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Innovation in Redeployment: The 1st Infantry Division Returns From Iraq

When the Big Red One left Iraq, it learned that a redeployment is not just a deployment in reverse. Army doctrine needs to reflect this reality. 

The redeployment of the 1st Infantry Division from north central Iraq to its home station demonstrated the complexity of conducting a deliberate relief-in-place and a redeployment simultaneously. It also highlighted a shortfall in current Army doctrine on the planning of redeployment operations. According to Field Manual (FM) 100–17–5, Redeployment, “All deployed forces eventually redeploy, perhaps using the same means of conveyance and many of the same procedures and processes.” However, the 1st Infantry Division movement cell recognized that redeployment operations do not necessarily mirror deployment operations. Redeployment scenarios vary widely based on available resources, the force structure of the redeploying units, and the locations involved. What follow are the challenges that the 1st Infantry Division faced in redeploying from Iraq and the solutions that it developed to overcome those challenges.

Redeployment Challenges

Geographically, the Big Red One’s area of operations in Iraq was the size of West Virginia, and division elements were dispersed across 28 forward operating bases (FOBs). The force that redeployed from Iraq in early 2005 also was far different from the force that had deployed to Iraq from Germany in early 2004. The division deployed 12,500 Soldiers and 7,500 pieces of equipment from units based in Germany. At the time of its redeployment, the division consisted of over 22,600 Soldiers and 14,200 pieces of equipment. These increases resulted from the addition of three diverse brigades: the 2d Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, from Hawaii; the 30th Heavy Separate Brigade from the North Carolina National Guard; and the 264th Engineer Group from the Wisconsin National Guard. Once the Department of the Army published guidance governing stay-behind equipment, the division’s total requirement for redeploying equipment dropped to 10,100 pieces. However, unlike deployment operations in which units converge in a single theater, the division had to plan for redeployment to three separate locations: Germany, the continental United States (CONUS), and Hawaii.

The 1st Infantry Division faced a variety of constraints during the redeployment process. Of primary concern, the division’s deployment was extended by 2 months in order to maintain the elevated troop levels needed in Iraq to provide security for the historic democratic election held in January 2005. As a result of the adjusted timeline, the division found that it would be redeploying almost simultaneously with the 1st Cavalry Division. That meant the division would face competition for scarce theater common-user land transportation (CULT) and for wash racks, sterile yards, and other facilities in Kuwait.

The lack of division and corps transportation assets became a critical constraint as the division approached its redeployment. The 167th Corps Support Group (CSG)—an Army Reserve unit from New Hampshire—provided backup support to the division. The CSG was based at FOB Speicher in Tikrit and was collocated with the 1st Infantry Division’s division-rear headquarters. However, the CSG headquarters jumped to FOB Q-West, south of Mosul, 2 months before the division’s redeployment. This sudden change in the location and mission of the division’s supporting unit hindered the working relationship that the division had fostered with the CSG’s transportation managers over the previous 10 months. Many CSG elements also redeployed 1 to 2 months before the 1st Infantry Division’s redeployment and were replaced by a corps support battalion with fewer transportation assets.

As the division was preparing to execute its redeployment, the available corps transportation assets at FOB Speicher were simultaneously conducting their own deployment, relief-in-place, and corps support missions. This further restricted the number of transportation assets available to move the division out.

Convoy security also faced a significant resource shortage. Multinational Corps-Iraq (MNC–I) published convoy guidance requiring 1 gun truck for every 10 civilian trucks and 1 gun truck for every 5 military trucks. MNC–I also delegated authority for CULT convoy security to the unit using the assets. However, because deploying units were scheduled to receive gun trucks at their destinations in Iraq from the units they were scheduled to replace, they lacked the gun trucks they needed for their movements into Iraq. Deploying units also were making one-way trips; once they arrived at their destination FOBs, they were not prepared or equipped to return CULT trucks to Kuwait.

Redeploying units were still engaged in full-spectrum operations in their areas of operations and were preparing to conduct detailed, one-for-one relief-in-place operations with their deploying replacement units. The redeploying units lacked the manpower and the equipment to disengage from their critical missions in order to secure CULT assets. These units found themselves stretched in trying to execute their primary mission of staying in contact with the enemy to prevent him from interdicting CULT movements while also conducting a quality relief-in-place and securing both deployment and redeployment CULT movements.

Current redeployment doctrine furnished the division little planning guidance. Army doctrine outlines detailed processes for the deployment of forces into a theater of operations, but it provides few guidelines on how to reconsolidate forces still in contact with the enemy for a redeployment. Doctrine for tactical maneuver units discusses consolidation and assembly-area procedures, but it does not describe how tactical-unit operations affect operational-level assets and movements. The movement from the combat zone back to the communications zone (COMMZ)—a line defined in this theater by the Iraq-Kuwait border—is not covered sufficiently in Army doctrine to assist units in developing their concepts of operation.

