News: Afghan logistic operations gain traction in RC-East
Story by Staff Sgt. Jerry Saslav
LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – From the outside, the collection of buildings on Forward Operating Base Gamberi are rather unremarkable. They are a collection of light-brown buildings with large metal doors.
But for the seven provinces in eastern Afghanistan, that are the Afghan National Army’s 201st Corps, the Afghan Air Force and other member organizations of the Afghan National Security Forces’ responsibility, they are absolutely vital.
This is the Regional Logistic Support Command-East. The Afghan National Army soldiers and civilians who work here strive to provide everything a modern army requires, from supplying boots and beans to bullets, or fixing a diverse collection of vehicles, from pickup trucks to fully-armored Humvees.
In the past few months, the Afghan National Army has taken responsibility from coalition forces for keeping their soldiers supplied.
“When you start an army, you start with operations and intelligence. That’s always the focus at first,” said U.S. Army Maj. Kyle Brown, command adviser, 201st ANA Corps’ RLSC-E. “We would build their logistic system after we [built] their fighting forces and the ability to gather intelligence. Now they are able to overwhelm the enemy on the battlefield. Their intelligence is quite excellent. They have the storage capability. Now we have to reinforce the principles of supply.”
The principles of supply are something that has constantly changed in Afghanistan since 1978 when a coup installed a communist-backed government. In this system, supply decisions are made at a very high level and pushed down to the units in the field. One of the problems with this is it doesn’t encourage long range planning in the lower levels of the organization.
The 1978 coup also began a state of constant conflict until 1992 when the communist-backed government was overthrown. In 2001, coalition forces drove the Taliban from power bringing a Western style of supply, one in which units are keeping track of what they need at a much lower level.
“This is not like your small local grocery store,” said Brown, “This is a massive bulk effort to support more than 15,000 soldiers … in constant battle throughout the region.”
It takes time to learn a new system, and the coalition forces have been mentoring the Afghans along the way. Although the Afghans have assumed responsibility of their country’s supply chain, the mentoring continues.
That doesn’t mean that there are not issues.
“We have some shortages with parts. If we get the parts on time that we need,” said Afghan National Army Col. Gull Rahman, commander, RLSC-E, 201st Corps, “we will be able to repair the equipment.”
An example of the parts issue can be found with the pickup trucks the ANA use.
“We are not getting the right parts for the trucks,” said Afghan National Army 1st Lt. Mohammad Yonas Yofaszoi, pickup truck maintenance officer, RLSC-E. “We ask for a part and they send us a different part.”
The RLSC-E receives its supplies either from the Army Support Command or the Logistics Command in Kabul. The logistics command accesses its supplies from the central supply depot.
In theory, when the RLSC-E receives a request for supplies from one of their units, they send it to the ASC or LC in Kabul. If the request is granted, the RLSC-E receives the supplies and then sends them out to the original requesting unit. This allows the requesting units to focus on their main mission of keeping the population safe from the enemies of Afghanistan.
The RLSC-E is very good at getting the supplies to the units who need them. The issue is in the ordering.
“What they are not doing is measuring their consumption rates as effectively as we would like,” said Brown, a native of Los Angeles. “A consumption-based demand system will allow us to forecast future demand.”
An average infantryman on the battlefield fires his rifle and shoots, for example, 30 bullets per day. You then add that total across the entire company and multiply by the different echelons of the organization. This is a consumption report.
Now the question becomes, when do you order more bullets?
“The best way to forecast the future,” said Brown, “is to study historical demand patterns and trends. You can even do that seasonally. Some months we have a fighting season [the summer], some months fighting is not as heavy [the winter]. You can forecast demand over the next year and you can go ahead and set your ordering schedule up so that you order, on a regular basis, in anticipation of future demand. That’s what we call the reorder point.”
At this point the RLSC-E must submit a request to Kabul for the needed item, in this case ammunition.
“Then [Kabul must negotiate] a contract. Then the contract has to [be awarded to a] foreign country, who makes the ammo,” said Brown. “You have to have enough forecasting in your system to anticipate how long it takes to [negotiate] the contract ... to manufacture the ammo ... for the foreign country to deliver [the ammo] to Kabul ... from Kabul all the way ... to RLSC-East.”
Now that the Afghan National Security Forces have the sole responsibility for the nation’s security, they can begin to build and collect the data they will need for the future.
It is important to remember that this same process must be duplicated for every auto part, piece of clothing or pencil that this modern military needs to operate effectively.
That is why building a supply chain is such a slow process, but the 3-year-old RLSC-E is the basis for efficiently distributing any supplies. The RLSC-E will soon finish installing a computerized parts management and supply system. This will improve the managing and ordering of supplies. Currently the RLSC-E uses a paper system.
“By using this facility our capabilities have gotten better,” said Rahman, “We are working to become more efficient and with the assistance and support of American advisers and contractors we will [be] efficient soon.”