From battlefield to board game: Jingle truck logistics of Operation Enduring Freedom.
The SDDC Afghanistan Detachment is truly at the Tip of the Spear because it has secured key ground, with the assistance of our commercial partners, from which to launch a continuous offensive on the battlefield of strategic movement. With only a handful of personnel and visionary leadership, the Afghanistan Detachment has overcome challenge after challenge in a geo-political environment that is as ever changing as the mountain caps and desert dunes we live in.
The age old concept that one of the few constants in life is change holds much water in OEF. Instead of fighting futilely against change, we embrace change itself as a powerful ally. We do not strive to be flexible; instead we choose to be fluid. Given time and perseverance, water will always find a way. No stubborn mountain can say the same for itself!
NO, NO, AND NO!
While many units and organizations demand a "yes" answer, we have had to adapt to the following "no-no's" of our operational environment:
* NO seaport in Afghanistan. It is a land-locked country.
* NO Military Sealift Command (MSC) vessels are allowed at the Ports of Karachi, Pakistan--the primary SPODs (Sea Port of Debarkation) for OEF.
* NO US military presence is allowed at the Ports of Karachi--by authority of the State Department.
* NO Strategic Surface Lift, sealift with inland movement, will be conducted outside the Universal Services Contract (USC-05).
* NO Strategic Surface Lift or associated movements will be authorized without budget and cost considerations.
* NO specific commercial carrier, transit route, or vessel can be chosen for sealift.
* NO secured or safe line-haul routes between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
* NO control over the terrain, weather, governments, and geo-political situation of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Despite these many challenges, the one thing not lacking is hope. At the very heart of all we do for Strategic Surface Lift, we must never forget that the importance of a process is directly tied to the importance of people-our brave Soldiers and Civilians who are shaping a new world every single day.
REALITIES OF THE BATTLEFIELD
Fighting on today's battlefield requires everything from heavily armored trucks to single-ply toilet paper. Linear battlefield operations allow for logistics to be done within a Green Zone or at least safely behind the front lines, out of the immediate Combat or Hot Zone. With the advent or, some may argue, revival, of non-linear battlefields, this no longer holds true. We stated at the beginning that OEF is not OIF, and this is why.
Unlike Kuwait, where OIF has militarily secured SPODs and staging areas, we in OEF are forced to rely on the commercially secured terminals at Karachi, Pakistan. We rely heavily on our US Consulate, commercial partners, and 3PL Raith-Tareen to provide us with command and control.
In OIF, cargo is unloaded in the Green Zone (Kuwait) and makes its dangerous way north through and to the Red Zone (Iraq). Within an hour, military escorted convoys can cross into Iraq and move toward their final destination. As an added advantage, Kuwait and Iraq enjoy good infrastructure, especially their highway systems. OEF has it somewhat backwards as cargo begins 850 miles away from the Green Zone in the Pakistani Red Zone and transits north through yet another dangerous area, the Afghani Red Zone. The cargo transits through perilous and narrow mountain passes, tunnels, and dirt roads before reaching the Green Zone (US Bases). Take into account that there are no military escorts, several mountain passes, only two border crossing points (Torkham and Chaman), which are subject to the harsh weather conditions, and an ever changing policy on border crossings and tariff exemptions--and we see how challenging OEF logistics can be.
For good measure, throw in the 10-day average land transit time between Karachi, Pakistan, and final destinations in Afghanistan, and we find ourselves at the mercy of the local tribes and warlords that control the mountain passes and key routes. Our cargo is subjected to either pilferage or outright destruction during this arduous journey. We have taken off packing lists, hidden the radio frequency identification tags (RFID tags), added bolt seals, tied on multiple cable seals, removed unit or US markings--and still our enemies find ways to penetrate our preventive measures. Anyone dreaming of M915s dragging M872s with escorting M1114s pounding away with blazing .50 calibers and Mark 19s through the streets of Pakistan and Afghanistan needs a serious reality check.
As if these challenges were not enough, a difficult reality to swallow is that we are subject to Afghanistan's tariff exemption process. All OEF cargo exported out of Afghanistan requires tariff, tax, and duty clearance from the Afghanistan Government. An official letter head memorandum listing key information must undergo scrutiny in Kabul that lasts anywhere from 7 to 12 days. Parallel to this tariff memo processing period, commercial carriers need just as much time to stage critical line-haul and conveyance equipment at our bases in Afghanistan.
Our Soldiers and Civilians require their trucks, repair parts, toilet paper, food, sundries, entertainment, and personal goods on a daily basis. The cargo must keep flowing, both on the import and export side, to ensure continued operations in the area. Our cargo has been pilfered, damaged, and in some cases even burnt. Despite these setbacks, these are the realities of the battlefields within OEF that we must not only accept and understand, but also courageously face each and every day.
The ultimate reality of the battlefield lies not in the fact that cargo will be lost or destroyed, but that the lives of our Soldiers and Civilians--our Warfighters--are constantly at risk of being lost or destroyed. They are the ones who are on the line each day, sacrificing their comfort and lives so that we may enjoy unbelievable freedoms. It is with this in mind that we continue to ply the dangerous waters in search of better Strategic Surface Lift operations, for without the supply line, combat operations will cease.
Truly, we are in uncharted logistics waters, but thanks to the faithful efforts of the Afghanistan Detachment and its commercial partners, we now have a map by which to steer a steady course.
SDDC-OPOLY--STRATEGIC MOVEMENT IN A BOARD GAME!
If initial education is challenging, then re-education in OEF is just shy of blatant brainwashing. Business is never as usual for us, and neither are the methods by which we conduct operations and education.
