Guest Posting by Emmet (John) Fritch, American Public University System, Full Time Faculty
Redeployment of equipment in the Middle East was cumbersome. Innovative ideas presented by ground troops created an efficient movement of equipment.
Reverse logistics in military operations is governed by DoD procedures that provide guidance on handling equipment, supplies, and personnel. Redeploying these resources was fundamental to Middle East operations in recent years. The complexity of combining movement, serving multiple locations, and facing logistics movement in areas where combat was present were challenges faced by armed forces in the Middle East. Several important factors prevented efficient reverse logistics operations. Cycle time was affected by the factors addressed in this lesson. One of the lessons learned from Middle Eastern operations was the value of creative and innovative ideas that come from organizations. Modifying rules and practical application of new ways of doing things is illustrated in this lesson. The practical application of innovative techniques improved efficiency. Reduced cycle times and improved security resulted from changes.
Large numbers and varieties of equipment presented challenges to military logistics operations in the Middle East. A force redeployment consisting of over 22,000 personnel and over 14000 pieces of equipment illustrates how innovation can be employed to address challenges.
Challenges facing an infantry division included: (a) an extension for deployment time, (b) timing, the division needed to share logistics redeployment resources with another division. (c) a change to the destination the division was to move to, (d) A shortage of security resources, and (d) a lack of manpower and equipment because of dual missions.
DoD procedures for redeployment provided little in the way of guidelines for consolidating equipment and assembly operations. For example, methods did not address tactical equipment moves. An attempt by multiple divisions to coordinate efforts was hampered because of a lacked efficiency and poor communications.
"On-the-fly" methods for resolving issues helped reduce waiting time. The methods resulted in a new way of consolidating equipment. Instead of traditional "centralized" staging locations, the division created several, smaller, more agile processing centers (consolidated tactical assembly areas). Treating the activities in the assembly functioned as a combat operation. Acknowledging the dangers of operating in the zones helped personnel to focus. Typical marshaling zones are administrative functions. The “on the fly” method allowed flexibility for changing needs resulting from localized combat operations needing equipment.
Handling equipment was needed to conduct operations. Detailed records were coming in and departing from each location allowed for accurate accounting of location and quantities of material.
Daily communication transmitted among each location and movement schedules of equipment to locations with the use of video teleconferences. Officers from various services kept up to date with the
A dedicated escort unit for each convoy strengthened security. The armed escort units allowed faster and more efficient operations and additional trips resulted in better use of assets.
Personnel redeployment was also affected. Reconfiguring cargo planes from bases transporting equipment allowed troops to return to major bases. Multimodal equipment options and scheduling with a multi-service control team monitoring all movement and coordinating activities among service branches. Helicopters replaced 5-ton trucks in areas with dangerous roads. The control team provided flexibility and rescheduled according to conditions. The control team resolved schedule conflicts.
The innovative ideas created in the field, allowed the division to redeploy with no lost equipment and with all personnel arriving safely. Confidence by users of redeployed equipment increased. Additionally, backlogs of items waiting for processing in staging areas reduced. The innovative actions of field commanders illustrate the degree of creative and innovative thinking in the field can create environments more adaptive to local conditions than formal doctrine. Lessons learned from this redeployment experience should be incorporated into the official DoD doctrine. This process also illustrated the value of continuous improvement and of isolating specific problems, focusing on causes, and applying brainstorming techniques to provide continuous improvement.
Kindberg, S. B., & Gallo, A. L. (2006). Innovation in redeployment: The 1st infantry division returns from Iraq. Army Logistician, 38(3), 30.