BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan – Mission critical logistics support is a never-ending battle for Special Operations Force deployed to Afghanistan and even more so for one particular task force, operating in seven provinces of eastern Afghanistan mentoring Afghan National Security Forces.
Special operations, by their very nature, place small teams in remote, austere locations without the logistics’ structure that normally supports conventional forces, often for protracted periods of time.
An organic Combat Service Support reach-back capability was originally designed and provided for under Army Special Operations Forces transformation several years ago.
However, since so many SOF units have remained deployed to Afghanistan, for such a wide array of different missions, over such a large and diverse geographic area, and have been doing so for such a protracted period of time, the support structure originally envisioned has had to be augmented.
This has ultimately led to many SOF units, such as the CSOTF, having to create their own capabilities, internally or out-of-hide, especially for things such as logistics.
A wide variety of soldiers from a wide variety of backgrounds currently comprise the logistics roster of the current task force.
In addition to the C4, Logistics Officer who is currently an Air Force Captain, there are Navy, Army and contractors, all working together to deliver world-class logistics in eastern Afghanistan.
In addition to its people, the task force also has a forward logistics element or LOG cell on Bagram Air Field to help reduce response time to remote outstations to the east and north of both Kabul and BAF.
Originally, when the task force was comprised almost entirely of one battalion of one of the Army’s Special Forces Groups, the task force, with help from members of its TSOC (Theater Special Operations Command), developed the BAF LOG Cell as method to provide more responsive logistical support in this mature theater, “out-of-hide”, so to speak.
In other words, the majority of logistics for the task force are now originating from the conventional forces, especially for things like Class I (subsistence), Class III (Petroleum, Oil and Lubricants/POL), and Class V (ammunition), but the LOG Cell aids in the movement and distribution of these essential logistical elements.
Planning + Synchronization = Synergy
Effective logistics support, especially for SOF, has always required deliberate and meticulous planning in order to anticipate the needs of teams in the field to ensure mission success.
This planning must then be synchronized with all echelons of the task force. Not the least of which is the AOB or Advanced Operations Base – essentially a company HQs from the Special Forces Battalion commanded by a major with his own supply sergeant.
In fact, the one area in which the task force’s logistics have come the farthest has actually been in the planning and synchronization aspects.
One of the most important functions of any unit’s logistic element or support structure is its ability to arm the unit, so that it can engage or shoot the enemy. BAF LOG Cell does this with the help of one Ammunition Handler, who is currently an Air Force munitions handler – an Air Force individual augmentee.
Next, most important, but possibly the most visible, as most members of the task force arrive into Afghanistan by way of BAF is the move or more precisely, the movement control function. In a conventional unit, such as a BCT, there would be a dedicated movements cell in the S4 shop or ALOC, manned by a Mobility Warrant OIC (880A) and at least one 88-November NCO (Movement Control NCO).
However, in this austere environment, which currently has one eye towards the future, which means draw-down or retrograde, the primary responsibilities are accomplished by a civilian contractor who is a retired 92-Yankee, senior NCO.
Lastly, but definitely not least, the supply function also receives a high-degree of emphasis and visibility.
Providing the expertise and effort to keep supplies flowing from BAF to the rest of the task force currently are an Air Force Staff Sgt., a Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class (PO2) and an Army Specialist, who is a 92-Yankee, Unit Supply Specialist.
In other words, when a supply request is submitted directly to BAF LOG Cell and has not gone through the AOB, which has its own supply sergeant, there is no visibility of that transaction by the AOB. Then BAF LOG Cell has to backtrack and ensure that the AOB has that visibility or situational awareness, so that there is a common logistical operating picture.
As with any unit, especially within a SOF unit, there are certain pieces of equipment that are essential for operations and the task force, as well as BAF LOG cell are no different.
One of the most important pieces of equipment currently in use by the LOG cell is the Atlas 10K forklift. Additionally, a 5-ton, FMTV (Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles) with trailer and an 11-ton, Load-handling System (LHS) with 16.5 ton trailer also help increase the task force’s logistical throughput capability.
New technologies too have made the never-ending battle that is logistics much more manageable for BAF LOG Cell.
In-transit visibility (ITV), especially frequent checks of SMS (the Single Mobility System) for up-to the minute changes on movements coming in or going out, especially when it comes to pax (passengers).
The multi-tasking, multi-talented Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the BAF LOG Cell have truly been outstanding combat multipliers for the entire task force. From the upper reaches of Kapisa Province at FOB Kutschbach all the way down to FOB Justice in Paktiya, they have kept the TUs at full-operational capacity training the PRCs across eastern Afghanistan.
The task force has been able sustain operations in a versatile, flexible and responsive manner to ensure the TUs and their partners are ready and able to find, fix, and finish any and all threats by providing a fully integrated and synchronized SOF-unique logistics foundation.
As we prepare to transition to what may lie ahead here in Afghanistan and elsewhere, let us not forget the hard-won logistics lessons recent special operations.
We owe it to our SOF of the future and to those who will have to provide their logistical support to thoroughly and deliberately document and conduct after actions reviews of all 12 years of protracted operations in Southwest, Central and Southeast Asia (Philippines), not the least of which are five years of continuous operations for the task force itself.
Above all else, SOF Logisticians must firmly adhere to proper planning, forecasting and requisition procedures can special operations logistics for our USASOC, Joint-US, and Combined NATO or Coalition Force SOF truly understand the lessons of the not-so distant past and forge unto even greater successes in future operations.