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A Neglected Principle of War in Logistics Advising

Various military transition teams are partnered with Iraqi police, air force, and army units to develop Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) capabilities. However, a leading challenge in the continued development of ISF capabilities rests in the coalition’s capacity to organize the training and advising mission at the tactical and operational levels under one command.

The current structure of the ISF logistics development partnership comprises several commands at various levels, each with a different focus. Although the commands share a vision for a self-sustaining ISF, the operational strategy, sourcing of adviser skill sets, adviser preparation, and command emphasis differ based on the needs of the Iraqi echelon with which the transition team is partnered. Despite unified action, the absence of unity of command limits the Iraqis’ ability to develop initiatives and sustain Iraqi logistics in the long term.

An Attempt to Unify Effort

In October 2009, the primary units assisting with Iraqi Army logistics development in the Baghdad area of responsibility were Multi-National Corps-Iraq (MNC–I), Multi-National Division-Baghdad (MND–B), Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq (MNSTC–I), and the 10th Sustainment Brigade. These organizations had ISF logistics sections and subordinate training, advising, and transition teams partnered with the Iraqi Army from the depot to the foxhole. At the MNC–I level, symposiums were held quarterly to integrate commands and to achieve unity of effort.

The 10th Sustainment Brigade conducted quarterly reviews with the expeditionary sustainment command, its higher headquarters, to assess metrics and share best practices among the sustainment brigade’s transition teams. Meetings were also held within MND–B and MNSTC–I to discuss challenges and attainable targets, but resources and efforts across the logistics-development spectrum were not synchronized. As the Iraqi Army was being redeveloped, logistics efforts were not aligned with the development and capabilities. The unity of effort was attempted at the action officer and staff level, but not among commanders.

Command Relationships

According to Field Manual 3–0, Operations, command relationships provide the basis for unity of command and unity of effort in operations. MND–B was partnered with Iraqi Army divisions. Sustainment brigades were partnered with Iraqi Army division support maintenance units and the division’s motor transportation regiment. MNSTC–I was partnered with the Iraqi Army depot- and national-level entities. These commands received guidance from and reported to different commanders.

The relationships among the various organizations were further complicated by the frustration of constant changes of individuals and teams redeploying, which led to breaks in momentum and gaps in continuity. The numerous differences in development metrics, team capabilities, and commander-established priorities also created challenges.

To mitigate these limitations, the 10th Sustainment Brigade’s ISF logistics transition team sought to streamline the Iraqi Army’s repair parts requisition process and maintenance doctrine by synchronizing, coordinating, and integrating the parts distribution and maintenance procedures from MND–B-partnered units through 10th Sustainment Brigade-partnered units and onward to MNSTC–I-advised agencies.

Gains in Iraqi Army efficiency and system confidence were minimal. Instead, the greater results of the initiative were military transition teams undermining outside commands, friction from transition teams with 10th Sustainment Brigade expectations, advisory teams and units with different priorities and agendas, and the need for unity of command. The current structure did not promote the development of Iraqi Army logistics.

A Need for One Command

Collectively, U.S. transition teams were not enabling Iraqi solutions to Iraqi problems. Units not synchronized and aligned with the long-term development strategy attempted to further Iraqi Army logistics by coordinating, supplying, and basically doing their counterpart’s work toward self-sustainment. Coordination and cooperation toward common objectives are not enough for training and advising organizations to effectively engage the Iraqi Army.

Logistics development efforts and orders must be managed under one responsible commander. Our advisers, partnered throughout military and Government activities, must have reporting requirements, engagement criteria, development metrics, partnership standards, training resources, and synchronized partnership development and direction aligned under one command. Initiatives must connect to each other and lead to long-term goals. Elements of the advisory mission must be synchronized in order to coordinate development efforts throughout partnered echelons. Unity of command is fundamental. This relationship is essential for maximizing logistics development efforts.

As U.S. military capabilities change with a strategic reduction of forces, advising resources and requirements will adjust in Iraq. This shift in U.S. forces demands more reliance on the ISF to provide security and stability for Iraq’s government and people. The advisory mission will only increase as the Army postures itself to help build the logistics skills of other foreign militaries and improve the stability of developing countries.

Unity of command is a necessary principle in synchronizing the resources and efforts of the advisory mission. This principle of war must be incorporated in the tactical and operational logistics development strategy.

The efforts of the U.S. Army’s training and advisory transition team play an increasingly critical role as we develop the capabilities of foreign forces toward self-sustainment and government stability. Sustained logistics is essential for any organization’s long-term survival. Neglecting unity of command severely limits training and advisory capabilities in logistics development.

Major James J. Zacchino, Jr., is the support operations officer for the 548th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 10th Sustainment Brigade, at Fort Drum, New York. He was previously assigned as a logistics transition team chief during the brigade’s deployment to Iraq. He holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and an M.B.A. degree from Rutgers University. He is a graduate of the Multinational Logistics Course, Joint Course on Logistics, Petroleum Officer Course, Support Operations Course, Conventional Forces Europe Arms Inspector/Escort Course, Combined Arms and Services Staff School, Combined Logistics Captains Career Course, and Quartermaster Officer Basic Course.

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