by Captain Christopher J. Whittaker and Chief Warrant Officer (W-4) Billy S. Rhodes
The convoy support center in Virovitica, Croatia, provides quick-fix maintenance, recovers disabled vehicles, and is a welcomed respite for weary soldiers along the main supply route.
Located along the deployment route to Bosnia, the convoy support center (CSC) at Virovitica, Croatia, provides soldiers an opportunity to rest and have their vehicles maintained during major deployments and redeployments. Virovitica is approximately halfway between the intermediate staging base (ISB) in Taszar, Hungary, and the redeployment staging base (RSB) in Slovonski Brod, Croatia. The 503d Maintenance Company, a direct-support maintenance company from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, was tasked to support the deployments of both the 2d Armored Cavalry Regiment (ACR) "August Surge" and the 1st Infantry Division/1st Armored Division "October Surge" as part of ISB missions for Operation Joint Guard. As part of our mission, we operated the CSC at Virovitica. (See article, "Maintenance Support of the ISB," on page 9.)
The CSC is set up in a bus repair depot that is located directly off the main supply route (MSR), which makes it easily accessible to convoys. The depot is a 5-bay maintenance facility centered in a large, open parking lot. The parking lot is approximately 500 meters square and is surrounded by an 8-foot-high chain-link fence with local security at the gate. It can accommodate approximately six serials of seven vehicles each. One bay is used by the Army for maintenance.
The depot has offices, latrines, and other rooms that are not available to the CSC. To compensate, Brown and Root Services Corporation, the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP) contractor, provided latrines and trash service. A mobile shelter served as a tactical operations center (TOC) for the CSC team. A mobile kitchen trailer (MKT) served coffee and soup during inclement weather. The team did not have access to phone lines in the building, so a Croatian company was contracted to install a line that would ensure reliable communication with the ISB and RSB.
A road guard escorts a convoy into the parking lot at the a CSC. The lot can accommodate approximately six serials of seven vehicles each.
Personnel and Equipment
The mission of the CSC was to provide quick-fix maintenance, vehicle recovery operations, and a place for soldiers in the convoys to rest along the route. We envisioned our mission as a mobile maintenance team (MMT) operation. The MMT is an independent unit that provides area support. It has both the tools and equipment for that type of mission. We chose a base version of the MMT but decided to bring along only the heavy wheel vehicle mechanics (military occupational specialty [MOS] 63S) and repairers (MOS 63W).
The number of personnel tasked to operate the CSC was determined by the anticipated length of the assignment, the number of convoys arriving per day, weather, and the availability of personnel. We routinely had a crew of nine personnel, with a warrant officer serving as the officer in charge (OIC). However, during the 1st Infantry Division/1st Armored Division swap, the number of personnel rose to 15 with the addition of 5 personnel dedicated to traffic control.
Our equipment was based on a standard MMT configuration and included a contact truck; an M1078 2½-ton truck; an M998 high-mobility, multi purpose, wheeled vehicle (HMMWV); a power generator; a single-channel ground and airborne radio system (SINCGARS) for the TOC; and an M984 heavy, expanded-mobility tactical truck (HEMTT) wrecker. Two MILVAN's also were positioned at the CSC. One held potable water for the MKT operations; the other was used to store personal gear, equipment, and repair parts such as belts, batteries, and petroleum products.
Based on lessons learned from other CSC operations, we carried a 5-ton tactical pump unit (TPU) with a 1,000-gallon fuel tank for emergency refueling situations. Likewise, a wheeled ambulance with a medical crew was included. The mechanics brought their own tool boxes in addition to the tools carried on the contact truck.
The OIC was the key to fluid and flexible operations. He received daily movement orders and convoy schedules from the ISB. Because of limited communication with the convoys, the OIC got a start point acknowledgment from the ISB and did not get an update until the convoy was approximately 20 minutes from the CSC. This update came as a phone call from the movement control team (MCT) at the Hungarian-Croatian border. The CSC team staged road guards to escort the convoys into the CSC parking area. As each convoy arrived, the road guards redirected or stopped traffic so the convoy could enter the parking area without delay.
