The Army Special
Operations Forces’ new
group support battalion
provides long-term sustainment at the tactical and operational
levels of war.
The tactical employment of Army Special Operations Forces
(ARSOF) in the Global War on Terrorism has changed the way
the Department of Defense wages war. The Army Special Forces
Command has had to adapt to an ever-changing environment to
fulfill the prominent role assigned to the Special Operations
community in winning a war against terrorism. The command
has had to change the way it deploys and fights and even the
way it is logistically sustained.
In response to the attacks of 11 September 2001,
President George W. Bush announced his intention to begin a “war
against terrorists and the states that aid them.” As
the President was making this historic proclama-tion, an entire
Army Special Forces group was preparing to deploy to central
Asia. ARSOF requested that the U.S. Central Command’s
(CENT-COM’s) in-theater executive agent provide the base
operations support and direct support needed to sustain ARSOF
personnel in the
theater of operations. Because there was no sustainable logistics
infrastructure in place in the theater at the time, the executive
agent requested the deployment of a short-term Active-duty
logistics force to support approximately 3,000 ARSOF personnel.
In the current area of operations, the Special Forces sustainment community
at the tactical and operational levels of war requires a robust organic logistics
force structure for long-term sustainment. The U.S. Special Operations Command
and the Army Training and Doctrine Command have addressed this requirement
at the tactical level by realigning the service detachment of the Special
Forces group support company to form a group support battalion (GSB).
|At a remote
forward operating base in Iraq, Special Forces Soldiers
fill Hesco barriers with sand.
Under ARSOF’s modular force structure,
each active Special Forces battalion has a battalion service
company and each Special
Forces group has its own GSB. This is a major change that gives
each commander control of a direct support unit. The obvious
advantage is that each group can be independently employed
without major augmentation. The new organizational structure
When theater Army combat service support is unavailable,
the GSB is the primary common-user logistics provider for
deployed Special Operations forces. Its mission is to plan,
coordinate, synchronize, and control combat support and combat
service support of the Special Forces group. It sends requirements
to the Army Special Operations liaison element and reaches
back to the Special Operations sustainment brigade as necessary.
It is joint and multinational in that it can be augmented
by combat service support common-user logistics assets from
other services and nations and can integrate their capabilities
into a cohesive plan that supports the commander’s operational
The GSB is capable, with replenishment, of supporting the logistics requirements
of Army Special Forces groups. When augmented by other services and nations,
it integrates those organizations’ capabilities to provide common-user
logistics support of an Army Special Operations task force or a combined
or joint Special Operations task force. When assigned to a joint Special
Operations task force, component forces provide internal support packages
for service-specific and common logistics support. The GSBs provide rapidly
deployable combat service support, combat health support, administration,
communication, and all-source intelligence support to group headquarters
elements and the Special Forces operational bases and deployed ARSOF.
safety provided by the Hesco barriers, Special Forces
Soldiers test-fire weapons.
Within the GSB, a group service support company (GSSC) and
a battalion headquarters have been established with augmentation
from other Army Special
Operations combat service support elements.
A GSSC within the GSB adds significant logistics muscle to the Special
Forces group. Each GSSC is designed to support approximately 2,200 personnel.
It includes a supply warehouse; a truck squad; an ammunition transfer
point; bulk fuel handling facilities; and water production, airdrop, movement
control, maintenance, engineer, and medical support operations not assigned
to the Special Forces group. These enhancements give a tremendous amount
of flexibility and independence to the group commander and free him from
having to wrestle support from conventional forces.
Support of Multiple
Before 11 September 2001, the only dedicated direct support unit for
Special Operations forces was the Army Special Operations Command’s
528th Special Operations Support Battalion (SOSB) at Fort Bragg, North
Carolina. Critics believed that this logistics organization was inadequate
to support multiple Special Operations deployments. Operations Enduring
Freedom and Iraqi Freedom confirmed that belief.
The mission of the 528th was to provide rapidly deployable combat service
support and health service support to ARSOF in war and operations other
than war. However, because of the small number of logistics support
personnel assigned to the 528th’s organic support companies, it
was not able to sustain all of the Special Forces groups simultaneously
over a long period of time without a conventional forces backbone. The
528th was able to provide logistics support for ARSOF in a training environment
but could not provide simultaneous support for ARSOF deployments in
geographically separated areas. The 528th SOSB was designed to support
two deployments at the same time, but this proved to be an almost impossible
task because of the limited operational design of the organization.
Operation Iraqi Freedom further confirmed this when five of seven brigade-sized
Special Forces groups were deployed simultaneously.
heaters (above) provide hot water for food preparation
(at right) in the field.
Although the new GSB structure enhances each
group’s capability, the Army Special Operations Command
and the U.S. Special Operations Command do not have a support
organization to use at their discretion. With the creation
of the GSB, the Army Special Operations Command eliminated
the 528th SOSB and
moved its equipment and personnel to the Special Forces groups.
This means that only those groups have
The Global War on Terrorism has proven to be a lengthy campaign characterized
by an unprecedented number of ARSOF deployments around the world. The Army
must continue to transform its logistics support system to meet the needs
of these vital Special Forces units.
Major Eduardo Santiago is assigned to the 200th Theater Distribution
Brigade, 21st Theater Support Command, in Germany. He has a bachelor’s
degree in business administration from the University of Puerto Rico. He
is a graduate
of the Combined Logistics Officers Advanced Course and the Army Command and
General Staff College.
Major William C. Johnson, Jr., is assigned to the 82d Sustainment Brigade,
82d Airborne Division, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The brigade currently
is deployed to Iraq in support of the Global War on Terrorism. He has a bachelor's
degree in business administration from Longwood College and a master's degree
in logistics management from the Florida Institute of Technology. He is a
graduate of the Ordnance Officer Basic Course, the Combined Logistics Officers
Advanced Course, and the Army Command and General Staff College.