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U.S. Command in Kuwait Supplies the Sinews of War

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait, Dec. 3, 2005 – Imagine what it takes to provide the essentials to a city of 160,000 people. Now imagine that as you supply those needs, the constant danger of improvised explosive devices, car bombs or small-arms fire lurks.

Then imagine the typical trip covering about the distance from Washington, D.C., to Dallas and back.

Both situations are real: Servicemembers in Iraq couldn't do much without the logistics support their compatriots based in Kuwait provide through convoys.

Kuwait, liberated from Saddam in 1991 in the Persian Gulf War, is the hub for all the "beans and bullets" that move "up north" - into Iraq, said Army Maj. Gen. Bruce Casella, commander of the 377th Theater Support Command based here. It is, of course, not just beans and bullets that move to Iraq. It is water, fuel, equipment, armaments, vehicles, maps and thousands of other individual items. It is also the process of moving people, their equipment and baggage into the country precisely so they marry up with their tools of war.

The 377th has seven subordinate components and, while an Army command, works closely with Navy and Air Force units and personnel, Casella said. The command also supports the more than 25 coalition partners in Iraq.

The 377th is part of the Coalition Forces Land Component Command of U.S. Central Command. The largest part of the unit is in Kuwait, but elements in Iraq, Djibouti, Afghanistan and other portions of the U.S. Central Command area of operations comprise the command.

Some "gee whiz" facts about the 377th: The truckers in the command have driven more than 80 million miles since the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom - for comparison, the sun is 93 million miles from the Earth. Over the next year, the command will move 300,000 people into and out of theater. This includes servicemembers going on rest and recreation.

The command will also work to deploy and redeploy almost 25,000 coalition members. "We work on getting them in country, downrange and then back out," Casella said. The command also - as part of prior agreements - works to supply the coalition units and help their maintenance efforts.

Coalition servicemembers are embedded in the 377th "and they have been since Day 1," Casella said.

The largest organization in the command is the 143rd Transportation Brigade. The organization is an "enduring unit," meaning it has been deployed to the region since before Operation Iraqi Freedom. Servicemembers assigned have deployed into and out within the command. That includes assigned transportation units and drivers, mechanics and dispatching personnel from all over the Army, Navy and Air Force.

"Right now we have almost 300 drivers from the Air Force in the unit," Casella said. "They have been a tremendous help."

The airmen receive the same training as the Army drivers and serve alongside the soldiers. In a previous rotation, Navy drivers supplemented the soldiers.

Navy personnel help in other ways as well. Sailors man small gunboats at the port, they load and unload ships arriving in Kuwait and, in a nontraditional job, sailors handle customs inspections for seaborne materials.

The troops in the 377th, of course, bring supplies in. But they also bring out vehicles for redeploying units or vehicles that need maintenance.

"We do almost all direct support here," Casella said. "Contractors here can also do some depot-level maintenance so we don't have to ship the vehicle back to the United States. It allows us to get the vehicle back to the fight quicker."

The convoys can be dangerous. The soldiers talk about "green trucks" and "white trucks." Green trucks are regular military vehicles manned with military crews. The white ones are civilian contractor trucks that carry food, water, fuel and other commodities. And they, like the military vehicles, must be convoyed into Iraq.

The transportation brigade has up-armored humvees and "gunships" for convoy protection. The gunships are trucks outfitted with extra armor and heavier weapons. They are interspersed within convoys and have been extremely successful in discouraging enemy fighters from challenging the convoys, the general said.

The American military in Kuwait has a full-up medical establishment - including a Navy hospital - that is part of the 377th. The unit handles U.S. casualties in Iraq. But the medics here also handle an innovative program that brings them servicemembers from Iraq who need minor surgery.

"They get the routine surgery they need, rest and recuperate, and then go back to Iraq," Casella said. "If they had to go back to Europe or the United States for the treatment, we would have to replace them. This allows them to get back into the fight."

Casella, an Army Reservist from California, leads a unit that is mostly active-duty personnel. He estimates a 60-40 split in the command between active and the reserve components.

"But the point of fact is that if you were just walking around the command, you wouldn't know who the active-duty personnel are and who is in the Reserve or National Guard," he said. "And at the soldier, sailor and airman level, it really doesn't matter. All they are concerned with is getting the job done, and they work together to accomplish it."

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