were
in the greatest demand. The result was a supply chain with
too many peaks and valleys and attendant shortages and overages,
rather than a steady and predictable stream. Previously, the
notion that “more is better” was acceptable to
ensure sufficient quantities were on hand. However, a steady-state
operationdemands less variance. The JLC and the base camps
worked over time to clear the port as they developed a more
reliable class I resupply system. A by-product of this effort
was the timely retrograding of emp-ty containers and generator
sets that powered the refrigerated containers.
Because of their short shelf life, fresh fruits and vegetables were delivered
twice a week by a chartered air courier. Food deliveries were forecast based
on the installation’s headcount. Holiday-unique enhancements were provided
to enliven Thanksgiving and Christmas meals.
Classes II (general supplies), IV (construction and barrier
materials), and VII
(major end items). A joint acquisition review board evaluated big-ticket resource
or service requirements. The board convened weekly to review requests for items
that were valued at over $200,000 before submitting them to the Combined Joint
Task Force 180 (CJTF–180) at Bagram.
Over time, requirements were the result of the construction of more permanent
facilities, improvements to the airstrip, and movement of facilities such as
the fuel farm to the military side of the airfield.
Class III (petroleum, oils, and lubricants). The Defense Energy Support Center
Middle East in Bahrain managed fuel for the CJOA. Although the vendors changed
during Operation Enduring Freedom IV, the supply methods did not. Jet A fuel
was refined in Pakistan and delivered overland by truck, usually in 10 days,
to Kandahar Airfield, where it was converted into JP8. MOGAS (motor gasoline)
also was used but to a lesser extent. The JLC’s forward element tracked
increases in fuel consumption (for example, during relief-in-place operations
when increased aircraft traffic led to greater demands for fuel) and forecast
upcoming deliveries accordingly.
As a part of the conversion to a steady-state operation, Kandahar Airfield transitioned
to the Defense Logistics Agency’s Fuel Automated System. This caused some
initial difficulties with non-Department of Defense customers, such as the International
Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations, who flew regularly to Kandahar
Airfield and required refueling. However, repayment programs were implemented
|A 25th Infantry
Division (Light) soldier, shortly after arrival in
theater, watches his high-mobility, multipurpose,
wheeled vehicle (HMMWV) being loaded on an Afghan
jingle truck at Kandahar Airfield for delivery to
an outlying firebase.
Class V (ammunition). Whether it was intratheater or intertheater,
all ammunition was shipped by air. The key to success was an
accurate weapons density listing that permitted issue of the
appropriate basic load to each unit. The ammunition supply
point (ASP) was centrally located at Kandahar Airfield. Flexibility
in rapidly delivering ammunition to outlying firebases was
crucial because mortars and howitzers were emplaced throughout
Class IX (repair parts). The FSB relied on timely information to manage parts
support instead of relying on masses of supplies. For instance, it identified
sources of supplies and requested parts rather than maintaining a supply stockpile
on hand. Space limitations in both strategic lift and ground space at the firebases
precluded a buildup of supplies at Kandahar. As a result, a harmonious relationship
with JLC was essential. JLC leveraged its reach capabilities to expedite high-priority
parts and commodities whether they were from elsewhere in the CJOA, Europe, or
the continental United States.
A critical support multiplier was the Army Materiel Command’s Logistics
Support Element (AMC–LSE) that was collocated with the 10th FSB Tactical
Operations Center. The AMC–LSE provided expertise in expediting parts shipments,
assessing ammunition serviceability, sustaining communications, and conducting
other logistics operations. For example, the quality assurance specialist ammunition
surveillance representative redesigned the ASP so that it complied with Army
and Department of Defense standards for storing ammunition.
The Defense Logistics Agency periodically deployed staff from its subordinate
agencies, such as the Defense Energy Support Center and the Defense Supply Center–Philadelphia,
to support the 10th FSB. For example, when the 10th FSB’s bulk fuel section
converted to the Fuel Automated System to manage fuel use and payments, DLA contractors
facilitated the changeover. DLA personnel trained class I commodity supervisors
on using various information systems to manage food shipments from port. Other
contractors and Department of Defense civilians at Kandahar Airfield also provided
services, such as power generation and equipment maintenance.