Withasmuchingenuityaswecanmuster, we thus proudly present SDDC-OPOLY, a board game that accurately reflects the current process required to conduct proper strategic movement in OEF. SDDC-OPOLY maps out the average 36 days required to source line-haul and sealift for export cargo leaving Afghanistan. The idea behind SDDC-OPOLY is to provide a visual guide for those unfamiliar with OEF Strategic Surface Lift, and show that there are multiple events required to occur in a certain order to ensure proper movement. Skipping is not allowed, and going back a few spaces does happen. If steps are not done properly, going back to "GO" without moving your cargo (or collecting $200 for that matter) is likely to happen as well. Jingle truck parking is generally free, if you can find a mine-free area. As for going to jail, any attempt to bypass USC-05 is sure to guarantee you a cell!
SDDC-OPOLY takes you through 36 days that cover the 6 main portions of the Strategic Surface Lift export process.
1. Document Submission
2. Integrated Booking System (IBS)
3. Cargo Lift Plan
4. Carrier Coordination
5. Carrier Pick Up
6. In Transit Visibility (ITV)
Accurate and timely submission of documents is vital in commencing export cargo movement. For us, we have dubbed the Transportation Control Movement Document (TCMD) as the "Golden Ticket," in honor of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Those familiar with the book or movies know that without the "Golden Ticket," there is no entry into Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. In the same manner, without the TCMD, there is no entry into the Defense Transportation System (DTS).
IBS is the system that we use to book cargo on commercial vessels. Based on flag, rate, and schedule, the Ocean Cargo Clearing Authority, Southwest Asia (OCCA-SWA), located in Bahrain, will determine which carrier receives the cargo booking. This ensures that bookings accurately reflect the actual cargo and that our commercial carriers are given an opportunity to partake in this business.
The TCMD is the key in providing the military cargo information, but fails to provide the booking information it necessary for manifesting in Worldwide Port System (WPS) and subsequent cargo clearance and prompt payment. With the advent of the Murphy Stamp, affectionately named after its creator, Major Murphy, the TCMD has now been brought into the 21st Century. The Murphy Stamp essentially provides key information for both the commercial carrier and the WPS operator, resulting in proper loading, movement, clearing, and payment. We have further transformed the TCMD into the E-TCMD as scanned copies are now kept on file. These E-TCMDs are then packaged with the tariff memo and spot date information, creating a Cargo Lift Plan that is electronically sent to key military organizations and commercial partners.
Coordinating with the carrier requires constant communication between the Afghanistan Detachment and our commercial partners. From receiving conveyance numbers to arranging for physical pick up, it cannot be overemphasized that communication is vital in ensuring successful Strategic Surface Lift operations. Our commercial partners are indeed partners in that we are working side-by-side to accomplish our respective missions--to move cargo or to be profitable.
Physical pick up of the cargo is truly an adventure in itself as some trucks do not survive the arduous journey, and others arrive with damaged conveyances--such as holes caused by rocket propelled grenades (RPGs). Further force protection measures add more time to an already time consuming process, forcing carriers to ensure timely truck and asset arrivals.
Last, but by no means least, is the in transit visibility (ITV) tracking from our hubs in Afghanistan to the sailing of a commercial vessel. With a variety of reports provided by the commercial carrier (under USC-05) and 3PL Raith-Tareen, the Afghanistan Detachment has worked tirelessly to accurately track cargo as well as keep the commercial carrier accountable for timely land transit and vessel sailings.
SDDC-OPOLY is our way of educating the masses about the messes faced in OEF. We do not believe there is ever going to be a 100% solution, but we are confident that we have a 95 percent solution that has proved to be successful in recent months. It is the continued support of our commercial carriers and the tireless efforts of Soldiers and Civilians that will translate the process on the board game into success on the battlefield.
SO, YOU WANT TO MOVE YOUR CARGO
The Afghanistan Detachment is unique in that it combines the characteristics of the SDDC operations center, an installation transportation office (ITO), a household good and personal property office (HHG), and a help desk. Our mission is to move and deliver cargo on time, every time in OEF, but as MG Kathleen Gainey has emphasized: Mission First, People Always. We are customer centric and will do all that is within our power to ensure cargo movement as well as educate the customer. We will not always say "yes" to customer demands, but we will always say "yes" to an all out assault on challenges and obstacles.
LOGISTICS IS LIKE THE WEATHER
The sun may beat down relentlessly on us in Afghanistan, or the rain will pound the Earth until she gives up her landmines to the surface. The simple "move from point A to point B" may be at the root of logistics, but what lies between those points is not at all close to simple. As stated, we are confident of our 95 percent solution, but we are not arrogant in thinking that more changes will not surface. A non-linear battlefield requires non-linear options. We are continually improving our processes and products, and we will continue to do so as long as we are in OEF.
As long as our Warfighters continue to bring the fight to the enemies of freedom, we as Soldiers and Civilians will continue to support them with as many rolls of toilet paper and armored trucks as they need-and make sure that they and their equipment all make it safely to the homes they have valiantly fought for.
Afghan Det, Task Force Blackbeard
MAJ Jason J.F. Murphy is the Executive Officer of the 831st Trans Bn, Afghan Det (Task Force Blackbeard) who recently served as the Southern Command Team Chief in the SDDC Operations Center at Ft. Eustis, VA.
Mr. V-Khye Gideon Fan is the Assistant Operations Officer of the Afghan Det on loan from the 831st Trans Bn, Bahrain. He is a 2005 graduate of the Transportation Intern Program at Ft. Eustis, VA.
By Major Jason J.F. Murphy and Mr. V-Khye Gideon Fan 831st Transportation Battalion, Afghanistan Detachment Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC)
Make plans by seeking advice; if you wage war, obtain guidance. --Proverbs 20:18