The right stuff for CSS operations

More tooth for the tail: the right stuff for CSS operations

Shawn P. Walsh

The logistics community must take advantage of the lessons that have been learned so far from Operation Iraqi Freedom and press for materiel and doctrinal transformation of our combat service support (CSS) units. CSS units must have the right stuff to better support rapid combat operations, like those conducted by coalition forces in their quick march to Baghdad, and sustain operations in hostile, post-combat environments.

In their swift march to Baghdad in the initial days of Operation Iraqi Freedom, combat units were forced to leave their lines of communication unsecured. During sustainment operations, CSS units unilaterally conducted convoy support and base defense because combat and combat support units, such as infantry and military police, were tasked with other priorities. While combat developers continue to search for ways to reduce the Army’s logistics footprint, leaders must ensure that all CSS units, including division-, corps-, and theater-support units, become more lethal, survivable, and responsive in supporting current and future forces. CSS units must have the resources to fight and survive while they support and sustain the warfighter.

CSS for Offensive Operations

The U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) combatant commander would not give the order to cross the line of departure to start the Operation Iraqi Freedom offensive until certain conditions were met. One of those conditions was a viable fuel distribution system that stretched to the Iraqi border and sufficient fuel stocks on the ground in Kuwait to support combat forces to decisive victory. Until just days before the war, only one Quartermaster battalion, the 240th Quartermaster Battalion, from Fort Lee, Virginia, met the combatant commander’s pre-war fuel requirement, but it had limited support, time, and resources. The 240th was tasked to build and protect the largest tactical petroleum terminal (TPT) ever constructed. Soldiers’ tactical and force protection awareness was heightened because this TPT was located at the Iraq-Kuwait border and made the 240th the closest Army unit to the border before the war.

The improvised weapon mount on the roof of this HMMWV keeps the soldier’s M249 SAW visible, which helps to deter enemy attack and places the weapon in a ready-to-fire position.

After successfully meeting pre-war mission demands, the 240th continued its doctrinal mission 120 miles forward into Iraq, operating the Inland Petroleum Distribution System (IPDS) pipeline and TPT in a hostile area of operations. During execution of their daily missions, the battalion leaders mitigated risks wherever possible. They quickly learned that the modification table of organization and equipment (MTOE) for the theater-level CSS petroleum pipeline and terminal operating (PPTO) companies lacked some essentials. Each day, the soldiers in those companies had to operate in harm’s way without sufficient equipment or external support. Some of the same shortfalls were noted in other Quartermaster and Transportation companies assigned to the 240th Quartermaster Battalion during reception, staging, onward movement, and integration (RSO&I) and sustainment operations. It soon became apparent to the battalion leaders and staff that under-equipped CSS units were being required to execute unilateral missions across the battlespace.

Pump Station Security and Pipeline Patrol

While living and operating in searing 130-degree temperatures, enduring sandstorms, and traveling on unsecured supply routes, 240th Quartermaster Battalion soldiers had to protect 15 isolated pump stations and numerous TPTs and patrol and protect over 220 miles of IPDS pipeline snaking through the deserts of Kuwait and Iraq. Daily threats along the pipeline included armed Iraqi fuel thieves and pipeline saboteurs. Approximately a quarter-mile of the actual IPDS pipeline was stolen, most likely for the scrap value of the aluminum pipe. Fuel thefts from the pipeline were almost a nightly occurrence. Saboteurs sometimes broke the pipeline and ignited the free-running fuel, which set portions of the pipeline on fire. To discourage vandalism, the battalion increased the frequency of pipeline patrols and sent the patrols out at different hours during day and night to make it difficult for the enemy to predict the patrol schedule.

Although PPTO companies assigned to the battalion did not have the right equipment to conduct effective pump station security, pipeline patrols, or night operations, the battalion staff quickly learned to cross-level needed equipment from other assigned petroleum supply companies and medium truck companies. At the same time, they submitted numerous requests for the equipment they needed to lessen force protection risks associated with operating the IPDS pipeline and terminals.

