FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii - Leaders from the 8th Theater Sustainment Command headquarters looked back in time Tuesday as they studied the logistical operations in Vietnam during a leader professional development session at the Hale Ikena.

The session focused on the challenges of supply and logistics in 1968, following the Tet Offensive and at a time when America was at its height of involvement with more than 500,000 soldiers in Vietnam.

"During my research almost everything was brand new," said Lt. Col. Dawn Romero, who led the working group that developed the professional development session.

Although there is a lot of information available on Vietnam, she said that most of it focused on combat rather than logistics. However, beneath the combat, she said that Vietnam was "a story of remarkable logistical achievements."

"The war in Vietnam was asymmetrical and unlike anything we had trained for," Romero said.

During Vietnam, sustainers faced substantial challenges in a country with jungles, marshlands and mountains. However, she said that no major tactical operations failed due to logistics.

The session also highlighted logistics concepts that are still in use today, such as prepositioned stocks, computer automation, "air bridges" of continuous resupply by air instead of land or sea, and logistics-over-the-shore operations that move supplies from ocean-going ships to troops ashore.

"There are many lessons learned that we can pull from this time period and many parallels that we can draw to 8th TSC missions," Romero said.

Enemy logistics methods were also presented; in fact the North Vietnamese Army even designated a supply group based on Chinese military structure.

Maj. Gen. Stephen Lyons, 8th TSC commander, spoke to the group after the presentation. He said there were "a lot of lessons that we can take away."

He pointed out to the group that sustaining forces to operate in non-contiguous terrain and littoral environments is still a challenge the Army faces today.

For many attendees, the highlight of the event was getting a chance to speak with four Vietnam veterans who manned a display with Vietnam-era weapons, uniforms, rations and other gear. Lyons recognized the Vietnam veterans after the presented them with coins in appreciation for not just their attendance, but their service to the nation.

Romero said that one key resource in the research was the book "Vietnam Studies: Logistic Support" by Lt. Gen. Joseph M Heiser, commander of the 1st Logistical Command in Vietnam from 1968-1969. The book is available online from the Center for Military History at http://www.history.army.mil/books/Vietnam/logistic/

Page last updated Wed November 6th, 2013 at 00:00