The Army’s combat
service support (CSS) units performed miracle after miracle
during Operation Iraqi
Freedom (OIF). The greatest of these miracles occurred in distribution,
where the pace of keeping up with combat units pushing north
would have crushed a lesser logistics force. Ironically, the
majority of the distribution challenges encountered in OIF
were the very same ones faced in Operation Desert Storm (ODS)
12 years earlier. Apparently some of the lessons learned from
ODS were merely lessons experienced.
Because of its uncompromising dedication to the soldier, the
CSS community decided to address some of the distribution challenges
in hopes of preventing them from occurring again. To this end,
Thomas J. Edwards, Deputy to the Commanding General of the
Combined Arms Support Command (CASCOM) at Fort Lee, Virginia,
created a rock
drill team and tasked them with bringing together key logistics
leaders from OIF to aggressively address distribution challenges.
The team surveyed OIF leaders on distribution issues, challenges,
and insights. Once the information was gathered and assimilated,
the team invited these same logistics leaders (as well as other
subject matter experts) to attend a distribution rock drill
at CASCOM hosted by CASCOM’s commander, Major General
Terry E. Juskowiak. What follows are some of the issues the
rock drill examined and some of the resulting recommendations.
When it became apparent early in OIF that distribution operations
were a battlespace challenge, CASCOM decided to reexamine the
Army’s keystone field manual (FM) on distribution to
see if the problems were rooted in existing doctrine. In May
2003, CASCOM staffed FM 100–10–1, Theater Distribution,
worldwide to see if Army leaders felt the doctrine was relevant
to actions taken in OIF and if the FM needed to be revised
out of cycle. The responses were lukewarm at best, with most
respondents agreeing that some subjects needed to be added
eventually (for example, force protection) but that the doctrine
was sufficient for now and did not require immediate revision.
However, embedded media continued to report on the Army’s
distribution challenges. So in October, CASCOM asked specific
agencies to indicate if the distribution problem was indeed
doctrinal; these agencies included the Army Materiel Command,
the Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, the Defense
Logistics Agency, and the Army G–4. This time, the response
was a little better, but the comments were basically the same
as the first staffing: a revision would be needed eventually
to add new subjects, but not right now. So the answer to the
question, “Do you feel FM 100–10–1 is relevant
to today’s operational environment?” was usually “yes.”
Since the feedback was not very helpful and most of the CSS
community was preoccupied with OIF at the time of both staffings,
CASCOM used the OIF distribution rock drill as a “litmus
test” of the need for rewriting distribution doctrine.
Doctrine was discussed early in the rock drill, with the following
• Doctrine is a guide, not dogma. But we still need to understand and accept
what may result if we decide to deviate from or ignore doctrine.
• Doctrine provides principles and helps in making intelligent choices
plans, so we need to know, understand, advocate, and practice our doctrine.
• Nothing works without doctrine. Attendees at the rock drill said repeatedly
that they knew doctrine existed, but it just was not followed.
The biggest success of OIF distribution was class III (B), bulk fuel. There were
several reasons for this success. First, class III (B) operations were well rehearsed
before OIF began. Second, there was only one unit in charge of theater petroleum
distribution: the 49th Quartermaster Group (Petroleum and Water) owned the product
and the fuel distribution system. This meant that a middleman did not delay resolution
when customers had problems. The group placed a planning cell in Kuwait early
to work with the Coalition Forces Land Component Command (CFLCC) staff. The planning
cell convinced the CFLCC commander that using the Inland Petroleum Distribution
System was the smartest way to distribute fuel. This decision enabled the group
to place a company forward to operate the system. Finally, two early preparation
tasks—pre-positioning seven truck companies in theater to support the movement
from day 1 of combat operations and establishing a 200,000-gallon fuel
The OPTEMPO led to instances of soldiers subsisting
solely on MREs for more than 21 days, which violated
the Surgeon General’s policy on MRE consumption.
farm at Camp Virginia, Kuwait—ensured
that all requests for fuel could be met. The group was able
fuel forward until receiving units and the system could take
Other keys to success included using a single fuel (JP8, with
additives as needed) and having that fuel readily available
in Kuwait. Not only did the use of JP8 save lives because it
is less combustible than most other fuels (which kept tanker
fires to a minimum when tankers were hit by small arms fire),
it also eased the strain on scarce fuel transportation assets.
