Unconventional Logistics in Afghanistan

By CPT Maci FarleyDecember 31, 2016

Unconventional Logistics in Afghanistan
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Unconventional Logistics in Afghanistan
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As logisticians, we are constantly presented with new challenges which require us to employ unconventional logistics to sustain the fight. After 13 years of combat operations in Afghanistan, Operation Enduring Freedom transitioned to Operation Freedom's Sentinel on December 31, 2014. The primary mission set of Operation Freedom's Sentinel is to Train, Advise, and Assist the Afghan National Defense Security Forces (ANDSF) in order to develop a capable and independent Afghan security force that can protect the Afghan people and contribute to regional and international security. This transition, coupled with the ongoing drawdown of U.S. Troops to 8,400, has drastically increased the U.S. Military's dependence on contracts to execute sustainment operations across Afghanistan. Therefore, the single sustainment headquarters in theater, the 1ST Cavalry Division Resolute Support Sustainment Brigade (1CD RSSB), has increasingly incorporated unconventional logistics into its concept of support.

Helmand Province continues to be a Taliban stronghold and a primary focal point for the Resolute Support Headquarters in Afghanistan. In August 2016, the Taliban interdicted a main supply route between a strategic NATO base in southern Afghanistan and a U.S. tactical base in Helmand Province, severely restricting freedom of movement and the U.S. military's ability to conduct ground resupply to the tactical base through contracted ground distribution. Under Operation Freedom's Sentinel, neither the U.S. Military nor Coalition Forces are authorized to clear and secure the route for the ANDSF; they can only Train, Advise, and Assist while the ANDSF executes. To date, the ANDSF has not been able to clear and hold portions of the respective supply route. This has had operational-level impacts since this tactical base is the primary hub for U.S. Forward Arming and Refuel Point (FARP) operations in Helmand Province. In the fall of 2016, the base's fuel requirement was over a quarter of a million U.S. Gallons (USG) per month. Each day the base did not receive fuel via ground, on hand quantities quickly diminished.

As logisticians in the RSSB worked diligently to identify a long-term solution, they immediately bridged the gap with U.S. Military aviation assets to deliver fuel to the tactical base, sustaining the bulk fuel requirement through Wet Wing operations via fixed wing aircraft, FATCOW operations via CH-47, and fuel blivet distribution. With competing supply and personnel distribution requirements across theater, the requirement to support one US site with aerial bulk fuel resupply severely stressed both U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army aviation assets within Afghanistan. Simultaneously, the ANDSF continued to unsuccessfully attempt to hold portions of the supply route between the two bases in southern Afghanistan, driving the need for a long-term aerial resupply solution.

Our strategic partner, NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA), which is a "no profit, no loss" organization that provides sustainment solutions to NATO stakeholders, immediately provided a solution. In September 2016, NSPA brought a Russian IL-76 airframe into theater that had an in-cabin bulk fuel storage tank and pump unit with the capability to download enough bulk fuel to sustain above the tactical base's daily requirement in one turn. The IL-76 flew missions to and from the tactical base in order to alleviate the stress on U.S. Military aviation assets. Within 12 days, the on hand fuel quantities went from "red" to "green." The 1CD RSSB is currently working closely with NSPA to maintain "green" stockage levels that align with U.S. CENTCOM policy. Since mid-September, the NSPA IL-76 has aerially delivered over 1 million USG of fuel to the tactical base.

Moving forward, the 1CD RSSB will utilize the NSPA Aerial Bulk Fuel Resupply service contract on an enduring basis to support this requirement. Not only does the current contract enable services at the tactical base, but it also incorporates the ability to conduct aerial bulk fuel resupply on order at unspecified locations across Afghanistan. Ultimately, this provides the U.S. Forces-Afghanistan Commander with a flexible sustainment plan, ensuring that there is an alternate course of action for bulk fuel resupply if and when the enemy interdicts ground lines of communication. As the situation in Afghanistan continues to evolve, logisticians must continue to think outside of the box and employ unconventional logistics in order to sustain the fight.