Soldiers connect a pipeline to a pump station during Talisman Sabre 23 in Weipa, Australia, July 20, 2023.
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Soldiers connect a pipeline to a pump station during Talisman Sabre 23 in Weipa, Australia, July 20, 2023. (Photo Credit: Maj. Jonathon Daniell) VIEW ORIGINAL
Army mariners assigned to the 368th Seaport Operations Company and 331st Transportation Company construct a causeway adjacent to Merchant Vessel Maj. Bernard F. Fisher off the coast of Bowen, Australia, during Talisman Sabre July 29, 2023.
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Army mariners assigned to the 368th Seaport Operations Company and 331st Transportation Company construct a causeway adjacent to Merchant Vessel Maj. Bernard F. Fisher off the coast of Bowen, Australia, during Talisman Sabre July 29, 2023. (Photo Credit: Sgt. Ashunteia’ Smith) VIEW ORIGINAL

Warfighting is fundamental to the Army. World-class warfighting requires world-class multi-echeloned training that rehearses critical tasks and develops staff skills. Training must incorporate all warfighting functions — especially sustainment. The growth of near-peer competition in the Indo-Pacific theater demands Army logistics units train in ways that stretch and hone their skills while simultaneously preparing/setting the theater. This approach doesn’t fit into the structured and intensive training environments of combat training centers or warfighter exercises. Instead, Operation Pathways is the campaign that generates enough load to rehearse sustainment training objectives at echelon, integrate logistics with allies and partners, and facilitate the employment of Army pre-positioned stocks (APS) to set the theater.

Indo-Pacific Sustainment Challenges

Theater sustainment commands (TSCs) and expeditionary sustainment commands (ESCs) play pivotal roles in ensuring operational readiness within the Army. These entities are integral to the strategic framework of military logistics, particularly in the expansive and diverse Indo-Pacific theater. TSCs and ESCs provide the critical support backbone necessary for the successful execution of military operations, ranging from supply chain management to equipment maintenance and personnel services.

In the vast and complex landscape of the Indo-Pacific, the challenges faced by these commands are multifaceted. The region’s geographical expanse, coupled with a diverse range of operational environments from dense urban centers to remote island chains, necessitates a high degree of logistical agility and adaptability. Moreover, the strategic significance of the region, marked by heightened regional tensions and evolving security dynamics, underscores the criticality of sustainment operations in this theater.

Customizing training objectives for TSCs and ESCs is essential to prepare them for the unique challenges they face. Conventional training programs designed for more predictable environments are insufficient in addressing the dynamic and often unpredictable conditions in this region. As such, training for these commands must encompass a broad spectrum of scenarios, from rapid deployment and sustainment in austere environments to complex joint and multinational operations.

The training must also integrate modern technological advancements and logistical innovations to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of these commands. For instance, leveraging data analytics for supply chain optimization and incorporating advanced communication systems for better coordination across diverse terrains are critical areas for inclusion in training programs.

Effective training for TSCs and ESCs is not just about maintaining operational readiness; it’s about ensuring strategic superiority in a region critical to global security. The ability of these commands to sustain forces effectively under a variety of conditions directly impacts the Army’s capacity to project power and maintain a credible deterrent posture.

Operation Pathways

For sustainers, Operations Pathways is the U.S. Army Pacific Command exercise that connects exercises across the Indo-Pacific into a singular rehearsal of multi-echeloned, joint, coalition sustainment capability and employment across the region. By integrating exercises as phases of the operation, sustainers can tease out the realities of protracted sustainment operations in this theater. Operation Pathways 23 and the exercises it encompassed offered invaluable insights that exemplify the advancements in command and control (C2) integration and the development of a shared understanding critical for modern military operations. These operations, activities, and investments (OAIs), particularly notable for their complexity and scope, have significantly enhanced the agility and interoperability of Army logistics units in concert with allied forces.

The peak sustainment exercise within Operation Pathways 23, Talisman Sabre 23, highlighted the efficiency and capability of integrated sustainment. In an exercise of over 30,000 troops from 13 nations, the combined joint TSC seamlessly integrated sustainment coordination and capabilities to sustain the operation. This collaboration was not just about aligning communication channels but a sophisticated exercise in synchronizing operational strategies, logistics planning, and execution methodologies across different military cultures and systems. The exercise demonstrated the capacity of Army units to adapt and operate within a joint command structure, showcasing an exemplary level of agility and coordination in a multinational context.

