Transcript: ACOET media roundtable with 21st TSC, May 19, 2023

By U.S. Army Public AffairsMay 23, 2023

Moderator: Jason Waggoner, OCPA Media Relations Division

MG Smith:  --Sustainment Command, in dialed in--or at least sitting around the table with me here is a host of leaders who round out the organization. And collectively, what we do is provide the overarching sustainment to the European continent, and at times in Africa as well. We are the Sustainment Arm of US Army, Europe, and Africa, to a variety of missions in that regard. Currently, we're supporting operations with respect to materiel that's headed to Ukraine. We also support our rotational forces that are--come in and out of theater. That is part of our enduring mission as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve. And then we're also integrally involved in the defender exercise series that's ongoing right now. And then--and then just lastly, you know, we make continued efforts to what we call, set the theater, and ensure that we've got the right sustainment capability, you know, there in Europe. And so, I will pause there. Again, thanks. This is a tremendous opportunity for us. And we'd be happy to take your questions.

Moderator: Okay. Thank you for that, sir. We'll go ahead and just really quick--Meredith did you get back on?

Meredith Roaten: Yes, I'm back on.

Moderator: Okay, terrific. We can hear you loud and clear. So, we'll go ahead and start with Meredith. And then from there, we'll go over to Sean Carberry after that. So go ahead, Meredith.

MR: Can you hear me okay?

Moderator:  We've got you loud and clear. Go ahead.

MR: Okay. Thank you. I was wondering if you can just give a general overview of the challenges with getting so much rocket artillery to Ukraine, and how--how production--the production ramp-up is going, and the sustainment theater command role in that production ramp-up. Thank you.

MG James Smith: Thanks, Meredith. I appreciate the question. And where I'd have to start off in the equation, I'll talk about the movement of artillery. And really, for us, our job is to get it, once it's approved, our job is to get it from, you know, the port of debarkation to wherever we're gonna--we're gonna transit through Europe and then onward to Ukraine. And so, for us, we don't really look at it as a challenge, we look at it as an opportunity. An opportunity to--to work alongside our host nation, partners, and allies. Because believe it or not, sometimes it's us material, but it's US soldiers, but it's also host nation support that's helping us move munitions in that direction of Ukraine. With respect to the armament and what's going on, really, that's beyond our purview, because our focus is really on intra-theater movement as a part of the Ukraine crisis. Hopefully, that's helpful for you.

MR: Yeah. Could I just follow up with--there's been some discussion about doing more production in theater and working with allies and partners. Could you talk about if that eventually becomes something that the Army is doing? More of--how would that help you as part of sustainment in your work in that?

MGJS: Yeah, so I can't speak specifically about what--what NATO’s doing, writ large about increasing production. Really, our focus is on working together as an alliance to move what has already been approved for movement. I will say that, in a broader capacity, the more we're able to leverage the capacity of our NATO allies’ capacity together, I think that's, that's a step in the right direction. It also creates, what I would consider redundancy, in our ability to sustain forces in the theater.

Moderator: Okay, sir. Thank you for that. We're gonna move on to Sean Carberry and then to Sam Skove.

Sean Carberry: Thank you. Can you just give some sense of what--what is the, I guess, the most limiting resource that you're dealing with in terms of whether it's certain availability of certain airframes to move things, of crew, of vehicles? What--what is the--the biggest impediment or what slows you down the most? And what can or is being done to address anything like that?

MGJS: Sure, no, great question. I think for us, over the last 15 months, it's really allowed us to seize an opportunity. I look at it as an opportunity to see ourselves. And we have been, even before the Ukraine--Ukraine crisis, now so more than evermore, we've been able to galvanize the relationships across our NATO partners and leverage the additional transportation capacity that we have both organically, in the US military, but also what our host nation partners can bring to bear as well. And so, I wouldn't say limiting per se, what I would say is an opportunity to expand on the solid relationships that we had before. And now, how do we work together as a team as a coalition to move the equipment that we--that we need to move? And I'll pause there to see if Colonel Lacroix our support operations officer may want to chime in?

