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Thai coalition engineer unit supports operation enduring freedom.

In March 2003, the Kingdom of Thailand successfully deployed a Coalition Engineer Unit (CEU) to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, to support Operation Enduring Freedom. Though only one of many nations to support the Global War on Terrorism, Thailand's CEU mission represented the country's first military deployment outside of Southeast Asia since the Korean War and the first coalition deployment with the United States since the Vietnam War. The deployment underscored Thailand's active commitment to global efforts aimed at enhancing stability, national development, and peace.


In December 2001, Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra met with President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell to express a willingness to contribute forces in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. In January 2002, the U.S. Government formally accepted the offer and authorized the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) to coordinate with the Thai Ministry of National Defense (MND).

After much deliberation, the Thai MND offered engineering support, and, on 25 July, CENTCOM issued a formal request for a company-sized engineer unit. On 13 September, the Thai Government accepted.

The Thai CEU's mission was to deploy to Bagram Air Base "to repair the runway and taxiways and provide general horizontal and vertical construction capabilities with organic personnel and equipment." If required, they also were to deploy to Kandahar Airfield to repair the runway. The CEU would serve under the operational control of the commander of Coalition Joint Task Force (CJTF) 180 for the duration of their 180-day deployment.

Deployment Concept of Operations

Thailand falls within the U.S. Pacific Command's (PACOM's) area of responsibility but, for this unique deployment, PACOM would assume a supporting combatant commander role under CENTCOM. As such, PACOM would oversee the CEU's predeployment preparations and strategic movement to and from CENTCOM's area of responsibility.

The concept of operations called for the Thai CEU to conduct strategic sea and air deployments to an intermediate staging base at Qatar, which is in CENTCOM's area of responsibility. Once in Qatar, U.S. planners would arrange intratheater air transport of the soldiers and their equipment to Bagram.

Based on careful mission analysis, command guidance, and Thai requests for U.S. assistance, the PACOM staff drew up a list of five critical tasks--

* Support Thai CEU preparations for deployment, initial sustainment, and redeployment in coordination with the Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group Thailand (JUSMAGTHAI) and CENTCOM.

* Coordinate strategic lift of personnel and equipment for the deployment.

* Facilitate funding support according to an acquisition and cross-servicing agreement (ACSA), guidance from the Department of Defense and the Department of State, and Thai fiscal capabilities. [An ACSA is a binding agreement between the U.S. Government and another country (in this case, Thailand) that provides for the exchange of logistics support, supplies, and services to the other country's military forces in return for reciprocal support to U.S. military forces.]

* Assist the Thai MND in procuring cold-weather and nuclear-biological-chemical (NBC) equipment.

* Incorporate the PACOM-sponsored Coalition Theater Logistics Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (CTL ACTD) into the deployment and redeployment process.

Deployment Planning and Coordination

JUSMAGTHAI provided direct assistance to the MND and was the primary lead during the deployment. The PACOM lead action officer, along with an interstaff work group, assisted J U SMAGTHAI with all Thai requests for action.

The interstaff work group initially included action officers from the Staff Judge Advocate, the U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) Liaison Office, and the PACOM J-3 and J-4. The J-3 representative was responsible for the concept of operations and for compiling a force flow list. The action officer from J-4 was responsible for supply and services, strategic mobility, security assistance, logistics automation, international logistics, and ACSA compliance. Later, as support requirements increased to include foreign transportation support, equipment procurement, and funding, the work group expanded to include the PACOM foreign policy advisor, comptroller, and coalition force representatives and Thailand country directors from the office of the J-5.

In addition to coordinating the activities of the PACOM interstaff work group, action officers worked closely with the CENTCOM Coalition Coordination Cell's Logistics Operations Branch and the Joint Staff J-4 and J-5. A representative of the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok and the Japanese Self-Defense Force's liaison to PACOM also assisted in the coordination process.

Logistics Challenges

Seven elements were critical to the successful deployment of the Thai CEU to Afghanistan. Sealift. Initial Thai MND assessments called for the Royal Thai Navy (RTN) to transport CEU equipment on a 1950s-vintage LST (landing ship, tank). However, it was discovered that the LST and crew lacked the blue-water certification required for the 17-day journey from Thailand to Qatar. As a result, the JUSMAGTHAI chief and the U.S. ambassador to Thailand asked PACOM and OSD for help in obtaining other lift support. The PACOM commander concurred and several courses of action were explored, including Military Sealift Command or Military Traffic Management Command (MTMC) contract liner service, U.S. airlift, and Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) sealift. [MTMC recently was renamed the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command.]