Water and Ice
Soldiers supporting major operations have been drinking bottled
water since ODS. Soldiers and commanders expect to drink bottled
water when they deploy, even though bottles place an enormous
strain on scarce distribution assets. Bottles are easier to
store in both wheeled and tracked vehicle compartments, and
soldiers are more likely to stay hydrated when they have easy
access to water. Bottled water also can be chilled using nonpotable
ice purchased from local sources. Chilling is especially critical
when outside temperatures reach 120 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit,
since experience has shown that soldiers will not drink hot
water. Rock drill participants suggested investigating the
establishment of doctrine to support the use of bottled water
Ice and “reefers” (refrigerated vans) were in short
supply during OIF. Although current plans call for leasing
reefers to support all deployments, purchase appears to be
a more cost-effective option for long-term deployments. During
OIF, available reefers were seized quickly by forward units
for chilling food products and were not returned to the theater
distribution system. Resupply of ice required 20 reefers per
day, and convoys needed 7 days to reach units operating in
Rock drill participants recommended that the Army look at establishing
both water and ice as classes of supply. This would provide
visibility for water and ice when determining transportation
requirements and the need for other resources in early planning.
During the early planning stages and initial deployment of
forces to OIF, very few vendors were manufacturing meals, ready
to eat (MREs), and unitized group rations (UGRs). Manufacturers
had difficulty ramping up to meet the Army’s needs from
a cold industrial base. MREs were drawn from all sources, including
West Point, to try to meet the need.
To compensate for the long customer wait time in providing
rations, manufacturers began taking UGRs directly from the
assembly lines and packing them in ISO containers for immediate
shipment overseas. This practice created problems in the theater,
because a single container often would be filled with just
one type of UGR (breakfast, lunch, or dinner) but not all three.
It was not unheard of during OIF for soldiers to eat breakfast
UGRs for all three meals for several days in a row because
of the high operating tempo (OPTEMPO). OPTEMPO also led to
instances of soldiers subsisting solely on MREs for more than
21 days, which violated the Surgeon General’s policy
on MRE consumption.
Class I (subsistence) products should be packaged for the convenience
and use of the soldier. For example, meals for breakfast, lunch,
and dinner should be packaged together so soldiers are not
forced to eat just one type of meal. Feeding standards also
need to be enforced. If MREs are the only meal being served
for 21 consecutive days, they must be supplemented with ultra-heat-treated
dairy products and pouch bread.
At least 10 percent of all soldiers require some type of prescription
medication. During deployments, the prescription policy at
mobilization stations calls for deploying a soldier with 90
days of supply (DOS) of his medicine and recording his prescription
information to facilitate refills. However, because of the
high OPTEMPO of OIF, problems arose when a soldier had almost
exhausted his 90 DOS and needed his prescription refilled.
With limited assets and the force moving so quickly, getting
refills ordered and shipped to soldiers was a distribution
nightmare. Host nation supplies could not be used because the
Department of Defense (DOD) General Counsel prohibits the Army
Medical Command from using fluids and drugs that are not on
the Food and Drug Administration’s list of approved medicines.
So units had to reach back to major medical facilities outside
of the theater, which added to customer wait time. To counter
this refill problem, mobilization stations began deploying
soldiers with an additional 90 DOS, bringing each soldier’s
total to 180 DOS.
A prescription drug reorder and delivery policy should be developed
to ensure that soldiers receive their medications in a timely
manner. This policy should allow for dynamic delivery that
can follow the soldier as he moves throughout the battlefield.
The development of a joint, integrated, modular-capable medical
logistics organization would allow for an early-entry capability
for medical assets. This would allow the medical community
to tailor its medical distribution system to the environment
in which it is operating and ensure that medications are delivered
in a time-definite distribution system.