COL Bud Lacroix: Yeah. Thank you for that question. I really appreciate it. And although I can't speak specifically to the--to the air mission that you referenced, but the ground movement, we've been able to leverage our military assets, our NATO partners, and our commercial partners in a massive way. And without that combined effort of everybody chipping in to make this a reality, we just couldn't do without all of our civilian and commercial partner. So, it's a great testament to the collective commitment.

SC: And just to follow then, are there at this point, any sort of lessons learned out of this, you know, having to do movement on this scale with this level of urgency that's feeding into any, you know, force design, equipment design, procurement, things like that going forward based on this experience?

CBL: So I can't speak to the force design and equipment modernization specifically, but what I can speak to is the partnerships and leveraging the human capital, you know, personally and the team of teams just building and reinforcing those individual relationships with our soldiers, our Department of Army civilians, our German local nationals, and their NATO counterparts, and the many, many countries that we are partnered with to--to move, not only the Presidential draw-down authority equipment, but the exercises, the numerous exercises that we have going on all the time.

Moderator: Okay, thank you for that. We'll move on to Tony next, and then followed--I'm sorry, we're gonna move on to Sam Skove, and then to Tony after that. So go ahead, Sam.

Sam Skove: Sure. Thanks. So, you talked a little bit about the commercial partners, and there was a great DoD IG report a while ago talking about how fast you guys were able to actually get all this equipment. Is relying on commercial partners something new for you guys? And do you anticipate making us a regular part of Army operations related to Ukraine?

CBL: This is Colonel Lacroix again. No, relying on commercial partners is not a new concept. And in fact, the United States TRANSCOM refers to the commercial industry as their fourth component. And that's not just in the States, but that's--that's everywhere we are, we leverage those relationships and leverage those assets for--for the missions that--that we all have.

SS: And then to follow up on that real quick, I mean, Russia has shown itself certainly willing in other countries to sabotage or interdict supplies, you know, munitions, explosions, things like that. Are you guys worried about Russia interdicting stocks, either through sabotage, or just using intelligence to try things off the Ukrainian border? And what sort of [crosstalk]

MGJS: Yeah, this is General Smith. What I would tell you is, with any occasional portfolio, we always have to keep the context of contested logistics in mind. And so, for all of our moves, we move with the sense that there's a possibility that the supply lines would be contested, and we look out for that and we absolutely take all facets of contestant logistics into consideration.

SS: Thanks.

Moderator: Okay, thank you, Tony. We'll move on to Steve Beynon next, followed by Kris Osborn.

Steve Beynon: Hey, appreciate you guys doing this. So, I was just curious how you look at sustainment with, you know, the European theater right now, which is a kind of a conventional modern war and how it's changed from supporting the GWA Era. What--what are those differences in consideration and SOPs and stuff like that?

MGJS: Yeah, Steve, that’s a great question. And really what we're seeing right now, and it's not, again, this is not just about Ukraine. It started before Ukraine, but Ukraine has allowed us to see ourselves and help capitalize on some of the lessons learned. But really, this is a portion of our pivot from what you refer to as the coin fight that we had been in over the past 20 years to really sustaining large scale combat operations. And so what that means is we got to be able to see ourselves in terms of time and space and distance factors that we didn't necessarily have to deal with back when we were in Iraq and Afghanistan, because we were FOB centric type of organization, or that was the construct. So, we definitely got to take that into consideration. There's long distances that we have to travel. And with that, we got to even be more anticipatory in getting ahead of requirements that our warfighters may need. And hopefully that was helpful for you.

SB: Thank you. I didn't have a follow-up. I'm good.

Moderator: Okay. Thanks, Steve. Next is Kris Osborn. And then we will move to Ashley Roque.

Kris Osborn:  Oh, yes. Hello. Thank you. Thanks for doing this. Two quick things. One, in a general sense, it's maybe kind of obvious, but what are the activities? What's the scope of involvement? How many soldiers and personnel? And what kinds of activities are there? Convoys, equipment preparation, delivery? What else beyond that? Is there any training of Ukrainians on how to work with equipment? That kind of thing?

