of the products which create a modern standard of living
are only the
physical incorporations of ideas—not only the ideas
of an Edison or a Ford but the ideas of innumerable anonymous
people who figure out the design of supermarkets, the
of gasoline stations, and the million mundane things
on which our material well-being depends. Societies which
have more people carrying out physical acts and fewer
supplying ideas do not have higher standards of living.
Quite the contrary.
— Thomas Sowell
political writer, and commentator
In October 2005, my unit, the 16th Corps Support
Group (CSG), deployed from Hanau, Germany, to Tallil, Iraq,
to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) 05–07. Our
mission included providing fuel from the Cedar fuel farm, a
general support (GS) site in our area of responsibility, to
other fuel sites in southern Iraq. Effective management of
fuel in the Iraqi theater of operations is critical because
fuel convoys constitute approximately 70 percent of the vehicular
traffic that braves the attack-prone main supply routes. Our
mission and location on the battlefield gave us the opportunity
to improve the fuel support process. The field commanders would
have been even better served if we could have emplaced a vertical
fuel support network that built on the existing support. Although
we knew of no missions that had failed because of a lack of
fuel support, we knew that complacency is calcifying. We needed
to do more to improve the direct support (DS) fuel management
Fuel support through southern Iraq began when the operational
Army in Kuwait requested a 14-day supply of fuel from the Defense
Logistics Agency’s Defense Energy Support Center. The
operation ended when fuel was pushed from the Cedar fuel farm
in response to a projected 96-hour fuel requirement generated
by the tactical Army. Army fuel supply channels responded very
well to this routine. However, emergency surges in fuel requirements
sent frantic waves through the support channels.
Each day, the 475th Petroleum Group in Kuwait sent a 4-day
nearly static fuel delivery forecast to the Cedar fuel farm.
Similarly, the 3d Corps Distribution Center (CDC) provided
a 96-hour fuel push directive. The 16th CSG followed up by
generating a push matrix that showed local-draw and CDC-directed
fuel pushes to other GS and DS fuel sites in the Iraqi theater
of operations. The 16th CSG’s daily fuel-support matrix
was the basis for fuel-delivery missions by the Logistics Civil
Augmentation Program (LOGCAP) contractor, Kellogg Brown & Root
(KBR), and the tasking of the Georgia Army National Guard’s
48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (BCT) to provide combat patrol
platform (CPP) escorts for the fuel convoys. The 16th CSG coordinated
all activities in order to ensure responsive fuel support.
The Unclassified but Sensitive Internet Protocol Router Network
(NIPRNet) was the common, accessible mode of communication
among the key players, so coordination relied heavily on email
Various commands participated in the actual movement of a tanker
of fuel in the Iraqi theater of operations. The 48th Infantry
BCT provided gun trucks or other CPPs to serve as escort vehicles,
the 16th CSG managed the fuel, and the 3d CDC oversaw fuel
operations. KBR conducted fuel-site operations and fuel deliveries.
The 3d Quartermaster Detachment, a forward-deployed theater
petroleum unit from Fort Lee, Virginia, assisted with control
at the Cedar fuel farm.
Although unity of effort was not exactly the watchword during
much of the operation, the fuel support operations staff came
together to accomplish the common goal—supporting the
forces. Occasionally, when a mission was cancelled or a backhaul
of fuel tankers was delayed because of the unavailability of
CPPs, it was difficult to synchronize command and control.
Inaccurate fuel-site data sometimes triggered premature fuel
resupply to sites that did not need fuel, which held up fuel
tankers and increased fuel download time.
Command and control that vertically penetrates the key players’ communication
nodes is necessary
to achieve unity of effort and effectiveness in DS fuel support.
I believe that fuel support would have been better synchronized
if the CSG had had operational control of the key players in
its area of responsibility.
KBR plays a dominant role in fuel and base support operations,
an indication of a shift that needs to be captured doctrinally
to assist in phased support planning. KBR is supposed to be
augmenting combat service support (CSS) units; however, during
OIF 05–07, the reverse was the case. CSS Soldiers increasingly
became the augmentation force to KBR. Many units faced the
reality that actual mission performance differed from their
doctrinally assigned wartime mission.
KBR has helped to reduce the footprint of CSS units by using
third-country nationals or sub-contractor employees to do many
jobs, which has freed up Soldiers who are sorely needed elsewhere.
This practice has been a boon for all involved. The third-country
nationals have an opportunity to make better wages than they
could make in their home countries. Salaries for U.S. civilians
employed by KBR are lucrative; many receive double or triple
the income they received before being employed by KBR.
