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The 8th Theater Sustainment Command Leads the Way During Operation Pacific Strike 2008

The ability to move rapidly to the fight with the equipment and personnel needed to successfully achieve the commander’s objective and to sustain that force logistically for the duration of the action has always been the key combat and operational enabler. An enlightened Chinese warrior once wrote, “An untested commander believes that a battle can be won with forces of the moment . . . the seasoned commander knows that good logistics ultimately dictates success or failure on the battlefield.” Two thousand years later, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, on the eve of the Normandy invasion, corroborated the truth of that universal axiom to his staff by saying, “Battles, campaigns, and even wars have been won or lost primarily because of logistics.”

Forward deployed from Fort Shafter, Hawaii, to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, from June to August 2008, the Army’s 8th Theater Sustainment Command (TSC) successfully demonstrated its ability to execute joint task force (JTF) command and control responsibilities for joint logistics over-the-shore (JLOTS) operations. Known as Pacific Strike 2008, the exercise, directed by the U.S. Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) and the U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM), tested the strategic ability of the Army and Navy to jointly offload a brigade set of vehicles and cargo to an austere beachhead and then push that equipment forward to the warfighter.

JLOTS Concept

JLOTS is among the tools in the combatant commander’s kit bag to support the fight or to execute disaster relief. As outlined in Joint Publication 4–01.6, Joint Logistics Over-the-Shore, JLOTS is the process of loading and unloading supply ships, without the benefit of deep-draft-capable fixed-port facilities, through the coordinated efforts of Army and Navy personnel to receive, stage, and push supplies, equipment, and fuel to the warfighter. JLOTS demands the close integration of multiple Army and Navy elements and capabilities in order to achieve a seamless and efficient flow of all classes of combat supplies.

Each geographic combatant commander has overall responsibility for JLOTS operations in his area of responsibility. Each service component has the personnel and equipment needed to conduct logistics over-the-shore operations within its area of core competency—the Navy from ship to shore, the Army from ship to shore with Army watercraft, and the Army from shore to foxhole. However, the geographic combatant commander normally delegates authority for command, control, and synchronization of the entire JLOTS mission to a subordinate JTF. The designated JTF commander and staff then can accomplish detailed planning through a central planning team composed of representatives from the participating services and TRANSCOM, which provides strategic maritime transportation platforms through the Navy’s Military Sealift Command (MSC). These platforms include Navy-owned or -chartered large medium-speed roll-on-roll-off ships (LMSRs), other roll-on-roll-off ships, tactical auxiliary crane ships, and fuel tankers.

Each participating service, as directed by the JTF JLOTS commander, contributes forces and equipment (within its respective service inventory and capabilities) that are uniquely tailored to execute specific parts of the JLOTS mission. The Navy provides amphibious construction units (Seabees), beach group and beachmaster ship-to-shore controllers, ship offloading personnel, lighterage (tugs and barges) of various capacities, floating and elevated causeways and piers, and the Offshore Petroleum Distribution System (OPDS). The Army provides logistics support vessels, landing craft, lighterage, causeway construction companies, ship offloading personnel, deprocessing and staging companies, surface movement control teams and coordinators, long-haul transportation assets (either organic or contracted), and the Inland Petroleum Distribution System (IPDS). Both Army and Navy units contribute to the construction and operation of the base camp for JLOTS personnel on site.

JLOTS and the TSC

To avoid overlap, duplication, or capabilities gaps in the JLOTS operation and to prevent disagreements between the services over tactical responsibilities in the JLOTS process, the service elements (Army and Navy) are integrated under a JTF JLOTS commander. He usually has the tactical control authority to direct all aspects of the JLOTS operation, including arrival of the strategic maritime vessels within the JLOTS area of responsibility, “in-stream” downloading of cargo and vehicles, over-the-shore operations, assembly of equipment and cargo at inland staging and marshalling areas, and movement of cargo and equipment to the supported unit’s tactical assembly areas.

The Army’s TSC, when augmented by Navy, Marine Corps, and TRANSCOM capabilities and subject-matter experts, is uniquely qualified to serve as the JTF headquarters to execute JLOTS for the combatant commander. By doctrinal design, a TSC commands and controls all Army operational logistics formations in support of a joint or multinational force. The TSC serves as the combatant commander’s Army service component execution agent for several lead-service, common-user logistics responsibilities, including supply-chain management, common land transportation, movement control, and water and petroleum receipt, storage, and distribution.

The TSC mission is to plan, prepare, rapidly deploy, and execute operational-level sustainment operations in an assigned theater. The TSC and its subordinate expeditionary support commands can be the combatant commander’s early-entry logistics capability in the theater area of operations, responsible for theater-opening actions at air and seaports of debarkation and for the reception, staging, and onward movement (RSO) of land forces and equipment.

