Operation Joint Endeavor (OJE), the largest land-based surface deployment since World War II, generated major logistics support problems. Fueled by lessons learned from Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm and the highly successful demonstration of phase I of the battlefield distribution concept, logistics managers had an arsenal of technology available to help manage their streamlined, evolving distribution process. [Editor's note: Battlefield distribution is an Army Combined Arms Support Command (CASCOM) initiative that established a central distribution point [hub] within the theater [Kaiserslautern, Germany] to facilitate efficient consolidation, control, and shipment of cargo. In Europe, the hub's capability was expanded further to include radio frequency (RF) tagging of shipments to guarantee positive control of supplies throughout the distribution process. Phase II evolved to include the RF interrogator network implemented to support OJE.]
The common thread throughout these available technologies is information integration. Most successful Fortune 500 corporations today integrate the term "shared information" into their definition of logistics. From common information exchange between customer and vendor, a cooperative relationship develops. A similar scheme of "open architecture" emerged for logistics automation support of OJE. Although not always perfect or seamless, the level of visibility logistics managers have experienced throughout OJE is unparalleled in the history of the Department of Defense. Only through a cooperative effort involving the Joint Staff through the 1st Armored Division did logistics support become the prime tenet of OJE's successful execution.
OJE unofficially began in October 1995. Although troops had not yet deployed, and the Dayton Peace Accords would not be signed until 14 December, there was a Herculean national effort to prepare and provide soldiers of the 1st Armored Division with the latest in extreme cold weather clothing, ammunition, and critically needed repair parts. Servicemen and women and civilians of the Defense Logistics Agency, Air Mobility Command, Military Traffic Management Command, and Military Sealift Command did a phenomenal job of ensuring that thousands of tons of critically needed cargo arrived in time to support the 1st Armored Division's deployment.
From a small corner in the center of the Pentagon, working as a civilian long-term trainee in the Directorate for Transportation, Energy, and Troop Support, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics (DCSLOG), I was tasked to monitor the Defense transportation system "pipeline" using intransit visibility platforms, including Army total asset visibility and the prototype global transportation network (GTN). Like many of my colleagues who were assisting in the identification and amelioration of Defense transportation system problems, my direct involvement with U.S. Army, Europe (USAREUR), was limited to a few phone calls and e-mail messages. I had no idea of the extent to which all of that would change after accepting my new job with the Army DCSLOG Logistics Integration Agency (LIA) in January 1996.
My direct involvement with OJE began during a meeting with Major General James M. Wright, then Commander of the 21st Theater Army Area Command, and subsequent meetings with Brigadier General Larry J. Lust, USAREUR DCSLOG, in March 1996. Operation Joint Endeavor was now well into its fourth month, and after overcoming the enormous challenges of conducting forward support operations within an austere environment, the logistics support picture began to stabilize.
Because of the magnitude of the land deployment for OJE, there were unique intratheater deployment and sustainment visibility issues that had to be tackled. Over the past few years, U.S. European Command (EUCOM) and USAREUR, in conjunction with LIA and CASCOM, pioneered the use of various automatic identification technologies (AIT's) that supported the Automated Manifest System (AMS), such as RF tags, satellite tracking, and optical memory cards. Thus, the extension of AIT devices into a real-world situation was a logical evolutionary step for the European theater. In fact, the use of RF tags had become so entrenched by the 21st TAACOM that a splinter group of military personnel, Department of the Army civilians, and contractor personnel achieved acclaim for becoming what is still known today as the "RF rangers."
Early on, this small group of personnel, outfitted with aging M1010-series ambulances and a meager inventory of tools and repair parts, attached RF tags to containers, installed satellite transponders in vehicles, and trained unit personnel in the use of satellite, AMS, and RF technology. They built an initial RF interrogator infrastructure that eventually provided intransit and in-the-box visibility of consolidated shipments over an area of operational responsibility (AOR) that spanned nearly 1,000 miles. During the March meetings, when LIA was asked what support it could provide, the answer was clear-assist with the application of AIT, specifically RF and satellite tracking, and attempt to integrate disparate data from numerous sources. The first opportunity to do just that was the 1st Armored Division's redeployment.
From March to August 1996, LIA worked with EUCOM, USAREUR, and the 200th Theater Army Materiel Management Center to develop a redeployment support implementation plan. The goal was to attain 100- percent visibility of every container and air pallet shipped out of the OJE AOR. The scope of the operation was at least four times larger than RF tracking operations conducted previously in Haiti or Somalia. In addition, the OJE support mission would test the integrated use of laser-encoded optical memory cards, bar codes, RF technology, and vehicular satellite tracking (now the Defense Tracking System, or DTRACS). The ultimate objective of integrating these technologies was to enable the newly operational GTN to provide intratheater intransit visibility for the 1st Armored Division redeployment. In August 1996, Lieutenant Colonel George Kingsley (LIA) and I deployed to Germany to begin the implementation phase of the support operation.
