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Logistics Challenges in Support of
Operation Enduring Freedom

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.

Supply Support

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 firebases.

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

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 quickly.

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 the theater.

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.]

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 bag farm.

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 Forces vehicles.

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.

Installation Contractors

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 functions.

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.