The TSC command and control system is composed of senior staff personnel, information management systems, and equipment and facilities that are essential to assessing, planning, preparing for, and executing support operations. Through its increasingly capable electronic enablers, such as the Battle Command Sustainment Support System, the Future Battle Command Brigade and Below System, and the Command Post of the Future, the TSC provides the land force commander with a dynamic and reliable logistics common operating picture and operational headquarters.

The TSC plays the primary role in distribution management by coordinating and requisitioning TRANSCOM’s strategic transportation assets, monitoring the movement of MSC vessels and Air Mobility Command aircraft into theater, and integrating strategic lift with the common-user land transportation assets on the ground. The TSC also connects the warfighter to the national providers’ capabilities and resources (the Army Materiel Command and the Defense Logistics Agency) through its distribution management center within the support operations section. These organic capabilities give the TSC commander, as the JLOTS JTF commander, the ability to direct the JLOTS operation and integrate the Army’s and Navy’s contributions to the exercise without significant strain on the TSC’s organic command and control resources and well within the TSC’s technical area of logistics competence, when augmented by Army and Navy watercraft subject-matter experts.

As the JTF headquarters for JLOTS operations at Pacific Strike 2008, the 8th TSC was responsible for over 3,000 Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and civilians from more than 80 units, including 26 National Guard and Reserve units from 11 states. The 8th TSC commander led JTF–8, which consisted of two major subordinate commands—

  • The Army’s 45th Sustainment Brigade from Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, which engaged in RSO missions.
  • Naval Beach Group One from San Diego, California, with its subordinate Navy Amphibious Construction Battalion One, its Navy Beachmaster Unit One, and the Army’s 24th Transportation Battalion from Fort Eustis, Virginia, which collectively executed the ship-to-shore, in-stream offload actions and constructed the temporary piers and causeways.

Pacific Strike Conceived

JFCOM conceived Pacific Strike 2008 as an opportunity to train Army and Navy units in JLOTS operations, while coordinating with TRANCOM to meet the transportation requirements of the 3d Brigade Combat Team (BCT), 25th Infantry Division, to move the brigade’s combat systems, vehicles, and supplies from the unit’s home station at Schofield Barracks to the National Training Center (NTC) at Fort Irwin, California. In lieu of contracting for commercial door-to-door transportation from Hawaii to the NTC, TRANSCOM, with JFCOM concurrence, directed the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) to execute a JLOTS operation for loading the BCT’s cargo onto the Navy’s USNS Pililaau at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, for cross-Pacific shipment. Navy units were then tasked to expedite the in-stream discharge of the brigade’s equipment from the Pililaau onto Red Beach at Camp Pendleton. As part of this JLOTS exercise, Army units were identified to stage and move all of the BCT’s vehicles and equipment by Army organic or contracted transportation from Red Beach to Fort Irwin in time to support the BCT’s mission rehearsal exercise in preparation for its deployment to Iraq.

The Army’s Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC) also played an important role in the exercise. As a major subordinate command of the Army Materiel Command, SDDC’s mission is to provide global surface deployment command and control and distribution management. During Pacific Strike 2008, SDDC managed all rail transportation to and from the JLOTS area of responsibility and provided highly trained Army and Navy personnel from its own staff to serve in the JTF–8 headquarters.

Setting Up Operations

PACOM nominated U.S. Army Pacific as its executive agent for the exercise and concurred in the appointment of the 8th TSC as the JTF, with the 8th TSC commander serving as the JTF commander. After a series of planning sessions and rock drills among Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and TRANSCOM planners during the early months of the year, Pacific Strike got underway in June 2008 when Navy Seabees from Amphibious Construction Battalion One began building the life support base for JLOTS personnel at Camp Pendleton. The Seabees erected over 500 sleeping tents, a dining facility, latrine and shower facilities, a barbershop, and a post exchange. By the time the bulk of Army and Navy personnel arrived at Camp Pendleton, the Seabees had completed a morale, welfare, and recreation facility that supported nearly 3,000 service members.

At the same time, Soldiers from the 24th Transportation Battalion began the demanding task of packing and loading the Army’s trident pier, lighterage, and causeway ferry on rail cars for shipment from Fort Eustis to Camp Pendleton.

As the strategic partner in the exercise, TRANSCOM committed four ships operated by the MSC to the exercise. These included the USNS Pililaau, an LMSR capable of carrying 380,000 square feet of cargo; the SS Cape Mohican, one of MSC’s two heavy-lift ships; the SS Flickertail State, a crane ship that lifts cargo from its holds onto watercraft or a temporary or fixed pier; and the SS Chesapeake, a fuel tanker designed for OPDS operations.