MGJS: Yeah. So, great question. And I'll do my best. And I'll pass it around to others that may have additional insights. And so, you spoke at--or your question gets right at the core of really why we exist, and who's doing it. And it's the people that's most important. So behind every mission that you may see there's a human, and there's an operator that's making it happen, whether it's a U.S. military, whether it's one of our local national employees, whether it's one of our Department of Army civilians, or our host nation folks that are supporting us that each one of our different modes. There are a bunch of people there that are making the mission happen. So, to describe it, there's thousands and thousands, I don’t want to put a number on it, but thousands and thousands of people that are working together to receive equipment at a certain port, to load the equipment on a certain conveyance, and then to move the equipment to its final destination. And all of that takes a lot of synchronization. And it comes together and the TSC for the U.S. Army is the headquarters that is synchronizing and integrating all that movement that I just described. And it's really not just about movement. So, you can talk supplies, you could talk maintenance, fill feeding. We pretty much cover all of the logistics functions underneath the 21st TSC.

KO: Excellent, excellent. Quick follow-up. That makes me think of sustainment and spare parts. But my question is about tanks. Last I heard there were something like 30 coming there reasonably quick. And then a production line. [crosstalk] Are you working on the timeframe for when export variants will arrive? And what the process is to get them there? And what kind of what--what kind of delivery schedule could we be looking at? It’s a matter of years, right?

MGJS: So, if you're talking about the tanks that are authorized to go to Ukraine, that's really beyond our purview. And I think I'm not in those conversations to really codify a timeline. What we work through is once we've been given a date, then we'll work the intra-theater, onward movement of that equipment.

Moderator: Okay, thank you, sir. We'll move on to Ashley and then to Matt Beinart. Go ahead, Ashley.

Ashley Roque: Hi. I wanted to ask about Army preposition stocks. And just sort of maybe some of the observations you've been making as you've been dealing with the ongoing operations in Ukraine, and potentially global implications of some of these observations.

CBL: Oh, that's great. And so, if you recall the vignette last year where we drew our reposition--preposition stocks for the First Brigade Third Infantry Division out of Fort Stewart, Georgia. That was just a remarkable feat at the time and, you know, how fast we were able to move, draw move, and some of that combat power to its follow-on training destination was, I'd say it was unprecedented. And so, I'm a staunch supporter of Army preposition stocks in theater. It's absolutely value added. And it shortens our time distance factors. And it really brings us to where we can match personnel and materiel at the point of being faster than we could bringing it from [inaudible]. And I've got Colonel Crystal Hills from the Army Field Support Brigade here, who's responsible for managing the APS stocks in theater. She may have more to add.

COL Crystal Hills: I would just add--we talked about positional advantage when it comes to the location of the APS stocks. That was key in our ability to support the current conflict. And the six sites that we currently have, not only help strengthen the force flow and the tempo in which we can support--support operations, but it also helps strengthen our alliances. That was talked about a bit earlier. So being--having sites across five countries in Europe, the workforce is a diverse workforce coming from four of those countries, that in and of itself, all those civilians help strengthen the relationships we have. These are families that we're impacting, and they daily see the impacts that they're having across their nations to support the efforts. So, it's a combined NATO effort.

AR: Thanks. And are there--have there been any recommendations or changes that you guys have put forward? And then any, I guess, feedback or thoughts on the floating APS? I don't know to what extent you been looking at that or using it. But I have heard there's been some challenges getting the equipment in the country. So, I didn't know if you had anything on that.

MGJS: Yeah, so for us in theater, the most recent development is our new Army preposition site in Poland that was just commissioned and so that'll give us, again, a different location to operate from. For the floating APS, that's a little bit beyond our purview and out of our theater right now, so I can't comment directly on that.

Moderator: All right, sir. Thank you for that. We'll move over to Matthew Beinart, and then to Gina Cavallaro. So go ahead, Matthew.

Matthew Beinart: Great, thank you. And I just had a quick follow up question on the Abrams tanks if you can get into it. But the Pentagon has confirmed that the 30 or so tanks for training are now in place in Germany that will--that will be used to train the Ukrainian tank crews. So, you know, any details you can provide about the effort to get those there and how that kind of prepared for when the actual tanks that will go into Ukraine are expected to be delivered around this fall. So, any more details you can kind of provide on that. Thank you.

