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A Corps Support Battalion’s Experience in Operation Iraqi Freedom
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A Corps Support Battalion’s Experience in Operation Iraqi Freedom

Traditionally, the 87th Corps Support Battalion (CSB) is aligned under the 24th Corps Support Group (CSG) (Forward) in direct support of the 3d Infantry Division (Mechanized) at Fort Stewart, Georgia. Its mission is to provide backup support to the Division Support Command and direct support (DS) to nondivisional units assigned to Fort Stewart. The 87th CSB’s peacetime configuration includes the Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment (HHD), 94th Maintenance Company (General Support [GS]), 632d Maintenance Company (DS), 226th Quartermaster Company (DS), 396th Transportation Company (Palletized Load System [PLS]), 233d Heavy Equipment Transporter Platoon, and 240th Forward Surgical Team.

When the 87th CSB was added to Force Package 1 to support the 3d Infantry Division in Operation Iraqi Freedom, we knew that the battalion’s task organization would have to change. In fact, our battalion underwent five major changes during the first 3 weeks of combat. These changes reflected the 24th CSG’s concept for supporting the battalion’s rapid movement to Baghdad and ensuring continuous customer support. We experienced firsthand the command and control challenges of “plug and play” logistics.

This article chronicles the 87th CSB’s deployment and presents lessons learned while providing support to the 3d Infantry Division.

Setting the Stage

Members of the 24th CSG headquarters and 13th CSB headquarters (from Fort Benning, Georgia, and assigned to the 24th CSG) went to Kuwait in January 2003 to begin planning and to set the conditions for the CSG’s reception, staging, onward movement, and integration. Since the 87th CSB headquarters and the 226th Quartermaster Company had returned recently from a 6-month deployment to Djibouti, the battalion was separated from the 3d Infantry Division for deployment and was placed late in the Force Package 1 time-phased force deployment data. This caused some problems for the 87th CSB’s deployment.

To meet operational timelines, the battalion began to fly “space available” to Kuwait. The first unit to leave was the 396th Transportation Company, which deployed on five different flights. All units, except the HHD, would draw pre-positioned equipment in Kuwait, and the shortfalls and unit supplies would be sent by ship. However, it soon became apparent that the ships would not arrive in Charleston, South Carolina, to be loaded before the battalion’s personnel departed for Kuwait. This meant that the HHD’s equipment would get to Kuwait much later than its personnel did. To resolve this issue, the HHD sent a significant amount of its tactical operations center equipment in containers on space-available flights and then drew enough vehicles from pre-positioned equipment to become mission capable.

The 396th Transportation Company, the HHD, the 632d Maintenance Company, and the 226th Quartermaster Company all arrived in Kuwait by 7 March. The ships carrying the unit’s supplies did not leave Charleston until 10 March. Because of an approximate 3-week sailing time, units going into combat were still missing as much as 20 percent of their life support, supplies, and repair parts. In the meantime, the advance party hit the ground running, trying to catch up with the 24th CSG, which was already at Camp New York in Kuwait, and develop a battalion concept of support that would sustain the CSG’s overall concept. The basic concept included establishing forward logistics nodes created by echeloning the CSBs. The forward CSB had critical bulk petroleum, oils, and lubricants (POL); certain types of ammunition; water; and rations. To help set up the nodes quickly, CSBs formed corps-level forward logistics elements (FLEs) and integrated them into the 3d Infantry Division 2d Brigade Combat Team’s (BCT’s) maneuver.

To set the stage for the move across the line of departure, the battalion was given a new task organization that detached the 396th Transportation Company and attached the 157th Quartermaster Company (Field Services) and the 59th Quartermaster Company (POL) (GS). At the same time, the battalion assembled its FLE package that would go with the 2d BCT to facilitate the rapid buildup of Forward Logistics Base (FLB)

Fuel Support
The center of gravity for the entire support mission during the attack on Iraq was fuel support. To support the mission, the battalion was tasked to develop a
1.2-million-gallon fuel bag farm at Objective Rams (which later would become FLB Bushmaster), near An Najaf, just south of the Karbala Gap. To do this, the battalion developed a FLE that was embedded with the 2d BCT. The FLE consisted of 27 vehicles and 54 people and had ten 5,000-gallon fuel tankers; a 10,000-pound forklift; a D7 bulldozer; four stake-and-platform trailers; a semitrailer-mounted fabric tank; a gun truck; a small extension node (SEN) team; a heavy, expanded mobility tactical truck wrecker; a contact truck; and three command and control vehicles.