Offloading the Equipment

With the arrival off shore of the SS Flickertail State and the offload of hundreds of sections of the elevated causeway pier (ELCAS) from that vessel, the Seabees constructed the ELCAS, a temporary pier. They built the ELCAS 25 feet above the breaking surf and out 1,200 feet from shoreline to sea. The 24-foot-wide ELCAS could handle 18-wheeled tractor-trailers. It incorporated at its pier head a rotating 130-ton crane. The crane and its Navy operators proved indispensable in unloading the 3d BCT’s containers from the lighterage used to transfer the cargo from the USNS Pililaau to the ELCAS and then from the ELCAS to the tractor-trailers that were driven to the ELCAS pier head. The tractor-trailers then delivered the containerized cargo to the Army RSO team farther inland. Over the week-long ship-to-shore download activity, crane operators offloaded 42 ISU–90 containers, 87 20-foot containers, and 372 TRICONs.

The BCT’s vehicles were driven off the stern ramp of the USNS Pililaau onto flat, modular barge sections that had been assembled into roll-on-roll-off discharge facilities. The equipment then was transloaded to Navy or Army lighterage. Sailors from Beachmaster Unit One guided the lighterage to shore, where transportation Soldiers met the smaller watercraft and moved the trucks, high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles, and trailers from the lighterage to the beach, across the sand, and then forward to the marshalling area. At the marshalling area, Soldiers from the 45th Sustainment Brigade first inspected and then loaded the vehicles and the containers onto both commercial and military long-haul trucks for the 180-mile trip to Fort Irwin. By the third day of the exercise, Soldiers and Sailors became so proficient in JLOTS operations that they were downloading over 298 vehicles and containers per day from the USNS Pililaau.

Fuel Transfer

The SS Chesapeake, a modified fuel tanker designed to pump petroleum products from her tanks to other ships or holding tanks on shore, pumped fuel through an onboard flexible pipe from its storage hold through a recoverable 8-inch pipeline submerged on the ocean floor to the beach. There the OPDS connected to the Army’s IPDS, which consists of flexible pipeline, pumps, and petroleum storage bags, operated by Soldiers of the 109th Quartermaster Company. These quartermaster Soldiers ensured that fuel would be available for future distribution inland via pipeline, truck, or railcar. During Pacific Strike 2008, Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines assigned to the OPDS and IPDS operation pumped over 200,000 gallons of fresh water (used to simulate JP8 or DF2 in order to eliminate the risk of environmental contamination) from the Chesapeake to the onshore bags.

Challenges Overcome

The exercise was not without its challenges. Low visibility, strong currents, and heavy surf on several days created a sea state that threatened some of the ship-to-shore operations. Growing waves and adverse currents pounded the Army’s trident pier (designed for the movement of wheeled and tracked vehicles from lighterage to the beach) from opposite angles during its installation on Red Beach and tore apart the fasteners that held the multiple pier sections together. This “confused sea” rendered the trident pier unusable for the remainder of the exercise. Consequently, all USNS Pililaau cargo was offloaded either onto the ELCAS from smaller craft or directly onto Red Beach from Navy and Army barges.

The JTF moved more than 1,500 vehicles and shipping containers from ship to shore without the benefit of a fixed pier or berthing space and with no accidents or losses of equipment. This was the largest JLOTS operation, based on the quantity of equipment delivered, since the Inchon landing during the Korean War.

From an operational perspective, and more importantly as reported by the individual Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines who participated in Pacific Strike 2008, the exercise was an unqualified success. Pacific Strike tested and stressed the ability of the 8th TSC to accomplish the JLOTS mission and satisfy its warfighting customer, the 3d BCT. As the JTF, the 8th TSC, with its extraordinarily capable complement of Navy and Marine Corps personnel, demonstrated its inherent ability as a command and control headquarters to operate in a joint, combined, and physically challenging environment. The Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines of JTF 8 were able to make JLOTS, a tremendously complicated operation with its many moving pieces, appear seamless to the warfighter.

Brigadier General Mark MacCarley is the deputy commander of the 8th Theater Sustainment Command. He is a graduate of the Judge Advocate General’s Officer Basic Course, the Judge Advocate General’s Officer Advanced Course, the Supply Officers Course, the Army Command and General Staff College, the Multifunctional Logistics Officer Course, the Senior Officer Transportation Qualification Course, and the Army War College.

Lieutenant Colonel Brian F. Coleman is the deputy support operations officer of the 8th Theater Sustainment Command. He holds an M.S. degree in business administration from Boston University and is a graduate of the Mortuary Affairs Officer Course, the NBC Officers Course, the Support Operations Course, the Logistics Executive Development Course, and the Army Command and General Staff College.