A forward support company supporting an armor
battalion task force in Iraq had to innovate to execute its
mission in a challenging urban environment.
Providing combat service support (CSS) for a battalion-sized
task force operating as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom requires
adaptations and innovations to help ensure mission success.
Task Force 2–8 Cavalry (TF 2–8 CAV)—the
2d Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry
Division—learned this truth during 12 months of op-erations
in eastern Baghdad.
TF 2–8 CAV consisted of one tank company with tanks and
two tank companies mounted on high-mobility, multipurpose,
wheeled vehicles (HMMWVs). Approximately 10 months before its
deployment to Iraq, the task force transitioned to the Force
XXI redesign with the addition of a forward support company
(FSC)—B Company, 115th Forward Support Battalion, 1st
Cavalry Division. Confronted with the unique and multifaceted
missions and the challenging environment of Iraqi Freedom,
the task force and FSC leaders recognized that many plans for
CSS operations would have to be revised. Accordingly, the FSC
developed a mix of garrison and field techniques to effectively
manage maintenance and other logistics functions. What follows
are the highlights of the FSC’s support of TF 2–8
CAV in Baghdad.
stage for refueling at a forward logistics element
site near Sadr City in eastern Baghdad.
Because the task force’s location was static, with all
of its companies operating out of a combined motor pool, the
maintenance assets of the task force were retained under the
control of the FSC and the maintenance control officer. This
allowed for cross-leveling of workloads and gave a single company
or section additional flexibility to surge in order to meet
their mission timelines. In a normal environment, the combat
repair teams in the FSC’s maintenance platoon would be
attached to the task force’s companies. However, the
conditions in Baghdad called for different techniques.
The combat repair team for each company remained intact,
and its team chief was responsible for all of the vehicles
that company. Those responsibilities included services, unscheduled
maintenance, and quality assurance and quality control (QA/QC)
of the team’s vehicles for dispatch. The maintenance
and service section was responsible for maintenance of FSC
and headquarters and headquarters company (HHC) vehicles, with
the exception of light tracked vehicles. The recovery section
was given the mission of maintaining all light tracks and performing
all required fabrication. Because of the reduced number of
tanks (compared to the task force’s normal complement)
and the limited number of recovery missions, the recovery
section had the manpower and the time to take on the light
vehicle maintenance mission.
To support its mission requirements, the task force made the
decision to dispatch vehicles for 7-day periods. Before dispatching
the vehicles, the maintenance team conducted a detailed QA/QC
of the vehicles and identified and corrected any faults. The
most common deficiencies found were suspension and drive train
faults. The heat and the poor quality of roads in Iraq, combined
with the weight of added armor, put additional stress on M998-series
HMMWVs and required that they be monitored closely.
Operators were still required to do daily preventive maintenance
checks and services (PMCS) on their vehicles to identify emerging
problems during the week between dispatches. Vehicles also
were washed weekly at the washrack available at the forward
operating base (FOB). (Units deployed to Iraq should procure
portable steam cleaners when a washrack is not available.)
As a result of the poor sanitary conditions in Baghdad, thorough
cleaning of vehicles was needed to protect soldiers from illnesses
caused by exposure to raw sewage.
In addition to daily and weekly maintenance, TF 2–8 CAV
implemented an aggressive and rigid service program. Beginning
with its first week in Baghdad, the task force conducted services
that equaled or exceeded the services performed in a garrison
environment. To accomplish this, the service calendar was included
weekly planning conducted by the task force S–3. Just
like combat patrols, services were placed on the daily mission
list and were executed at the platoon level. For that period
of time, the platoon’s sole focus was on services.
When tank services could not be conducted at the platoon level
during periods of increased operating tempo, those services
were shifted to the section level. This allowed combat forces
to remain available for employment by the task force commander
while permitting the FSC to maintain the service schedule.
