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Saber FLE in Iraq

The 1st Infantry Division Support Command had to support a cavalry squadron located far from its usual support battalion. The solution was to task-organize a forward logistics element.

When the 1st Infantry Division (Mechanized) deployed in Iraq, it faced a logistics challenge: How would it perform supply and maintenance support for a division cavalry squadron located 90 kilometers from the division aviation support battalion (ASB) responsible for that support? What would be the best task organization for efficient use of all of the combat service support (CSS) resources within the division support command (DISCOM) in order to provide support in a cavalry squadron support area? This support would include supply point distribution of classes I (subsistence), II (clothing and individual equipment), III (petroleum, oils, and lubricants), IV (construction and barrier materials), VI (personal demand items), VII (major end items), VIII (medical materiel), and IX (repair parts), direct support (DS) ground and aviation intermediate maintenance, ground and aircraft recovery, showers, laundry, clothing repair, and bulk water. The solution to this challenge was to use a forward logistics element (FLE). What follows is a description of the task organization and operations the 1st Infantry DISCOM used to provide logistics support 90 kilometers from the ASB—the story of the Saber FLE.

Cavalry Squadron Support Challenges

A cavalry squadron is the most diverse and flexible battalion-sized unit in a heavy division. The squadron’s 27 M1A1 Abrams tanks, 41 M3A2 Bradley cavalry fighting vehicles, and 16 OH–58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters require a substantial amount of external logistics support to sustain continuous operations. A robust logistics capability must be collocated with the squadron to provide responsive logistics support, including DS tracked and wheeled vehicle repair, aviation intermediate maintenance (AVIM), armaments, communications and electronics repair, fire control, generators, welding, vehicle recovery, heavy equipment transport, medical support, bulk water, and supply of classes I, II, III, IV, VII, VIII, and IX.

A division cavalry squadron can operate as a separate maneuver element well forward in the division’s battlespace, which increases significantly the distances it must travel to obtain logistics support—far beyond the distance a maneuver brigade must travel to get support from its habitual FSB. In a heavy division, the ASB has a direct support responsibility for the division cavalry squadron. When the squadron falls under the control of the division commander or is attached to another maneuver brigade, the squadron often exceeds the doctrinal support distance of the ASB.

When the cavalry squadron is located far forward, the ASB normally will organize a FLE to provide continuous CSS. The FLE typically comprises elements of the ASB and tailored assets from the DISCOM or corps support command (COSCOM). The squadron S–4 coordinates with the FLE to communicate requirements and schedule resupply. The ASB support operations officer is the single point of contact for all logistics operations. The FLE’s forward location reduces travel requirements for the squadron.

Saber FLE

The 1st Infantry Division’s Saber FLE provided supplies, DS maintenance, and AVIM logistics support to the division’s 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment (1–4 Cavalry), for the entire 12-month deployment. Saber FLE logistics support included the delivery of over 3.3 million gallons of bulk water, 822,000 bottles of water, 1.2 million meals, 2.6 million gallons of fuel, and 171 truckloads of mail on M923 5-ton trucks, as well as the completion of 1,400 work orders for DS ground maintenance, AVIM, and backup aviation unit maintenance (AVUM).

Saber FLE was actually a “team of teams.” The task organization was a combination of 1st Infantry DISCOM and 167th Corps Support Group Soldiers working together to provide all classes of supply as well as heavy equipment transportation, a downed aircraft recovery team, level I medical care, and shower, laundry, and clothing renovation (SLCR) services.

Saber FLE operations enabled the 601st ASB to conduct split-based operations. Half of the battalion support operations staff was designated as “Team Dragon,” was led by the Support Operations Section’s aviation maintenance officer, and operated from the 601st ASB Tactical Operations Center to provide command and control of all external logistics support to the 1st Infantry Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team (BCT) from the division support area. [The ASB’s mission is to support both the 4th BCT and 1–4 Cavalry.] The other half of the ASB’s Support Operations Section, which was called “Team Saber,” was led by the battalion support operations officer and operated from the battalion’s tactical alternate command post located in the cavalry squadron support area to provide command and control of Saber FLE.

Saber FLE was task-organized with Soldiers from the 601st ASB Cavalry Support Detachment (CSD); the 601st ASB’s Headquarters and Supply Company (HSC) Class III/V [ammunition] Platoon and Supply Platoon, AVIM Company OH–58D Repair Section, and Ground Support Maintenance Company Cavalry System Support Team; the 701st Main Support Battalion’s Alpha Company Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Unit (ROWPU) Team, Bravo Company Heavy Equipment Transport Section, Delta Company D Missile Team, and Echo Company Level I Medical Treatment Team; and the 590th Quartermaster Company’s SLCR Platoon. The 601st ASB and the 299th FSB provided M969 5,000-gallon fuel tankers, and the 66th Transportation Company (TC) furnished water trucks with semimounted fabric tanks (SMFTs) to haul bulk water.

Saber FLE task organization also included a transportation capability to move all classes of supply.

A transportation unit called “Dragon Express,” with trucks operated by the 601st ASB, the 299th FSB, and the 66th TC, moved supplies 40 kilometers from a brigade support area to a FLE forward issue point in the squadron support area at a forward operating base. Supplies also were flown in by CH–47 Chinook helicopter logbird operations. The Saber FLE forward issue point facilitated supply point distribution with its Standard Army Retail Supply System (SARSS–1) remote computer and 10,000-pound Atlas forklifts.

The 1st Infantry DISCOM Saber FLE task organization and CSS operations provided the logistics capabilities needed to support the division cavalry squadron 90 kilometers from its ASB in Iraq. This task organization contributed to efficient use of all CSS resources within the DISCOM.

Lieutenant Colonel Peter A. Catanese is assigned to the V Corps G–4 Section in Heidelberg, Germany. He was the Support Operations Officer of the 601st Aviation Support Battalion, 1st Infantry Division (Mechanized), during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He has a bachelor’s degree in business management from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and is completing a master’s degree in public administration from Pennsylvania State University. He is a graduate of the Field Artillery Officer Basic Course, the Quartermaster Officer Advanced Course, the Combined Arms and Services Staff School, and the Army Command and General Staff College.

Lieutenant Colonel Samuel J. Ford III is the Commander of the 601st Aviation Support Battalion, 1st Infantry Division (Mechanized). He has a B.S. degree in physical education, health, and sports management from Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania, an M.S. degree in logistics management from the Florida Institute of Technology, and an M.S. degree in military operational art and science from the Air University. He is a graduate of the Armor Officer Basic Course, the Aviation Officer Advanced Course, the Combined Arms and Services Staff School, the Army Logistics Management College’s Logistics Executive Development Course, the Air Command and Staff College, the Joint Forces Staff College, and the NATO Defense College.