Development of a base camp in Dili was one of the first tasks that confronted the LOGCAP team when it arrived in East Timor. The camp was needed to support construction of the helipads.

Development of a base camp in Dili was one of the first tasks that confronted the LOGCAP team when it arrived in East Timor. The camp was needed to support construction of the helipads.

A LOGCAP Success in East Timor                               

by James Folk and Lieutenant Colonel Andy Smith, USAR                 

 

U.S. support of the United Nations intervention in East Timor provided another opportunity to demonstrate the capabilities of the Army's Logistics Civil Augmentation Program.

The 16th of October 1999 proved to be a red letter day for the Army's Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP). One reason for the day's distinction had been planned for months, but the other was unanticipated. The planned event was the formal activation of the LOGCAP Support Unit, a 66-soldier Army Reserve troop program unit that reports directly to the U.S. Army Reserve Command but is under the operational control of the Army Materiel Command (AMC), the LOGCAP manager. The unforeseen event occurred that same evening, when the LOGCAP Program Manager (PM) was contacted by a representative of the U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) J4 staff. USPACOM's logisticians wanted to know if it was feasible to contract for heavy-lift helicopter support in East Timor, a former province of Indonesia where a U.S. task force had been deployed. Since 1992, the LOGCAP contractor has been deployed in support of missions in such far-flung locations as Somalia, Haiti, and Bosnia. Now East Timor would be added to the list.

Initial Deployments to East Timor

On 20 September, International Forces East Timor (INTERFET), a multinational coalition force led by Australia and supported by the United States and 17 other countries, deployed to East Timor. After successfully completing the peacemaking Operation Warden, INTERFET immediately transitioned into the peacekeeping Operation Stabilise. U.S. Marine Corps forces based in Okinawa and Hawaii quickly deployed to the area to assist INTERFET in both operations. Follow-on forces from the Army and Air Force arrived to augment the Marines, and the level of military support that the United States would provide soon reached its peak.

The initial contribution by the Army was limited to a small number of personnel, as special units were organized to provide specific capabilities to INTERFET. These capabilities included communications supplied by Task Force Thunderbird of the 86th Signal Battalion, civil-military operations support provided by the Army Reserve's 322d Civil Affairs Brigade, staff intelligence and support officers detailed from U.S. Army Pacific, and command and control elements sent from the 516th Signal Brigade.

Need for Helicopter Support

As the situation developed and more U.S. support was requested, it became clear that medium and heavy tactical lift helicopter support was needed to cope with East Timor's mountainous terrain and poor transportation infrastructure. Roads in East Timor are often primitive and in many areas impassabležmany remote areas are accessible only by air or four-wheel-drive vehicles. Compounding these transportation problems was the need to reach two noncontiguous districts of East Timor, the Acussi-Ambeno enclave (located in the western portion of the island of Timor, which otherwise is controlled by Indonesia) and the small, adjacent island of Atauro.

The completed helipads at Comoro Airfield included access ramps that connected with the runway.  

The completed helipads at Comoro Airfield included access ramps that connected with the runway.

Helicopter support is the fastest and most efficient, and often the safest, method of movement in such an environment. Initial helicopter support was provided by the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) flying from the Navy amphibious assault ship USS Belleau Wood, which was anchored off of East Timor's capital city, Dili. CH-46 and CH-53 helicopters from the 31st MEU executed the helicopter support mission until another method was found.

The Marine helicopter mission was to provide lift support in transporting coalition members, internally displaced persons, and various types of internal and external cargo loads. The cargoes lifted by the Marines included military materiel, fuel blivets, humanitarian foodstuffs, and agricultural implements needed to sustain the local population until they regained the ability to support themselves. Helping displaced persons return to their villages and homes would help restore normal, everyday life for the Timorese.

If there was no alternative to using military equipment, then support of the U.S. mission in East Timor would require Navy vessels and Marine aircraft to be anchored off the Timor coast. The Navy vessels and crews, as well as the 31st MEU, would have to remain in the area as a staging platform for the air mission. The MEU air fleet could not operate from an airfield on the island because the military footprint allowed on East Timorese soil was limited by political agreement. Without relief, this floating contingent of sailors and marines would have to remain on station for the duration of the peacemaking and peacekeeping operations or be replaced by a similar capability. The only other capability available would be another MEU or an Army heavy- or medium-lift helicopter company, with all of their attendant operational, maintenance, security, and support personnel. Both of these options were considered undesirable, since they would require a large U.S. military presence for an indefinite period and would reduce the operational readiness of any unit that deployed to the area for a long time.