Because of this doctrinal deficiency, the 1st Infantry Division and every other unit in Iraq had to analyze constraints and limitations, evaluate available resources, and develop creative solutions in order to maximize use of those resources. These unilateral efforts were not well synchronized and led to inefficiencies and to competition for extremely scarce CULT and strategic airlift resources.

Early Retrograde of Equipment

The idea for an early retrograde of nonessential equipment came up during the planning for the division’s redeployment. The original intent was to fly 250 wheeled vehicles to Germany and ship 1,000 pieces of equipment to Germany by sea early in September 2004. The 1,000 pieces of equipment were smaller trailers and vehicles, tracked vehicles, and “soft-skinned” vehicles that needed transportation assets in order to be moved. Moving them early would reduce requirements for CULT during the division’s main redeployment in January 2005.

This early retrograde was intended to serve two purposes. First, it would move the unneeded equipment out of the theater early before the competition for CULT resources increased. Second, and more important, the retrograde would test both the Coalition Forces Land Component Command’s (CFLCC’s) redeployment concept and the division’s ability to command and control the redeployment process. The test would help all parties determine where changes needed to be made before the whole division tried to move south to Kuwait to meet a critical suspense for a redeployment strategic-sealift movement.

Identifying available resources and arriving at creative solutions were critical to the 1st Infantry Division’s air retrograde of equipment. The retrograde used the 167th CSG to provide ground transport to Logistics Support Area (LSA) Anaconda at Balad and daily Air Force flights of C–17 transports to provide air retrograde from LSA Anaconda to Germany.

The 1st Infantry Division’s coordination with the Air Force began when the division’s movement cell gained approval through the 49th Movement Control Battalion—which had an Air Force liaison officer—to maximize the backhaul of C–17s into Rhein-Main Air Base in Germany. Once this approval was granted, the movement cell sent a team of two noncommissioned officers (NCOs) to LSA Anaconda to receive and inspect the division’s equipment and work with the Air Force in processing that equipment for airlift. The NCOs set up a marshaling yard to receive the equipment at LSA Anaconda and conduct joint inspections with the Air Force.

Division units had already identified their nonessential equipment so that it could be tracked by the movement cell and staged at one of six consolidated tactical assembly areas for movement forward to LSA Anaconda. The cell coordinated directly with the CSG for truck transport. Once the equipment arrived at the marshaling area, unit representatives washed it, prepared all transportation documents, and assisted the NCOs in charge with the joint inspection. When the Air Force liaison officer received the equipment, it then was considered “space available cargo” and became a requirement for the C–17s flying back to Germany. When the equipment arrived at Rhein-Main Air Base, the division’s rear detachment received it and prepared it for onward movement to the motor pools.

The 1st Infantry Division’s air retrograde was a success because it maximized existing transportation assets and arrangements and thus reduced overall transportation costs to the Army. The result was better than the division had anticipated. A total of 641 soft-skinned wheeled vehicles was air-retrograded to Germany from November 2004 through January 2005. Another 1,550 pieces of equipment were retrograded to Germany, CONUS, and Hawaii using available cargo space on sealift vessels already moving to those destinations.

Consolidated Tactical Assembly Areas

The division quickly realized that collecting its cargo at a few, geographically dispersed marshaling areas was the best way to ensure that loads were available and ready when trucks arrived. To do this, the division developed the concept of the “consolidated tactical assembly area” (CTAA). The term was chosen deliberately to avoid connotations of the doctrinal marshaling area, which typically is located in a secure environment in the COMMZ. (Consult FM 100–17–3, Reception, Staging, Onward Movement, and Integration.) The CTAA was designed as a tactical assembly area rather than a marshaling area to remind Soldiers that they were still in contact with the enemy and that unloading, reloading, and getting CULT back on the road to Kuwait was a combat operation, not an administrative movement.

At a CTAA, redeploying equipment was staged according to the division’s redeployment timeline and relief-in-place schedule. The CTAA was nondoctrinal since it combined the functions of both a marshaling area and a tactical assembly area. Units still prepared vehicles and equipment for onward movement, as they do in tactical assembly areas; however, their preparations were conducted at FOBs that remained engaged in daily combat operations. The process started with nonessential equipment and moved on to mission-essential equipment, all time-phased by the units’ available load dates at the sea port of embarkation. The units were responsible for conducting the tactical convoy operations that brought equipment to the CTAAs.

