By BRIG. GEN. KRISTIN FRENCH
3rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary)
“When it’s planes in the sky for a chain of supply, that’s logistics. When the parts for the line come precisely on time, that’s logistics. A continuous link that is always in sync, that’s logistics. There will be no more stress ‘cause you’ve called UPS, that’s logistics.”
That popular UPS jingle can easily refer to the mission of the 3rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), stationed at Fort Knox, and currently forward-deployed to Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan.
In April, the 3rd ESC deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. It’s been six months since we departed Fort Knox for Kandahar Airfield and it is time to update the community on what the organization has been doing since we left Kentucky.
Our mission is two-fold; we supply the warfighter with all types of logistics and support the retrograde of supplies and equipment from Afghanistan. As sustainers, once supplies cross any of Afghanistan’s many borders into the country, either by train, truck or plane, the 3rd ESC, renamed the Joint Sustainment Command—Afghanistan while deployed, is responsible for ensuring those supplies get to the many hubs or forward operating bases spread throughout the difficult and unforgiving terrain and hostile environment of Afghanistan.
Since deploying and taking on the JSC-A role and responsibilities, our unit commands and controls more than 4,000 Soldiers, 1,000 civilians and thousands of contractors from across the globe.
Our ranks include Active Army, Army Reserve and Army National Guard units from across the United States and Puerto Rico.
Our warfighting units are dispersed all over Afghanistan. Supply convoys are constantly traveling throughout the country to ensure that no operation or unit goes unsupported. Due to the remoteness of some of our locations, we have a fleet of more than 120 helicopters and fixed wing aircraft we use to help with our mission. Our Soldiers ensure that pallets of food, water, ammunition, building supplies and even mail, make it to them as quickly as possible. On an average day, we have more than 500 trucks and aircraft moving throughout Afghanistan. In our time here we’ve become much like UPS, we’ll ship anything, anywhere and at any time. We’re always looking to build on efficiencies so when our Soldiers reach for anything, it’s always there.
We’ve also become responsible for supporting efforts to begin the retrograde of U.S. forces back home. Since our arrival, the military has deployed several thousand service members and personnel to assist in processing supplies and equipment for redeployment/retrograde. This effort will continue until 2014. It has been a massive undertaking and our Soldiers have worked hard to organize these operations. Here on Kandahar, and elsewhere across the country, hundreds of vehicles and thousands of pounds of supplies are currently being packed up and shipped home.
The singular mission of sustaining the warfighter keeps an operational level logistics headquarters like ours fully engaged. However, adding the mission of managing the almost 3,000 person CENTCOM Materiel Recovery Element and its enablers—which support equipment drawdown, base closures and transfers to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan—significantly increases the competition for resources and requires an even more complex level of synchronization and coordination across a wide spectrum of organizations.
The JSC-A is responsible for both of these missions and can be found on any given day coordinating the flow of sustainment stocks into Afghanistan, and the reverse flow of materiel destined for the Continental United States as retrograde, out of Afghanistan.
Our role as logisticians is to continue to sustain the warfighter, while simultaneously removing significant portions of equipment and supplies destined to be repaired or refurbished. This equipment is then returned to our military in order to support future training and mission set requirements; and to properly re-direct uneconomically repairable or unusable items.
As our “footprint” is re-postured in the Combined Joint Operations Area-Afghanistan, reducing materiel and supplies is a direct product of the base closure and transfer process.
This process is timeline driven and must be carefully synchronized to maneuver the right resources at the appropriate place in time to meet stated goals. Facilitating the closure of forward operating bases are teams of individuals with distinct tasks to perform, beginning with identifying what needs to be removed or disposed of; how much needs to be moved; and what contract supported services are resident at this location.
There is also deconstruction of buildings and force protection structures that must be addressed which involves scheduling and employment of engineer assets to perform this function. Additionally, the coordinated drawdown of our contractor workforce and associated equipment must be included as well. This is followed by transportation coordinators, environmental specialists, property identification teams, and property disposal directors.
As you may imagine, the process of closing or consolidating bases and removing equipment and materials, while concurrently supporting Soldiers, is a complex undertaking for the logistician. As a result of this unique mission set, the logistician continues to think outside of doctrine, become more innovative with resources and improve our capacity to effectively manage large scale, complex, non-standard missions under strenuous timeline constraints and geographic limitations of a land-locked country.
With this in mind, the Soldiers of the 3rd ESC/JSC-A have performed flawlessly in completing their required tasks. They have continued to impress me, as well as the entire command team, with their hard work and dedication to the mission. So for you, the family members and friends back home, when you next speak to your Soldier, please thank him/her for all that they have done while deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
I am extremely appreciative for all they have done for the JSC-A, as well as the country of Afghanistan. We will continue to support the deployed forces and do look forward to seeing you all when we return back to Fort Knox next year.
Sustaining the Line!