By Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jeremie Coleman Sr.October 1, 2019
The Army is the Department of Defense's executive agent for Class IIIB (bulk petroleum/oil). For the last several years of the 17-year prolonged conflict, the Army has operated on a Forward Operating Base concept, receiving fuel support from the Defense Logistics Agency's contracted supply and distribution system. When the United States Central Command started rebuilding efforts in Iraq in 2015, the Army leadership realized how difficult it is to get bulk fuel into resource-constrained environments that are contract-centric with restrictive ground movement and force management levels. The Army's warfighter exercise program further highlights the difficulties that will be faced distributing fuel on tomorrow's decisive action battlefield. During warfighter exercise (WFX) 19-4 conducted at Fort Hood, Texas, recently, the scenario played out against a near-peer competitor with long-range artillery that can target Corps' Support Area Command Posts.
At the III Corps sustainment rehearsal for WFX 19-4, the III Corps Deputy Commanding General for Support, Maj. Gen. Felix Gedney, provided clear context for the importance of class IIIB when he stated, "Having fuel will not win the battle but running out of gas will lose the war, so don't let the tanks go dry."
For the Army to maintain a balance between the momentum of maneuver and the delivery of fuel to combat platforms influencing the fight, less familiar delivery and storage methods are required. Pipelines, assault hose lines, and fuel bags are essential sustainment multipliers to winning large-scale combat operations (LSCO).
OUR SUSTAINMENT CHALLENGE
LSCO are intense, lethal, and brutal, and present the greatest challenge for our Army as described in Field Manual 3-0. In February 2018, at the Army Leader Exchange, Lt. Gen. Michael Lundy, current Combined Arms Center commanding general, said, "In order to win in large-scale combat operations we have to be able to present multiple dilemmas to an adversary across all domains (land, air, maritime, space, cyber, and virtual) and be able to get more positions of relative advantage faster. We must identify how to achieve combat power overmatch at the right time and place." To gain a relative advantage faster, timely logistics must be provided to our combat forces.
Our greatest sustainment challenge with fuel is distribution along extended lines of communication within restrictive routes of mobility. As the name implies, fuel is bulky, fluid and heavy. Fixed and rotary wing transport of fuel delivers limited quantities and, when supplying an armored corps, is similar to filling a 55 gallon barrel with a tea cup. The environments that the Army must operate in are commonly contested with austere operating conditions, limited distribution assets, extended lines of communication, limited energy resources, restricted supply routes, unimproved roads, and may require access through multiple countries (recent examples include Operation Atlantic Resolve and the Trans-Arabic Network). Despite the complexity of the operating environment, sustainers must deliver fuel to the ground and aviation forces operating in the area of operations.
The techniques used to overcome our challenges in petroleum supply operations are found in Army Techniques Publication (ATP) 4-43, Petroleum Supply Operations. The principal audience for ATP 4-43 is personnel of all grades and levels performing in petroleum supply positions. A bulk petroleum distribution system is a combat enabler composed of equipment needed to provide bulk fuel to using units throughout a theater of operations. This system includes ocean tanker loading and unloading facilities, storage terminals, pump station, the Inland Pipeline Distribution System (IPDS), tank vehicles, and tank cars. The Offshore Petroleum Distribution System (OPDS) is the responsibility of the U.S. Navy, and it provides bulk fuel to the high-water mark on shore where their system will interface with the Army or Marine Corps' bulk petroleum distribution system.
WARFIGHTER EXERCISE FUEL DISTRIBUTION CHALLENGES
Available Assets: During mission analysis, the 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command (ESC) fuel and water section identified every petroleum unit and their associated bulk fuel platforms authorizations that we could use to execute the inland fuel distribution plan. Type of fuel units included Petroleum Support Companies, Composite Supply Companies, 5K POL Transportation Companies, Petroleum Pipeline Terminal Operating Companies and a Quartermaster Battalion. Fuel assets within these units deemed critical to the bulk fuel theater distribution mission included the 5K tankers, fuel system supply points, assault hose lines and the IPDS. However, although we had a plethora of fuel capabilities, the greatest task would be to effectively employ all of our assigned units and equipment in a way that would best support units operating within the Joint Operation Area.
