By Spc. Christopher M. Gaylord, 13th Public Affairs DetachmentMarch 13, 2009
The foundation of any professional fighting force is its logistics system. Like with a house, a military's operational success depends entirely upon its ability to sufficiently support itself.
Over the past year, with the assistance of U.S. forces, the Iraqi military has made significant strides regarding its logistical capabilities and is well on its way to self-sufficiency.
"As of January 1, we stopped providing them fuel and repair parts, and we're still seeing operations go on, which means they must be sustaining themselves to the largest degree," said Col. Ed Dorman, C4, Multi-National Corps - Iraq.
The country's military - primarily its army - has improved its capacity with each successive operation, applying new tactics and techniques based on strengths and weaknesses. One such weakness, Dorman said, rested in the army's logistical planning.
Dorman explained that during Basra, for example, the majority of the Iraqi army's supplies remained in one central location, which was within the heart of some serious enemy threats.
"Now, they plan for backup locations and try to do some distribution. So, they've gotten better with each operation as far as how they plan in advance as well," Dorman said. "They've begun to plan and understand exactly what they need for the force that's going in there."
These lessons are the result of an extensive partnership between the U.S. military and the army over the past 12 to 15 months, during which assets such as logistics training and advisory teams have been developed to assist this country in the midst of its military's early years.
LTATs - a means of partnership that didn't previously exist - provide consistent advice and logistical training to Iraqi army units in the field. These teams work with military transition teams and their Iraqi partners to assess the proficiency of Iraqi units and, based on those assessments, plan training and engage key leaders for any needed resources, Dorman said.
If Iraqi soldiers are in need of any specific task-related training, such as driver's or mechanic training, LTATs also arrange for experts from their brigade support battalions to provide that block of instruction.
In recent months, the IA's very own Ground Transportation Regiment, occasionally assisted by LTATs, has successfully executed multiple transport missions of equipment and supplies from its central supply depot to units in the field. This asset is a significant testament to the growth of the army's logistical competence.
"The [GTR] units consist of both tractor-trailer units and heavy equipment transport units, in addition to its own security company," said Col. Daniel Leatherman, senior advisor for Camp Taji, Joint Headquarters Army Advisory Training Team, who recently accompanied Lt. Gen. Mitchell Stevenson, the Army's senior logistics advisor, on a tour throughout the Iraqi army's central hub for logistics, Taji National Supply Depot.
Perhaps the most telltale sign of achieved progress with the army, the depot consists of multiple maintenance and supply facilities, through which all supplies in country pass and the most extensive levels of vehicle maintenance are performed, primarily by Iraqis.
"Virtually all incoming supplies are routed through the supply depot," said Col. Michael Sage, J4, Multi-National Security Transition Command - Iraq. "On the maintenance side, Taji is currently the only place where the highest level of maintenance will be performed."
In spite of the improvements within the IA, Dorman admits there is still much work to be done before the army can autonomously support its fielded units.
"We need to continue to focus on our partnership and evolve our partnership," Dorman said. "Because of the security agreement implementation, everything has to be a bilateral operation, and I think that will help us, because our actual logistics units should be partnered, executing logistics tasks with their Iraqi counterparts."