WASHINGTON (Army News Service) -- When Maj. Gen. Aundre F. Piggee took the helm of Logistics and Engineering, U.S. Central Command, he said the thing that surprised him most was the challenge of moving supplies and Soldiers from one country to another.

The reason he said he was so surprised is that the U.S. has been operating in CENTCOM continuously since Operation Desert Shield in 1990 and one would have thought that arrangements with partner nations would have been worked out by now.

But not so until recently, he said.

Piggee and others spoke June 2, here at the Association of the United States Army-sponsored Army Force Projection & Sustainment "hot topics" forum.

"I'm surprised we did not have the ground LOCs throughout the GCC," he said, meaning ground lines of communications through Gulf Cooperation Council countries of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman.

"It's amazing how important that is," he continued. "If we're going to be able to have a distribution network that works, we have to have redundant distribution networks. That gives us the capability and mitigates the risk that we have with our distribution networks."

By redundant, Piggee meant sea and air LOCs, as well as ground LOCs.

DISTRIBUTION NETWORK STARTED

Piggee said the initiative he worked on that he's most proud of is establishing a viable distribution network in CENTCOM. It's so important that it was even given a name: Trans Arabian Network, TAN for short. In addition to the GCC countries, TAN includes Egypt, Yemen, Israel and Jordan and besides a ground network, it includes sea and air routes.

With TAN in place in 2015, the network was tested, but didn't work right away, Piggee said. It's still not completely hassle-free. For instance, Kuwait still won't let U.S. planes fly in unless a customs request is submitted 10 days in advance, he said.

But progress is being made, he said. "We've agreed to move convoys from Aqaba, Jordan to Saudi Arabia, to Kuwait, to Bahrain, to Qatar, to the UAE. It's the first time we've ever had that happen."

Also, if overflights turn out to be a problem, then ground LOCs or sea routes could still be used, he said. That's the importance of having redundancy.

Maj. Gen. Paul C. Hurley, commander, 1st Theater Sustainment Command, was blunt. "We're working with uncooperative sovereign states that frankly may not have their own best interest in mind."

Despite that "TAN has dramatically improved over the last six months, testing boundaries and customs requirements. You don't know until you test it," he said.

The importance of troop and logistical movement within CENTCOM is particularly important, given "the growing volume and velocity of operations" in Iraq and Afghanistan, Hurley said, adding: "We're consuming materiel at unprecedented rates and in greater volume than was anticipated for two simultaneous MRCs [major regional conflicts]."

Rear Adm. Vincent L. Griffith, director, Defense Logistics Agency Logistics Operations, J3, said that with TAN in place, depots of prepositioned equipment are no longer service-centric.

For instance, Bahrain has always been thought of as the Navy's depot, but it isn't. It's a DLA depot that can house Army equipment there as well, Griffith said.

DLA, U.S. Transportation Command, the Army, the other services and coalition partners are working to make TAN work and that will benefit the entire region, he added.

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