The FLE moved out of Camp New York on 12 March to collocate with the 26th Forward Support Battalion (FSB). On 19 March, it moved with the 2d BCT to Attack Position Appling in preparation for crossing into Iraq on 21 March. The FLE would supply the corps tactical command post, corps signal unit, and division main command post with critical fuel along the route and establish a 400,000-gallon fuel system supply point (FSSP) within 12 hours of reaching Objective Rams.

The FLE, the last element in the 2d BCT’s column, took the southernmost route, which was mostly unpaved, extremely rough, and covered with “moon dust.” It took us nearly 72 hours of nonstop traveling to reach Objective Rams, a distance of approximately 375 miles. During the trip, we had to abandon three 5-ton tractors, two 5,000-gallon tankers, and one stake-and-platform trailer because of maintenance problems and a lack of wrecker support.

The FLE arrived at Objective Rams on 24 March, just after the 2d BCT had declared it secure although they were still mopping up pockets of resistance. We picked up a security element from the 2d BCT and quickly began to establish the FSSP despite high winds and sandstorms. Positioning berm liners for the fuel bags became a challenge when the wind caught a liner and tossed soldiers 12 feet into the air. (Berm liners are required for collapsible fuel tanks to protect the tank from damage and the environment from fuel leaks.)

As the visibility increased and the sandstorms died down, it became apparent that the area was not truly secure. There were numerous small hamlets in close range, and we encountered many suspicious vehicles throughout the day. We were nearly finished setting up the FSSP when we learned that the security element was pulling out in the late afternoon. After reassessing our poor security posture, we decided to dismantle the FSSP and find a new location. We were able to pick up a Bradley fighting vehicle platoon to provide

security, and the 87th CSB-led convoy of over 500 wheeled vehicles moved to the new site later that evening. At first light on 25 March, we began to set up the new FSSP, and it was ready to receive fuel within 4 hours. That night, 60 tankers arrived at the FLE carrying 288,000 gallons of fuel.

FLB Bushmaster

The FLE spent most of the next day escorting companies into the new area of operations. In the afternoon, the sky became dark red and the “mother of all sandstorms” began to kick up. Adding to the bad visibility was a dense black cloud, which was created when the Iraqis set oil pits on fire outside Baghdad. Around 1600, the sky turned black as pitch as we tried to get march units of 25 or more vehicles into the battalion area. By early evening, it was literally raining mud.

At FLB Bushmaster, the battalion’s 24th Ordnance Company was tasked to establish an ammunition supply point (ASP), a 1.2-million-gallon fuel bag farm, and a water point that would supply 100,000 gallons of drinking water. The battalion also had to provide DS maintenance, recovery support, and DS supply support to all corps units in the area.

Once the entire battalion arrived, we began a full-court press to establish the fuel bag farm and a water point to purify water. Within 36 hours, the fuel bag farm was fully operational. It supported not only the 3d Infantry Division, but also the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) while it established a forward area refuel point. This fuel bag farm played a critical role during the destruction of the Iraqi Medina Division and the fight through the Karbala Gap. Although a GS POL company normally is not associated with a CSB forward, the 59th Quartermaster Company was vital to building up the fuel needed to continue the attack. Its position, forward of the division rear boundary, shortened lines of communication to the divisions and made it possible for the battalion to provide fuel rapidly and continuously in the quantity needed to support the corps main attack.

Water production was the second most important mission of the 87th CSB at FLB Bushmaster. All units had crossed the line of departure with a 5-day supply of rations and water, and we were now on day 5. With help from our local civil affairs detachment, we found a water site close to our area. The site was a cement plant with an aquifer that could support our mission without affecting the local farmers. Within 24 hours, we had drinkable water. We used the 3,000-gallon reverse osmosis water purification units (ROWPUs) from the 226th Quartermaster Company and had operational control of two arid augmentation teams—the 205th Quartermaster Detachment, which had two 3,000-gallon ROWPUs, and a platoon from the 512th Quartermaster Company, which had a 200,000-gallon water storage capability. These teams were excellent additions to the DS company, and they were critical to providing “just-in-time” water to the 3d Infantry Division and our corps customers.

FLB Dogwood

Eventually, as the attack progressed through the Karbala Gap and on toward Baghdad, the battalion prepared to move again and the 7th CSG (Rear) (a 3d Corps Support Command unit from Bamburg, Germany) assumed command and control of the 59th Quartermaster Company. As the 87th CSB turned over the 1.2-million-gallon fuel bag farm and the ASP to the 7th CSG, a FLE was formed to start the process of relocating the battalion again to support forward. The FLE initially advanced north of the escarpment, which was just south of the Karbala Gap, with thirty-three 5,000-gallon fuel tankers and two PLS trucks of ammunition and joined the 26th FSB. We used seven tankers of fuel to top off the 26th FSB’s DS assets, and the remaining tankers and PLS trucks then went north with the 2d BCT to Objective Chargers.

