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Speed of Iraq Battle Tested U.S. Logistics Efforts

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 19, 2003 – The speed of the battle in Iraq strained the logistics effort, but the service men and women were up to the task, said Army logistics officials in Iraq and the United States.

Speaking via a teleconference call from Iraq, Brig. Gen. Jack C. Stultz Jr. said the unprecedented speed of the coalition attack into Iraq, and the enormous distance the warfighters covered strained the logistics system. But it was never in danger of breaking, and the logisticians were able to supply warfighters with the ammunition, food, water and fuel they needed to complete the mission.

Stultz said the joint logistics effort made a difference in the war. "(Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force logisticians) were able to combine our logistics efforts, combine the use of our equipment and work as one team," he said.

He said the biggest challenge facing logisticians was keeping up with the maneuver forces. "It was not so much being able to supply them, but to locate where they were moving to," he said. "That tended to be a challenge for us as we moved out convoys across the desert."

He said equipping the logistics vehicles with a movement tracking system will allow the logisticians to locate the units they are supplying.

Army Brig. Gen. Vincent E. Boles, also speaking from Iraq, said the pre-positioned equipment in the theater made the quick victory over Saddam Hussein's regime possible. "It was vital, we learned that from our previous experience here in Desert Shield/Desert Storm," said Boles, head of the U.S. Army Field Support Command in Rock Island, Ill.

Pre-positioned equipment in Kuwait, Qatar and afloat allowed the military to fly soldiers over to the region and place them directly into vehicles. "The soldiers showed up with their duffle bags, drew the equipment and were able to move out quickly," Boles said. Without the brigade sets of equipment, logisticians would have had to ship the vehicles from the United States, using up valuable shipping space and costing more time.

Boles said the pre-positioned equipment held up well under the wear and tear of war.

Stultz said that while experiences in 1991's Operation Desert Storm were valuable, there were important differences. In Desert Storm, logisticians tried to build up 60 days of supplies before launching the attack. "It required a huge amount of time to build up those stocks," he said.

"In Iraqi Freedom, we used a much more streamlined approach where we looked at how long it takes us to get supplies from the port to the front, and that determined how many days' supplies we needed to maintain." He said in Iraqi Freedom, U.S. forces kept five to seven days of supplies on hand.

Another difference was technology. Boles said U.S. forces maintained a "digital awareness" over logistics support. "We were able to see where (the supplies) were going, redirect them if we had to do that," he said. "There was a lot less guessing in terms of capabilities and connectivity we had here." Computerized ordering and tracking really helped logisticians maintain their edge.

Stultz said the fast-sealift ships and the large, medium speed roll-on, roll-off ships proved to be very valuable to the logistics effort. The fast-sealift ships delivered cargo from the United States quickly. The advantage of the roll-on, roll-off ships was stevedores could unload the ships quickly.

He said given the limited berthing facilities in Kuwait, this was crucial to moving equipment to the troops quickly. Stultz pointed out that handlers could discharge 1,800 to 3,000 pieces of equipment in about 24 to 36 hours from this class of roll-on, roll-off ship.

On the airlift side, he said C-17 transport planes were important in bringing equipment into the theater, "but more important was the C-130s inside the theater." These transport workhorses were able to deliver parts, food and medical supplies to warfighters quickly.

The focus now in Iraq is sustaining the forces. U.S. forces have established three logistics centers in Tallil, Baghdad and Tikrit to maintain the more than five division units in the country.

The logisticians are already planning for redeployment of units back to the United States. There are some units that are not needed, given the situation today Patriot batteries, field artillery units and some medical units. Stultz said they have looked at those units and are determining how quickly they can move them from the area.

When officials do order moving some of the combat forces out, they will put together a process, Stultz noted, "so every soldier comes out of the theater is taken care of in terms of finance, personnel, administrative and equipment needs."

Officials are identifying what type of vessels will be needed and at what schedule "so that when the decision is made for those units to redeploy, we're prepared and ready to move them out as soon as possible," he said.

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