23 November 2010

Notes from a Logistical Battlefield

FORT IRWIN, Calif., late September--An Army fights on its stomach. Amateurs talk tactics, and professionals talk logistics. The first three rules of success at the National Training Center are: "Logistics, Logistics, Logistics."

All that is why, in a few days, Forward Operating Base ("FOB") King will be attacked by pirates. Pirates seeking Meals, Ready-to-Eat (M.R.E.). I am not making this up.

Back at FOB Denver, the current headquarters for the 2-34th Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.), 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division (2-34th BCT), Warrant Officer Shawn Kiene has one of the few legal cellphones out here in "The Box." As the acting contract officer for the brigade, he uses the lifeline to coordinate real-world essentials like scheduling service of hundreds of portable chemical toilets that dot the our part of the Mojave desert.

A former U.S. Navy sailor and graduate of the Culinary Institute of America (C.I.A.), Kiene was executive chef at a couple of hotels before going to work in the wholesale food distribution business.

"After I got to corporate, I thought I'd come back to the military and teach some cooks," he says. "'Even if it's sh--,' I thought, 'I can teach people to make it into something great.'"

"Instead, I show up and get put in charge of sh--ters," he laughs. "I was supposed to be at the other end of this business!"

As a food service expert, Kiene volunteered to go back to the rear to help out the active-duty unit responsible for bringing supplies from Fort Irwin (called "FOB Warrior" in scenario play) into The Box. "They've got some lieutenant there who's a good rigger, knows how to move stuff, but doesn't know food service. Rations breaks aren't going out quite right."


Hanging out in rear rows of the 2-34th BCT's Tactical Operations Center ("TOC"), 1st Lt. Michael Wagner is holding court with some loggies. He's a quartermaster officer, but currently assigned from his infantry battalion as a liaison to the brigade. Wagner lives, breathes, and eats logistics. He tells this anecdote, which sounds like a routine from "Abbott and Costello meet the Frankenstein Logistics Monster":

"My unit wanted to establish this radio retrans site," he says. "Fifty guys are protecting this site--my unit did not want this site overrun. I asked them how they were going to supply the site."

"'LOGPAC,' they said." The term "LOGPAC" stands for "Logistics Package"--a supply convoy.

"'How are you going to get water,' I asked."

"'LOGPAC,' they said."

"I could see they weren't getting it. 'OK,' I said, 'let's break that down: What're you going to transport water in?'" Their answer: 5-gallon Jerrycans. "OK, one soldier in an arid environment consumes 4 to 5 liters of water per day. That means you'll need about 1.5 gallons of water per soldier, per day. If LOGPAC happens every other day, that means you'll need two jerry cans per soldier, one to keep and one to exchange. That means 100 Jerrycans. Now, how are you going to supply the site?"

They try again: "Water buffalo?" A water buffalo is a tank-trailer that holds more than 500 gallons of water.

"'OK, how are you going to re-fill the water buffalo?'"


"'You're going to refill a water buffalo with a 100 Jerrycans, requiring a team of two or three guys to lift each can up to the tank to pour it in, and then you've got to worry about sanitizing the water because how many people have come into contact with it?!'"

At this point, I don't know whether to laugh or cry: Who's on first? What's on second?


To be continued in tomorrow's Red Bull Rising post ...

1 comment:

  1. Ooh no fair - another cliff hanger :(

    And I can't wait for the conclussion.. I'm secretly hoping he whips out the Roman Army manual that teaches them how to build an aquaduct :D



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