In an effort to RF-tag and track approximately 2,000 retrograde and unit movement containers, a team of 10 enlisted soldiers volunteered to become part of the next generation of "RF rangers." Under the leadership of the 200th Theater Army Materiel Management Center, that small team of soldiers, along with Department of the Army civilians and contractors, deployed in early September 1996 from Germany to the OJE AOR.
With the command element located in Slavonski Brod, Croatia, two-man "RF burn teams" were deployed to Camp Angela, Tuzla Main, Camp Tampa, and Camp Gentry, all in Bosnia. Operating from the back of M1010 ambulances, the forward-deployed RF burn teams were able to enter shipment data onto RF tags from several different sources: imported Transportation Coordinator's Automated Command and Control Information System files, transportation control and movement documents, and automated unit equipment list extracts. Additionally, selected team members assisted in manifesting retrograde class II, IV, and IX cargo on RF tags, using bar code-collected materiel release order data. Information written to RF tags was transmitted back to a USAREUR-maintained regional server by satellite and local area network connection. RF write records that complied with military standard transportation and movement procedures were replicated onto the GTN, providing a near-real-time interface. As each RF-tagged container or pallet transited through the OJE AOR, a series of up to 20 RF interrogators logged the arrival and departure times and updated the USAREUR regional server. The data provided to the server were available on the USAREUR ITV data base server World Wide Web page (http://220.127.116.11), The GTN World Wide Web page (http://gtnwww.safb.af.mil), Army total asset visibility, joint total asset visibility, and the logistics anchor desk. During the operation, the RF tags were used routinely to locate, classify, and segregate cargo at several transshipment points, including the freight forwarding area in Taszar, Hungary, run by the 199th Transportation Company.
In addition to the RF burn teams, contractors were deployed to the various forward support battalions (FSB's) to install the AMS and train soldiers on how to use it. Using AMS, soldiers scanned in bar-coded excess supplies and produced transportation control and movement documents, packing lists, bar-coded military shipment labels, laser-read optical memory cards for tri-walls (triple-ply fiberboard boxes) and containers, and RF tags for the containers in which the tri-walls were packed. Trained soldiers could assemble and fully document tri-walls and their containers in a couple of hours.
When the 1st Infantry Division (Mechanized) covering force began to arrive in October 1996, the 299th FSB, deployed to Guardian Base, became the Division's center for logistics operations. Through their demonstrated success with AIT, the 299th FSB became the model for the fully automated FSB of the future. The deployed 299th soldiers used handheld RF interrogators to locate critical commodities arriving on pallets and in containers and stage them for break-down according to the priority of the cargo. Using bar- coded data from DD Forms 1348-1 (Department of Defense Issue Release/Receipt Documents) and optical memory cards on the tri-walls, soldiers scanned in individual items by bar code and compared the bar codes with those on the manifest written to the optical memory card. Shipment reconciliation, discrepancy reporting, and receipt became totally automated in this scenario.
Finally, the most visible of all technologies employed in the OJE AOR was vehicular satellite tracking. Eventually, satellite antennas, transponders, and keyboards were mounted on more than 470 M915, M1009, and M1025 trucks. Using satellite tracking, dispatchers and movement control teams could track, on an automated map, the locations of all key vehicles. Additionally, communications were now available where no tactical communications capability had existed before. The net results were remarkable stories of timely rescues of personnel from vehicle accidents on rural Hungarian, Croatian, and Bosnian roads and dramatically increased mission effectiveness. These success stories were directly attributable to constant communications between the dispatchers and drivers.
Experiments were conducted in reading the identification numbers from RF tags on containers into satellite transceivers and, with the first satellite position update, transmitting the RF tag identification numbers back to a central server. Because of the success of these experiments, it is now possible to track cargo and conveyances automatically at virtually any point during transit.
The positive lessons learned in using evolving AIT to solve real-world problems associated with OJE cannot be overstated. While there were difficulties attributable to everything from lack of institutional soldier training to failed power and communications, it was clear that the benefits of available automation technology integration far outweighed the costs of implementation. A conservative, independent cost benefit analysis by the Defense Logistics Agency Operations Support Office in April 1997 predicted an OJE net cost savings of over $21 million when extended over 5 years. In fact, the investment in OJE-related automation hardware, travel, and integration support, extrapolated over a 5-year period, was realized within the first year of the operation.
The ultimate logistics lesson learned from OJE is
simple-automatic identification technology is here today, and
Europe is our model. We, the Army logistics community, have to
make the decision to integrate shared information into our definition
of logistics and set our course to achieve that goal. The question,
"Where's my stuff?," still begs our attention, and I
believe we, as logisticians, owe an answer.
Thomas Manzagol is a logistics management specialist at the Logistics Integration Agency, Alexandria, Virginia. In addition to working automatic identification technology proponency issues, Mr. Manzagol serves as the Army service representative to the Department of Defense Automatic Identification Technology Task Force. He is a graduate of Michigan State University, with graduate work in logistics management at the University of Alabama and Florida Institute of Technology. He is an Army Reserve transportation officer and a graduate of the Transportation Officer Basic and Advanced Courses.