The services performed included all aspects of platoon or section
operations. Problems with vehicles, weapons, night-vision devices,
and communications equipment, as well as personnel matters,
could be resolved during the performance of services. Because
of the Force XXI concept reorganization, both organizational
and direct support personnel were available at all times to
focus on services. Services for a HMMWV-mounted platoon were
scheduled for 4 days, while a tank platoon was allocated 7
In addition to normal service items, fluids were changed more
frequently than under normal conditions and suspension components
were checked and replaced more frequently. These two aspects
of preventive maintenance seemed especially effective in avoiding
more serious maintenance and repair problems and equipment
The missions assigned to TF 2–8 CAV varied significantly
and required the FSC to be prepared to support the complete
spectrum of operations. FSC missions ranged from preparing
and forwarding the traditional logistics packages (LOGPACs)
to distributing humanitarian aid to running a weapons buyback
Through planning and experience, the FSC developed a number
of tactics, techniques, and procedures to increase flexibility
and timeliness in responding to the changing operational
environment. In the period of an hour, the task force often
shifted from full-scale combat to consequence management
and distribution of humanitarian assistance to Iraqis. Perhaps
the most effective tool in supporting those shifts was the
effective use of load-handling systems (LHSs) and flatracks.
To maintain flexibility, the FSC built preconfigured flatracks
to support the most frequently performed missions. The FSC
maintained the following flatracks at all times to be able
to respond quickly to rapidly changing situations—
• Six flatracks of class IV materials, each with 120 rolls of concertina
wire, 20 pickets, 2 Jersey barriers, and 2 rolls of barbed wire.
• Two flatracks of packaged class III (petroleum, oils, and lubricants)
and class V (ammunition) for small arms.
• Two flatracks of water and meals, ready to eat (MREs).
• One flatrack of portajohns and trash containers.
• One flatrack of humanitarian daily rations.
• One flatrack with a military-owned demountable container (MILVAN) of
Based on the mission requirement, the FSC was able to pick up the appropriate
flatracks and deliver the required support rather than configure the needed loads
after the mission was received.
Resupply operations for the task force varied from providing LOGPACs to operating
modified supply point distribution. Because of the smaller number of tanks in
the task force and the smaller battlespace (as small as 4 square kilometers for
the battalion), in many situations a single refuel point was established for
the entire task force. In those cases, the fuelers usually set up on a major
road that was blocked off for fueling operations. This allowed for easy defense
and accessibility to the fuelers. Class V and packaged class III supplies were
pushed forward at the same time to meet requests presented during the daily logistics
net call. Depending on the enemy situation, refueling also could be set up at
a nearby FOB to allow for 24-hour fuel availability. In such cases, MREs, water,
class V, and packaged class III were made available for issue at the FOB.
For extended operations, class I (subsistence) was pushed forward to the companies
so they could be fed out of their patrol bases. Typically, the meals were dropped
off and the supply sergeants returned immediately to the FOB under the escort
of the Supply and Transport Platoon leader; the mermite food containers then
were picked up when the next meal was dropped off. This reduced the time pressure
on the companies to feed their soldiers as well as the time that the supply trucks,
which lacked armor, were exposed to a hostile environment.
and wheeled vehicles undergo maintenance at the consolidated
All units operating in Iraq faced the threat of improvised
explosive devices (IEDs) and vehicle-borne IEDs (VBIEDs).
To counter those threats, convoys of soft-skin vehicles must
rely on two basic principles to facilitate safer movement
on the roads. First, speed counters the threat of static
IEDs. While safety and traffic conditions must be considered,
convoys that can maintain speed are significantly more difficult
for insurgents to target. Speed also reduces the likelihood
that insurgents will be able to engage convoys with small
arms or rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs). Second, traveling
away from the edge of the road reduces the effectiveness
During Operation Iraqi Freedom II, multinational-force convoys
were increasingly targeted by VBIEDs. Most combat arms convoys
had the advantage of using fully armored vehicles, but CSS
vehicles typically had only locally fabricated armor. For this
reason, keeping potential threats away from convoys was all
the more important.