MGJS: Yeah, so for the training tanks, you’re absolutely right. So 21st TSC was integrally involved in the movement of those tanks to the training area. And as you know, those tanks will be used to train the Ukrainians. The other set that you're talking about, really that's beyond our scope. And again, once we get word of a timeline, we will absolutely be prepared and make good coordination with our folks and our host nation partners for the onward movement of that equipment.

MB: Okay, thank you.

Moderator: Okay, we’ll turn it over to Gina next, followed by Jen Judson. Go ahead, Gina.

Gina Cavallaro: Thank you, Jason. Hi, everybody. This is Gina Cavallaro from Army Magazine. I kind of want to go back to Kris Osborn's question about what you all are doing over there. I mean, the conflict in Ukraine has probably meant an uptick for you. Does that take the place of training? Is there more training happening with--with all that stuff? And General Smith, you said there were thousands and thousands of soldiers? I think that it would be great if you could even ballpark what you mean by thousands and thousands of soldiers, and how many of those are Guard and Reserve?

CBL: This is Colonel Lacroix. I can take the first part. I would say that despite the efforts of--the mass efforts to support operations in Ukraine, it does not stop us from training. In fact, right now we're supporting defender Europe 23, where we have over 7000 US soldiers and over 17,000 multinational partner soldiers involved in three intricate exercises throughout the continent. All while supporting Ukraine with no impact to mission whatsoever. So that's just a testament to the sheer willpower and the might of our--our Army, our Non-Commissioned Officers, and the spirit of our soldiers at large.

MGJS: And then, what I'd also add is because some of these missions are operational, it is still an opportunity to train in the context of an operational mission. And then getting back to the number of soldiers, there's thousands and thousands of soldiers within the 21st Theater Sustainment Command. And it's not just the soldiers, it's the soldiers, the Department of Army civilians, and our local nationals. And what I was really referring to is not just the folks that are in our command, but it's a lot of other entities and agencies that are helping us as an organization to complete the mission. I'd be hesitant to put a nice ballpark number on it, because I don't think I know the full extent of everybody that's contributing to this mission in a certain fashion, but I could just leave it at, with that context, that there's a lot of nations that are providing a lot of what I call workforce to make it happen. Hopefully, that's helpful.

GC: Yeah. I just kind of wanted to get an idea of within the 21st TFC, what is the size of your force? Also, do you support the multi-domain Task Force? And how do you do that?

MGJS: Yeah, sure. So, the Multidomain Task Force is underneath US Army Europe, and Africa and just like any other organization under US Army Europe and Africa, we provide sustainment support to them.

Moderator: Okay, sir, thank you for that. We’ll go to Jen Judson. Then I'll check to see if there's anybody else I missed. So go ahead, Jen.

Jen Judson: Thank you so much for doing this. I wanted to ask a little bit more on the defender exercise. And if you could dive into any specifics on what you're demonstrating this time? Are, you know, are you evaluating certain things related to contested logistics or upping the ante or pushing the envelope on anything in that exercise now?

CBL: Yeah, thanks, Jen. This is Bud Lacroix again. Great question. I appreciate that. With our part of Defender 23, it's our presence. It's our presence in several locations in Europe. It's the ability for the United States TRANSCOM to project and sustain a credible combat force to support General Cavoli’s desires to continue to train and continue to have that presence everywhere.

JJ: Yeah, but can you provide any specifics on what you're demonstrating? Like, you know, you're--it's taking place across this many countries, and you have to move equipment this far, over certain type of terrain, or, you know, [crosstalk]

CBL: Yeah. So, we are moving equipment across several countries to demonstrate that we can. To demonstrate our ability to go to several different seaports, to drive thousands of miles. Twenty allied countries are part of this exercise--allied countries and partners are part of this exercise. We're leveraging several seaports, several airports. We’re drawing APS equipment to support this exercise. We're exercising and practicing our interoperability with our NATO partners and allies. So, in all, it’s that diversity and being able to come together as a--as a coalition.

JJ: Okay, and just unrelated follow-up. On virtual maintaining effort that the Sustainment Command Theater has been engaged in during the operations in Ukraine so far, can you talk about whether that was used for repairs for the Patriot that was damaged? And also, how the virtual maintenance effort has expanded over time, especially since you're bringing in more complex equipment into Ukraine, like tanks?

