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Convoy Support Teams

The hard work of U.S. Army Central Command logisticians on the battlefield is often unnoticed because their efforts are considered simply routine, everyday activities for logistics personnel. But those logisticians are the linchpin of the responsible drawdown in Iraq and the buildup in Afghanistan.

Supporting Logistics Convoys

One simple but innovative technique that logisticians employ to achieve success on the battlefield is the convoy support team (CST). Personnel assigned to the sustainment brigade in Kuwait and its subordinate transportation battalions do not see the CST as difficult or remarkable because this technique has existed for many deployment cycles. But some forward-thinking logistician in the sustainment community had a reason for rethinking Army procedures and developing this mechanism to accomplish the mission.

The sustainment brigade in Kuwait executes a composite technique to accomplish the sustainment mission. The technique involves CSTs and logistics convoys. The CSTs are located at outlying forward operating bases (FOBs) and have the primary purpose of assisting logistics convoys in making the round trip to withdraw equipment and cargo from Iraq. CSTs are detachments that consist of about three to five personnel who coordinate maintenance of broken-down vehicles and life support, including overnight lodging and FOB transportation (such as between lodging and dining facilities), for the convoy members.

Maintenance Support

The biggest challenge—and certainly a major success—for the CST is maintenance support. CSTs at the FOBs have bench stock class IX (repair parts) for mechanics to use for preplanned or forecasted repairs (based on historical data), but these CSTs do not have any assigned mechanics. The unit mechanics are located in Kuwait because the number of mechanics is limited and most of them are thoroughly occupied with unit organizational maintenance operations.

The CSTs are provided with bench stock at each FOB because they do not have unit identification codes or Department of Defense activity address codes. The CSTs also do not have a prescribed load list (PLL) to ensure that their parts are delivered, so they must coordinate with the sustainment brigade’s command and control elements to synchronize delivery of parts.

The battalion maintenance officer (BMO) provides one mechanic to ride in each logistics convoy in case of any unforeseen breakdowns. Up to 35 convoys may be traveling on the main supply route at any given time, limiting the number of mechanics available to maintain the unit’s vehicles at the FOB.

The CSTs support the BMO by providing forward support and have oversight at the FOB to coordinate for other mechanics to perform the actual repairs. The CSTs coordinate with the FOB mayor’s cell for life support and the directorate of logistics for maintenance support but use the FOB’s assets to accomplish the maintenance tasks without tasking mechanics unnecessarily to support the convoys.

An extensive spreadsheet is maintained for managing class IX and includes the parts for both truck battalions in the brigade. The repair parts are taken from the sustainment brigade’s PLL and sent to Iraq with the convoys on a routine timeline. Parts for all vehicles are maintained as bench stock at all CST locations and are tracked by the brigade with guidance from the two BMOs in Kuwait.

The CST concept is unique and can be executed without reorganizing a unit’s table of organization and equipment. Many units should consider this option in future logistics planning, especially in remote locations such as areas in Afghanistan. This type of forward thinking and execution is exactly the type of lessons learned that we need to pass on to our military leaders for use in future conflicts.

Just as airline passengers may take for granted the hard work that airline personnel put into transporting passengers seamlessly from place to place, an Army logistician’s complex operation of moving supplies may go unnoticed. It may seem simple and routine to employ the CST, but this technique has saved the Army money, lives, and resources.

Lieutenant Colonel Steven L. Updike, USAR, is assigned to the Center for Army Lessons Learned as a theater observation detachment officer at the 1st Theater Support Command in Kuwait. He is a graduate of the Naval Command and Staff College, Air Command and Staff College, Army Command and General Staff College, Defense Strategy Course, and Associate Logistics Executive Development Course. He has a bachelor of science degree in economics from the University of Missouri-Rolla and a masters of arts honors degree in transportation and logistics management from the American Military University.

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