JMSDF sealift support, which consisted of an LST with a Spruance-class destroyer escort, was selected to transport the CEU equipment and 29 supercargoes (officers in charge of the cargo) from Sattahip, Thailand, to Um Said, Qatar. The decision to use Japanese sealift was based on several factors. First, the Thai Government had indicated that they would accept coalition partner deployment support. Second, the Japanese Government previously had offered support to Operation Enduring Freedom and, on 19 November, approved a CENTCOM request for a "one-time maritime transport of the Thai CEU from Thailand to Qatar." Finally, the JMSDF agreed to finance the mission at no cost to either Thailand or the United States.

In late December, the Thai and Japanese Governments began direct coordination, including JMSDF site surveys of the ports of Sattahip and Um Said. The mission was conducted as planned, with no major problems reported. The JMSDF enthusiastically planned, resource& and executed the sealift mission.

Strategic airlift. The Thai MND decided to use organic Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) C-130 aircraft to deploy the main body of the CEU and its accompanying equipment. The flight plan called for a nonstop flight to Bagram and included the possible use of emergency landing sites in India and Pakistan that had been coordinated in advance. The aircraft returned to Thailand the same day after refueling at Bagram Air Base. Mechanics and a small quantity of repair parts also deployed with the aircraft.

The RTAF obtained country and overflight clearances from Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan. The JUSMAGTHAI Air Force advisor and two Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) exchange officers worked with their RTAE CENTCOM, and CJTF 180 counterparts to obtain the data necessary for a safe flight. Two PACAF exchange officers also flew with the RTAF C-130s to provide assistance throughout the mission.

Cold-weather gear and NBC equipment. The Thai MND requested U.S. support in obtaining cold-weather and NBC equipment. The JUSMAGTHAI mission analysis concluded that the Thais had protective masks and needed only battledress overgarments. The initial plan called for a foreign military sales (FMS) transaction with fiscal year 2002 supplemental funding reimbursement to the appropriate FMS trust. However, time constraints negated the FMS process. Instead, personnel in the PACOM J-4 Security Assistance International Logistics Branch arranged for ACSA equipment purchases through U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC). Cold-weather equipment was shipped to Thailand from Alaska and the battledress overgarments from Hawaii.

CTL ACTD integration. CTL ACTD is a suite of logistics automation and decision support tools cosponsored by PACOM and Australia. It gives a coalition task force commander the ability to share releasable logistics information with coalition partners across the full spectrum of military operations. The system also affords the commander in-transit visibility if the coalition partner deploys using TRANSCOM-controlled assets. The CTL ACTD tools, which are currently in the second of three military utility assessments, will be integrated into a future version of the Global Combat Support System (GCSS). A complete description of CTL ACTD is available on the World Wide Web at

After receiving a formal request for Thai forces, the J-4 began using CTL ACTD for the deployment as an operational test of its capabilities. The PACOM J-4 Logistics Automation Branch, in coordination with the PACOM J-3 Future Operations Division, devised a plan for using CTL ACTD tools to develop the force flow lists based on deploying soldier and equipment information furnished by the Thai MND. The completed force flow lists then were sent to CENTCOM Coalition Coordination Cell planners, who used them to schedule intratheater airlift, demonstrating that the PACOM real-world operational test of CTL ACTD capabilities was a success.

Port operations. Operations at the ports of Sattahip and Um Said went smoothly. In December 2002, JMSDF representatives conducted site surveys of both ports, which helped ensure successful operations. The Thai MND assumed all cargo-handling responsibilities at Sattahip, and CENTCOM tasked MTMC with port operations at Um Said.

The JMSDF LST arrived at Um Said as scheduled on 1 March 2003, but it could not move into port because other ships had priority offloading. Once the JMDSF ship was in port, offioading was completed in a day without incident. JUSMAGTHAI quartering party representatives assisted with coordination.

Intratheater lift support. In Qatar, CENTCOM assumed control of the Thai CEU's deployment from PACOM. U.S. Army Forces, CENTCOM Qatar, was tasked with providing life support and ground transportation from the port to A1 Udeid Air Base; U.S. Air Forces, CENTCOM, with air planning and joint inventory support; and CJTF 180 with reception, staging, onward movement, and integration (RSO&I) operations in Bagram. JUSMAGTHAI quartering party representatives continued to provide assistance when needed.

Air operations at Bagram were delayed from the original movement planning window of 4 to 15 March because of aircraft scheduling challenges, bad weather, and special load-planning requirements. All Thai personnel and equipment arrived at Bagram Air Base on 21 March.

Life support. A Thai MND contingent, accompanied by JUSMAGTHAI representatives, had conducted a predeployment site survey of Qatar and Bagram in Scptcmber 2002, 9 months after the Prime Minister of Thailand offered to contribute forces to support Operation Enduring Freedom. The site survey addressed critical logistics support issues, so both the Thai delegation and CJTF 180 leaders had a good understanding of the mission support mechanisms in place.