Increasing Lines of Sustainment: As units move closer to pre-determined objectives, sustainment lines of communication will inevitably increase as a result. The competing demands for multiple commodities to be delivered at the same place at the same time also play a factor in sustainment lines of communication. Increasing and prioritizing the movement of commodities becomes critical in ensuring that commanders' needs are met to maintain momentum. Although within the task organization we had a robust tanker truck capability we understood that the question was not, "Do we have enough mobile distribution assets?" but rather, "How would time, space, and terrain impact our ability to deliver timely bulk fuel to our customers?"
Restrictive Terrain: Within this particular operating environment, we had to consider various terrain constraints that would hinder our ability to rapidly deliver bulk fuel to the forward operating units. Moving a convoy of 5K tankers or positioning pipelines across mountainous terrain has a high potential of becoming problematic. What should take a few hours could easily become a full- day operation and, in turn, risk units supporting the tactical fight forward becoming critically low on bulk fuel. In addition to traveling across mountainous terrain, the requirement to cross rivers and streams adds an additional problem set to terrain constraints. It is imperative that we have a comprehensive plan that includes refueling upon completion of the wet gap crossing (WGX).
Route Congestion and Crossing Point Congestion: As demand increases and more commodities are called forward to support current and future requirements while damaged combat platforms and other supplies are retrograded, routes will become overly congested and some commodities will risk being cut due to the limited road network our distribution platform capabilities can support.
SOLVING THE PROBLEM
Synch Matrix: Using the Combined Arms Support Command approved quick logistics estimation tool we were able to forecast bulk fuel requirements for the divisions within the Corps. We then used the forecasts to program out 96 hours to 120 hours to de-conflict equipment availability and route restrictions to ensure the ESC could support the forward momentum. We would routinely validate requirements based on a 12-hour logistics status submittal timeline that enabled us to refine standing transportation movement orders as units either validated and/or updated their daily bulk fuel requirements.
Flexible Task Organization: The task organizations must be adaptable to the current mission and operating environment. In conjunction with our ESC Support Operations logistics syncs the identification of increased or decreased requirements within units would drive task organization change recommendations for the ESC commander to approve or disapprove during the daily decision board. It is imperative to continually review capability requirements across the force to ensure enough time is provided from task organization change approval to the time the capability is required at the new location to allow for movement of the unit.
IPDS: IPDS is defined as a multi-product system consisting of both commercially available and military standard petroleum equipment. It is a deployable International Organization for Standardization container configured, general support, bulk fuel storage and pipeline system that can be assembled by military personnel, and when assembled into an integrated petroleum distribution system, provides the military with the capability required to support an operational force with bulk fuels.
In austere environments where bulk fuel facilities do not already exist, the tactical petroleum terminal (TPT) will store and provide the required quantities of fuel. The IPDS is used to move bulk fuel as far forward in the theater as practical. The developed theater consists of existing bulk fuel facilities that may or may not have to be augmented to provide the required quantities of fuel. If the system has to be augmented, the IPDS pipeline and TPT fuel units will be used. Distribution equipment includes the equipment used to transport fuel throughout an area of operations to the using units.
Our plan during WFX 19-4 included constructing IPDS as far forward as possible to relieve approximately 288 personnel and 144 tankers from the road networks which gave us the flexibility to meet other mission requirements.
OPDS: The OPDS was designed by and for the U.S. Navy, for use with the Army's IPDS or with the Marine Corps' tactical fuel system. The petroleum products are delivered from the offshore tanker to forces onshore where ports or terminal facilities are damaged, inadequate, or nonexistent such as joint logistics over-the-shore operations. Each tanker is manned by a civilian merchant crew. As the operation progressed we planned to call forward the OPDS in order to provide bulk fuel to a separate location were no existing bulk fuel infrastructure was available. However, the OPDS has the capability to provide a daily bulk fuel push that exceeds what most ground combat operations require.
