The newly created 1st Corps Support Command Fusion
managed all classes of supply on the Iraqi battlefield.
Acquiring and maintaining visibility of the flow
of commodities throughout a Texas-sized battlespace is a daunting task. However, while deployed to
support Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), the 1st Corps Support
Command (COSCOM) created an Iraq-wide ground and air traffic
control station called a “fusion cell” that successfully
managed this mammoth task. This article discusses the factors
leading to the establishment of the 1st COSCOM Fusion Cell,
the processes and enablers that fed it, and, finally, its
accomplishments in support of OIF 04–06.
In August 2003, the commanding general of 1st COSCOM directed
that the 2d Corps Materiel Management Center (CMMC) be converted
to a corps distribution command (CDC). This transformation
centralized all logistics oversight for the XVIII Airborne
Corps under one O6 commander who would be responsive to
the warfighter. It merged CMMC materiel management functions
and the 330th Transportation Battalion movement control
operations under one brigade command structure. It also established
various distribution management teams to provide additional
materiel management oversight to separate brigade combat
teams (BCTs) and corps support groups (CSGs). The CDC’s
mission was to perform “time-definite” materiel
and distribution management of all classes of supply (less
class VIII [medical materiel], classified maps, and communications
security) and manage maintenance for all assigned and at-tached
XVIII Airborne Corps units.
The 1st COSCOM’s overarching objective during its deployment was to sustain
the momentum of Multinational Corps-Iraq (MNC–I) combat operations. To
do this, the command’s logisticians first had to gain accurate and consistent
visibility of MNC–I needs, requisition the required commodities, link them
to a distribution asset (ground convoy or air transport), synchronize their movement,
and track them to their final destination. This sounds like a simple concept,
but the actual process is complicated and involves many distribution enablers,
Soldiers, and systems that are geared toward supporting the warfighter.
COSCOM Fusion Cell included commodity managers and
a BCT Tactical Assessment Cell.
Achieving Total Asset Visibility
Gaining and maintaining total asset visibility (TAV) on the
battlefield requires resourcing and training. TAV also requires
a closed-looped supply chain management
process that links systems and enablers from the strategic level to the tactical
warfighter. It requires a common support system, such as the Battle Command
Sustainment Support System (BCS3), which relies on multiple feeder subsystems
to gain Logistics Common Operating Picture (LCOP) visibility. Among the subsystems
feeding into BCS3 are radio frequency identification (RFID) tags and fixed-site
interrogators, which give commodity visibility; the Movement Tracking System
(MTS), which tracks the trucks carrying commodities as they move; and the Deployment
Asset Visibility System (DAVS), which queries trucks, indicates what they carry,
and even identifies the drivers and passengers of the trucks as they move.
A closed-loop supply system allows logisticians to change the destination of
en route commodities and disseminate updated intelligence spot reports as events
occur. Designing a fusion cell for combat operations was the first step in
making the “simple” TAV concept a reality.
Fusion Cell Processes and Enablers
During preparations for OIF 04–06, the CDC experimented with different
types of organizational structures to enhance distribution management at the
corps level, finally settling on the 1st COSCOM Fusion Cell.
The 1st COSCOM Fusion Cell consisted of —
• The CMMC commodity managers of classes I (subsistence), II (clothing
and individual equipment), IIIB (bulk petroleum, oils, and lubricants [POL]),
IIIP (packaged POL), IV (construction and barrier materials), V (ammunition),
and VII (major end items). These managers were charged with tracking and controlling
the replenishment of listed stocks at the general support (GS) and direct support
(DS) levels across the MNC–I area of operations.
• The 330th Transportation Battalion’s Highway Traffic Division,
which was charged with controlling the flow of ground and air distribution assets
across Iraq. It was directly linked to the 24 movement control teams operating
in Iraq and was, in essence, the eyes and ears of the 1st COSCOM Fusion Cell
in the daily execution of distribution operations.