To counter VBIED threats, vehicles had to be positioned appropriately
to block access to convoys. To prevent vehicles from approaching
a convoy from behind, the two trail vehicles (usually M998
HMMWVs with add-on armor and a crew-served weapon in the back)
traveled abreast of each other. The gunners were oriented to
the rear and sides. When vehicles approached the rear of the
convoy, the gunners stood up and motioned for the vehicles
to stop. As soon as the vehicles backed away, the gunners dropped
back inside their vehicle in order to protect themselves from
static IEDs. If the vehicles continued to approach, the gunners
took appropriate measures in accordance with the rules of engagement.
The convoy’s lead vehicles served to clear the route
and prevent vehicles from entering from side streets, ramps,
and other approaches. As they approached intersecting streets
or local vehicles waiting to enter the road, the lead vehicles
moved over to block access to the main road. Once the lead
vehicles passed the access point and no threats had been identified,
they quickly returned to the center of the road. These techniques
helped to protect convoys from attack from the rear and sides.
With these techniques in use, the biggest remaining threat
was from vehicles that the convoy passed. The personnel in
the lead vehicle had to remain vigilant and look for indicators
of a potential VBIED. If a threat was identified, convoy personnel
had to act aggressively to prevent an attack. Once a vehicle
made a threatening move or refused to comply with signals from
the gunners, that vehicle had to be stopped using methods that
followed the rules of engagement.
An additional measure that had to be considered to counter
the IED threat was route selection. While the narrowness of
most streets in Baghdad served to channel most military convoys
(especially those with large vehicles) into certain wider streets,
careful consideration still had to be given to the routes selected
for convoys. In many cases, units across the division used
the same routes, thereby inadvertently establishing convoy
patterns that the units may not have recognized but the insurgents
would perceive. Close monitoring of division-level contact
reports helped to prevent attacks by avoiding routes that habitually
were targeted by insurgents.
Signs of potential VBIEDs included overloaded vehicles, covered
items inside the passenger compartment, inappropriately dressed
drivers (for instance, a driver wearing a winter coat in the
summer in Baghdad), and erratic driving. This last sign was
perhaps the most difficult to spot during operations in Baghdad.
Since the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime, enforcement of
traffic laws in Iraq had become nearly nonexistent. Some of
the behaviors that indicated threatening driving were excessive
speed, adjusting speed to match the convoy speed, and attempting
to bypass blocking vehicles.
tank damaged by an improvised explosive device is
lifted by two M88 recovery vehicles for removal to
a safer location.
Combat Recovery in Urban Baghdad
During uprisings by the Muqtada Militia, the task force was
required to conduct numerous recovery operations deep inside
the city in the midst of heavy fighting. The enemy shifted
away from direct-fire engagements to the use of IEDs to fight
the battalion’s tanks. This tactic allowed the insurgents
to attack tanks without the risk of exposing themselves.
As the task force moved through the city, the enemy often detonated
IEDs near tanks in an effort to disable them. Once a tank was
disabled, the insurgents in the area could rally around the
immobile vehicle and attack with RPGs and small arms. Although
this fire was largely ineffective against tank armor, it did
provide a challenge to U.S. personnel attempting to evacuate
the crew and recover the damaged vehicle.
On a traditional battlefield, a catastrophic kill likely
would be left in place and retrieved following the battle,
was not an option for TF 2–8 CAV. Because of the possible
repercussions from television coverage of insurgents dancing
on a U.S. tank, the task force commander put a high priority
on recovering damaged vehicles as soon as possible.
To facilitate the recovery of the damaged vehicles as soon
as possible, an M88 recovery vehicle was located with the
task force reserve (typically two M7 Bradley fire support
In most cases, the task force reserve and the M88 were collocated
with the battalion’s tactical command post (TAC). When
a vehicle was damaged, recovery became the decisive operation
for the task force, with all of its efforts focused on recovering
the crew and its vehicle.