A CTAA required large areas for handling inbound and outbound equipment. It also needed materials-handling equipment and crane support on call; this requirement was met by maintaining open transportation movement requests (TMRs) with the local area movement control team. Each CTAA had a managing and tracking cell consisting of a staff sergeant, sergeant, and specialist and headed by an officer in charge (OIC), who usually was a brigade combat team (BCT) assistant S–4. Equipment operators were assigned to the CTAA when loading was required.

The CTAA OIC kept an accurate equipment piece count by unit and type of equipment and by time of entry into and departure from the yard. This information was forwarded to the Division Support Command’s movement control officer, who collected, sorted, and developed TMRs that detailed loads available for movement by CULT. Accountability of equipment by unit was needed to ensure that the division transportation officer (DTO) accurately requested the proper CULT assets for each CTAA from the movement control team at LSA Anaconda. The OIC also separated equipment by loads. The loads at a CTAA required either 30- or 40-foot flatbed trailers or heavy equipment transporters (HETs) to move them south to Kuwait.

The 1st Infantry Division area of operations was so large that it required six CTAAs to meet mission requirements. One CTAA was established for each of the division’s four BCTs, one for division troops, and one for corps troops within the division’s area of operations. Coordination with MNC–I was key to the successful use of CULT since the corps controlled CULT assets moving in the theater.

Lines of communication and the distance between the CTAAs required careful movement planning. FOB Warrior in Kirkuk was the most distant CTAA in the division’s area of operations, so extra planning was needed to mitigate the time-distance factor. Units conducted tactical convoy operations to move most equipment from the FOBs to the CTAAs; moving tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles from the outlying FOBs to the CTAAs required the use of HETs operated by the division truck company. Each CTAA was managed carefully by the BCT S–4. The DTO set the priorities governing which units were to drop off equipment at the CTAA and when. This coordination was synchronized with the available load dates for each unit and was communicated daily during a movement control board conducted by video teleconference with all division command and control nodes and all BCTs.

One month before the first BCT redeployed, the CTAAs were ready to begin receiving non-mission-essential equipment such as M101A1 trailers and all non-up-armored vehicles and containers that were sealed, inspected for customs, and ready for redeployment. Once a pool of equipment began to build up at the CTAAs, the DTO submitted a TMR to the movement control team requesting CULT assets to move the cargo. The movement control team at LSA Anaconda accepted all TMRs and resourced them based on the CFLCC’s requirements and available assets.

Task Force Vigilant Guardian

Because there was a theater-wide lack of dedicated security escorts for CULT assets, MNC–I shifted responsibility for escort duty of CULT convoys to the units using the CULT. The concept was for the deploying unit to escort the CULT to Iraq and the redeploying unit to meet the CULT and escort it back to Kuwait. However, most deploying units did not have the required up-armored escort vehicles, and redeploying units were still conducting full-spectrum operations in Iraq.

The 1st Infantry Division decided that the only way to solve this dilemma was to establish a permanent escort unit. That was the birth of Task Force Vigilant Guardian. At first, each BCT was tasked to provide a specific number of M1114 up-armored high-mobility, multipurpose, wheeled vehicles (humvees), drivers, and weapon systems. Then the unit requiring the escort of CULT would provide a driver and gunner to complete the escort platform. However, during the initial redeployment operations, this plan caused more problems than solutions. So it was decided to provide a dedicated company of 180 soldiers to become the division’s Task Force Vigilant Guardian.

The 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment provided a cavalry troop, and units from across the division provided 60 M1114 humvees and gun systems. Task Force Vigilant Guardian was divided into 15 escort teams, each consisting of four M1114s, and those teams spent 2 weeks training at FOB Speicher. By the middle of January 2005, Task Force Vigilant Guardian was ready for its mission. The unit could simultaneously escort fifteen 40-vehicle CULT convoys.

The performance of Task Force Vigilant Guardian exceeded all expectations. Not only did it escort redeploying CULT assets to Kuwait, but, after arriving in Kuwait and resting and conducting 24 hours of after-action maintenance, it also escorted deploying CULT assets from Kuwait to Iraq. The average time for a CULT convoy from a 1st Infantry Division CTAA to Kuwait was 7 days, which was better than the CFLCC’s 8-day model. Using that gain in time, the division was able to create an “extra” 40-truck convoy every week. Adding an extra convoy each week had several positive benefits: It dramatically shortened the division’s redeployment timeline; it allowed the division to find room for cargo that had not been identified for regular convoys; and it permitted the division to form a substitute convoy to make up for a convoy that did not arrive because of enemy action.

As dedicated security escorts, the personnel of Task Force Vigilant Guardian were skilled at picking up and using CULT assets that were not allocated to the 1st Infantry Division but had been left by other units. This occurred several times and resulted in 23 extra CULT convoys that were able to move over 1,600 pieces of equipment earlier than projected. This capability was critical when two divisions (the 1st Infantry and 1st Cavalry) were competing for the same resources. It also created confidence in the 49th Movement Control Battalion that Task Force Vigilant Guardian would arrive on time with critical corps assets.

