News: JRTC by Land, Air and Sea – Spartans demonstrate logistical capabilities
By Maj. Adam D. Hallmark
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska – During the Second World War, the Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Ernest J. King, was reported to have quipped, “I don’t know what the hell this logistics is that [Army Chief of Staff Gen. George C.] Marshall is always talking about, but I want some of it.” While humorous, King’s nod toward the importance of logistics in combat some 70 years ago is not lost on today’s military units and one such JBER unit recently demonstrated the incredibly important role it plays not only in combat, but in a training environment as well.
Recently, the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division participated in a training rotation at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La. The rotation was a 12-day exercise in the art and science of rapid deployment to a notional second-world country where various missions were executed, to include non-combatant evacuation, joint operations with both special operations and host nation security forces, and humanitarian aid missions with non-governmental organizations.
Executing such an exercise, however, was not simply a matter of spending 12 days in a field environment.
“Planning for JRTC was something our brigade and battalion staffs starting conducting last December,” said Maj. John J. Geis, III, executive officer for the Spartan Brigade. “The level of detailed planning that went into moving a 3,500-person-plus formation from Alaska to Louisiana was something that required a methodical approach in terms of coordinating for vehicles, fuel, oil, food, ammunition, parachutes – basically, everything a brigade of this size needs to sustain itself for an extended period of time.”
Indeed, the Spartan Brigade took to Louisiana more than just its organic assets and getting them there was an exercise in the art of multitasking itself.
Most notable was the aviation task force and Stryker company that joined the Spartan Brigade. Flying in from Hunter Army Airfield, Ga. were 32 rotary wing ships – CH-47 Chinooks, UH-60 Black Hawks and AH-64 Apaches – from the 3rd Infantry Division, which were task organized to the 1st Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment. Additionally, Company B, 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment of the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division brought with them from Fort Wainwright, Alaska nearly 20 Stryker combat vehicles.
However, the number of organic and pre-positioned assets – assets borrowed from JRTC – was significant.
“We took with us 689 pieces of rolling stock,” said Capt. Casey J. Dschaak, assistant logistics officer for the Spartan Brigade. “Then, once we got to JRTC, we signed for another 640 assorted [pre-positioned] vehicles and trailers.”
To move the enormous amount of vehicles and trailers the brigade was responsible for at JRTC took more than just physical manpower.
“Generally speaking, we estimated it would take somewhere in the neighborhood of 400,000 gallons of JP-8 to fuel our ground equipment for 12 days and another 15,000 gallons per day for the helicopters alone,” said Dschaak.
Getting all that equipment to JRTC was a monumental task as well. “We contracted for five ocean-going ships to move our Alaska-based equipment out of the Port of Anchorage,” said Dschaak. “Once it pulled into port in Tacoma [Wash.], it was then either put onto trains or line-hauled by 18-wheelers the rest of the way.”
Dschaak added that it took two trains, with 55 cars apiece, and more than 200 18-wheelers to move the Spartan Brigade’s equipment from Alaska to Louisiana. On top of that, it took 12 commercial aircraft to move the more than 3,500 members of the Spartan Brigade and two United States Air Force C-17 Globemasters to move ancillary equipment – one to transport the brigade’s stock of T-11 parachutes and one to transport delicate communications equipment.
And giving the Spartan Brigade enough to eat and shoot for 12 days? “We planned for 20,000 cases of MREs [Meal, Ready to Eat] and 750,000 rounds of ammunition across all calibers,” said Dschaak. Dschaak also noted that of all the ammunition drawn, the brigade managed to consume only around 25 percent of its total allocation.
With the sheer number of vehicles and aircraft that took part in the brigade’s rotation at JRTC, Dschaak made note of how the brigade fared in terms of its environmental impact. “We did well,” said Dschaak. “In 12 days in the box, not one environmental spill or violation occurred. The environmental engineers were very pleased with our performance in that regard.”
A lot has changed since Adm. King’s time in the way military operations are executed, but one thing has remained unchanged and that is the need for well-planned logistical support – support that the Spartan Brigade has demonstrated can be wielded in such a way as to deploy its formation, and formations like it, anywhere, anytime.