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Operation Iraqi Freedom logistics a critical link in Naval Special Warfare operations.

On March 20th under the cover of darkness, several SEAL platoons swept down simultaneously via helicopters and boats to secure five critical Iraqi oil infrastructure targets. In less than an hour the critical nodes were secured, and the vital oil facilities were captured intact before the enemy could destroy them. If these facilities had been destroyed, an ecologic and economic disaster could have occurred. The resulting political consequences could have undermined the ability of the U.S. to continue the global war on terrorism.

The logistics for Naval Special Warfare (NSW) operations throughout Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) was the culmination of extensive planning and coordination. Naval Special Warfare Group 1 Logistics Support Unit (LOGSU1) was responsible for logistics support of NSW operations in the Central Command area of responsibility. Five commands--Naval Special Warfare Group 1 Logistics Support Unit; Naval Special Warfare Group 2; Logistics and Support Unit (LOGSU2), commanded by CDR Steve Gill; Naval Special Warfare Group 3; Naval Special Warfare Group 4; and Naval Special Warfare Unit 3--made significant contributions towards this logistics effort. All were critical to the successful deployment and sustainment of the largest NSW deployment in history.

The logistics preparations for OIF started long before when a request for a "war-load of ammunition" was sent to LOGSU1 to support Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. After many gyrations to identify what a "warload" consisted of and, getting the ammunition airlifted to the Central Command area of responsibility, preparations for possible follow-on operations began.

Joint Publication 1 explains, "Logistics sets the campaign's operational limits." The logisticians of Naval Special Warfare were determined their special operators would not be constrained by logistics concerns. Leading up to OIF, an initial load out of bottled water and MREs (Class I) were procured to support initial deployment requirements; construction materials (Class IV) were procured and stored in order to meet initial camp construction needs; and sufficient ammunition (Class V) was pushed forward to levels required to support a major contingency. The Army calls it leaning forward in the foxhole ... and the preparations continued.

While this material was being procured, shipped and stowed, a close liaison was formed between the Combat Service Support Detachments (CSSD) from both LOGSU's led by LCDR Eric Aaby, CEC, to coordinate logistics planning and deployment. Both CSSDs deploying and operating as a single unit in support of a contingency is called a Logistics Support Group and this was the first deployment of an NSW Logistics Support Group. A predeployment site survey was conducted at proposed forward operations base (FOB) sites to determine equipment requirements and host nation capabilities. Meetings were also held with Amphibious Construction Battalion 1, the base operations support (BOS) provider to ensure that NSW requirements were understood. This extensive planning effort ensured that manning was adequate to support anticipated operations. It also insured the right personnel and equipment would arrive on time during the phased deployment.

Air transportation is often a limiting factor in any major deployment. In order to move support capability forward early and mitigate this limiting factor, additional camp equipment was moved to the NSW CENTCOM Pre-Positioning (PREPO) site and placed in storage. Subsequently, the NAVCENT N4 organization, led by CAPT Gus Gostel, and with the hard work of Senior Chief Steelworker Terry Clary of CSSD 1, arranged for and moved the material and equipment located at the PREPO site by a U.S. Army Logistics Support Vessel (LSV) to the Kuwaiti FOB area. This advanced movement proved to be critical to the rapid NSW deployment.

When word was passed that the 1003V Deployment Order was imminent, logistics personnel deployed via commercial air. The first phase of six personnel departed in early January and was led by LCDR Eric Aaby and CWO2 Darren Davis. Their mission was to move the PREPO gear to the FOB site, build the initial camp infrastructure to support the advance echelon (ADVON), start camp services, and prepare the FOB area for follow on camp construction.

The logistics personnel second phase deployment commenced several days later and focused on further increasing camp infrastructure. Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 74 Detachment Bahrain (NMCB-74 Det Bahrain) provided superlative support by grading the entire FOB area, laying 12,000 cubic meters of crushed stone for soil stabilization and building decks for the tents to reduce dust problems. By the time initial personnel of the Naval Special Warfare Task Group--CENT arrived days later on a C-130, berthing was available. Construction on the Joint Operations Center (JOC) site had also begun. Utilizing all of these advance personnel, camp construction began in earnest and within weeks the FOB was ready to receive the NSW Task Group main body.

FOB improvement continued throughout the operation to increase livability and force protection. One of the major livability improvements was the building and outfitting of MWR facilities in the FOB with the help of Terri Thorne of the Fleet Readiness and Liberty Program.

An additional FOB was located at an air base in Kuwait. NSW forces comprised a small part of the footprint, and early coordination with the Air Force BOS provider was critical. The Air Force provided exceptional support and the word "no" was not part of their lexicon. This FOB proved invaluable because of its proximity to key areas. It was also important due to its co-location with aviation assets.