Convoy Operations

Divisional, corps, and theater CSS units traveled throughout the battlespace, and all were likely to encounter ambush, sniper attack, and improvised explosive devices. Therefore, they needed a high level of force protection, including hardened vehicles and mounts for crew-served weapons.

During pre-war RSO&I, the 240th Quartermaster Battalion included seven Reserve component medium truck companies (petroleum, oils, and lubricants). These truck companies were tasked with moving fuel to three TPTs being built in Kuwait to store bulk fuel. Each truck company had 60 systems (tanker truck combinations), with 20 systems assigned to each of 3 truck platoons. Once the war started, these medium truck companies were reassigned to theater- and corps-level battalions. Two of the truck companies were assigned to the 3d Corps Support Command and followed the 3d Infantry Division (Mechanized) across the line of departure. One of the truck companies was assigned to the Marine Expeditionary Force and was integrated into Marine combat operations. The other four companies remained in the theater to move fuel to division and corps areas. All of the truck companies supported the warfight while traversing extremely dangerous supply routes in Iraq, often without any external security such as military police support. During convoy operations, the truck companies were responsible for their own force and convoy protection. The current medium truck company design authorizes only two ring mounts for crew-served weapons, which is not adequate for the company to provide effective security for numerous serials.

Once the war started and the IPDS pipeline was extended into Iraq, 240th operations reached from the base TPT in Kuwait City to the head TPT at Tallil Air Base in Iraq–a distance of over 250 miles. Soldiers traveled the hazardous main supply routes daily to support internal administrative and logistics requirements. To lessen travel risks in Iraq, two vehicles with at least one crew-served weapon were required for movement in theater. Since the PPTOs were authorized neither vehicle mounts for crew-served weapons nor hardened high-mobility, multipurpose wheeled vehicles (HMMWVs), they improvised by hardening vehicles with sandbags and placing two plywood “doors” over the canvas roof of the HMMWVs and another sheet of plywood under the canvas roof and roll bar of the vehicle. When the roof doors were open, soldiers could rest their weapons on the plywood on the vehicle roof. This improvised method kept M249 squad automatic weapons (SAWs) in plain sight, which helped to deter attacks and placed the weapon in a ready-to-fire position.

Because of fuel thieves and pipeline saboteurs, pump stations had to conduct frequent patrols, especially at night when the Iraqi renegades would hide under the cover of darkness. External security support from military police simply was not available because of other missions. Soldiers on pipeline patrol were equipped with crew-served weapons, but they had to improvise the weapon mounts. The battalion also borrowed night-vision goggles and global positioning systems for the subordinate companies because these critical items are not authorized on the unit MTOE.

In the future, all CSS units should be equipped with sufficient vehicle-mounted, crew-served weapons to protect independent serial movements or force protection operations and with night-vision goggles and global positioning systems for nighttime navigation and operations.

Pump Station Operations

During Operation Iraqi Freedom, soldiers assigned to the pipeline platoons of the PPTO companies maimed the IPDS pump stations. The soldiers lived and worked at the pump stations, which generally covered about an acre of desert. Because some of the pump stations were 70 miles from the nearest base camp, they had to be as self-sufficient as possible. Security provisions for the isolated pump stations included 6-foot-high earthen perimeter berms with concertina wire on top, fighting positions, controlled entry points, triple-strand concertina wire 30 to 50 meters outside the pump stations, and observation towers that were manned 24 hours a day.

Soldiers assigned to the isolated pump stations were some of the toughest in the Army. Living conditions were austere. Soldiers slept in tents and had no running water or dining facility, used burn-out latrines, and endured sand fleas, crickets, and extreme heat. Pump station duties included operating the 800-gallon-per-minute main line IPDS pumps, maintaining high-frequency and FM radios, operating cellular and satellite telephone equipment, and performing patrols of the 11 to 15 miles of IPDS pipeline between pump stations. They also had to maintain unit equipment and carry out the daily tasks associated with running the camp, such as burning trash and waste and serving on security and guard details.