Airlift from LSA Anaconda and FOB Speicher

Redeploying 1st Infantry Division Soldiers offered an opportunity to develop an efficient way to overcome challenges associated with moving the division to Germany, CONUS, and Hawaii. The division took advantage of its base in Germany to maximize the air retrograde of cargo from LSA Anaconda and FOB Speicher, so why not apply that same advantage to redeploying Soldiers? In fact, air retrograde stemmed from the division’s “Northern Option Plan.” Under the Northern Option, 1st Infantry Division Soldiers flew from Iraq directly to Germany, bypassing Kuwait altogether. This freed up CFLCC camp space, commercial aircraft, theater C–130 transports, and time that otherwise would have been devoted to moving Soldiers from Iraq to Kuwait.

The challenge behind the Northern Option was to ensure that the Soldiers from 28 different FOBs arrived at the 2 aerial ports of debarkation before their flights despite limited ground transportation assets and helicopter support. Of the 1st Infantry Division Soldiers returning to Germany, approximately 10,100 flew the Northern Option out of FOB Speicher and LSA Anaconda within 12 days. This movement was monitored closely by using a daily movement control board that included representatives from all of the division’s brigades, separate units, and Task Force Breakout (which was the 1st Infantry Division element in Kuwait) and the Air Force Tanker Airlift Control Element (TALCE) team commander. The movement control board monitored current operations and looked at operations 72 hours out. It also monitored arriving and departing CULT convoys; oversaw intratheater airlift that moved 1st Infantry Division Soldiers who had to redeploy from Kuwait after cleaning their equipment for sea transport; and, most importantly, it directly coordinated with the division G–3 Air Section to allocate the use of CH–47 Chinook helicopters.

The priorities for each movement were set by the DTO based on time-phased force and deployment data (TPFDD) requirements and on the distance of the units from FOB Speicher and LSA Anaconda. The preferred method of moving Soldiers from outlying FOBs was by CH–47 helicopter rather than convoying Soldiers in 5-ton trucks across dangerous roads.

Using the movement control board had several advantages. Submitting TMRs to the board saved time over using the G–3 Air Section, which would have taken days to process, plan, and reschedule those requests. By forecasting shortfalls in transportation, the movement control board provided the division with flexibility to reallocate lift as necessary; the board also could notify units so they could address shortfalls that might cause the units to miss planned movements. The movement control board gave Task Force Breakout in Kuwait a real picture of what was en route to Kuwait and what the division’s outstanding requirements were so they could argue for more assets to move the division. The board ironed out these issues and provided a means of controlling the vast amount of moving pieces created by a redeployment.

The Northern Option was successful because of the direct assistance and coordination offered by the TALCE team assigned to FOB Speicher. On several occasions, the TALCE team maximized the division’s use of available air transport that was not dedicated to the division’s redeployment. The Northern Option freed intratheater assets (C–130s) and contracted commercial aircraft for other missions, minimized the CFLCC resources needed in Kuwait, and moved Soldiers from the battlefield to home stations in hours instead of days. The Northern Option demonstrated the benefits of being creative in concept, detailed in planning, and meticulous in execution during redeployment operations.

The innovative concepts used by the 1st Infantry Division resulted in the successful and timely execution of the division’s redeployment operations without the loss of a single piece of equipment or a single Soldier. The division was able to execute this operation efficiently while maintaining contact with the enemy and focusing on the successful relief in place—and all without having to drain combat power to devote to the redeployment effort.

These efforts were successful in spite of the lack of doctrine on planning for the use of CULT in a retrograde movement from a relief in place, through enemy territory in contact, to a redeployment staging area in the COMMZ. The techniques used by the 1st Infantry Division worked. However, they are not the only solutions to the redeployment problem. Army doctrine should be reevaluated to capture the lessons learned from these experiences and provide guidelines for future transporters to use in getting the mission accomplished. The bottom line is that “nothing happens until something moves,” and nothing moves without a plan.

Captain Scott B. Kindberg is the Operations Officer of the 71st Transportation Battalion at Fort Eustis, Virginia. He was the Division Truck Company Commander and then the Assistant Division Transportation Officer of the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq from February 2004 to March 2005. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater and is a graduate of the Transportation Officer Basic Course and the Combined Logistics Captains Career Course.

Captain Ann L. Gallo is the S–1 of the Division Support Command, 1st Infantry Division, in Kitzingen, Germany. She served as the Movement Control Officer, Division Support Command, for the 1st Infantry Division from February 2004 to February 2005. She is a graduate of the United States Military Academy and the Transportation Officer Basic Course.