MGJS: Yeah. Great--great question. And what I would say is with a lot of equipment, that we've provided, we provide a complement of remote diagnostic and maintenance capability. So, I can't speak specifically to the Patriot piece. But we look across the variety of equipment that's in country right now. And then, backstop in some instances with our ability to help, repair, diagnose and repair remotely. And we've got Chief Kim here, who was personally on the ground as part of the early parts of that remote maintenance capability.

CW-2 Kim: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, Chief Kim Sun from 87 DSSP. Third ID, Fort Stewart, Georgia. So, I can talk about little bit of a tele-maintenance that will be called that we initiated with the Ukraine maintainers [inaudible] By using the tele-maintenance that we assist them and advise the maintenance pieces of the equipment that was donated from the US Force. It started from the US donated the equipment only, to now it grow into the seven different platforms throughout the different countries. It allows us to change the system without having our ground force on foot in the actual action to assist them with the maintenance of pieces forward and assist the maintenance forward as well. So, hope that answered the questions of the concept of maintenance.

Moderator: Okay. Thank you for that. Is there anybody else on the line here that I have not called on?

Joseph Clark: Hey, this is Joe Clark from Defense Media Activity.

Moderator: Yeah, go ahead, Joe.

JC: Appreciate it. Hey, real quick, I just wanted to--you talked about kind of how this is a use case and the transition away from the GWA into kind of a more force-on-force conflict. Can you talk about how you're integrating those lessons learned wit-- with other theaters, if at all? I can't--I can't think of you know, maybe the Pacific? You know, that's mentioned quite a bit. I know, it's kind of, you know, each theater is gonna have its different challenges. But are there lessons learned that you see applying to--to these other potential conflicts?

MGJS: Yeah, Joe, thanks--thanks for that question. And I can tell you amongst all of at least by peers, across the Combatant Commands, we definitely share lessons learned. And, some of this is not just lessons out of Ukraine, some of this is really validating our doctrine and understanding that we may have to operate--we will, not may--we will operate in a contested environment. And so how do we provide that sustainment in a contested environment? And so, whether you're in the European theater in the Indo-Pacific, or whether you're operating in the CENTCOM area of operations, we all know that we are going to be challenged in some regard. And to that point earlier this week, down in Virginia, we just finished up what we call sustainment week, and you'll probably see some remnants of that, here shortly. But what I would say is, that week was really a gathering of professional sustainers in a forum to share lessons, not just from Ukraine, but from the Indo-Pacific that we can apply in the European theater. And so, it's not unidirectional. It's really how leaders come together to inform the Army on how we're going to sustain the Army globally.

JC: Amazing, thanks.

Moderator: Okay. Is there anybody else on the line that I've not called on?

Tony Bertuca: Tony Bertuca from Inside Defense.

Moderator: Okay. Sorry, Tony. Go ahead.

TB: Thank you very much for your time today. I really appreciate it. Two questions. My first is, the Pentagon says that it is undergoing the review right now, the value of all the equipment it has sent to Ukraine through presidential drawdown because there was a $3 billion accounting error. Is your team involved in that review? And what kind of communication have you received about that?

MGJS: Yeah, Tony, I appreciate the question. But my first response is we are not--absolutely not. No, what we’re involved in is whatever comes our way, in our ability to execute the movement of it.

TB: I’ll try another one.

MGJS: Okay.

TB: I'll try another one. The President said today that Ukraine is going to get F-16s. How does that complicate your mission then to sustain aircraft and move things like that?

MGJS: No. So, right now, I'm not tracking what you just said. I've been tied up in office calls. But right now, we're focused on the mission at hand and what we've been tasked to support and so I'd have to defer either back to the Army or to the Department of Defense for that answer.

TB: All right. Well, thank you very much.

Moderator: Okay, anybody else I've missed? Okay, not hearing things. That times things right up to our 30 minute timeline here. If there are any other questions that we didn't get you a response to, go ahead and email those to me. I'll work with the 21st TSC Public Affairs and we'll get responses to you as quickly as we can. Thank you to our panel members and thank you for everybody joining us today. Have a great rest of your day.