(Note: General Fontaine appears via video conference from Iraq.)
BRYAN WHITMAN (deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Public Affairs): General, this is Bryan Whitman at the Pentagon. Can you hear me?
GEN. FONTAINE: I can hear you, sir. How are you today?
MR. WHITMAN: And welcome to the Pentagon briefing room today. And thank you for your time to be with us this morning.
For our correspondents here and for those of you who are listening throughout the building, good morning. Our briefer today is Brigadier General Yves Fontaine -- that's Y-V-E-S, middle initial J -- who is the commander of the 1st Corps Support Command of the U.S. Army's 18th Airborne Corps, which is currently deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
General Fontaine's command provides the logistical support for the Multinational Forces Corps in Iraq. And so in doing that, he operates throughout the entire theater. He has more than 20,000 U.S. soldiers under his command, as well as works with contractors and partners with Iraqi units that are out there, to provide logistics and support. And he is certainly the right man for the job. He has an impressive list of previous assignments and accomplishments prior to taking on this challenge. We have his biography for you.
And I am reminded -- I'm sure it's the logisticians' old adage, but it is probably current today, too, and that when it comes to -- it is -- I think it goes something like this: Amateurs talk about tactics, and professionals talk about logistics. And I think the essence of that is that it is a very difficult job when you talk about maintaining, equipping, arming, feeding the number of forces that his command is responsible for doing so every day, and doing it in the superb fashion that they are.
So I've taken up already too much of the time here in this introduction. So let me, in keeping with our tradition here, turn it over to the general, to give you a brief operational update, overlay of what his command is responsible for and what they're doing, and then open it up for some questions from here.
Again, he -- we can see you, General, but we know that you can't see us in Balad, where you come from today. So we'll -- when we get to the questions, we'll identify who's talking to you.
GEN. FONTAINE: Okay, sir. Well, thanks for the great introduction, really.
Good morning to all. I'm Brigadier General Yves Fontaine and the commander of the 1st Corps Support Command (Airborne). I am going to provide you an overview of the 1st Corps Support Command and how we continue to conduct operation in Iraq in support of Multinational Corps. I will give you an explanation of our mission, who we are and what we do. I will also tell you how we have partnered with our Iraqi counterparts to execute logistics operations for the Iraqi army. I will conclude an assessment on how we have done.
In concert with the Multinational Corps-Iraq commander, our mission is twofold: one, to provide logistics to the Multinational Corps Iraq; two, to partner with Iraqi logistics forces to facilitate the development of the Iraqi army logistics system. We'll do whatever it takes to sustain the fight, maintain the corps' momentum and ensure that the combat forces never go without the necessary supplies and equipment they need to win. We have done just that and have been given the means to continue as long as it takes.
The 1st Corps Support Command is composed of five support groups: one area support group, one brigade-sized distribution command and two brigade combat teams, for a total of nine brigade- sized units. They comprise close to 18,500 soldiers and airmen, based on five geographic logistics hubs. The support group conducts sustainment operation to keep the Multinational Corps fed, equipped, armed, maintained and fueled. Three of them are currently partnered with three respective Iraqi motorized transportation regiments, and I will discuss this more in a minute.
The area support group runs Logistics Support Area Anaconda. The Distribution Command synchronizes support for the entire corps and maintains visibility of all logistics operation and assets throughout Iraq.
The brigade combat team provides base security and escort and security support for over 150 convoys per day, which is equivalent of over 2,500 vehicles on the roads every day.
We are a diverse organization that has come together to perform extremely well under austere conditions. We are 40 percent active-duty soldiers, 35 percent Army Reserve soldiers and 25 percent Army National Guard soldiers.
Since December last year, we, in conjunction with the Air Force, have moved over 100,000 pallets by air, equivalent to five Army divisions' worth of equipment and 300,000 personnel throughout Iraq and Kuwait. We leverage the use of Air Force and Army assets to decrease the number of trucks and soldiers on the road. On average, we have eliminated 42 convoys per month for this initiative.
We also use the latest technology available to maintain visibility of our assets across the area of operation. In coordination with Army Materiel Command and the American industrial base, we continue to improve our vehicles by incorporating existing and emerging force-protection systems, from armor upgrades to climate control. We have armored over 2,000 vehicles, from the humvee to the tractor-trailer and cargo truck. Since we have arrived, we have not sent an unarmored vehicle outside a secure base.
We continue to develop tactics, techniques and procedures that they have mitigated the effect of improvised explosive device, or IEDs, or in car bombs.
On an average day, we'll receive and issue 1.4 million gallons of fuel, and we produce 3 million gallons of water. We also process about 500 requests for repair parts each day. Since December of last year, we have moved 12 million cases of bottled water and 2 million cases of meals ready to eat to forward operating bases throughout Iraq.
Our soldiers have repaired over 30,000 pieces of equipment and have maintained our fleet. We've leveraged the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program, or LOGCAP, as part of a logistics support team. The civilian LOGCAP contractors in Iraq enhance the military force. They provide services that augment military units in Iraq to increase our surge capabilities and to free military forces to serve in other capacities, such as military training and assistance missions.
