A Year of Unprecedented Logistics Challenges

By Stevenson, Mitchell H. | Army, October 2010 | Go to article overview

A Year of Unprecedented Logistics Challenges


Stevenson, Mitchell H., Army


"In Afghanistan, matching tlie people, the equipment and the bases - synchronizing all of that with the drawdown in Iraq - is itard enough, but doing it under fire while we are supporting an operation in Haiti raises it to a degree of difficulty of 12, on a scale of one to 10. Yet it's gone off seamlessly."

-GEN George W. Casey Jr., Chief of Staff of the Army, June 2010

This year, as we drew down from Iraq and ramped up efforts in Afghanistan, Army logisticians faced the most daunting challenges we have seen in decades; but, so far, our logisticians have overcome every test set before us.

Numbers tell half the story. By the start of Operation New Dawn in Iraq on September 1, more than 80 percent of bases there - many the size of small cities - had been closed or transferred to the Government of Iraq. This year, logisticians brought 62,000 troops home from Iraq and reduced the amount of equipment from 3.2 million pieces to 1.2 million pieces needed to sustain the fewer than 50,000 troops remaining until all trwps and equipment are drawn down. At the same time, logisticians moved 30,000 troops and their equipment into Afghanistan. In the midst of all this, logisticians played a key role in America's humanitarian efforts in Haiti after the devastating earthquake.

Those are the numbers; people tell the other half of the story. A very hardworking team had to plan and execute the most complex movement of troops and equipment of which anyone in today's Army has ever been a part. Unlike Operation Desert Storm, which, in comparison, went by rather quicklv, we faced the accumulation of more than seven years of wartime sustainment in Iraq. Furthermore, unlike when we left Vietnam and came straight home, in Iraq we have had to refurbish much of that equipment in stride to move to Afghanistan. All of this is being accomplished due to the extraordinary efforts of active, Reserve and National Guard soldiers, as well as Department of the Army civilians and supporting contractors who enabled Army Logistics in 2010 to live up to our motto: Always There. Always Ready.

Buildup in Afghanistan

When President Obama directed 30,000 more troops to be sent to Afghanistan to disrupt and defeat al Qaeda and their extremist allies, Army logisticians had one goal: find ways to get equipment, supplies and support in place before the new troops arrived.

There are few locations in the world tougher to deploy into and out of, or in which to conduct sustainment, than Afghanistan. A country almost as large as Texas, Afghanistan has im seaports, no rail, limited roads, difficult terrain, harsh weather, challenges with theft and pilferage, and an aggressive enemy.

One of our main entry points is the Port of Karachi, Pakistan. From there, supplies still have a long trip. It takes an average of five to seven days to cover the 600 miles between Karachi and Kabul, Afghanistan - a distance that would take less than two days in the United States. Adding to the distance, we are also limited in the number of trucks that can cross the Pakistan/ Afghanistan border each day.

Collectively, Army logisticians found ways to support the mission. To increase equipment flow, new routes were developed that take advantage of multiple transportation modes. For example, to deliver much-needed mine resistant ambush protected (MRAP) all-terrain vehicles (M-ATVs) to the warfighter, the Army established a multimodal integrated sea and air transportation system that has enabled us to move some 4,760 M-ATVs into the theater. Logisticians have also implemented a robust supply line called the northern distribution network to bring equipment and resources through Central Asia. To complement these strategic lines of communication and out of necessity, the Army is expanding and improving the use of aerial resupply.

Traditionally, airdrop has been used only in emergencies; in Afghanistan, however, where more than two dozen forward operating bases are accessible only by air, it has become a routine means for delivering food, fuel, water, repair parts, medical supplies and ammunition.

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