The Navy Off-Shore supply ship that was available for our use was capable of providing 1.7 million gallons per day from up to eight miles offshore in all bottom conditions in significantly higher sea states than the old system. These new ships utilize dynamic positioning, which requires no anchoring system. The vessel can maintain ship position within two meters using thrusters and screws. In less than 48 hours, the crew can run the full length of conduit ashore from the ship's bow, run a float hose to a tanker from the ship's stern and be ready to begin pumping fuel. The system is installed by civilian crews with the assistance of naval support personnel. The ship provides the hose and pumping capability for a separate fuel tanker, which provides petroleum product for transfer to shore.
Assault Hoseline System (AHS): When reviewing the mission of having to execute a WGX we considered the AHS as a viable option until the IPDS could be fully constructed. Using this concept enabled us to position fuel across the WGX in preparation of providing fuel to units as they cross the WGX. Petroleum units use assault hose lines over short distances to replace or supplement vehicle delivery. This reduces the number of trucks on the main and secondary supply routes while ensuring petroleum requirements are met efficiently and effectively. The lines must be patrolled sufficiently to reduce and mitigate sabotage and theft. Generally, hose-lines can be installed rapidly and be in an operational condition in much less time than pipelines. The AHS is a mobile petroleum distribution system used to transfer large quantities of fuel between temporary bulk storage sites at varying distances up to 2.5 miles over various terrains for one AHS.
Assuming Divisional FSSPs: In efforts to decrease sustainment lines of communication for bulk fuel we implemented a plan that called for our forward sustainment brigades (SBDEs) and their associated combat services support battalion to emplace their on hand fuel system supply point (FSSPs) while multiple bulk fuel pushes were synchronized with the theater supporting SBDE to provide fuel to the tankers and to the emplaced FSSPs. This enabled units to have increased bulk fuel stocks readily available and to conduct the initial build of a future Logistics Support Area fuel farm, convoy support center and/or a rapid refueling point. A rear area supporting SBDE would provide a replacement FSSP(s) to the forward operating sustainment unit prior them moving to their next objective. Additionally, a rear operating sustainment unit would take command of the emplaced FSSP and increase capacity and stocks as necessary.
WFX 19-4 LESSONS LEARNED
Creative Planning and Submittal of Requests for Forces: Designing a bulk petroleum distribution network for a theater that will meet the warfighter ever evolving requirements will require out-of-the-box critical thinking. We must always use doctrine as a guide, but experience and ingenuity are paramount to developing robust support plans. During WFX 19-4, thorough mission analysis and planning efforts that occurred prior to executing the exercise helped to successfully sustain theater class IIIB stocks above 84 percent and prevented any major shortfalls. We used existing Host Nation facilities and pipelines to augment our bulk fuel distribution network, enabling us to deploy our assets farther forward where over 95 percent of the bulk fuel requirements were generated. If your current task organization does not already have sufficient capabilities, submit requests for forces to higher headquarters. Our ability to request additional units that brought fuel transport, pipeline, FSSPs and replacement fuel bags capabilities served to be very beneficial in maintaining adequate fuel inventories across the theater.
Rehearse the Plan: As sustainment plans are developed, Rehearsal of Concept (ROC) Drills allow sustainers to better visualize and understand the plan and to identify potential shortfalls. We were able to refine our plan after executing multiple sustainment ROC Drills, allowing us to focus on sustainment of bulk fuel 96 hours and beyond.
Review the Plan: We continued to review our plan and daily asked the question, "Who else needs to know?" As new requirements emerged, we quickly disseminated all known information across the commands that ensured we all had a shared understanding of a fluid bulk fuel distribution plan.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jeremie C. Coleman Sr. currently serves as the 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command Senior Petroleum Systems Technician. He is a graduate of University of Maryland University College with a Master of Science in Management--Acquisition and Supply Chain Management.
This article appears in the October-December 2019 issue of Army Sustainment.