Lastly, LOGCAP would serve as a continuity while force rotate through deployment cycles.
As you can see, the quantity and quality of effort involved in our operation is enormous, and we succeed because we have dedicated soldiers and civilian contractors who take pride in providing superior support. Our reconstruction efforts have been extremely productive and include the construction of over 24 water filtration systems that provide clean water to over 20,000 Iraqi people, the distribution of humanitarian aid packages, comprised of items such as clothing, school supplies, hygiene items and toys to over 18,000 Iraqi people, the funding for the construction of three new health clinics, 16 new or renovated schools and 65 kilometers of road construction projects through our area of responsibility. We have also planned, coordinated and executed a sponsorship program through which two Iraqi children have been flown to the United States for necessary emergency medical care.
One of the keys to a successful logistics operation for any army is the ability to get the supplies from where they are stored to where they are needed, in an efficient and reliable manner. With this in mind, it is a crucial task to ensure that the Iraqi army become proficient in warehousing and transportation operations. We have three support groups that have partnered with three Iraqi motorized transportation regiments, the Iraqi national supply distribution and three regional area base support units. The purpose is to partner with their units to refine the Iraqi logistics operation as they become capable of sustaining the Iraqi army.
Our soldiers’ conditions are constantly improving, and they have everything they require to execute the mission. Their morale is high, their health and welfare strong, housing, recreation, food, mail and communication are available, and soldiers are able to call, e-mail or write their families regularly, which is a tremendous advantage in today's deployments.
The assessment of our operation includes two major points. First, we have continued to maintain the corps momentum throughout all operations. Second, we successfully partner with Iraqi logistics forces. Two out of the three motorized transportation regiments are ready to operate independently, and the regional base support units are starting to provide support of the Iraqi forces in the area.
In closing, I want to acknowledge not only the personal sacrifice of each soldier who has served and is serving here today, but I want to recognize the families of these soldiers that are back home waiting for their loved ones to return. You and the American public at large are our backbone in difficult times, and without your support, our soldiers would not be able to do the great things they do every day.
I will now take your questions, sir.
MR. WHITMAN: Thank you, General, for that overview. And we'll get right into some questions here.
Q: General, this is Will Dunham with Reuters. Could you please assess the current danger to supply convoys that the insurgents are posing? Is it increasing, decreasing? Is it changing in any way? And also, could you talk about the evolution of the IEDs. Are you seeing more powerful ones?
GEN. FONTAINE: Yes, sir, great question. As a matter of fact, we have seen an increase in the use of IEDs on our convoys. And our main threat is the IED for the logistics convoys coming from Kuwait, Jordan and Turkey and in going to the Baghdad area. So the increase has been to about 30 a week. We have established -- obviously as I mentioned in my opening statement, we have up-armored all our vehicles to some level, 1, 2 and 3. All the humvees are Level 1 and 2, which is the best up-armoring that we can provide these young soldiers.
The HETS -- the heavy equipment transporters are also Level 1, 2 and 3, mainly at 1 and 2. And we are focusing right now on up-armoring our 915 fleet, which is our tractor-trailer, to Level 1 and 2.
Bottom line: all our trucks are up-armored when they go out of the gate to a different level, which protects our soldiers.
We're also reviewing TTPs on a regular basis, as incidents occur. And those -- the review of TTPs let us know what the enemy is bringing to the fight that is new and how we can react to it accordingly.
And finally, we also leverage our technology as much as we can, as much becomes available, to negate that threat.
To respond to your question about the evolution of the IED, as you well know through the news, the enemy has used new IEDs on the road. I believe our measures to protect the soldiers will rise to the challenge.
Q: (Off mike) -- briefly follow up, you mentioned that you're at 30 IED attacks on a weekly basis. Could you give a comparison to what that level was previously?
GEN. FONTAINE: Yes, sir. It's about a hundred percent increase from last year.
MR. WHITMAN: Go ahead, Bob.
Q: General, this is Bob Burns with Associated Press. I wanted to ask you to elaborate on the point you made earlier about partnering with Iraqi logistics forces. If I heard you correctly, I think you said that two of the three Iraqi transport regiments are ready to operate independently. Could you talk a little bit more about that? How many more do they need? Is three all they need? What's the future hold there?
GEN. FONTAINE: Yes, sir. I believe the end state for the motorized transport regiment is a total of nine of 10. We've received the first three -- really, the first four; a fourth one is being added in the next couple of months. So those three have shown a real action to get with the program. They are -- they took about six months to get trained to -- proficient in transportation operation, to the point where they are using their own command and control, their own radios, their own security today to escort themselves as they supply Iraqi forces in the theater of war.
So to answer your question, right now two to three are -- I call them green -- to support the Iraqi forces in their sector. Three to four more are being formed within the next three, four months. It takes six more months to seven months to train them. So I would anticipate that within one year we should lay the complement of transport regiment we need to sustain the battle.