The outcomes of these OAIs have been instrumental in building a shared understanding among allied forces. This understanding goes beyond mere tactical alignment; it encompasses a deeper appreciation of each other’s operational methodologies, constraints, and capabilities. The agility gained through these exercises is a testament to the effectiveness of rigorous, realistic training in preparing sustainment units for the complexities of contemporary warfare.

These insights gained are more than just training scenarios; they are practical demonstrations of the evolving nature of military logistics and support in the 21st century. The lessons learned and the capabilities demonstrated in these OAIs are invaluable in shaping the future operational strategies of the Army and its allies in the Indo-Pacific theater.

The upcoming Operation Pathways 24 OAIs are poised to set new benchmarks in military training, particularly in the realm of sustainment operations. These exercises are meticulously designed to address emerging challenges and enhance the operational capabilities of the Army in the dynamic Indo-Pacific theater.

Joint Sustainment Training

Campaigning is a joint endeavor and requires integration across the joint force. The Army has a critical role within the joint force to provide sustainment, particularly for transportation and fuel. To successfully sustain the joint force in crisis and conflict, the Army must integrate and rehearse during competition.

Pacific Sentry 23 expanded on this theme of integration. In collaboration with the Pacific Fleet logistics task force, the exercise presented a unique opportunity to test and refine joint operational tactics. The synchronization of logistics and support operations in a simulated high-threat environment was particularly significant. It provided a realistic context for testing the responsiveness and adaptability of sustainment units under pressure. This exercise underscored the importance of a cohesive approach to logistical challenges in a joint operational setting, enhancing the readiness of U.S. forces for real-world scenarios.

In a theater containing the world’s largest ocean, sustainment operations from ship to shore are vital. Joint petroleum over-the-shore (JPOTS) and joint logistics over-the-shore (JLOTS) are instrumental in maintaining logistical operations when critical infrastructure is degraded or contested by enemy forces. JPOTS enables the transfer of fuel from offshore vessels to inland distribution points, circumventing disrupted or non-existent ground supply routes. Army logisticians expertly and vividly demonstrated this capability during exercises like Talisman Sabre 23, where a fuel pipeline was established in a simulated contested environment, ensuring uninterrupted fuel supply critical for sustained operations.

Similarly, JLOTS facilitates the discharge of vehicles, equipment, and supplies from sea to shore, bypassing damaged or enemy-controlled ports and airfields. This system is vital when traditional logistics hubs are compromised, allowing the Army to conduct deployment and distribution operations despite infrastructural challenges.

A key objective within Operation Pathways 24 is the execution of combined joint logistics over-the-shore (CJLOTS) operations as part of the Balikatan 24 exercise. CJLOTS is a crucial component in establishing and demonstrating the ability of the Army to project and sustain military power in environments where traditional logistics channels are either compromised or unavailable. This exercise will focus on deploying and managing logistical resources over coastal and riverine environments, a vital skill in the island-dotted landscape of the Indo-Pacific. The training will test the Army’s capacity to establish supply chains in austere and potentially hostile settings, ensuring readiness for expeditionary warfare.

Valiant Shield 24, on the other hand, will spotlight the role of JPOTS in sustaining joint distribution operations under anti-access/area denial (A2AD) conditions. This training is critical in an era when adversaries increasingly employ strategies to hinder access to traditional logistics routes. JPOTS exercises will simulate scenarios where fuel and other vital supplies need to be transported over maritime domains, bypassing A2AD constraints. This will not only test the logistical ingenuity of the forces but also their ability to operate under potential threats.

Pathways 24 and Valiant Shield 24 are designed to rigorously prepare the Army for future challenges, particularly in a theater as complex and unpredictable as the Indo-Pacific. These OAIs will enhance joint and combined operational capabilities, ensure seamless integration with joint and coalition forces, and refine the strategies needed to maintain logistical superiority in contested environments. The training objectives set in these exercises reflect a proactive approach to adapting to the changing nature of warfare, where logistical agility and resilience are as crucial as combat prowess. The lessons and capabilities rehearsed in these exercises will be instrumental in shaping the future readiness of the Army, ensuring it remains a formidable force in maintaining regional stability and security.