KBR is a force multiplier that also has become the core of
fuel operations in the Iraqi theater of operations. During OIF 05–07, a Kuwaiti contractor, Jassim Transport
and Stevedoring Company, pushed fuel from the Kuwaiti Oil Refinery
to the Cedar fuel farm, and KBR received, operated, dispensed,
and distributed the fuel to 13 forward operating bases (FOBs)
in the Iraqi theater of operations. KBR used commercial fuel
tankers and Government-furnished equipment to deliver the fuel.
The KBR-Jassim arrangement worked well while I was there—most
of the time. However, Jassim’s 8,000-gallon fuel tankers
sometimes arrived at the Cedar fuel farm with a fuel meter
reading 1,500 gallons less than the tanker’s capacity.
How could that be? Fuel expansion and contraction do not logically
account for such a large discrepancy. Perhaps a faulty meter
was the culprit. Or perhaps some of the fuel that was seeping
out of the tankers was lining the pockets of pilferers.
There are several ways to get a handle on the fuel accountability
problem. If a faulty fuel meter is to blame for the discrepancies,
it should be replaced with a fuel meter designed to withstand
rough terrain, harsh weather conditions, and the rigors of
a combat zone. If pilferage is a problem, contracts for fuel
delivery should stipulate that payment will be based on the
number of gallons of fuel delivered to a destination.
KBR’s fuel tankers, like Jassim’s, have a capacity
of 8,000 gallons. The capacity of most Army fuel tankers is
5,000 gallons. This means that it takes two Army fuel tankers
to haul the same quantity of fuel moved by one KBR fuel tanker.
The Army should consider equipping its petroleum truck companies
with 8,000-gallon fuel tankers (or 7,500-gallon M1062 tankers)
to reduce the number of trucks needed to transport fuel on
the hazardous main supply routes in Iraq. The 5,000-gallon
fuel tankers should be used only at the organizational support
KBR tanker holds 8,000 gallons.
The enemy exploited the vulnerability of CSS convoys until
the emergence of the CPPs and other convoy-protection devices.
Fuel convoys hauling fuel from the Cedar fuel farm were composed
recovery tractors, and accompanying CPPs. The ratio of CPPs
to cargo trucks was 1 to 10. That ratio sometimes changed,
depending on the prevailing threat level. During line hauls,
the CPPs dropped off tankers at their destination and then
escorted waiting backhauls on the return trip. The dropped-off
tankers downloaded and waited for the arrival of the next CPP
for their backhaul trip.
Occasionally, the lengthy waiting time for a returning convoy
drew command attention, and CPPs were detailed to the backhaul.
The logical question is, “Why didn’t each convoy
have dedicated CPPs?” The answer is that there were
not enough CPPs to go around. Maybe the Army needs to resource
and develop CPP platoons and task-organize fuel tanker companies
with CPP platoons. An alternative solution might be to have
each CSG exercise operational control of a
battalion-sized CPP organization. The 48th BCT, which provided
CPPs for convoy missions, was under the operational control
of the 3d Corps Support Command and lacked the flexibility
to satisfy the 16th CSG’s CPP daily fuel movement requirements.
The 16th CSG, like other CSGs, improvised to bridge the CPP
support gap by cross-leveling Soldiers from other military
occupational specialties to perform the CPP mission.
In Iraq, hauling fuel by road will remain the norm for the
foreseeable future, which means that convoys will continue
to be targets. Therefore, the time to make changes and incorporate
CPP elements into the CSG formation is now.
bridge, built by Soldiers of the 16th CSG, permits
safe fuel transfer to skid-mounted tanks.
Fuel Forecast Tool
A locally developed, Excel-based fuel chart served as the 16th CSG’s 96-hour
fuel forecasting tool. The forecast was based simply on the sum of the quantity
of fuel on hand plus the projected quantity of fuel to be received minus consumption
(using the previous quarter’s 96-hour average). The Excel chart was helpful,
but its utility diminished over time because of the following factors—
The reality of inherent discrepancies in programmed versus actual fuel issues or receipts.
A stale quarterly consumption factor that did not reflect recent surges in demand or near-term events.
Erratic arrival of fuel on the programmed date because of the unavailability of CPPs, border-crossing issues, or vehicle mechanical problems.
Murky procedures for accounting for fuel tankers uploaded at the Cedar fuel farm. KBR tankers uploaded fuel 24 hours before mission date, while the Army tankers uploaded fuel after receiving the mission to keep tankers in ready status.
