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Supply and Services Operations in Afghanistan

In March 2010, the 43d Sustainment Brigade out of Fort Carson, Colorado, deployed to Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. This deployment marked a significant event in the history of the United States' 9-year effort to topple the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and to support the placement and strengthening of a legitimate government within the country.

Throughout the campaign, Afghanistan had been supported by a single sustainment brigade. The arrival of the 43d Sustainment Brigade was significant because it allowed the coalition forces to split the country into two zones, each with the support of a dedicated sustainment brigade. In April 2010, the 43d Sustainment Brigade assumed control of Regional Commands South, Southwest, and West from the 82d Sustainment Brigade. This split allowed two brigades to start providing immediate, dedicated support to their now smaller areas of responsibility.

Supply and Services Section
The 43d Sustainment Brigade's support operations supply and services section (SPO S&S) gained responsibility for Kandahar Airfield, one of the most important logistics hubs in the country. Kandahar Airfield has been one of the largest through points for the country because of its location in the south and its proximity to the Pakistan border. The 43d SPO S&S area of responsibility in Regional Commands South, Southwest, and West included 7 supply support activities (SSAs), one of which was the main SSA on Kandahar Airfield, supporting more than 900 Department of Defense activity address codes (DODAACs).

As the main logistics hub for Regional Commands South, Southwest, and West, the SSA at Kandahar Airfield was an integral player in the support of operations across all three regions. However, when the 43d SPO S&S took over operation of this SSA, it found an operation suffering from several years of neglect and mismanagement by previously assigned units and contracted companies. The extent of the problems at the SSA was monumental, including more than 8 months of backlogged items needing to be received, poor container management, and storage areas that had never been properly maintained. Pilferage was rampant, and security was an issue. Customer issue lanes were filled with items that had been there for weeks.

The unit that was in place had developed and implemented some measures to combat the problems and had been supported in their efforts by the 82d Sustainment Brigade, but the mission to correct the SSA's operational environment had just begun.

Correcting SSA Management Problems
When the 43d SPO S&S arrived, the SSA had more than 600 containers, half of which had been there for 6 to 8 months. More than 30 customer lanes were overflowing because of the lack of timely customer pickup of items and because of unit departures from the theater. These two problems alone contributed to the severe mismanagement of the SSA by limiting workspace and cluttering the area with an extensive amount of unaccounted-for items.

The SSA staff worked diligently to finish processing all backlogged items and began a massive reorganization of work areas to improve container management, increase item flow through the SSA, and expedite the pickup of items by supported customers.

The SPO S&S responsible for the Kandahar Airfield SSA supported the SSA with capabilities that it had available. Some of those capabilities included managing the manager review file, overseeing logistics movements, overseeing operational and procedural management, and providing a more accessible chain of support for both the SSA staff and customers.

By maintaining the manager review file, the 43d SPO S&S controlled the requisitioning process through an approval system for command-regulated items, excessive quantities, high-dollar items, and items no longer available. This process safeguarded the Army and the Department of Defense against fraud, waste, and abuse of the supply system. It allowed units down to the battalion level the opportunity to be aware of their requisitioning habits, spending, and critical needs. The communication between the 43d SPO S&S and the battalion elements and the positive awareness of unit-level requisitioning habits resulted in cost savings in excess of $265 million during the 43d Sustainment Brigade's deployment.

DODAAC Management
The 43d SPO S&S also provided support to all seven SSAs within its area of responsibility by monitoring and clearing inactive customer DODAACs from the supply system. It was evident when the 43d Sustainment Brigade arrived that the SSA had no effective system of checks and balances for units departing the theater. The SPO S&S conducted a review of the systems for which it was responsible and found more than 500 inactive customer DODAACs.

The process of clearing inactive DODAACs in-cludes identifying the DODAACs, reviewing open-document histories, purging those documents from the supply system, and reporting to the appropriate higher source the DODAACs that are ready for removal.

The 43d SPO S&S purged the supply system of more than 10,000 open documents from inactive customers and prepared more than 400 DODAACs for removal by the 1st Theater Sustainment Command.

Other Customer Support
The 43d SPO S&S supported its customers in several other ways. Two of those were the high-priority and "aircraft on ground" referral processes. These processes allowed unit-level customers to expedite high-priority needs from alternate sources when critically needed items were not immediately available from the unit's supporting SSA.

The SPO S&S also built catalog files for uncommon items that were needed by customers with equipment that is not traditionally used, such as refrigeration containers and electrical and plumbing materials for construction projects.

Working in conjunction with Defense Logistics Agency representatives, the 43d SPO S&S regularly assessed available supplies to improve the support capabilities of the supply system. As the regional subject-matter experts, the SPO S&S helped improve operations at three SSAs and streamline the establishment of three new SSAs.

With the ever-evolving operating tempo and environment, the 43d SPO S&S was a critical logistics support team for seven SSAs operating within Regional Commands South, Southwest, and West. The 43d SPO S&S evolved its support abilities to meet and exceed the needs of those operations, all the while providing world-class support to its customers within its area of operations.

Staff Sergeant Joseph Radermacher is an automated logistical specialist for the 43d Sustainment Brigade support operations supply and services section. He holds an associate's degree in general studies from Central Texas College and is pursuing a bachelor's degree in business management from Grantham University. He is a graduate of the Advanced Leaders Course at the Army Logistics University.


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