As with any casualty evacuation or recovery operation, the
security of the site was the first priority. Typically, a tank
platoon was committed to security. In addition to suppressing
any insurgents in the area, the tanks were positioned to prevent
the insurgents from having a direct line of fire at the M88
crew as they connected the tank to the recovery vehicle. Once
the site was secured, the M88 was brought forward under the
escort of the task force reserve. In the event of significant
casualties, an M113 ambulance also could be brought forward
to evacuate the wounded.
Once the recovery assets arrived at the site, the M7s became
additional security assets and also were available to evacuate
casualties and crew members of the downed tank. In most instances,
the recovery crew used the V chains from the M88 to connect
to the damaged vehicle rather than the normal heavy tow bar
used in training. Although this was not the preferred method
for towing, the speed gained in hooking up to the damaged vehicle
was well worth any cosmetic damage done to the vehicle in the
Once the connection was complete, the tank was pulled out of
the engagement area to a safer location. At that point, the
FSC delivered another M88 (previously staged out of contact
at a forward location). The second M88 and the task force reserve
moved back to the TAC in order to prepare for the next mission.
At the maintenance exchange point, the crew of the first M88
connected the recovery vehicle to the tank with a tow bar and
conducted any battle damage assessment and repair (BDAR) required
to permit recovery back to the FOB. The most common issue faced
was suspension arms dragging on the ground as a result of tracks
and wheels being blown off by IEDs.
vehicles are staged for recovery missions. The task
force’s recovery vehicles received additional
protection, including gunshields and turrets.
By selecting a safe maintenance exchange point,
the M88 and tank crews were able to do BDAR that allowed for
ease of recovery. If a proper BDAR was not performed, the risk
of doing additional damage to the suspension increased, as
did the risk of catching the vehicle on fire because of the
heat generated by friction with paved roads. Once the BDAR
was complete, the tank and M88 were recovered to the FOB under
escort of the FSC. Once it was at the FOB, the tank was turned
over to the maintenance team. The M88 with escorts then returned
to their forward staging location.
Recovery of wheeled vehicles in an urban fight also provided
a challenge. Maneuvering a heavy, expanded-mobility tactical
truck (HEMTT) wrecker into position often was a challenge in
the crowded streets of an urban environment. Because of the
difficulty of getting to a damaged vehicle and evacuating the
area, the site of the fight had to be made more secure. In
the case of catastrophic kills, an LHS with an empty flatrack
was the only viable option for evacuating destroyed vehicles.
In order to place a vehicle on a flatrack, either an M88 had
to be on site or locally fabricated ramps had to be used to
allow the damaged vehicle to be winched onto the flatrack.
On two occasions, the site of a burning vehicle had to be secured
overnight to allow the fire to die down so that the recovery
could be completed in the morning.
With each recovery mission, security and mission planning were
critical. A common operating picture across both maneuver and
CSS assets allowed for rapid recovery of damaged vehicles,
thereby preventing the further loss of equipment and denying
the insurgents the opportunity to celebrate the damage of coalition
When deployed as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, TF 2–8
CAV was still adjusting to the CSS changes associated with
Force XXI redesign. This may have facilitated the operational
adaptations and innovations of the task force’s
Iraq deployment, since the previous paradigms for CSS had already
been set aside and leaders at all levels had recently focused
on the fundamental relationships between CSS and mission success.
Because of the constantly changing environment and tactical
situation in Baghdad, logistics functions had to be flexible
and responsive. Through full-spectrum operations, the task
force’s logistics personnel had to meet the logistics
needs of the maneuver commander to ensure his freedom of maneuver
and maintain pressure on the insurgents.
The experiences of TF 2–8 CAV in eastern Baghdad may
not be directly transferable to other situations. However,
those experiences illustrate the types of operational adjustments
and innovations that can enhance mission success.
Captain Kevin M. Baird is Commander of B Forward Support Company,
115th Forward Support Battalion (which is attached to the 2–8
Cavalry Battalion), 1st Cavalry Division, at Fort Hood, Texas.
He is a graduate of the Armor Officer Basic Course and the
Combined Logistics Captains Career Course. He was commissioned
following graduation from Vanderbilt University and has a master’s
degree from the University of Missouri at Rolla.