MR. WHITMAN: Joe, go ahead.
Q: General, this is Joe Tabet with Al Hurra TV. This week Secretary Rumsfeld accused Iran of smuggling weapons into Iraq. Do you have any information about the Iranian Revolutionary Guard or the Hezbollah in supporting the insurgency and providing this kind of IEDs?
GEN. FONTAINE: To be honest with you, no, I don't. I've just heard the same thing myself from the same news program you've heard it. So I'm really not at liberty to discuss that. I don't know if in fact the Iranians are supporting insurgency.
MR. WHITMAN: Go ahead, Jim.
Q: General, this is Jim Mannion from Agence France-Presse. I wonder if you could talk about the role of contractors in your operation. How many contractors are there? And you know, have they been affected by the attacks, and how has that affected your operations, if at all?
GEN. FONTAINE: Yes, sir. Right now we have about 20,000 contractors working in the supply field, a total of about 35-40,000 contractors in the entire theater.
The contractors are really a combat multiplier. They take over functions that we do in secure bases, such as the maintenance function, water purification, fuel delivery and so on. Some of them are also driving our trucks. But overall, they are mainly in secure bases, providing the logistics support we need to provide our forces. It allows us, as I mentioned in my opening statement, to flex our CSS forces, Army forces, into operations like in the west, in the north lately.
As far as contracting and going on the roads, they do go in the roads. They sustain the same type of threat our soldiers sustain, and they're doing magnificently. Our convoys are fairly secure, with the up-armored humvee and weapons system.
So to answer your question whether it impacts their driving, I'm sure it does, as -- psychologically, but they always come back next morning and drive. They're great patriots.
MR. WHITMAN: Will?
Q: General, with the doubling of the IED attacks on the convoys in the past year, have you seen a proportional increase in the number of casualties on the U.S. personnel involved in those convoys?
GEN. FONTAINE: No, sir. As a matter of fact, that's a good story -- the good-news story, as far as our up-armoring is concerned. Because we've up-armored our vehicles, the casualty has decreased significantly, even though the IED attack has increased significantly. So now our soldiers are safe in their humvees and their trucks, and they walk out of the incidents when the incident occurs.
MR. WHITMAN: Bob?
Q: Bob Burns again from AP. I'd like to follow up on that same point. During this period of increase, have you seen the increase in any particular parts of Iraq especially, geographically?
GEN. FONTAINE: Well, yes, sir. The triangle is the area where this occurs. We know that some of Iraq is fairly safe, fairly secure. As you enter the triangle, this is area where IEDs occur the most. So nothing has changed as far as that's concerned.
MR. WHITMAN: Okay. (Inaudible.) Go ahead -- (inaudible).
Q: General, this is -- again, this is Joe Tabet with Al Hurra TV. There is -- a British report said that triple stacked anti-tank mines were reported to have been used in the Al Hadithah explosion. Is this a new kind of IED?
GEN. FONTAINE: It is the first one we've encountered, I think. I'm not sure whether it is the first one that's been used, because IEDs have been in our roads for a long time. So if you're asking me the first time they used it, I don't know, because sometime we find IEDs later in the day or a month later. So -- but it is the first one that we've found of that sort.
MR. WHITMAN: Go ahead, Jim.
Q: General, Jim Mannion from AFP again. You know, can you say whether, as a result of the attacks, any of your forces have experienced any shortages or disruptions in supply?
GEN. FONTAINE: No, sir. We have prepositioned supplies at key GS hubs to prevent this to occur, so whenever we have operations, ongoing operations, we can flex our supplies from different GS hubs at that location. And whenever the enemy is doing something different, we have reserve in site, on specific sites that can assist the forces in that sector.
MR. WHITMAN: Bob?
Q: General, Bob Burns again. You mentioned earlier on the use of aircraft to move supplies and minimize the danger on the roads. Is that entirely from Kuwait, or what's the amount that you move by air from Kuwait or Turkey or Jordan?
GEN. FONTAINE: We fly aircraft -- or the Air Force flies aircraft from all over the world to support our requirements. The majority of requirements coming by aircraft are Class 9 repair parts to fix our vehicles. Sometimes we have ammunition coming by aircraft as well. But we have aircraft coming from the states, from Kuwait, from everywhere in the world to support our requirements. It's a very well-synchronized event. That's synchronized down in Kuwait with what we call CD dock under CENTCOM C4. And it's a success story because it takes a lot of our great soldiers off the road by moving these aircraft in the air.
MR. WHITMAN: Okay. Well, general, we, I think, have exhausted the questions from here.
We just want to thank you once again for taking some time and giving a little bit different picture on something that we haven't had much visibility on, and that is sustaining and maintaining the force out there and the type of things that your command does out there.
So thank you very much, and maybe down the road we can have you back again to give us another update.
GEN. FONTAINE: Okay, sir. I'll be glad to. Thank you. Thanks for listening to us.
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