Class IX has always been a problem, and it will continue to
be a problem as long as parts are needed. The OIF request for
forces and time-phased force deployment data (TPFDD) did not
include a theater general support (GS) company to establish
a class IX GS base. The Doha, Kuwait, Area Support Group (ASG)
class IX warehouse was designed to support rotational units
and not the increased number of OIF units that began to draw
on its stocks. As units moved to their base camps and began
ordering parts, it quickly became apparent that the ASG could
not support the volume requested and that the GS class IX base
was not adequate to conduct operations. Units began sending
expeditors to assist in sorting through the ever-increasing
volume of receipts. This method was adopted by most units at
each major logistics node.
Because of movement priorities and the shortage of available
transportation assets, transportation allocations for class
IX supply were inadequate. The priority of movement during
the opening phases of OIF was class I, bottled water, and class
V (ammunition). As OIF progressed, units began to task-organize
to support different operations. This created significant problems
within the Standard Army Retail Supply System (SARSS) and with
the flow of requisitions to retasked units. Once units became
more stable in assigned areas of operations and established
connectivity, requisitions increased dramatically.
Connecting logisticians is the key to solving the class IX
distribution problem. We need to develop a simple process that
supports task-organizing at the tactical level within SARSS.
We should reevaluate stockage levels at strategic, operational,
and tactical locations and reevaluate the personnel and equipment
structure within supply support activities.
Radio frequency identification (RFID) automatic identification
technology (AIT) is the near-term answer to letting the logistician
see that logistics support is in transit. However, units deploying
from the continental United States for OIF were not resourced
with RFID equipment. Many of the theater CSS units came from
the Reserve components (RC) and were not familiar with RFID
technology. Even units deploying from Germany encountered problems
because they were not resourced with equipment to support their
mission at both home station and their deployed location. RFID
interrogators were set up significantly later than operation
startup dates. A U.S. Central Command directive was needed
to direct the use of RF tags and interrogators.
The CSS community needs to establish ownership and responsibility
for RFID at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels.
RFID technology should be used during peacetime operations
so soldiers are comfortable with the equipment. RF tags should
be used during combat training center training scenarios and
during installation and deployment operations.
Unlike their infantry brethren, CSS soldiers have a dual mission
on the battlefield: they must perform their CSS mission, but
they also have a responsibility for base defense. However,
the force protection mission has continued to pull CSS soldiers
out of their support roles. These competing requirements must
be examined to determine the appropriate mix of personnel in
CSS units so those units can perform both missions effectively.
CSS soldiers need to break the CSS cultural paradigm of “support
only” and train as warriors first. This means incorporating
tactics, techniques, and procedures and emerging lessons learned
into predeployment training, updating CSS mission training
plans to incorporate squad- and platoon-level tactical training,
and developing theater-specific validation training and Strategic,
Tactical, and Ready for Action in Combat training for CSS.
Proper resourcing of CSS units with night-vision goggles (NVGs),
precision lightweight GPS [global positioning system] receivers
(PLGRs), and individual body armor (IBA) enhances CSS soldiers’ survivability
on the modern battlefield. Currently, CSS soldiers have to
share NVGs, and they have an inadequate supply of PLGRs. In
OIF, soldiers bought commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) GPSs because
there was a shortage of PLGRs on the tables of organization
and equipment (TOEs) of CSS units and because the COTS GPSs
were easier to use and carry. The allocation of IBA also was
far short of what the CSS community actually needed to outfit
We need to fix basis of issue plans and CSS unit TOEs to include
security and force protection equipment. We need to leverage
emerging technology in force protection (such as unmanned aerial
vehicles, jammers, passive armor, and blast mine protection).
Communication systems will continue to be the backbone of force
protection. The integration of vehicle tracking through AIT
systems (Force XXI Battle Command Battalion/Brigade and Below
and Blue ForceTracking) will continue to be a vital link for
commanders to enhance their situational awareness.