The NSWTG supply support concept was to fill the requirement as close to the need as possible. Due to the huge influx of U.S. forces, many stock numbered items were not readily available. However, many of the items that were required were available at stores in country so the Purchase Card was used extensively for everyday support. If the required items could not be found in Kuwait the requirement was passed to Naval Special Warfare Unit 3's (NSWU-3) Supply Officer, LT Mick Wilson, in Bahrain for procurement. If the item was not available in Bahrain the requirement was sent to LOGSU1 at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado.

The transportation pipeline for the force started with LOGSU1 in NAB Coronado where the LOGSU1 Executive Officer, and Supply Officer, LCDR Adrian Porter, coordinated purchasing and shipment of equipment. The emergent material was shipped either commercial air (DHL), MAC Channel to Bahrain, or on two inter-theater sustainment flights. The NSWTG-CENT Supply Officer, LT Lebron Butts, was responsible for tracking and receiving all of the shipped material and personnel. This effort required extensive coordination with LOGSU1 and NSWU-3. Many emergent requirements were sent to NSWU-3 for further transfer to Kuwait due to large backlogs in Camp Doha Kuwait that added weeks to the shipping time. NSWU-3 was the hub for logistics support prior to the deployment order and was critical as a transportation hub for the sustainment of OIF. NSWU-3 stayed very busy coordinating intra-theater flights in this effort.

With the arrival of the NSWTG main body, detailed planning of the wartime operations began. The first logistics challenge was to increase the number of vehicles suitable to take operations to Baghdad and beyond. This challenge was overcome through, the repair of non-mission capable assets, procurement of nonstandard vehicles, innovative procurement of required parts and weapons, and focused modification and maintenance by CMC Donald Greenawalt and others. This mission was further complicated because all of the PREPO civil engineering support equipment was procured without repair part (Class IX) support. Without these efforts effective transportation would not have been available.

As operational planning became more refined, the logistics requirements were identified to support the proposed efforts. The first requirement was to build two FOBs close to the planned operations. One was required to support a command and control node co-located with a United Kingdom Brigade. The other was used as a jump off and support location for boat operations. Both FOBs required proper outfitting and regular convoy support for emergent requirements and to maintain sustainment supplies (Classes I, III and IV). Both FOBs needed to be available for emergent resupply of operations.

Another method used to support NSW operations was the use of the Joint Venture (HSV-1). The Joint Venture was used in various capacities for NSW operations but proved invaluable as an afloat forward staging base (AFSB) to support boat operations. One of the problematic logistics requirements for boat operations to fill was fuel (Class III). While the Joint Venture did have a large fuel storage capacity, its pumping capability was fairly limited. This problem was fixed through the innovative use of several 800-gallon fuel tanks and associated pumping station designed for trucks. This greatly increased the fuel pumping capability providing a quick turnaround of boat assets. The Joint Venture was also equipped with bottled water, MREs, ammunition, and water bladders to improve operational endurance.

Ammunition support required special attention. Due to the experience gained in Afghanistan, most of the ammunition requirement was in country prior to the kickoff of operations. Even with the few items that were considered short, transportation proved problematic. The main ammunition supply point (ASP) was co-located with the U.S. Army's Camp Doha ASP in Kuwait. The receipt, storing, issue, and transportation were accomplished by five aviation ordnancemen and gunner's mates deployed from Naval Magazine Guam supervised by AOC Avery Green. Constant training requirements to sustain combat skills required daily issues and movement of ammunition.

To prepare for planned operations and possible emergent requirements field expedient ASPs were set up at forward sites best positioned to support operations. Another method that was used to prepare for emergent ammunition needs was through building "Speedballs," which were prepackaged aerial resupply bundles available for short notice drops to operators that could not otherwise be supplied.

By any measure, this was one of the most successful Special Operations Forces (SOF) missions conducted during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The NSWTG commander briefed NSW logistics support to the CNO as one of his top-three contribution and success elements for NSW operators in OIF. Fifty-six personnel from five different commands formed the team that provided logistics support for over 600 operators at multiple locations throughout Kuwait and Iraq. Each member of the NSWTG-CENT Logistics team was truly focused on the mission of supporting the war fighter, allowing the war fighter to focus on the special operations mission.

Captain Bob Snyder, SC USN Assistant Chief of Staff for Logistics, Commander, U.S. Third Fleet

CAPT Bob Snyder deployed as the N4 for the Naval Special Warfare Task Group--Central during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was also dual hatted as the N4 for Naval Special Warfare Group I and as Commanding Officer of Naval Special Warfare Group 1, Logistics Support Unit.
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Author:Snyder, Bob
Publication:Navy Supply Corps Newsletter
Date:Jan 1, 2004
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