Support Command Supplies NATOs Peace Force
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
ZAGREB, CROATIA, April 3, 1996 Anyone whos ever served in the military understands the catchall phrase, "additional duties as assigned." It means be prepared to do anything, anywhere, anytime Uncle Sam needs you.
U.S. Army Maj. Gen. William N. Farmen recently was assigned an additional duty a real whopper. He was tasked to provide 60,000 troops from 31 nations with everything from bread and haircuts to lumber and fuel. And he was tasked to do it in a country ravaged by four years of civil war, more than 4,000 miles from home.
Farmen was given the title commander of support for NATOs peace implementation force in Bosnia.
When duty called, the general left his job as the Armys assistant deputy chief of staff for logistics at the Pentagon. He moved to Zagreb, capital of Croatia, a country about the size of West Virginia and home to nearly 5 million people.
The general said his greatest challenge was setting up an organization able to do multinational logistics without having any control over the people sent to him, what their professional skill levels were, what their language skills were, and molding it all into a team.
With the help of Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, Farmen put together a staff of about 330 contracting, procurement, medical, engineering and logistics specialists from 16 nations 126 are Americans. The staff speaks eight languages, and at times, Farmen said, those whose native tongue is actually English, but with an Australian or British twist, are the hardest to understand.
The command helps U.S. and foreign units obtain supplies and services. Contracts are awarded based on timeliness of delivery, quality and cost, primarily to vendors within Croatia and Bosnia to boost the local economy, a command official said. To date, $38 million in contracts has been awarded for baked goods, gravel, barbers, laundries and other such supplies and services. Another $57 million has been allocated for engineering projects, officials said.
"We are 911 logistics," Farmen said. "We supply all products, all classes of supplies and all services to all of the force when they ask for it. Barbers, shoe repair, laundry all the little services that we take for granted we now have to provide for 60,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines from 31 different nations."
Foreign units pay for their supplies, Farmen said, and the support command tries to get the best value for their money. "If were going to spend a nations money, we want to spend it on something thats quality," he said. "Our goal is to get that quality at the lowest cost."
Coordination is key to supporting the international force, according to U.S. Air Force Capt. Leo M. Devine, command spokesman. The commands joint movement control center has coordinated shipments by about 60 ships, 2,800 air sorties, 3,100 road convoys and 230 trains, he said.
Equipment, troops and supplies have to be sent through Croatia without burdening the countrys transportation system and active economy, Devine said. "We make sure that the aircraft, trains, road convoys and ships are flowing in such a manner that we can coordinate the transport of supplies through Croatia without overwhelming their infrastructure," he said.
U.N. Protection Forces stationed in Croatia during the Bosnian civil war provided a list of local vendors, thereby laying the groundwork for the supply network, he said. Support command officials set up a central contracting system for the theater to avoid having 31 countries competing for the same products and suppliers.
According to Farmen, the training and skills of the U.S. logistics specialists has stood them in good stead for their multinational mission. "Our schooling, the diversity of opportunities that our people have and the discipline of our force allow us to do things that we consider routine, that others would consider a major challenge," he said.
One U.S. officer, for example, put together a menu taking ethnic and religious variables into consideration so all 31 nations could order by the numbers, he said. U.S. officers also designed a basic ordering agreement for fuel that enabled the forces to have fuel delivered for less per liter than they could do it themselves using their own equipment.
After five months with the command in Zagreb, Army Capt. Kristin French, a plans and operations officer from 1st Corps Support Command, Fort Bragg, N.C., said dealing with all the different nationalities who dont speak English takes time and patience since they dont understand all the words and acronyms used by the Americans.
Setting up a support command from scratch everything from setting up headquarters in a foreign land to creating a postal service, motor pool and communications network has been an unforgettable experience, according to some of the soldiers, sailors and airmen assigned.
U.S. Air Force SSgt. Joseph Shaughnessy, a communications operator from 1st Combat Communications Squadron, Ramstein Air Base, Germany, has been with the command for five months. As an Air Force person in a largely NATO unit run by the U.S. Army, "Ive had to learn Army ways of doing things," he said.
During a recent trip to the Balkans, U.S. Defense Secretary William J. Perry recognized the commands effort. "You are the infrastructure the backbone for making the field operation go," he told a group of service members. "Without firstclass support, none of whats scheduled to happen in the field is going to happen right.
"Im here to thank you for the great work youre doing, and to report to you that everyone whos watching this operation from the states believes its a firstclass operation being done with great professionalism, and the support[being provided] is the key to that success."