As the focal point for CSS in the CJOA, JLC’s function was akin to that
of a division materiel management center (DMMC). In fact, personnel from the
10th Mountain Division’s DMMC staffed the JLC. They assisted CSS units
in Karshi-Khanabad, Uzbekistan, and at Bagram Airfield. Guided by in-theater
visibility, they surged assets and supplies to support the main effort. Because
the location of the main effort varied, the support element in that location
had to provide support. (The main effort refers to various operations during
Operation Enduring Freedom IV. Because of the noncontiguous and nonlinear nature
of the battlefield, operations were focused in particular areas at different
times. For example, Operation Mountain Resolve was centered in the northeast
area of Jalabad in December 2003. Other operations, such as Mountain Storm in
the spring of 2004, were centered in Khowst.) The JLC coordinated with CJTF–180’s
CJ–4, which was involved in planning, monitoring logistics performance,
and preparing relief-in-place operations.
In Kandahar, the Romanian 151st Infantry Battalion—succeeded by the Romanian
208th Infantry Battalion—and Task Group Ares, a French Special Forces detachment,
were partners in the war on terrorism. Although the Romanians deployed with a
small support element, they depended on U.S. Army assistance for class I, bulk
class III, and electric power. The French forces, based in the southern Kandahar
Province village of Spin Buldak, similarly depended on American assistance. In
both cases, coalition costs were captured monthly in the acquisition and cross-servicing
agreement. At the end of the month, representatives from each force reviewed
the costs incurred before the charges were submitted to CJTF–180 and then
to the respective countries.
Area and Habitual Support
Afghanistan is divided into three sectors for area support. This permits the
support battalions at Karshi-Khanabad, Bagram Airfield, and Kandahar Airfield
to support one another if necessary. For example, when problems at a Pakistani
refinery delayed fuel shipments to Kandahar Airfield, the 129th Logistics Task
Force at Bagram provided a 150,000-gallon emergency resupply. [The 129th Logistics
Task Force consisted of the 129th Corps Support Battalion of the 10th Corps Support
Group from Fort Campbell, Kentucky.] When distribution troubles prevented a supply
of unitized group rations from reaching Bagram Airfield, the 10th FSB provided
excess rations. The area support sector concept enables units such as Special
Forces and those involved in provincial reconstruction teams to access local
support assets without deploying their own direct support units.
The 10th FSB provided direct support to the 1st Brigade Combat Team (BCT) of
the 10th Mountain Division. However, when the 2-87th Infantry Battalion (subordinate
to the BCT) was stationed at Bagram Airfield to engage in northern operations,
the 129th Logistics Task Force provided supply, maintenance, and medical support
to the battalion. The 129th Logistics Task Force also supported the 1-501st Infantry
Task Force, which was stationed at the Salerno firebase, just north of Khowst.
These arrangements provided the maneuver commander with flexibility to mass CSS
without the cost of moving CSS assets forward. During Operation Mountain Resolve
in the fall of 2003, the 129th Logistics Task Force, augmented by a 10th FSB
detachment, responsively supported the warfighters. [The 1-501st Infantry Task
Force, a component of the 172d Infantry Brigade (Separate) at Fort Wainwright,
Alaska, was attached to the 1st BCT of the 10th Mountain Division.]
outlying firebases have limited hoisting capabilities,
host nation cranes such as this one are sent to the
firebases to facilitate container downloading.
Ceding the Airfield
U.S. forces expect to move their operations from the northeastern half of Kandahar
Airfield late this year so the Afghan Government can develop commercial air
service. As a result, the 10th FSB had to move its class III fuel point. This
move required close coordination with the facility engineers; the airfield
support task force; the Air Expeditionary Group Commander, who represented
the Air Force; and installation contractors. After reviewing cost, safety,
and time factors, the FSB determined that the best course of action would be
to establish a bag farm and have fuel trucks, manned by installation contractors,
transport the fuel to the aircraft, rather than to install a complex piping
system. Vehicle refueling remained the same since the retail point was at the
The reconfiguration of Kandahar Air Field compelled a number of other movements
that had secondary or tertiary effects on logistics support.
An FSB “on Steroids”
The most remarkable aspect of the CSS mission was the fact that the FSB performed
a largely nondoctrinal mission. A light infantry FSB normally consists of 145
personnel who provide quartermaster, ordnance, and medical support to a light
infantry brigade. However, to support a population of 5,000 soldiers, airmen,
civilians, and contractors, additional CSS troops and new tactics, techniques,
and procedures were needed.
A typical light division forward support operations office would be incapable
of planning, coordinating, and executing the number of missions that were to
be sustained in the 1st BCT’s area of operations. To remedy this situation,
personnel from the DMMC were attached to the FSB to provide class I, III, and
V commodity oversight, automation repair, and parts requisition assistance. This
robust capability enabled the FSB to have key support personnel on duty 24 hours
a day, 7 days a week.
