It is no secret the Indo-Pacific presents complex challenges for logistics and requires growth, repositioning, and changes to how we traditionally implement sustainment. As leaders identified the need to shift focus to the Pacific to counter growing regional threats, logisticians across the Pacific responded by continuing to develop creative solutions to set the theater dynamically. The commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command has challenged his leaders across the component commands to think, act, and operate differently. Whether a policy requires an exception or laws need to change, leaders should be open and think outside the box while searching for feasible solutions to set the theater. As a land component in the Pacific, the Army understands the requirement to create interior lines to enable a dynamic theater distribution and sustainment system to set the theater. Leaders in the sustainment enterprise have taken the lead by utilizing Operation Pathways, the U.S. Army Pacific Command’s (USARPAC’s) annual operation involving thousands of Army forces rehearsing strategic movement, operational maneuver, and tactical employment of land forces throughout the Pacific, and the dynamic employment of Army pre-position stock (APS) to rapidly test our ability to receive, distribute, exercise, and regenerate our equipment. The 8th Theater Sustainment Command (TSC) and the Army Sustainment Command (ASC) executed precise coordination between multiple sustainment headquarters to support this effort.
Utilizing APS is more complex than drawing equipment from a combined training center. Approvals, coordination, and timely movements have to occur seamlessly for USARPAC to receive APS to employ during Operation Pathways. Fortunately, during last year’s Operation Pathways, USARPAC, with the support of the 8th TSC and ASC units, conducted a proof of principle (POP) in the Philippines, exercising a small sample of APS. Building on observations learned from the POP, the 402nd Army Field Support Brigade (AFSB) — serving as the theater AFSB — led the coordination efforts on behalf of the ASC, synchronizing with teammates from the 403rd and 404th AFSBs, who played vital roles in the execution of reconfiguration and handover of equipment to USARPAC units. The 402nd received USARPAC’s demand signal for APS, and command and staff at echelon looked for creative ways to optimize employment while simultaneously creating the multiple dilemmas we would ultimately face in crisis and conflict. Army Field Support Battalion-Charleston seized the opportunity of resetting APS on the USNS Watson to reconfigure the vessel stow plan to allow for the dynamic employment of the requested equipment for Operation Pathways. This process enabled a seamless and efficient download at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Multiple rehearsal of concept (ROC) drills were conducted to synchronize enterprise support, culminating with the ASC ROC drill conducted in Rock Island, Illinois. This collaboration allowed the commanding generals from the 8th TSC, ASC, Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, Army Contracting Command, and the sustainment enterprise to receive briefs from their staffs and ensure conditions were established for a successful operation.
Creating multiple logistics dilemmas was one of this operation’s training objectives. Crisis and conflict require full utilization of troop labor, underscoring the importance and ability to source and leverage vital strategic contracting capabilities. Requirements to utilize the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP) in support of Operation Pathways were generated to exercise the process and test the capabilities and limitations in the theater, including, but not limited to, the preparation of equipment for the Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry, and inspections before Talisman Saber 23. Although LOGCAP was utilized in previous Operation Pathways, every location has unique challenges, such as the amount of skilled labor available, maintenance, and storage facilities. Knowing the battlefield and the capabilities and limitations of the multiple locations in the Indo-Pacific we could operate from during crisis and conflict is vital to our ability to rapidly scale our distribution and sustainment networks before the time of need. Exercising our contract capabilities and agreements enables leaders to confirm or deny assumptions to better inform our plans and allow leaders to properly resource requirements to continuously set the theater of operations. For example, suppose an Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement, Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement, or a Mutual Logistics Support Agreement is exercised and deemed adequate. In that case, leaders can shift potential military construction projects or contracting resources to another location to ensure our limited resources are used to maximize sustainment in the Indo-Pacific.
Demonstrating the ability and willingness to employ APS rapidly reinforces Army resolve in the Indo-Pacific theater. It sends a clear message to our allies and partners of our commitment to respond during crises and conflicts. Furthermore, it displays the Army’s ability to continue creating the interior lines required to support a robust and dynamic distribution and sustainment network required in the Indo-Pacific theater. Leaders from the 8th TSC and the ASC are committed to thinking, acting, and operating differently to support the Army and the joint force. Most importantly, rapid and seamless sustainment efforts, such as the dynamic employment of APS, provide a constant deterrent to our potential enemies. In a radio address to the nation on the observance of Armed Forces Day on May 21, 1983, President Ronald Reagan stated, “The most fundamental paradox is that if we’re never to use force, we must be prepared to use it and to use it successfully.” These words remain true today, and logisticians in the Pacific continue displaying the fortitude, willingness, and tenacity required to deter those who seek war and conflict in the Pacific.
Col. Erik C. Johnson currently serves as the commander of the 402nd Army Field Support Brigade. He has a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of North Georgia and a master’s degree from the National Defense University and the Army War College.
Maj. Mark A. Yore serves as the brigade executive officer for the 402nd Army Field Support Brigade. He has a bachelor’s degree in speech communication from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and a master’s in global and international studies from the University of Kansas. He is a graduate of the Army Command and General Staff College.
This article was published in the Summer 2023 issue of Army Sustainment.