Calling on LOGCAP

Replacing the Navy and Marine Corps forces with a civilian contract capability on the ground was a made-to-order operation for LOGCAP. Lieutenant Colonel William Guinn of the USPACOM J4 staff was advised by the LOGCAP PM that USPACOM's mission needs met the general criteria requirements of the LOGCAP contract and that the entire LOGCAP team was ready to assist USPACOM in determining the best course of action.

 maintenance shelter was part of the infrastructure that had to be created to support the U.S. mission in East Timor.
A maintenance shelter was part of the infrastructure that had to be created to support the U.S. mission in East Timor.

The initial challenge was to have the LOGCAP contractor, DynCorp, complete a market survey in less than 24 hours and determine what resources were available to accomplish the USPACOM mission. Included in this survey would be an estimate of associated costs. These cost and availability estimates would validate the feasibility of contracting out the mission.

To assist the USPACOM planners, representatives from the LOGCAP PM office and DynCorp deployed immediately to USPACOM Headquarters in Hawaii. These LOGCAP planners assisted the USPACOM staff in determining what was needed to transfer the mission from U.S. forces to the LOGCAP contractor. This assistance from the LOGCAP planners led to an approved statement of work for four heavy-lift helicopters with ground support elements, as well as an engineering effort to improve concrete helicopter parking pads, build the access ramps from the pads to the Comoro Airfield runway, and erect a temporary maintenance shelter. This would be a particularly challenging mission because East Timor is in a part of the world that is very poor in resources, so all construction equipment, skilled labor, and materials would have to be brought in from other places.

Other factors and constraints affected how the work would proceed. The American seasonal holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's) were coming up, and there was a strong desire to have as many U.S. personnel as possible home as soon as possible. The monsoon season, which could hinder deployment and construction, was imminent. Lines of communication had to be considered because East Timor is about 400 miles from the nearest Australian port, Darwin, and deep within the Indonesian sphere of influence. Lastly, the operation had to be executed using as few funds as possible.

Preparing the Infrastructure

The opening team from DynCorp arrived in Dili in mid-November and immediately started coordinating with INTERFET and the U.S. forces on the ground. The contractor was followed quickly by a contracting officer's representative from the LOGCAP Support Unit. Within days, a base camp began to emerge and preparations were well underway to receive the first helicopters.

The first aircraft to arrive would be two Mi-8's, a civilian version of the Cold War-era military "HIP" Soviet transport helicopter. Two Mi-26 "Halo" heavy-lift helicopters would follow the Mi-8's. Russian-built helicopters were chosen by the contractor and USPACOM for this mission because of their low flying and maintenance costs and their quick availability for deploying to the area of operations. American-built aircraft were considered but rejected by the flight subcontractor, Clintondale Aviation.

The Mi-8 helicopters were loaded inside an AN-124 civil transport that flew directly from Bulgaria to East Timor. Not only did the AN-124 transport the Mi-8's, but it also brought the crews, a fueling truck and trailer, repair parts, and fueling equipment. The Mi-8's operated from the crowded Comoro Airfield tarmac until the helipad improvements were completed. (Comoro Airfield, located on the eastern edge of Dili, is the main commercial airport in East Timor.)

As materials were being obtained and transported from Jakarta, Indonesia, DynCorp's engineering partner, Fluor-Daniels Federal Services, deployed earth-moving equipment on ocean-going barges and transport craft to Dili to commence ground preparation. This transportation effort was necessary since no heavy equipment was available in East Timor. As soon as the first equipment arrived in East Timor, it was put to work improving the base camp site and preparing work areas for the mission. Fluor-Daniels literally had to bring everything for this mission with them. They had to erect a mobile concrete plant, dig water wells, and grade service roads; import all of the sand, concrete, and aggregate they would need; and bring in skilled labor, since no licensed or qualified equipment operators were available locally.

An Mi-26 helicopter is parked on one of the helipads.

An Mi-26 helicopter is parked on one of the helipads.

Army and contractor personnel survey the construction site for the helipads at Comoro Airfield in Dili. The LOGCAP engineering subcontractor, Fluor-Daniels, had to create a cement production facility from scratch in order to build the helipads.Army and contractor personnel survey the construction site for the helipads at Comoro Airfield in Dili. The LOGCAP engineering subcontractor, Fluor-Daniels, had to create a cement production facility from scratch in order to build the helipads.