“Missing” tankers. When the Jassim trucks scheduled to transport the Kuwait-to-Cedar fuel push failed to make the mission,
they were annotated as “missing” on the Excel chart. Missing tankers had 4 days to complete the mission. After 4 days, another fuel tanker was tasked with
transporting the undelivered fuel. The focus of the fuel accounting was on the programmed delivery date, so failed deliveries or follow-up deliveries
skewed the accounting for daily fuel receipts.
Fuel meter deviation. The standard fuel meter deviation allowed was .005 percent of fuel received, which meant that an
overage or shortage of one half of 1 percent of the programmed fuel receipt was within tolerance. However, the actual meter deviation was in the range
of plus or minus 19 percent. The impact of the excessive meter deviation was not factored in when tabulating projected fuel receipts.
In effect, the Excel chart was not a very reliable fuel forecasting
tool. Good judgment and common sense usually carried the day. The Army
sorely needs a system that meshes algorithms to produce desired perspectives,
including fuel forecasts and other much-needed data.
Instead of the current 96-hour forecast at the tactical level,
perhaps we should mirror the near-term training plan model,
which is: A 6-week training forecast, a
4-week lock-in, and weekly validation of requirements. The
96-hour forecast window did not prompt the field commanders
to ask the right questions about fuel support nor did it
influence the theater fuel stockage in the near term. In
a combat zone, the requirements of the tactical Army should
be the dominant feeder to the operational Army fuel forecast.
Inasmuch as historical records are indispensable in
forecasting fuel at operational and strategic levels, the
frontline commanders’ desired fuel stockage should
drive fuel flow. According to Colonel Victor Maccagnan, the
16th CSG commander, “We are at war, so effectiveness—not
economy or efficiency—is the goal.” Nothing took
away from that paradigm more than the near-rigid, 96-hour
timeline for pushing fuel from the operational Army to the
tactical-level DS fuel lines of operations.
The use of a quarterly consumption factor was the norm. The problem was that
a quarterly figure swallowed the valleys and peaks in fuel consumption. It
often predicted fuel demand surges inadequately, and supply fell significantly
behind as a result. The monthly consumption factor was preferred to the quarterly
consumption factor because the closer the average used was to the current date,
the more realistic the forecast would be. The daily floating consumption factor
rarely in use was even more accurate, particularly where road conditions and
tactical requirements remained fluid as the insurgents’ tactics evolved
and influenced the tactics, techniques, and procedures of the coalition forces.
A daily floating consumption factor would have been the most realistic and
progressive, but it was time-consuming to compute fuel consumption every day.
Different Kind of Support
The coalition forces’ nation-building efforts in Iraq called for unique
support, such as providing emergency fuel supplies to the budding Iraqi Security
Force’s (ISF’s) base camps. The Soldiers of the 406th Corps Support
Battalion, a subordinate unit of the 16th CSG, showed amazing ingenuity when
they built a fuel bridge to permit safe fuel transfer to skid-mounted open
fuel tankers at the ISF bases. Skid-mounted tankers were used at a few retail
fuel points at the forward operating bases (FOBs), which begs the question, “Why
not have flatrack-mounted tankers at small fuel DS sites?” I believe
that the benefits of using flatracks are undeniable.
Another significant adaptation was the reassignment of Soldiers who would otherwise
redeploy when their functions were assumed by KBR employees. A troop-to-task
analysis revealed that force-protection and transportation functions were the
primary benefactors when fuel Soldiers were displaced by contract personnel.
It was not surprising that a lot of the fuel Soldiers were performing jobs
that were outside the parameters of their military occupational specialties.
Standards. The 3d CDC used two fuel stockage standards: days of supply (DOS)
and percentage of storage capacity. The CDC favored the DOS standard. At the
DS level, the fuel stockage objective was 5 DOS—derived by multiplying
the consumption factor by five, plus 5 percent of total storage capacity.
The DOS stockage standard did not command much support outside the CDC. Many
supported units wanted the CDC to maintain the maximum safe storage capacity
of fuel. Maintaining 5 DOS on-hand did not provide enough time to order replenishment
shipments. As a matter of fact, there was no reorder point, and the use of
just-in-time logistics was riddled with obstacles. The vagaries of weather,
sectarian clashes, and minor labor disputes determined the fuel flow to a larger
extent than did the dubious tactics of third-country fuel suppliers. Any of
these obstacles could send shock waves through the supply system, and the status
of the fuel DOS reading would glide from green to amber to red in a matter
of a few days. Fuel was crucial to our battlefield mobility, and we undoubtedly
would have used up all fuel that was available to us in a short time. The 5
DOS stockage standard was management intensive, and it undermined the field
commander’s confidence in fuel sufficiency in the uncertain environment
In a conventional offensive setting, organic fuel lift capability influences
the sustainable fuel stockage. But in the Iraqi war of attrition, fuel support
is FOB centric, and the FOBs are as secure as a fortress. Other than the risk
of receiving bad fuel because of recirculation problems or the possible loss
of a fuel farm due to enemy attack, fuel stockage to the maximum safe storage
capacity has advantages over the DOS standard. (Recirculating fuel removes
water, dirt, and algae before it builds up and poses a threat to equipment.)