By doctrine, the FSB maintains an ammunition transfer point, which is a temporary
way station for ammunition before it is released to the warfighters. However,
when provided with a fixed base of operations, the FSB managed both an ASP and
an ammunition holding area. This was beyond the capability of the six authorized
ammunition handlers in the supply company. Therefore, an Army Reserve ammunition
platoon (from the 395th Ordnance Company in Appleton, Wisconsin, which managed
the other ASPs and ammunition holding areas in the CJOA) was attached to the
FSB to operate its ASP and holding area.
Class I operations usually consist of a breakbulk point where food is issued
to battalions and separate companies. However, the supply company became a virtual
troop issue subsistence activity consisting of over 200 dry and frozen containers.
The company also had to break rations for three installation dining facilities
and for deliveries to a number of outlying firebases.
An FSB usually provides about 5,000 gallons of JP8 fuel a day to a BCT. Yet,
in Afghanistan, the fuel section, with the assistance of an Army Reserve unit,
the 877th Quartermaster Company from Albuquerque, New Mexico, handled over 45,000
gallons daily. This mission included the daily refueling of Air Force cargo aircraft,
which definitely does not occur in the brigade support area.
The FSB’s maintenance company found itself similarly tested. By establishing
mobile maintenance teams, the unit could rapidly deploy mechanics to outlying
firebases to perform services and emergency repairs. Their ingenuity frequently
was tested when they were tasked to repair nonstandard equipment, such as Special
A forward surgical team augmented the FSB’s medical support company and
provided valuable expertise during a mass-casualty mission involving over 30
wounded Afghan civilians in January 2004. Mortuary affairs; parachute rigger;
and test, measurement, and diagnostic equipment components also were attached
to the battalion to provide the full spectrum of support.
driver works atop his fuel truck to download fuel.
When the 10th FSB arrived at Kandahar Airfield, installation contractors were
already providing life support services. Halliburton Kellogg Brown & Root
(KBR) contractors performed housekeeping missions ranging from laundry to base
camp maintenance. Their mission gradually expanded to include preparing meals
in the dining facility and operating the class I supply point. The purpose
of this change was to free CSS soldiers for other, more pressing missions.
The immediate impact was the return of soldiers attached to the 10th FSB to
their original units. When the 10th FSB departed, KBR contractors operated
the class III supply point, the multiclass warehouse, and other post facilities.
However, the Army still was responsible for mission accomplishment because
military personnel held accountable officer positions, and only soldiers performed
missions outside the Kandahar Airfield perimeter, such as vehicle recovery.
The Road Ahead
On 16 October 2003, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld wrote, “It is
pretty clear that the coalition can win in Afghanistan . . . one way or another,
but it will be a long, hard slog.” This forecast suggested that U.S. and
coalition forces are likely to remain in Afghanistan for the near future. In
turn, Kandahar Airfield, the base of operations for southern Afghanistan, is
likely to continue transforming from an expeditionary bulwark to a steady-state
installation. While the CSS functions of fixing, arming, and sustaining will
remain unchanged, it is unlikely that soldiers will continue to perform those
missions exclusively. Soldiers will be used when there is a possibility of enemy
contact. For the most part, however, contractors will perform most logistics
To most effectively manage these operations, it is conceivable that CSS command
and control functions could be subsumed under an area support group structure
in which the Army manages, rather than executes, logistics. This reorganization
is more probable in the event that operations in the CJOA are downgraded from
low-intensity conflict to stability and support. This prediction depends on the
abatement of threat and a strengthened national government in Afghanistan. Regardless
of the situation, contractors are likely to play a large role in future CSS missions.
The lessons learned in Afghanistan will play a key role in the transformation
of the 10th Mountain Division as it redeploys and reconstitutes at its home station
at Fort Drum, New York. The division will convert to a Unit of Action/Unit of
Employment table of organization and equipment. As of April 2004, plans for the
conversion indicate that the FSB (rechristened as a brigade support battalion)
will have far more robust capabilities. For instance, in the past, the main support
battalion detached its capabilities, such as transportation and water production,
to the FSB for deployment; now these resources will be organic to the FSB. The
support operations office will have additional personnel much like the one in
Afghanistan that was bolstered by the DMMC. The 10th FSB knows from its experience
in Afghanistan that it can adapt to the coming changes. ALOG
Major James J. McDonnell served as the Materiel Management Officer for the 10th
Mountain Division (Light Infantry) Materiel Management Center during Operation
Enduring Freedom IV.
Major J. Ronald Novack served as the 10th Forward Support Battalion Executive
Officer during Operation Enduring Freedom IV.
The authors would like to thank Captain Glen Keith, the 10th Forward Support
Battalion S–3, for his assistance in preparing this article.