Bringing ordnance logistics to the fight

Bringing ordnance logistics to the fight

Ted Digges

For the first time in recent military history, the Navy has had a central clearinghouse for fleet ordnance logistic support and warfare assessment issues. In past conflicts, a major logistical challenge had been the optimization of scarce ordnance assets between competing, often conflicting global requirements. During a conflict involving combat, aside from supporting war fighting commanders, there is still a requirement to support other operational plan responsibilities. The result in the past had been competition for the same assets within the naval ordnance stockpile by each fleet, type commander, and Marine component.

At the Naval Ammunition Logistics Center (NALC), commanded by CAPT Matt Culbertson in Mechanicsburg, Pa., a new concept called the “Naval Ordnance Crisis Response Center” (CRC) had been conceptualized prior to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The CRC ultimately filled the role as the single broker for all Navy and Marine ordnance requirements for both Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). As the Chief of Naval Operations’ (OPNAV’s) agent, the CRC successfully optimized existing assets from a drastically depleted stockpile against all war fighting requirements, resulting in the right assets, arriving in the right place, at the right time to win.

The concept of a Naval Ordnance Crisis Response Center was to activate a team with ordnance logistics expertise in the event of an actual or imminent real-world crisis situation of sufficient concern as to warrant high level attention. The terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, activated the CRC for the first time and allowed this team to put “theory to practice,” providing 24 hours a day, 7 days a week of ordnance logistical support.

The CRC team consists of LCDR Keith Rhodes, LT Mike Zimmerman, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Eric David, CWO4 Mike Kesting, Gunnery Sergeant Glenn Bowers, GYSGT Mike McDonald, GYSGT Rodney McFadden, and GYSGT Tony Thomas.

During the first phase of OEF, the CRC emerged as the one source for the highest levels of our government and military agencies to obtain visibility and tracking of all critical naval munitions, combat expenditures, on-hand stock postures, and ordnance moving into theatre via channel flights, Special Assignment Airlift Mission (SAAM) flights, and the Time-Phased Force and Deployment Data (TPFDD) schedule.

During the post-Afghanistan strategic pause in military action in 2002, the nation’s military logisticians were extremely busy preparing for possible action in Iraq. One of the most important aspects of this preparation was fulfilling the naval ordnance requirements set forth by the supported war fighting commander, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM). The task of satisfying these war requirements was exacerbated by a stockpile posture that had not only been severely underfunded for more than a decade, but also had been depleted by the combat expenditures in OEF.

The CRC team developed an innovative solution: a global naval ordnance “sourcing plan” identifying which assets would be used, where they would be requisitioned from, and at what time and where each asset would be sent into theatre. The CRC-developed global naval forces sourcing plan supporting OIF encompassed sourcing combat requirements for six carrier strike groups (CSGs), six amphibious readiness groups (ARGs), and fulfilled all the naval ordnance requirements set forth by the supported war fighting commander, CENTCOM. This was the first global optimization of the entire naval ordnance stockpile.

The CRC developed naval ordnance sourcing plan became an extremely complex document that had to be constantly modified by the CRC, as requirements and available assets continuously changed in the dynamic environment. The plan was eventually expanded to include support of Marine OIF forces, providing over 16,000 short tons of munitions for surface lift into Kuwait.

Another unique aspect to the plan was the initiation of a detailed activation and movement plan for two Military Sealift Command ships for the sole use of transporting naval ordnance. This MSC support was included as a key element of a Request For Forces (RFF) directed by the Department of Defense.

LCDR Keith Rhodes, director of the CRC, acted as the single Naval Ordnance combat planner throughout the entire OIF planning phase, which included participation in several TPFDD Conferences and planning meetings at USCENTCOM. One of the largest hurdles Rhodes and the rest of the CRC staff had to overcome in developing this plan was coordinating the competing interests of limited assets by acting as the focal point for all war fighting commanders in ordnance logistics matters.

The CRC sought and successfully gained support from all stakeholders, including OPNAV; CENTCOM; U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM); Commander, Fleet Forces Command (CFFC); Commander, U.S. Atlantic Fleet (CLF); Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet (CPF); Commander, U.S. Navy Europe (COMUSNAVEUR); Marine Corps Pacific (MARFORPAC); Marine Forces Atlantic (MARFORLANT); United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM); the Joint Staff; and Air Force/Army counterparts.

The plan was ultimately briefed to the JCS and SECDEF, and was subsequently approved by the president.

Once approved, the entire NALC team served as the agent to successfully execute the global Naval Forces ordnance sourcing plan. Virtually all Navy and Marine (aviation) war related requisitions for critical ordnance, including precision guided munitions, were processed by the highly motivated, dedicated professional logisticians at Naval Ammunition Logistics Center.

Execution included moving the identified ordnance via truck, rail, air and sea to the designated locations. No matter what the mode of transportation, during transit status and visibility were maintained and continually briefed to all stakeholders up and down the chain of command. Asset visibility and data integrity were critical to credibility and mission success.

In all, over 30,000 items of critical naval ordnance in support of OIF were moved via truck, rail, air and sea to the designated locations, supporting six aircraft carrier battle groups, six amphibious task forces and multiple Marine aviation units ashore.

One of the biggest lessons from both OEF and OIF is the important role of naval precision guided munitions. The number of precision guided munitions used in Desert Storm accounted for 10 percent of combat expenditures. In OEF/OIF, this percentage has risen to 68 percent, including over 800 Tomahawk Cruise Missiles, one third of which were launched by submarines.

Management of these critical assets has become paramount to mission success and NALC with the CRC has been an absolutely critical element in the superb logistical support the naval war fighters have received since 11, Sept. 2001. Their hard work and innovation will continue to have a profound impact on the war fighter by ensuring that critical naval ordnance assets have the logistics backing to be brought to the fight!

CDR Ted Digges was the Director of Operations during Operation Enduring Freedom and is currently the Executive Officer at the Naval Ammunition Logistics Center in Mechanicsburg, Pa.

COPYRIGHT 2003 U.S. Department of the Navy, Supply Systems Command

COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group