Most Thai CEU life support provided by CJTF 180 was handled according to the negotiated ACSA. Critical life support issues included--

* Subsistence. The negotiated ACSA gave the Thai Government responsibility for the cost of subsistence. The Thai MND also deployed a cook to assist with CJTF 180 consolidated dining facility operations.

* Tentage. Thai CEU soldiers would be housed at Bagram Air Base in newly constructed tier 111 tents (military-issue tents with plywood floors and walls, wooden frames, electrical outlets and lights, and kerosene heaters).

* Bulk fuels. The Thai CEU would operate its equipment using JP8 fuel because there was a shortage of diesel fuel at Bagram. The Thai CEU also would bring additional filters for their diesel vehicles because converting to JP8 from diesel fuel requires new fuel filters.

* Maintenance. The Thai delegation would receive repair parts and maintenance support through the on-ground U.S. engineer battalion. The Thai CEU would bring a 30-day prescribed load list (PLL) for organic maintenance operations.

* Health support. By law, U.S. medics can provide combat health support to coalition partners only in emergencies and situations that are life threatening. Therefore, the CEU had to deploy with its own aid station and levels I and II combat health support. (Level I care is rendered at the unit level, such as self-aid, buddy aid, and combat lifesaver aid. Level II care is physician-directed resuscitation and stabilization.) The Thai MND deployed with two doctors and four nurses.

* Redeployment. Redeployment planning began as soon as strategic lift support was finalized. CENTCOM formally requested JMSDF support for the redeployment, which requires Japanese Government approval. The alternative redeployment support would be Military Sealift Command contracted liner service.

Lessons Learned

Thai CEU coalition partner support of U.S.-led operations set numerous precedents within PACOM and the Department of Defense. Planning and executing the deployment offered a number of important lessons.

Never underestimate the value of effective staff planning and interaction. The Thai CEU mission demonstrated the importance of coordination between the supporting combatant command and the supported combatant commands. The PACOM interstaff work group labored through many complex issues to develop appropriate courses of action. It is important also that staff elements and agencies rock-drill the process initially so all players understand their roles and constraints.

Understand coalition country and U.S. cultural differences. Cultural differences may affect coordination and military decisionmaking efforts, and bureaucratic processes and misinterpretations may affect established timelines. Throughout the planning process, action officers must be flexible and anticipate problems that could be caused by cultural differences. Coalition country liaison officers also can help the coordination process run more smoothly.

Conduct a predeployment site survey with appropriate personnel from the mission unit early in the planning phase. Include a "decisionmaker"--someone with authority to make agreements with the supporting task force commander. Develop and follow an extensive predeployment site survey checklist to ensure life support arrangements are addressed. If appropriate, define the arrangements in a memorandum of agreement.

Make sure U.S. military advisors have a hands-on role from "cradle to grave." JUSMAGTHAI advisors provided invaluable assistance from the mission's inception. PACAF advisors also played a vital role in military-to-military air coordination, and they trained RTAF pilots and planners on international flight requirements and procedures.

Ensure proper weighing and load-planning of equipment before it departs home station. Determine the experience level of security assistance personnel and, if possible, capitalize on in-house knowledge. Request load-planning support if needed.

Use the acquisition and cross-servicing agreement to the fullest extent possible. The Thai-U.S. ACSA was effective during the CEU deployment. Using ACSAs when dealing with countries willing to deploy troops with the United States in a coalition operation will help expedite responsive and cost-effective mutual support.

Know and comply with visa, country clearance, and individual weapons policies. It is important to note that diplomatic tics vary among coalition partners. Some host nation coalition partners forbid the carrying of firearms within their countries. U.S. military and diplomatic representatives must work closely to assist coalition countries in obtaining proper and timely country clearances and visas through the host nation.

Take advantage of the value that advanced concept technology demonstrations can add to a real-world operation. The operational test of the CTL ACTD during the CEU deployment validated its concept and tools. Its use also reduced the man-hours associated with "hand-jamming" deployment data into legacy systems.

After months of detailed planning and coordination, the Thai CEU successfully completed its precedent-setting deployment to Afghanistan and assumed its mission. Thanks to the dauntless efforts of all involved, the Thai CEU soldiers deployed with combined U.S. and Japanese lift assistance, much-needed cold-weather gear and battledress overgarments, and the funding needed to cover deployment, redeployment, and specific sustainment costs.

No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Harney, Robert A.
Publication:Army Logistician
Date:Jan 1, 2004
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