Twenty-four hours later, we reached the division logistics release point (LRP) and refueled all of the 1st and 2d BCTs’ vehicles and supplied them with ammunition. At this point, another battalion convoy with an additional 30 tankers and 17 PLS truckloads of ammunition arrived to resupply the brigades as the 1st and 2d BCTs fought their way across the Euphrates River into Baghdad. We established Convoy Support Center Freightliner at the LRP. Early the next day, the FLE moved from the LRP and arrived 12 hours later at FLB Dogwood, which was established on the site of an abandoned British Petroleum refinery.

Once at FLB Dogwood, it was critical to set up the ROWPUs, the ASP, a 600,000-gallon fuel bag farm, and a DS/GS class I (subsistence) point quickly. Water became especially critical since the division had run out of bulk water. We found a pipe that carried water into the refinery from the Euphrates River, which was about 2H miles away. The 512th Quartermaster Company and the 632d Maintenance Company adapted a fitting to tap into the pipe with our hoses.

After pumping approximately 30,000 gallons of water, the electrical power failed and the pump shut down. We assembled a great team of 632d Maintenance Company mechanics and a civil affairs team to work with the locals. They improvised a way to hook

up a captured Iraqi generator and repaired the pump, which drew ample water from the river for the 3d Infantry Division’s consumption. One ROWPU was set up at the river, and we transported the purified water from that site in semitrailer-mounted fabric tanks. The other two ROWPUs were located at the main water point. We used a 50,000-gallon bag for raw water storage and had 200,000 gallons of purified water on hand for consumption.

Meanwhile, a platoon from the 59th Quartermaster Company quickly set up the FSSP. The FSSP was able to receive fuel in approximately 8 hours, and the entire 600,000-gallon system was set up within 24 hours. We used the 348th and 515th Transportation Companies to line-haul bulk fuel from the bag farm at FLB Bushmaster to FLB Dogwood.

With the rapid success in Baghdad, the ASP’s mission quickly changed from that of a resupply point for

combat operations to an ammunition turn-in point for three divisions. Overnight, we went from being a divisional ASP to a corps storage area with 5,000 tons of U.S. ammunition. We also stored Iraqi ammunition captured by the 3d Infantry Division’s 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry, from an enemy ASP in downtown Baghdad. This 2-day mission began on the second day U.S. forces were in Baghdad. While surrounded by ongoing combat operations, the recovery team hand-loaded and delivered to the Free Iraqi Fighters over 3.5 million 7.62-millimeter machinegun rounds, 200,000 .50-caliber machinegun rounds, and 1,000 AK–47 assault rifles. When the team returned, we sent another team out immediately to recover more ammunition. They came back with a total of 300 tons of enemy ammunition on captured flatbed trailers, dump trucks, and 5-ton trucks. Seizing these assets freed up the 1–15 Infantry Battalion, which had been guarding the site, to continue its mission in Baghdad and provided critical supplies for use in training the new Iraq Army once it was formed.

Next, we went from operating a DS class I point for all nondivisional customers in the area to operating a DS/GS class I point. To handle the GS mission, we combined the class I sections of the 226th Quartermaster Company and the 730th Quartermaster Company (DS), which provided 20 people to complete the mission. Luckily, we were able to get two 40-ton rough-terrain container handlers from the attached 372d Cargo Transfer Company to help handle the containers that arrived. Issuing class I only to the 3d Infantry Division was not too difficult, but when we had to issue rations to the 101st Airborne Division, the 4th Infantry Division (Mechanized), and the 82d Airborne Division, it became big business involving a huge number of containers.

The biggest problem we encountered with issuing the class I was the lack of in-transit visibility of the theater trucks that were bringing rations from the Public Warehousing Company in Kuwait. We were living from hand to mouth, so convoys that were delayed or came in with less class I than expected created serious problems. An added challenge was receiving 20- and 40-foot containers with mixed loads and no packing lists. We received 20 to 30 trucks a night, each carrying either two 20-foot containers or one 40-foot container. We had to inventory bottled water; meals, ready to eat; and unitized group rations quickly to ensure we had enough for the next day.

