News: CLR-2 logistics: Supply, transition through planning
Story by Cpl. Paul Peterson
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan - The nitty-gritty front end of combat logistics in Helmand province has Marines with Combat Logistics Regiment 2, Regional Command (Southwest), pushing through unforgiving desert landscapes.
It’s a daily grind that requires servicemembers to endure intense heat, arduous work hours and the constant possibility of enemy attack. Convoys can stretch for more than a mile. Vehicles break down, and plans change. It’s complicated, yet also simple.
“When it comes down to it, it’s about getting stuff from point A to point B, but the devil is in the details,” said Capt. Eric Musser, a Kaneohe, Hawaii, native and transportation officer with CLR-2. “You really have to pay attention to what you’re doing.”
The process starts with requests from units in the field. Musser and other Marines with the regiment organize the requests into load plans for convoys.
“You can kind of think of it like we’re UPS, and they put in an order,” said Musser. “We break it down by location, what it is, who the receiving unit is, and that’s our load plan.”
Logistics planners also take into account the urgency of requests and special considerations such as terrain or vehicle requirements. Requests preferably come in 10 days prior to the actual convoy. In that time, Musser and his Marines coordinate with requesting units and the Marines responsible for transporting the materiel.
“We look at the big picture,” said Musser. “We don’t tell them what vehicles to use, but we do give recommendations. It’s up to the [transportation Marines] to determine how they complete the mission. We just make sure they have the assets ahead of time.”
Each convoy has limited space for supplies. Whether it’s the basic food, water and fuel needed by all Marine units, or a request for additional rockets, Musser helps coordinate the most efficient way to plan each convoy’s load.
Every Marine at the ground level must know what items to drop off and what items to pick up. Each driver needs to understand their destination, cargo requirements and end state.
Some convoys support various installations at the same time. Any mistake would leave a gap in the overall load plan.
“There’s two phases to any convoy – fronthaul and backhaul,” said Musser. “[We] break it down into a spread sheet for each item with a point of contact, the unit and any special instructions. It’s broken down into the basics so they can just look at it and know what needs to be picked up and how many truck spaces are required.”
The Marines compare the amount and type of equipment heading out from Camp Leatherneck with the space needed to transport materiel back to the base. They ensure the necessary vehicles are attached to each convoy to handle the request, terrain and self-recover any vehicle with mechanical issues.
“It’s constantly being flexible,” said Musser. “We run a lot of the same routes, so we know what we’re capable of and what we’re not. It’s the curve balls.”
CLR-2 bears the brunt for transportation operations in the area and supports multiple Marine infantry and support units, Special Forces groups and even elements of the Army.
The unit treats larger bases in the province as logistics hubs, which can then support smaller outposts nearby to maximize outreach.
Transition and consolidation efforts in Helmand province put the regiment in a vitally important position. Marine units throughout the area track their goals for a week, month and even a year to maintain a smooth, mutually supportive effort.
Each base’s assets need to be accounted for and measured for eventual transition, consolidation and retrograde.
“We are the sole providers for that retrograde,” said Musser. “We’ve also taken a bigger role in the planning efforts. Everyone is looking to us for how we are going to do this, and how we can support units until the day the last boots are off the ground.”
It’s a daunting undertaking to be sure, but it’s also a feat of preparation and execution.
“It’s just like any planning you do,” said Musser. “You nurture it, then you kind of give it away and see it blossom and executed. It’s interesting because you’re directly involved in seeing all the moving parts and knowing, ‘I’m responsible for that.’ It’s what we do, but it’s interesting to step out of that bubble and see everything moving.”