Mortuary teams need to be deployed early to handle the remains
of those killed in action. In OIF, mortuary affairs (MA) units
arrived in theater just 1 day before units crossed the line
of departure and had no equipment. The Army’s MA force
structure consisted of one Active component (AC) and two RC
MA companies. Both RC units are based in Puerto Rico and were
staffed at just 40 percent. Both were activated and deployed
to form one functioning company. The Army needs to develop
an MA structure that supports current and future operations.
The most serious potential problem facing MA teams is handling
contaminated remains. Chemically contaminated remains are processed
in a fashion similar to that used for equipment, with bleach
and water. However, DOD has no approved process for decontaminating
remains contaminated with a biological agent. The Army needs
to develop a process and the capability to handle biologically
contaminated remains. It currently is investigating the use
of radiation to decontaminate such remains.
Theater Distribution Center
Initially, OIF materiel flowing into Kuwait was routed through
the central receiving and storage point (CRSP), a peacetime,
contractor-run operation that handled materiel for rotational
brigades and tenants in Kuwait. As the volume of materiel flowing
into Kuwait increased and the demand exceeded contracted requirements,
the CRSP’s capacity was exceeded and a backlog of materiel
developed at the aerial port of debarkation. An interim solution
was needed, so a theater distribution center (TDC) was created
The TDC, a nondoctrinal ad hoc organization, became the linchpin
of the 377th Theater Support Command’s operations. The
decision to stand up the TDC was a response to the absence,
at that point, of the planned GS supply activity that would
have handled at least some of the TDC’s functions. The
TDC was under-resourced and consequently manned by ad hoc work
details drawn from surrounding GS units. The GS supply units
arrived in the theater significantly after the date originally
planned, and the facilities designated for them were used for
other purposes. Once the TDC became operational, the CRSP began
transferring a substantial portion of its backlog to the TDC.
Over the next few weeks, the TDC worked off the backlog, even
without a GS unit in place to run the TDC.
The joint community needs to decide if a TDC is really necessary.
This organization should be a joint responsibility. As part
of the joint community, the Army needs to examine and, if necessary,
develop doctrine to support the TDC within the theater joint
logistics command architecture.
The quality of training at all levels was a major challenge
during OIF. For example, many operators of materials-handling
equipment (MHE) were untrained when they arrived in theater.
They performed adequately under ideal conditions; but during
inclement weather, on rough terrain, in mission-oriented protective
posture 4 gear, or in full load-bearing equipment, they performed
less than adequately. Kalmar forklifts would have been a great
asset to units, but they were not used to their full potential
because of an insufficient number of trained operators.
Drivers are not cross-trained on automatic and manual transmissions.
The majority of Army vehicles have automatic transmissions,
so not all soldiers were able to drive vehicles with a clutch,
which slowed down or even stopped some logistics missions.
Training AC units with RC units on a regular basis was a common
issue throughout the rock drill, as was the need to integrate
echelons-above-division units into combat training center rotations.
Training should focus on individual training, not just deployment
training. The issue
of funding levels for training AC and RC units was discussed, with everyone agreeing
that RC units need more money to conduct relevant and realistic training.
Specialized training also is needed. Convoy defense and march discipline continue
to be inadequate. Units had little live-fire training before deployment. Medical
units need more training in patient tracking and class VIII resupply. Logisticians
need training in supporting civil affairs units and missions and in letting contracts
in a theater of operations.
Our armed forces won in Iraq, and sometimes winning dulls the feeling of urgency
needed to quickly correct challenges arising during the victory. The CSS community
cannot afford to let such complacency occur. We must improve Army and joint distribution
capabilities and make steady progress at fixing deficiencies so, in the next
war, miracles are not needed to provide our soldiers with all they need. ALOG
Suzi Thurmond is a logistics management specialist in the Doctrine Branch, Joint
and Multinational Concepts and Doctrine Division, Directorate of Combat Developments
for Combat Service Support, at the Army Combined Arms Support Command at Fort
Lee, Virginia. She has a B.S. degree in business and economics from Christopher
Newport University in Virginia and is a graduate of the Army Force Management
Course. She entered Government service through the Transportation Intern Program
at Fort Eustis, Virginia.