Fresh fruits and vegetables became an additional mission when the ration cycle changed. “Reefer” (refrigerated) vans carrying fresh produce were sent from Kuwait with no packing lists, so we had to offload and inventory every shipment in the sweltering heat. The vans were not marked for specific divisions, so we first had to determine what we had and then make equitable distributions. The vans had to be completely offloaded and then reloaded because the various types of fruits and vegetables were not distributed evenly in each van. Sometimes the van refrigeration units did not work, and we had no parts on hand to fix them. This presented a dilemma because fresh fruits and vegetables will spoil quickly without refrigeration. Our mechanics came up with a number of creative ways to repair the vans’ refrigeration units to keep the mission going.

Once Baghdad was secure, units began to use FLB Dogwood as a staging base before going north. We gained corps customers who spent anywhere from one to six nights in our area of responsibility until they moved forward. Our customer base expanded from 8,500 to 16,000 in less than a week. Persistent communication problems made it difficult to alert the 19th Theater Materiel Management Center of this huge increase in headcount so enough class I could be pushed forward.

Support Issues

Throughout the operation, poor communication support was a constant challenge for the 87th CSB. The corps signal plan did not support the rapid forward move of combat service support forces. From the minute we reached Camp New York, we had communication problems. Our SEN team was issued a Tactical Local Area Network Encryptor (TACLANE) a day before being attached to the 87th CSB, so they had no training on the system and very little support from their battalion. We constantly had to request technical data for the team so they would know which node center to use as we moved forward. A coordinated plan for node centers was not readily available, and we were not informed when the node centers were about to relocate. Only after our systems went down did we find that our supporting node center had moved. In FLB Bushmaster, we were only operational for 1 day.

This problem also affected our connectivity to the Standard Army Maintenance System (SAMS) and the Standard Army Retail Supply System (SARSS). When we were able to connect through the Nonsecure Internet Protocol Router Network (NIPRNET), the lines did not have enough bandwidth or speed to support our systems. To work around this problem, we used the 24th CSG Headquarters’ Secret Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNET) and had batches emailed to us. This was a long and tedious process that seriously affected our ability to complete our mission and crippled the repair parts requisition process.

Another problem during this operation was the lack of standard in-transit visibility. The battalion was issued two Movement Tracking Systems (MTSs) before crossing the Iraqi border, but neither was complete, no training was provided on them, and most of the system installation was left up to the unit. Our tracking station was fielded without a power cable, and the fielding team told us that we would receive it in “7 to 8 weeks.” The system installed in the battalion commander’s vehicle had “the blue screen of death” less than 1 week after fielding, and we had no viable technical support. While at the escarpment south of the Karbala Gap, units were issued a Defense Transportation Reporting and Control System (DTRACS). The Joint Deployment Logistics Model (JDLM) can be used to access both the MTS and DTRACS if the software is loaded on a computer that is connected to the Internet, but we did not have access to the Internet. These systems would be great assets for forecasting when theater tankers were bringing fuel to the fuel bag farms or when a convoy of rations was arriving at the class I warehouse. The transportation company commanders used the systems installed in their trucks to get status reports and track their assets. At the corps level, the staffs had better visibility than the troops on the ground who needed the information.

We were directed to place radio frequency identification tags on all of our fuel tankers, even though there were no interrogators in our area to read them and we could not get a readout on the systems we did have. Overall, there appeared to be no coordinated plan in place to ensure that we had the tools we needed at the battalion level to make these in-transit visibility systems work.

During Operation Iraqi Freedom, the 87th CSB was usually farther north than the 3d Infantry Division’s 703d Main Support Battalion. The CSB completed all missions it was asked to do, regardless of what doctrine states. With the rapid push to Baghdad, our mission changed often, as did the CSB’s task organization. However, we continued to provide support. Despite communication problems and a lack of equipment, we put ourselves out front to make sure our customers got the support they needed.

Lieutenant Colonel Andrew W. Bowes is the Commander of the 87th Corps Support Battalion at Fort Stewart, Georgia. He has a bachelor’s degree in education from Western Maryland College and is a graduate of the Transportation Officer Basic and Advanced Courses, the Army Command and General Staff College, the Armed Forces Staff College, and Joint Professional Military Education Phase II.

Major Kimberly J. Daub is the Executive Officer of the 87th Corps Support Battalion at Fort Stewart, Georgia. She served as the Support Operations Officer during her deployment to Iraq. She has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Bucknell University and a master’s degree in logistics from the Naval Postgraduate School. She is a graduate of the Ordnance Officer Basic and Advanced Courses and the Army Command and General Staff College.


A Corps Support Battalion’s Experience in Operation Iraqi Freedom
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