The OIC brought the convoy commander to the command post to brief him on choke points, threats, and current road conditions on the remainder of his route. In the meantime, the soldiers from the convoy had the opportunity to perform preventive maintenance checks and services on their vehicles, eat, and stretch their legs. The CSC soldiers moved quickly through the lanes checking for maintenance problems and making on-the-spot adjustments. After a 30- to 45-minute break, the CSC soldiers assumed their road guard positions and guided the convoy back onto the MSR. The OIC then notified the ISB of the departure time and vehicle count for the convoy.
Recovery operations originated when a vehicle was disabled in a convoy or was determined to be not mission capable (NMC) at the CSC. When a vehicle broke down along the route, the convoy commander reported it to the military police or the MCT. The support operations officer notified either the ISB or RSB, and a recovery vehicle was dispatched. Maintenance control points (MCP's) along the route facilitated equipment transfer from one area of responsibility to another.
Instead of commuting from the ISB on a daily basis, soldiers were billeted and fed in contracted facilities in Hungary near Virovitica. This allowed the CSC team to get to the CSC quickly when needed with only a short journey home each day and eliminated the risks associated with the 6-hour round trip from the ISB. The soldiers billeted in Hungary shared double rooms, had two meals a day, and had access to exercise facilities during evening hours. Lunch consisted of a hearty meal, ready to eat.
CSC operations in Croatia have brought to light several lessons learned that we would like to share
· Communication is key to successful and responsive CSC operations. A major weakness in our vehicle recovery operations was the fact that there was no radio retransmission capability to vehicles that were beyond SINCGARS range. In some cases, when a vehicle broke down out of radio range, the CSC was not notified until hours after the incident.
· Because of inadequate communications equipment, there were also lengthy delays in dispatching recovery vehicles. Relays along the entire MSR would have ensured accurate reporting by the MCT's, military police, and units and greatly accelerated recovery operations.
· Careful, precise communication is a must. Careless communication caused a great deal of confusion during vehicle recovery operations. Often, descriptions of vehicle problems and locations were inaccurate or unclear. Sometimes a vehicle would be reported as inoperable at a particular place, but, by the time the wrecker appeared, the situation had changed. The unit may have solved the problem already, reported incorrect information, or recovered the vehicle without help from the CSC.
· If they are available for the mission, organizational mechanics (MOS 63B) may be better suited for recovery operations than direct-support mechanics. Having direct-support mechanics on hand provided greater maintenance capability, but most of the work during our tasking was geared toward organizational mechanics.
· A 5,000-gallon tanker is needed for onsite refueling. Having a larger quantity of fuel on hand ultimately would result in fewer refueling operations because all vehicles could receive a full tank of fuel. A TPU was barely sufficient for our operations.
· The MKT was a late but welcome addition to the CSC. Theboost to morale that resulted from hot soup and coffee after a couple of hours on the road was incalculable. Many grateful soldiers expressed their delight in having a warm beverage during the cold convoy.
· A tactical operations center was invaluable. It provided a warm and sheltered place to run command and control operations. It also provided a protected briefing area in all weather that was critical for commanders.
The CSC at Virovitica, Croatia, is a model for support of peacekeeping
deployments and redeployments. It provides convoy soldiers the best facilities
and accommodations available along the deployment route to Bosnia in support
of Operation Joint Guard. ALOG
Captain Christopher J. Whittaker commands the 503d Maintenance Company, 1st Corps Support Command, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He has a bachelor's degree from Virginia Military Institute and is a graduate of Airborne School and the Armor Officer Basic, Ordnance Officer Transition, and Combined Logistics Officer Advanced Courses.
Chief Warrant Officer (W-4) Billy S. Rhodes is an allied trades technician in the 503d Maintenance Company, 1st Corps Support Command, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He was the officer in charge of the convoy support center in Croatia. He has a B.A. degree from Loretto Heights College, Denver, Colorado, and is a graduate of the Warrant Officers Basic, Advanced, and Staff Courses.