4 years, 12 months 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.
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“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.