The Mi-26's arrived in early December. These huge aircraft, the largest helicopters in the world, were flown all the way from Russia and Slovakia to East Timor. Even flying hundreds of miles a day, they needed almost 10 days to complete their journey. On the way, they faced harsh climate changes, had to fly over large expanses of desert and open ocean, crossed numerous international airspace corridors (which required diplomatic coordination), and weathered heavy storms.

The Helicopters Support the Mission

Once in East Timor, the Mi-26's immediately went to work. They used over half of the first month's available flight hours in the first 8 days after their arrival. These helicopters were perfect for this mission because they could take whole platoons of peacekeepers wherever they were needed and could return a large number of displaced East Timorese to their homes in a single lift. Special "long line" sling-loading equipment was brought in to support the huge aircraft. Whenever tasked, there was nothing the Mi-26's could not lift.

As more and more supplies arrived, the heliport improved and became available for limited operations. Before Christmas Day, the Mi-8's were able to park in the center of one of the uncompleted helipads, which freed critical tarmac space at the airport for other purposes. INTERFET aircraft started using the helipads whenever possible. By New Year's Day, ground tests had been conducted to see if the main pads could be used to park C-130 transports as well as the Mi-26's. By 3 January, all concrete had been poured; within another 48 hours, all the helipads were fully operational.

All types of missions were given to the contract aircraft, and INTERFET began to rely heavily on their services. Even after a commercial aircraft damaged one of the Mi-8's, all assigned missions continued to be flown. In addition to military and civilian moves, the helicopters were used on more than one occasion for medical evacuation and mercy missions. VIP's from many of INTERFET's contributing nations also were ferried on the aircraft. The Russian and Bulgarian crews were very professional in every aspect of their work, and the contractor's flight operations manager, Wyant Lauterman, became a key member of the INTERFET flight safety council. In all, the helicopters flew over 475 hours transporting more than 6,400 personnel and 845 tons of materiel and supplies.

A New Mission: Life Support

As operations seemed to be settling into a regular routine, USPACOM identified an addition to the mission: U.S. military personnel assigned to assist in the transfer of responsibility in East Timor from INTERFET to the United Nations Transition Authority East Timor (UNTAET) would need support. Specifically, they would require food, fuel, lodging, medical support, water, communications, security, and morale support. As soon as the requirements were determined, DynCorp started identifying sources of support and their costs. Additional personnel were brought in to perform the new tasks, while others who no longer were needed were sent home. More East Timorese were hired to support the transition, which provided a boost to the local economy.

The transition of the mission from engineering and aviation work to life support proved to be a smooth one. DynCorp was able to fill quickly every requirement identified by the customer. As the mission progressed, new contracting officer's representatives were brought in from AMC Headquarters. Throughout the mission, high-level oversight was provided by the LOGCAP Program Manager and AMC Headquarters, the USPACOM staff, and even the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

One of the two Mi-26 heavy-lift helicopters takes off on a mission. The Russian-built Mi-26 is the largest helicopter in the world. The Mi-26's flew directly from Russia and Slovakia to East Timor.
One of the two Mi-26 heavy-lift helicopters takes off on a mission. The Russian-built Mi-26 is the largest helicopter in the world. The Mi-26's flew directly from Russia and Slovakia to East Timor.

The East Timor mission has been rated as a total success. The efforts by the contractors there have validated the fundamental LOGCAP concept that the United States can support its overseas commitments without always having to use military assets directly.

The U.S. contribution to INTERFET will be instrumental in helping the Timorese people rebuild their devastated economy. Employing and training many East Timorese have produced a skilled local work force able to operate heavy equipment. The airfield improvements, although temporary, will provide a new commercial capability desperately needed by East Timor as it struggles to attract international investment.

LOGCAP stands ready for other missions anywhere in the world. Working closely with the contractor and the LOGCAP Support Unit to support its customers worldwide, the LOGCAP Program Manager's Office has 28 plans on the shelf that address the needs of every unified commander in chief in practically every part of the world. LOGCAP is prepared to repeat the success of the East Timor mission when called upon. ALOG

James Folk is the LOGCAP Program Manager, Headquarters, Army Materiel Command. He holds a bachelor's degree in economics from West Virginia University and an M.B.A. degree from Xavier University and is a graduate of the Army War College.

Lieutenant Colonel Andy Smith, USAR, is assigned to the LOGCAP Support Unit. He holds a bachelor's degree in business administration from North Georgia College and is a graduate of the Transportation Officer Basic and Advanced Courses, the Combined Arms and Services Staff College, and the Army Command and General Staff College.