Maintaining 5 DOS increases the already-high number of convoys on the attack-prone
main supply routes.
The goal should be fuel stockage to the maximum safe storage capacity, which
should be no less than 15 DOS. Resupply could be done biweekly to reduce the
number of fuel convoys on the road. This would mean that more force-protection
resources would be available to provide greater security to the reduced number
of supply convoys on the road.
DS fuel sites. Questions asked repeatedly by new units when they rotated into
an FOB were, “Why can’t there be preconfigured bulk fuel packages
for FOBs?” “Why shouldn’t fuel stockage capacity be preconfigured
into ‘plug-and-play modules’ to support FOBs?” “How
do you determine initial fuel stockage capacity for a unit that will fall in
on unidentified equipment when it arrives at the FOB?”
You may be surprised to learn that the initial planning for fuel stockage capacity
still hinges on garrison equipment density and its canned consumption factor.
Proposed “plug-and-play” DS and GS fuel modules are as follows—
DSFuel (F) Module (Mod) 1: Less than 100,000 gallons.
DSF Mod 2: More than 100,000 gallons but less than 200,000 gallons.
DSF Mod 3: More than 200,000 gallons but less than 300,000 gallons.
DSF Mod 4: More than 300,000 gallons but less than 400,000 gallons.
DSF Mod 5: More than 400,000 gallons but less than 500,000 gallons.
GSF Mod 1: More than 500,000 gallons but less than 1 million gallons.
GSF Mod 2: More than 1 million gallons but less than 2 million gallons.
GSF Mod 3: More than 2 million gallons but less than 3 million gallons.
GSF Mod 4: More than 3 million gallons but less than 4 million gallons.
GSF Mod 5: More than 4 million gallons.
The observed ratio of fuel storage capacity in Iraq by fuel type was 16 gallons of JP8 to 3
gallons of DF2 to 1 gallon of MOGAS. In predominantly coalition-force FOBs, DF2 took the lion’s share of
the storage capacity. The use of reconfigured fuel modules would greatly simplify fuel support planning, a
fact that will be obvious when we build up forces, realign forces, or redeploy forces when hostilities subside.
shows a skid-mounted fuel site at a forward operating
DS supply information systems. Other than the Battle Command
Sustainment Support System (BCS3), there were no Standard Army
Management Information Systems (STAMIS) dedicated to fuel supply
at the organizational and DS levels in Iraq during OIF 05–07.
Other classes of supply had recognized the effectiveness of
technology in supply management. For example, the Unit Level
Logistics System–Ground (ULLS–G) and the Standard
Army Retail Supply System (SARSS) are used to manage repair
parts. Those dedicated STAMIS are not perfect, but they enhance
In Iraq, the fuel management processes at the organizational
and DS levels were literally manual. The Fuels Automated System
(FAS) was used only at the GS fuel sites. The need for STAMIS
at DS fuel sites is acute. Perhaps a Rapid Fielding Initiative
team could visit fuel sites in Iraq to capture and integrate
the current fuel accounting essentials into a system that incorporates
what we know about other commodity systems. Such efforts would
be extremely beneficial in the long run.
Common user communications. The prevailing indifference to the disparities in
communications systems between the Army and KBR cannot be ignored. Most of the
DS fuel sites in Iraq were under the operational control of KBR. The 16th CSG
directed fuel draws, influenced the stockage objective, facilitated fuel distribution,
ensured KBR compliance with theater directives, and served as an information
conduit for military forces at higher and lower echelons. Communication with
KBR representatives was mostly by NIPRNet because Defense Switched Network (DSN)
phones, in common use in the Army, were rarely available to KBR fuel site managers.
