Combat service support in Baghdad: a forward support company supporting an armor battalion task force in Iraq had to innovate to execute its mission in a challenging urban environment

Providing combat service support (CSS) for a battalion-sized task force operating as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom requires adaptations and innovations to help ensure mission success. Task Force 2-8 Cavalry (TF 2-8 CAV)--the 2d Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division-learned this truth during 12 months of op-erations in eastern Baghdad.

Combat service support in Baghdad: a forward support company supporting an armor battalion task force in Iraq had to innovate to execute its mission in a challenging urban environmentTF 2-8 CAV consisted of one tank company with tanks and two tank companies mounted on high-mobility, multipurpose, wheeled vehicles (HMMWVs). Approximately 10 months before its deployment to Iraq, the task force transitioned to the Force XXI redesign with the addition of a forward support company (FSC)--B Company, 115th Forward Support Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division. Confronted with the unique and multifaceted missions and the challenging environment of Iraqi Freedom, the task force and FSC leaders recognized that many plans for CSS operations would have to be revised. Accordingly, the FSC developed a mix of garrison and field techniques to effectively manage maintenance and other logistics functions. What follows are the highlights of the FSC's support of TF 2-8 CAV in Baghdad.

Because the task force's location was static, with all of its companies operating out of a combined motor pool, the maintenance assets of the task force were retained under the control of the FSC and the maintenance control officer. This allowed for cross-leveling of workloads and gave a single company or section additional flexibility to surge in order to meet their mission timelines. In a normal environment, the combat repair teams in the FSC's maintenance platoon would be attached to the task force's companies. However, the conditions in Baghdad called for different techniques.

The combat repair team for each company remained intact, and its team chief was responsible for all of the vehicles within that company. Those responsibilities included services, unscheduled maintenance, and quality assurance and quality control (QA/QC) of the team's vehicles for dispatch. The maintenance and service section was responsible for maintenance of FSC and headquarters and headquarters company (HHC) vehicles, with the exception of light tracked vehicles. The recovery section was given the mission of maintaining all light tracks and performing all required fabrication. Because of the reduced number of tanks (compared to the task force's normal complement) and the limited number of recovery missions, the recovery section had the manpower and the time to take on the light tracked vehicle maintenance mission.

To support its mission requirements, the task force made the decision to dispatch vehicles for 7-day periods. Before dispatching the vehicles, the maintenance team conducted a detailed QA/QC of the vehicles and identified and corrected any faults. The most common deficiencies found were suspension and drive train faults. The heat and the poor quality of roads in Iraq, combined with the weight of added armor, put additional stress on M998-series HMMWVs and required that they be monitored closely.

Operators were still required to do daily preventive maintenance checks and services (PMCS) on their vehicles to identify emerging problems during the week between dispatches. Vehicles also were washed weekly at the washrack available at the forward operating base (FOB). (Units deployed to Iraq should procure portable steam cleaners when a washrack is not available.) As a result of the poor sanitary conditions in Baghdad, thorough cleaning of vehicles was needed to protect soldiers from illnesses caused by exposure to raw sewage.

In addition to daily and weekly maintenance, TF 2-8 CAV implemented an aggressive and rigid service program. Beginning with its first week in Baghdad, the task force conducted services that equaled or exceeded the services performed in a garrison environment. To accomplish this, the service calendar was included in the weekly planning conducted by the task force S-3. Just like combat patrols, services were placed on the daily mission list and were executed at the platoon level. For that period of time, the platoon's sole focus was on services.

When tank services could not be conducted at the platoon level during periods of increased operating tempo, those services were shifted to the section level. This allowed combat forces to remain available for employment by the task force commander while permitting the FSC to maintain the service schedule.

The services performed included all aspects of platoon or section operations. Problems with vehicles, weapons, night-vision devices, and communications equipment, as well as personnel matters, could be resolved during the performance of services. Because of the Force XXI concept reorganization, both organizational and direct support personnel were available at all times to focus on services. Services for a HMMWV-mounted platoon were scheduled for 4 days, while a tank platoon was allocated 7 days.

In addition to normal service items, fluids were changed more frequently than under normal conditions and suspension components were checked and replaced more frequently. These two aspects of preventive maintenance seemed especially effective in avoiding more serious maintenance and repair problems and equipment downtime.

Resupply Operations

The missions assigned to TF 2-8 CAV varied significantly and required the FSC to be prepared to support the complete spectrum of operations. FSC missions ranged from preparing and forwarding the traditional logistics packages (LOGPACs) to distributing humanitarian aid to running a weapons buyback program.

Through planning and experience, the FSC developed a number of tactics, techniques, and procedures to increase flexibility and timeliness in responding to the changing operational environment. In the period of an hour, the task force often shifted from full-scale combat to consequence management and distribution of humanitarian assistance to Iraqis. Perhaps the most effective tool in supporting those shifts was the effective use of load-handling systems (LHSs) and flatracks.

To maintain flexibility, the FSC built preconfigured flatracks to support the most frequently performed missions. The FSC maintained the following flatracks at all times to be able to respond quickly to rapidly changing situations--

* Six flatracks of class IV materials, each with 120 rolls of concertina wire, 20 pickets, 2 Jersey barriers, and 2 rolls of barbed wire.

* Two flatracks of packaged class III (petroleum, oils, and lubricants) and class V (ammunition) for small arms.

* Two flatracks of water and meals, ready to eat (MREs).

* One flatrack of portajohns and trash containers.

* One flatrack of humanitarian daily rations.

* One flatrack with a military-owned demountable container (MILVAN) of water.

Based on the mission requirement, the FSC was able to pick up the appropriate flatracks and deliver the required support rather than configure the needed loads after the mission was received.

Resupply operations for the task force varied from providing LOGPACs to operating modified supply point distribution. Because of the smaller number of tanks in the task force and the smaller battlespace (as small as 4 square kilometers for the battalion), in many situations a single refuel point was established for the entire task force. In those cases, the fuelers usually set up on a major road that was blocked off for fueling operations. This allowed for easy defense and accessibility to the fuelers. Class V and packaged class III supplies were pushed forward at the same time to meet requests presented during the daily logistics net call. Depending on the enemy situation, refueling also could be set up at a nearby FOB to allow for 24-hour fuel availability. In such cases, MILEs, water, class V, and packaged class III were made available for issue at the FOB.

For extended operations, class I (subsistence) was pushed forward to the companies so they could be fed out of their patrol bases. Typically, the meals were dropped off and the supply sergeants returned immediately to the FOB under the escort of the Supply and Transport Platoon leader; the mermite food containers then were picked up when the next meal was dropped off. This reduced the time pressure on the companies to feed their soldiers as well as the time that the supply trucks, which lacked armor, were exposed to a hostile environment.