Integration with Allies and Partners

In the realm of contested logistics, leveraging and coordinating with allies and partners are crucial for expanding the operational reach of combat forces. Leveraging acquisition and cross-servicing agreements (ACSAs) and mutual logistics support agreements (MLSAs) are vital in environments where traditional supply lines are disrupted or under threat — a scenario increasingly common in modern warfare.

Enabling the DOD to acquire or provide logistic support with partner nations and organizations, ACSAs become key tools in maintaining the momentum of operations under contested conditions. They allow for the rapid mobilization and exchange of essential resources such as fuel, munitions, and medical supplies, directly contributing to the sustainment and resilience of forces engaged in frontline operations.

Comparatively, MLSAs further augment this capability by facilitating the mutual exchange or sharing of logistics support, ensuring combat forces have continuous access to necessary supplies and services. This mutual assistance is particularly effective in creating a network of forward-postured sustainment, essential for maintaining operational tempo in hostile or disrupted environments.

ACSAs and MLSAs are not merely logistical agreements but strategic enablers in contested logistics scenarios. By ensuring a steady flow of resources and support, these agreements extend the operational reach of combat forces, enabling them to sustain prolonged operations in challenging environments. This ability to maintain forward-postured sustainment is critical in modern military strategy, ensuring forces remain agile, resilient, and effective, even in the most demanding circumstances.

Diverse Employment of APS

APS and systems like JPOTS and JLOTS play pivotal roles in enhancing the Army’s operational readiness, particularly in scenarios where deployment speed and distribution capabilities are crucial amidst infrastructure challenges.

APS effectively shortens deployment response timelines by strategically positioning vital equipment and supplies close to potential areas of conflict. This forward positioning of resources is critical in rapidly escalating scenarios, as it allows U.S. and allied forces to bypass the time-consuming process of long-distance transportation of equipment. By having essential materiel pre-positioned, the Army can swiftly respond to emerging threats, significantly accelerating deployment timelines and ensuring rapid force projection.

APS capability forms a comprehensive sustainment framework that enables the Army in the Pacific to maintain operational momentum under various contingencies, including rapid response and operations in contested or degraded environments. This integrated approach to logistics ensures the Army remains versatile, responsive, and capable of overcoming logistical challenges posed by adversaries in modern warfare. By continuing to incorporate these operations into the exercise framework of Operations Pathways in competition, the Army ensures its sustainers and logisticians are prepared to execute these critical sustainment tasks should competition transition to crisis and conflict.

Conclusion

Training the sustainment warfighting function as a component of Army theater rehearsals is an indispensable aspect of military preparedness, especially in the context of joint and theater operations. Customized training objectives for sustainment are not merely routine exercises; they are rehearsals for critical tasks that underpin the success of joint and theater operations. Diverse and challenging training scenarios, encompassing the integration of C2 capabilities with allied forces and the practical application of systems like ACSA, MLSA, APS, JPOTS, and JLOTS, ensure sustainment units are well-prepared for the realities of contemporary warfare. Through these rehearsals, the Army continues to set the theater for future conflicts, ensuring it and its allies are not just prepared for the challenges of today but are also strategically positioned for the uncertainties of tomorrow.

--------------------

Maj. Gen. Jered P. Helwig serves as the commander of the 8th Theater Sustainment Command. He was the Director for Logistics and Engineering for U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, Camp Smith, Hawaii, and Chief of Transportation and commandant of the U.S. Army Transportation School, Fort Gregg-Adams, Virginia. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Transportation Corps upon graduating from Wheaton College, Illinois. He has a Master of Science in public policy from Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., and a Master of Science in national resource strategy from the National Defense University, Washington, D.C. He is a graduate of the Armor Officer Basic Course, Scout Platoon Leaders Course, Combined Logistics Advanced Course, Command and General Staff College, and Jumpmaster School.

Michael A. Crees is currently the senior transportation subject matter expert and Deputy Transportation Operations Branch Chief in the 8th Theater Sustainment Command Distribution Management Center. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in East Asian studies from the University of Maryland and has 20 years of transportation experience.

--------------------

This article was published in the Winter 2024 issue of Army Sustainment.

RELATED LINKS

Army Sustainment homepage

The Current issue of Army Sustainment in pdf format

Current Army Sustainment Online Articles

Connect with Army Sustainment on LinkedIn

Connect with Army Sustainment on Facebook

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------