KBR had a commercial phone system. The incompatibility of phone systems meant
that it took hours, if not days, to get a response that should have taken minutes
with a phone call. Sometimes, the old message runner approach was used to pass
The time has come for a tactical common access phone system that enhances the
partnership between the Army and the LOGCAP contractors. Cell phones would work,
but their use at the tactical level is not common. Voice over Internet protocol
(VoIP) phone links to KBR elements would be great. (A VoIP phone is a telephone
device that looks like a traditional telephone, but, instead of connecting to
the traditional telephone system network, it has an Ethernet port that is used
to connect to a transmission control protocol/Internet protocol [TCP/IP] computer
Some Department of Defense (DOD) civilians have stateside DSN phones with extensions
that are linked to forward-deployed individuals; this may be a consideration
for KBR-operated fuel sites. The concept of free download of antivirus software
to all DOD employees for their personal computers may facilitate the transmission
of common access Army communications with KBR.
Institutional Fuel Lapses
Bulk fuel draw. Allowing any Army unit to stop by a KBR fuel site and obtain
bulk fuel with little or no questions asked impairs the ability of the site to
forecast requirements, which further destabilizes the fuel management process.
Imagine a unit showing up at an ammunition supply point unannounced to pull tens
of thousands of rounds of ammunition or an Army unit showing up at a supply support
activity to draw repair parts. Such unplanned support, if frequent, can unhinge
the ability of the supply site to support programmed requirements. During OIF
05–07, there was no requirement to tie the aggregate monthly fuel draw
to a particular unit. The situation was even dicier when coalition forces were
configured into the equation. However, I did not witness any negative consequences
resulting from violating acquisition cross-servicing agreements.
Bulk fuel issued is assumed to be bulk fuel consumed. A formal list should be
drawn up of who can draw bulk fuel at designated fuel support sites. The 16th
CSG instituted a number of local remedial actions; among them was a monthly validated
draw list for FOBs in its area of responsibility.
Fuel school curriculum. The Petroleum Officers Course, which is taught by the
Advanced Petroleum and Water Division of the Army Quartermaster School at Fort
Lee, prepares company-grade officers for staff and supervisory petroleum and
water operations assignments. Instruction includes joint operations, equipment
operation, quality surveillance, and logistics planning. Lessons learned from
recent operations are included as scenario-driven examples. The course teaches
students “what right looks like.” However, reality places unique
constraints or requirements on fuel operations. Because most students will be
working in combat zones after completing the course, the course should offer
students more thorough training in combat zone fuel operations. When warranted,
doctrine should be updated to institutionalize lessons learned, because localized
remedial actions are seldom passed along when units rotate out of the combat
The DS management of the fuel flow in southern Iraq is crucial to the mobility
of forces there. During OIF 05–07, the combined efforts of the 16th CSG,
3d CDC, 475th Petroleum Group, 48th Infantry BCT, and KBR ensured fuel support
despite frequent insurgent attacks on fuel convoys.
Several remedial actions would
enhance the effectiveness of DS fuel management in Iraq. Using a monthly rather
than quarterly consumption factor would increase the accuracy of fuel forecasts.
Field commanders would welcome the replacement of the current 96-hour fuel forecast
with their near-term fuel forecasts. Currently, too many fuel convoys have to
brave the attack-prone Iraqi main supply routes in order to maintain the 5 DOS
stockage objective standard. Implementation of the maximum safe storage capacity
of no less than 15 DOS could help to reduce the number of fuel convoys that are
The Army must use technology to achieve the maximum safe fuel stockage at DS
fuel sites in Iraq. Developing and fielding DS fuel STAMIS will alleviate dependence
on the current manual processes. Other classes of supply have dedicated STAMIS
that enhance management effectiveness—fuel managers must follow their lead.
The use of tactical common access phones to facilitate the support network on
the battlefield is overdue. This communications shortfall hinders progress in
fuel support operations, particularly as KBR’s role becomes the centerpiece
of DS fuel operations. LOGCAP systems must be cross-pollinated with Army systems
to improve interoperability.
Finally, all elements responsible for fuel support in a CSG’s area of responsibility
should be under the operational control of the CSG. CSG control of the CPP task
force would promote unity of effort and increase the effectiveness of support.
These changes in the DS fuel management processes are necessary to optimize fuel
support to the fighting forces in Iraq. Business as usual is not acceptable.
Major Vincent C. Nwafor is the S–4 of the 130th Engineer Brigade in Hanau,
Germany. When he wrote this article, he was deployed to Iraq, where he served
as the Support Operations Officer for the Corps Materiel Management Center, 3d
Corps Support Command, and the officer in charge of the Supply Management Division,
16th Corps Support Group. He has a bachelor’s degree in accounting from
Southern University in New Orleans and a master’s degree in business administration
from Southeastern Louisiana University. He is a graduate of the Army Command
and General Staff College, the Logistics Executive Development Course, the Support
Operations Course, and the Petroleum Officers Course.