• An embedded BCT Tactical Assessment Cell (TAC). In asymmetric warfare,
convoys are combat logistics patrols, and, as such, they require careful planning,
execution, and leadership. All logistics units require a force-protection element.
For a COSCOM (or, in the future modular Army, a deployable command post), a
separate but assigned BCT is essential to provide command and control for convoy
escorts. Placing a BCT TAC into the 1st COSCOM Fusion Cell permitted the cell
to coordinate convoy force protection with the 330th Transportation Battalion’s
Transportation Integration Cell, which was charged with synchronizing the movement
of convoys around the clock. Each convoy consisted of approximately 20 vehicles
and included equipment such as stake-and-platform trailers with 20- or 40-foot
containers, refrigerated vans, and heavy equipment transporters. Based on the
threat level, three to five
combat gun trucks were assigned to escort each convoy.
• Key leaders (lieutenant colonels and majors) from both the CDC’s
Support Operations Section and 330th Transportation Battalion to oversee daily
distribution management operations.
Two groups of personnel worked 12-hour shifts in the fusion cell throughout
OIF 04–06—approximately 60 personnel on the day shift and 50 on the
night shift. The cell was situated under the same roof and less than 50 feet
from the 1st COSCOM Joint Tactical Operations Center. The chart below shows
the general layout of the 1st COSCOM Fusion Cell.
During OIF 04–06, the commodity managers received daily brigade-level
logistics status reports, munitions reports, POL requests, and high-priority
call-ins for selected stocks. They filled the warfighters’ requirements
by releasing items from stocks in Iraq or Kuwait or by requisitioning them from
the appropriate national provider and wholesale systems.
Movements Synchronization Board
At 1130 each day, a Movements Synchronization Board, co-chaired by the senior
CDC Support Operations Officer in charge and the Chief of the Transportation
Integration Cell, was convened in the 1st COSCOM Fusion Cell. Participants
were able to “lock in” all combat logistics patrols and air movements
across Iraq 48 hours in advance of convoy movement and to plan, as far as 96
hours out, commodity movement details down to the individual truck or plane
that would be used. Specifically, the commodity managers verified their requirements
with the transportation and movement control officers from the 330th Transportation
Battalion and with the liaison officers representing each of the CSGs and primary
major subordinate commands (MSCs) in the MNC–I.
The Movements Synchronization Board process was captured in an Excel spreadsheet
called the Movements Control Program, which was used to synchronize the distribution
of commodities. The next iteration of this program should migrate to BCS3 as
soon as the command and control guard (used to scan documents before releasing
them in multilevel security environments) is approved and in place. This will
simplify the process and drastically decrease the man-hours required to keep
the theater-level movement program current.
During the Movements Synchronization Board meetings, representatives from 1st
COSCOM’s 56th BCT aligned gun truck escorts to ground convoys. Not later
than 1800 each day, the Movements Control Program became a sanctioned corps-level
fragmentary order that locked in movements by theater- or COSCOM-level convoys
or CH–47 Chinook helicopter or C–23 Sherpa air transports. When
a convoy start time had to be adjusted within the 48-hour window, colonel-to-colonel
coordination and approval kept combat service support (CSS) units from being
jerked around as they prepared ground convoys for travel on improvised explosive
device (IED)-filled highways.
The entire distribution management process was extremely fluid. Continuous
movement updates were driven by actions on the battlefield. The noncommissioned
and enlisted Soldiers of the Highway Traffic Division tracked the daily convoys
and flights across Iraq, including those coming into and leaving MNC–I’s
area of operations.
The automation systems and enablers used by the fusion cell were essential
to daily operations. From the beginning, CSS providers were expected to have
visibility of the distribution network. Many stovepipe systems do not provide
the information or processes needed. BCS3 was used as the baseline system to
monitor transportation movement requests using MTS and DAVS. DAVS was used
to gain real-time visibility of assets moving across the battlefield. Other
systems, such as the Blue Force Tracker and the Single Mobility System, helped
provide situational awareness of battlefield impacts.