Future PPTO company MTOEs should be revised to provide support for pump station soldiers operating the IPDS or the Rapidly Installed Fuel Transfer System (RIFTS) currently under development. Soldiers at each pump station must have at least one water buffalo for bathing and washing clothes. Water buffaloes (400-gallon water tanks) would be a big improvement over the collapsible water storage bags, because the bags are clumsy to transport and pumps do not come with them.

Camouflage netting must be added to the unit MTOE to conceal fighting positions, hide silhouettes in observation towers, and provide shade to the otherwise open pump stations. The current pump station design calls for only one M249 SAW at each pump station. The pump stations should have a larger caliber crew-served weapon (M2 or M60 machinegun) and an MK19 grenade launcher for pump station security and pipeline security patrol. Night-vision goggles also are essential for night observation from the pump station tower.

Pump station soldiers also would benefit greatly from better-protected shelter. The tents that the soldiers lived in and operated from provided only minimal protection from blinding sandstorms, determined insects, and 130-degree days in the desert. Some tents were actually blown down during fierce sandstorms. The automated systems and electrical and radio equipment in the pump stations also experienced high failure rates because of dust and sand that blew into even the tiniest crevices during sandstorms.

At the beginning of the summer, the battalion requested that each pump station be outfitted with a 40-foot-long portable cabin, complete with air conditioning and a 35-kilowatt power generator, so the soldiers could get out of the heat to sleep or relax. The portable cabins also protected sensitive equipment from sandstorms. A materiel solution for the pump stations would be at least two dedicated 20-foot ISO (International Organization for Standardization) containers for life support of soldiers and protection of sensitive communications equipment. The containers should have heating and air-conditioning units, power generation, and bunks for the soldiers. Since each pump station’s equipment currently is transported in six 20-foot ISO containers, the addition of two more containers would have a minimal impact on moving and establishing pump station operations. The containers in which the soldiers live and operate could be sandbagged on the exterior to protect the occupants from small arms fire and fragmentation.

Organic Transportation

During Operation Iraqi Freedom, the 240th Quartermaster Battalion quickly discovered that theater-level CSS units rarely get priority for support, especially when divisional units are constantly moving, deploying, and redeploying in the theater. The 240th constantly needed external transportation support to move the 1,250 20-foot ISO containers that held the IPDS equipment deployed in Iraq and Kuwait. The battalion movements officer continually fought for any available transportation assets, including 40-foot stake-and-platform trailers, palletized load system trucks, and cargo handling units, and his requests often were denied or put at the end of the prioritized queue.

The lack of transportation assets critically hindered the battalion’s mission on many occasions because IPDS containers required immediate movement when missions changed. The battalion lacked the organic assets to effect large moves. Many of the container moves were to and from pump stations or TPTs. A heavy equipment transporter (HET) or a super-HET was required to move the rough-terrain cargo handler or crane. Requests for external HET assets again resulted in negative or slow results.

The materiel solution for the PPTO company is a squad of six cargo-handling units that could move 20-foot containers anywhere along the pipeline and terminal trace without other external support or materials-handling equipment.

The realities of Operation Iraqi Freedom proved that CSS units do get into the fight and therefore must have the right stuff to decisively engage and defeat the enemy while providing support. CSS units support priority corps and divisional warfighting units. However, theater-level CSS units typically are low priority for support, despite having vital missions. CSS units at all levels must become self-sufficient; failure is not an option during war.

LIEUTENANT COLONEL SHAWN P. WALSH COMMANDS THE 240TH QUARTERMASTER BATTALION (PETROLEUM OPERATIONS), WHICH WAS DEPLOYED IN IRAQ AND KUWAIT IN SUPPORT OF OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM. HE PREVIOUSLY WAS EXECUTIVE OFFICER OF THE 240TH QUARTERMASTER BATTALION AND SERVED AS A COMPANY COMMANDER AND PLATOON LEADER IN PETROLEUM PIPELINE AND TERMINAL OPERATING COMPANIES.

COPYRIGHT 2004 ALMC

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group