After briefing a packed auditorium April 3 at the Army Logistics Management College, Col. Larry Wyche and command team members from the 10th Sustainment Brigade concluded from their experience that the Joint Logistics Command concept works.
The professional development session, hosted by the Combined Arms Support Command Directorate of Lessons Learned and Quality Assurance, provided insight and observations about how a sustainment brigade operates in the field. While several of these brigades have deployed and redeployed from Iraq in recent years, the 10th JLC, or “Task Force Muleskinner,” was the first deployed to Afghanistan.
The mission of the JLC is to anticipate, coordinate, integrate and synchronize the support, sustainment and contingency logistics requirements for joint and coalition forces. Wyche spoke of its effectiveness during their deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
“Synchronizing logistics across the battlefield was a challenge but doable given the skill sets provided to us,” said Wyche. “At the end of the day, we were able to support more than 20,000 troopers and support over 300 units.”
Upon arrival in theater, Wyche was given the task of “achieving non-lethal effects while conducting kinetic operations.” After initial puzzlement by the terminology, his team understood both its meaning and effect on military operations in a wartime environment.
“What was asked of us is a different way of logistician thinking and completely outside the box,” said Wyche.
Wyche emphasized the importance of “seeing the battlefield” and recognizing the challenges of supply operations in an environment that stretches the imagination. To solidify that point, Wyche showed photos taken on the same day that encompassed such challenges as expansive desert terrain, snow-topped mountains, and rugged, narrow dirt roads.
“It is the most unforgiving, physically demanding environment you could imagine,” said Wyche.
“Seeing the battlefield in Afghanistan means understanding the tactical, operational and strategic environment and how all organizations impact and contribute to supporting the mission. What it boiled down to was understanding the supply chain and then the distribution process to get things where they needed to go.”
Supply operations by air, sea and land required projecting potential shortages and managing resupply in a timely manner given the terrain, weather and operational environments. Wyche said that a simple 48-kilometer route to Kabul, on a relatively decent roadway, could take 90 minutes to two hours.
“You had to master anticipation,” said Wyche of the daily supply operations. “Understanding the people of Afghanistan, in relation to support operations was also important.”
Local customs, traditions and holidays played a factor in supply, and again, Wyche said anticipating these variables were critical to mission success. Host nation support, awarding transportation contracts to local businesses, allowed for greater integration with the Afghani population, and improved economy. In a given month, Wyche said, between 3,500 – 4,500 host nation trucks moved through the battlefield.
A success story Wyche shared with the audience was the creation of a bottled water plant in Bagram, which led to the opening and certification of three other plants. He cited this as a force multiplier – one which not only increased economic growth and security, but also increased relations between coalition forces and local nations.
The sustainment brigade was also effective in reconstituting two battalion task forces during the transition from operational missions. In this time, the JLC transitioned 2,500 Soldiers, more than 1,500 weapons and 3,000 pieces of equipment.
Wyche’s observations will be available in a future Army Logisticians Bulletin, available through the ALMC Web site at www.almc.army.mil/alog/.