In its quest for TAV, 1st COSCOM used the Army RFID tag system, coupled with
the DAVS (see the chart on page 14.) This was possible because a limited number
of DAVS (18 units) had been fielded in Iraq. Today, even with limited fielding,
1st COSCOM is manifesting and has visibility of over 70 percent of its combat
logistics patrols (cargo and personnel). This is an unprecedented level of
situational awareness using DAVS/BCS3 as an asset visibility and command, control,
and communications system. While DAVS may not be the final solution to TAV
problems in the theater, it is the only one currently available, so it is
being used to do the job in Iraq today.
Fusion Cell Accomplishments
The functions performed by the 1st COSCOM Fusion Cell were essential to synchronizing
and distributing the supplies OIF
04–06 warfighters required. The Fusion Cell—
• Generated daily fragmentary orders, driven by the MNC–I Movements
Control Program, that locked all COSCOM and theater convoys and air transports
into a 48-hour schedule.
• Synchronized the efficient use of combat logistics patrols under a single
command and control element (the 56th BCT).
• Synchronized the efficient use of all COSCOM and theater transportation
assets, both those coming into Iraq and those backhauling assets out. During
its OIF 04–06 tenure, 1st COSCOM averaged 98-percent use of all backhaul assets, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
• Facilitated the expansion of nine Iraqi airfields through which critical
repair parts, medical supplies, and passengers were moved, which lessened the
number of convoys required to travel on IED-laden Iraqi highways.
• Synchronized MSC force protection, route security, and medical evacuation
as ground convoys crossed MSC boundaries.
• Provided up-to-date intelligence on battlefield events and concerns to
the convoys before they departed their start points.
• Gave the 1st COSCOM commander the capability to redirect convoys to
safe havens or divert to other forward operating bases when enemy attacks or
IED encounters shut down the chosen route.
Throughout its OIF 04–06 tenure, the 1st COSCOM Fusion Cell kept MNC–I
supplies flowing and maintained readiness, thereby sustaining the momentum of
combat operations. The fusion cell routinely synchronized and tracked over 200
convoys a day. As of September 2005, more than 43,245 convoys (734,753 trucks)
had “rolled” since the December 2004 transition of authority to
1st COSCOM. During that same time, more than 116,312 pallets of supplies had
been moved by air through 9 airfields in Iraq and 2 in Kuwait. The use of air
transports meant that 29,078 ground convoys did not have to traverse dangerous
Iraqi highways to deliver supplies.
Logisticians supporting future fights must gain and maintain logistics visibility
and play an active role in synchronizing the flow of commodities to the warfighter.
As resources become scarcer, logisticians must look for innovative ways to
be efficient without sacrificing effectiveness. Supporting Soldiers at the
of the spear is the final determinant of success for CSS warriors.
Although the Army’s CSS structure is changing with the establishment
of sustainment brigades, deployable command posts, and restructured theater
commands, many of the lessons learned by the 1st COSCOM Fusion Cell are still
applicable. The support operations section of the sustainment brigade can use
fusion cell-type processes to synchronize BCT distribution support. The deployable
command post can establish a fusion cell to link strategic and operational
pushes directly to the base support battalion of the BCT, thereby reducing
of commodities at GS hubs. By using a fusion cell, the theater sustainment
command can access and “see,” through BCS3, the types of commodities
its subordinate deployable command posts and sustainment brigades are using
The 1st COSCOM Fusion Cell provided the visibility needed to support the fight
during OIF 04–06. Warfighters wanted the assurance that they would get
what they needed when they needed it. The fusion cell provided that assurance.
Colonel Mark W. Akin is the Commander of
the XVIII Airborne Corps Distribution Command, 1st Corps
Command, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He has a B.A. degree
in management from Texas A&M University, an M.S. degree
in logistics management from the Florida Institute of Technology,
and an M.S. degree in national resource strategy from the National
Defense University. He is a graduate of the Army Command and
General Staff College and the Industrial College of the Armed