The Logistical Magnitude of the Campaign in Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
4 years ago

In what will not be read closely or widely enough, the Montgomery Advertiser gives us a view to the magnitude of the logistical problem that is campaign for Afghanistan.

Clouds of dust rise to meet a descending Blackhawk at Kan­dahar Airfield. Before the heli­copter’s wheels settle, the crew chief and gunner climb through windows just behind the pilots and begin urging soldiers to hustle on board.

Carrying heavy trunks and duffels, these men are destined for forward operating bases and combat outposts in the most ac­tive area of Afghanistan, Re­gional Command-South, which this summer recorded the high­est death toll since the war be­gan in 2002.

With an escort Blackhawk hovering nearby, the crew mem­bers urge the soldiers to strap in — ideally, the helicopters won’t be on the ground for more than a couple of minutes before they offload, onload and take off. When they do, the same red dust cloud chases the helicopter as it ascends, headed for the moun­tain range in the distance, then to parts unknown.

For each man on that Black­hawk, as well as any Chinook or cargo plane routing soldiers to their battle areas, one man is re­sponsible for the supplies that will support them in Afghanis­tan — Brig. Gen. Reynold Hoo­ver of the Alabama National Guard.

Hoover, commander of the joint sustainment command in Afghanistan and commander of the 135th sustainment com­mand (expeditionary), is in charge of supplies from food that fuels the troops’ nutritional needs to fuel that runs the mine-resistant MRAP vehicles that protect them from the constant threat of IEDs.

When the 135th took charge of the Joint Sustainment Com­mand on Dec. 28, 2009, it became the first one-star general com­mand from the Alabama Nation­al Guard since World War II. The task is daunting — deliver­ing supplies throughout a coun­try the size of Texas and thwart­ing Taliban attempts to destroy supply lines.

Hoover, who earned his mas­ter’s degree in public and pri­vate management from Bir­mingham-Southern College in 1992, has long held ties to Alaba­ma.

Since 1988, he has returned to Alabama for his once monthly Guard obligation. Since the 135th took command, it has de­livered more than 27.5 million pounds of mail, delivered 88 mil­lion meals and used enough fuel to drive a Honda Civic to the sun and back 68 times.

The 135th sustains approxi­mately 70,000 soldiers in Afgha­nistan and can deliver 504,000 bottles of water each week and more than 210,000 meals each day.

[ ... ]

“Movement is a challenge here. We’re in a landlocked country where we don’t control the road. But we’re determined for every trooper to have a hot meal and a canteen.”

Add to that the number of aircraft, both rotary and fixed wing, required to move troops and supplies, and what emerges is an incredible supply and de­mand — all controlled by the Alabama National Guard.

As regular readers know, infantry rules the battle space, while logistics rules everything else, including capability to support and sustain the infantry and air power, financial burden to deploy troops, the ability to conduct distributed operations, the geographical reach of the campaign, and the timeliness of battle space decisions and actions.

Besides the issues surrounding international logistical lines, there are the more immediate and localized logistical issues with which we must deal.  I continue to assert that IEDs are a problem (they are responsible for the majority of U.S. casualties) mainly because we haven’t deployed the troops necessary to find, chase and kill those responsible for building and planting them.

Technology and gizmos are slick and always demand the lion’s share of the defense dollars.  What we need are more Marines, more snipers, more door kicking, more census-taking and more biometrics.  We need to be in their face, in their homes, in their streets, in their markets, isolating the insurgents and destroying them – not putting them into the rotating “catch-and-release” prisons only to see them kill more U.S. servicemen.

And what would all of this gain us?  It’s an oddity to see a General make the following claim in public:     ” … we don’t control the road.”  Indeed.  Control the roads and we will begin to see the end of the insurgency.  No, not check points, not isolated patches of road, but control the roads.  All of them.  Beginning to end, front to back, top to bottom.  From the very beginning the Taliban strategy has been to target logistics, just as I said it would be.  Go after the perpetrators, not the IEDs.


You are currently reading "The Logistical Magnitude of the Campaign in Afghanistan", entry #5593 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Afghanistan,Logistics and was published October 10th, 2010 by Herschel Smith.

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