HomeAbout UsBrowse This IssueBack IssuesNews DispatchesSubscribing to Army LogisticianWriting for Army LogisticianContact UsLinks































Transformation of Logistics
Support of Special Forces

The Army Special Operations Forces’ new group support battalion
provides long-term sustainment at the tactical and operational levels of war.

The tactical employment of Army Special Operations Forces (ARSOF) in the Global War on Terrorism has changed the way the Department of Defense wages war. The Army Special Forces Command has had to adapt to an ever-changing environment to fulfill the prominent role assigned to the Special Operations community in winning a war against terrorism. The command has had to change the way it deploys and fights and even the way it is logistically sustained.

In response to the attacks of 11 September 2001, President George W. Bush announced his intention to begin a “war against terrorists and the states that aid them.” As the President was making this historic proclama-tion, an entire Army Special Forces group was preparing to deploy to central Asia. ARSOF requested that the U.S. Central Command’s (CENT-COM’s) in-theater executive agent provide the base operations support and direct support needed to sustain ARSOF personnel in the theater of operations. Because there was no sustainable logistics infrastructure in place in the theater at the time, the executive agent requested the deployment of a short-term Active-duty logistics force to support approximately 3,000 ARSOF personnel.

In the current area of operations, the Special Forces sustainment community at the tactical and operational levels of war requires a robust organic logistics force structure for long-term sustainment. The U.S. Special Operations Command and the Army Training and Doctrine Command have addressed this requirement at the tactical level by realigning the service detachment of the Special Forces group support company to form a group support battalion (GSB).

ARSOF Organization

Under ARSOF’s modular force structure, each active Special Forces battalion has a battalion service company and each Special Forces group has its own GSB. This is a major change that gives each commander control of a direct support unit. The obvious advantage is that each group can be independently employed without major augmentation. The new organizational structure also

  • Provides Special Operations forces with organic logistics sustainment.
  • Can deploy rapidly to fill critical logistics requirements.
  • Ties into the existing theater support structure.
  • Establishes and collocates with habitual support and training relationships.
  • Provides logistics management and planning capabilities.
  • Can self-sustain at the group level under new modularity doctrine.

When theater Army combat service support is unavailable, the GSB is the primary common-user logistics provider for deployed Special Operations forces. Its mission is to plan, coordinate, synchronize, and control combat support and combat service support of the Special Forces group. It sends requirements to the Army Special Operations liaison element and reaches back to the Special Operations sustainment brigade as necessary. It is joint and multinational in that it can be augmented by combat service support common-user logistics assets from other services and nations and can integrate their capabilities into a cohesive plan that supports the commander’s operational concept.

The GSB is capable, with replenishment, of supporting the logistics requirements of Army Special Forces groups. When augmented by other services and nations, it integrates those organizations’ capabilities to provide common-user logistics support of an Army Special Operations task force or a combined or joint Special Operations task force. When assigned to a joint Special Operations task force, component forces provide internal support packages for service-specific and common logistics support. The GSBs provide rapidly deployable combat service support, combat health support, administration, communication, and all-source intelligence support to group headquarters elements and the Special Forces operational bases and deployed ARSOF.

Within the GSB, a group service support company (GSSC) and a battalion headquarters have been established with augmentation from other Army Special Operations combat service support elements.

A GSSC within the GSB adds significant logistics muscle to the Special Forces group. Each GSSC is designed to support approximately 2,200 personnel. It includes a supply warehouse; a truck squad; an ammunition transfer point; bulk fuel handling facilities; and water production, airdrop, movement control, maintenance, engineer, and medical support operations not assigned to the Special Forces group. These enhancements give a tremendous amount of flexibility and independence to the group commander and free him from having to wrestle support from conventional forces.

Support of Multiple Deployments

Before 11 September 2001, the only dedicated direct support unit for Special Operations forces was the Army Special Operations Command’s 528th Special Operations Support Battalion (SOSB) at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Critics believed that this logistics organization was inadequate to support multiple Special Operations deployments. Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom confirmed that belief.

The mission of the 528th was to provide rapidly deployable combat service support and health service support to ARSOF in war and operations other than war. However, because of the small number of logistics support personnel assigned to the 528th’s organic support companies, it was not able to sustain all of the Special Forces groups simultaneously over a long period of time without a conventional forces backbone. The 528th was able to provide logistics support for ARSOF in a training environment but could not provide simultaneous support for ARSOF deployments in geographically separated areas. The 528th SOSB was designed to support two deployments at the same time, but this proved to be an almost impossible task because of the limited operational design of the organization. Operation Iraqi Freedom further confirmed this when five of seven brigade-sized Special Forces groups were deployed simultaneously.

Although the new GSB structure enhances each group’s capability, the Army Special Operations Command and the U.S. Special Operations Command do not have a support organization to use at their discretion. With the creation of the GSB, the Army Special Operations Command eliminated the 528th SOSB and moved its equipment and personnel to the Special Forces groups. This means that only those groups have support elements.

The Global War on Terrorism has proven to be a lengthy campaign characterized by an unprecedented number of ARSOF deployments around the world. The Army must continue to transform its logistics support system to meet the needs of these vital Special Forces units.

Major Eduardo Santiago is assigned to the 200th Theater Distribution Brigade, 21st Theater Support Command, in Germany. He has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Puerto Rico. He is a graduate of the Combined Logistics Officers Advanced Course and the Army Command and General Staff College.

Major William C. Johnson, Jr., is assigned to the 82d Sustainment Brigade, 82d Airborne Division, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The brigade currently is deployed to Iraq in support of the Global War on Terrorism. He has a bachelor's degree in business administration from Longwood College and a master's degree in logistics management from the Florida Institute of Technology. He is a graduate of the Ordnance Officer Basic Course, the Combined Logistics Officers Advanced Course, and the Army Command and General Staff College.