Walrus the logistician.

Walrus "Frank Durkee, I’ll try and answer your question about what logistics and withdrawal means in an effort to save the Col’s blood pressure. You said: "Perhaps the simplest close in analogy for we non-military types is emptying a house when moving so that you can have sleep and breakfast on the day of the move and haves upper and sleep when you get to the new abode." You are right, leaving Iraq is several orders of magnitude more complicated. For a start, your new house is several countries away, and there is no friendly shipper to make the arrangements, in fact there is no friendly anyone. You make all the arrangements yourself, including detailing the routes and instructing your hired truck drivers what roads to use, where to fill up, maybe even providing fuel yourself. Every time you try and load a truck somebody tries to steal your goods. Meanwhile, somebody is trying to set fire to your house and kill you as well. You get no sleep or supper as you try and keep your goods away from thieves, stop others from burning down your house, and keep from getting killed by yet more bad guys. Do you get the picture? To put it another way, imagine you have agreed to organise a reunion in some park for a hundred of your closest friends and relatives. All have different dietary needs. They will be coming from all over the country, some by road, by air and by rail and at differing times. You must organise transport for all of them. Some of them have medical conditions, others have disabilities. The park where you are meeting is frequented by bears… you get the drift? Have you ever had to organise and move a football team? It is a highly complex difficult and time consuming operation even if there is no enemy action to complicate matters. As I said before, think of the relatively straightforward task of providing fuel to the vehicles. Then think of the logistics of moving the sick and wounded."  Walrus


Excellent.  Supply, transport, maintenance, medical, rations, what else?  Nothing works at all unless thse factors are "gotten right."  Even a guerilla commander has to think about where he will find these things to keep his forces in being and operating.

While this difficult and complex process is considered one must remember as Walrus says that the parks are full of bears and someone is trying to rob the house that you are leaving.  pl



This entry was posted in The Military Art. Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to Walrus the logistician.

  1. JohnH says:

    Wouldn’t a good sandstorm make all this debate about logistics moot? In other words, if it’s all broke, why bother to fix it? Aren’t we just one good sandstorm away from being able to leave without all that baggage?

  2. kim says:

    all that more or less understood and agreed, might it be better to start planning the move sooner rather than later?
    and rather than planning, or launching an unplanned, camping trip even farther from the new house? or park.
    i could be wrong, but i think that’s the most that most of us are asking for in the right now.

  3. Cold War Zoomie says:

    “…what else?”
    Decks of cards.
    How else will my Air Force brethren play Hearts and Spades while soldiers and Marines lug stuff around?

  4. johnieB says:

    I am terribly glad to see this much today. I read very little standard “news”, but stop here when I think my blood pressure can handle it for the best “read” I have found on the Internet on these subjects.
    Thanks to all, and especially to Col. Lang, for convening and (mostly) tolerating it.

  5. CSTAR says:

    Some people actually think we won this war.
    What we’ll end up leaving behind (just in terms of the 30000 or so vehicles) is conservatively
    1/5 x 30000 x 2 x 2 x 4 = 96000
    cubic meters of crushed vehicles. With that we can manufacture a borg-like cube measuring about about 50 meters on each side. Or maybe make a monument to stupidity alongside one of those monuments in the green zone.
    Aside from the crushed vehicles (many of which include depleted unranium) we have deposits and warehouses full of fuel, lubricants, solvents, explosives, coolants, light weapons, electronic equipment containing doses of heavy metals, pharmaceutical products, medical equipment, exercise equipment all leaching, rotting, rusting, putrefying crap into the environment. And, of course, the proverbial ice cream making machine.
    This mess, I think we can safely call a fuck-up.

  6. Yohan says:

    I’m not saying this is easy, I’m just saying that the army has literally billions of dollars, thousands of pieces of transport equipment, and thousands of trained people to get this right. They can do it. Perhaps not in a few months, but they can definitely do it.
    It’s not like supplying our troops while deployed is some cake walk, and yet it happens every day.

  7. frank durkee says:

    To Walrus and the Col. thanks, those images help. I keep trying to imagine what the flow chart must look like.

  8. bstr says:

    Clearly difficult, but the way our government sees Iraq there is no need to hurry. We are more likely to pack-up in’09 than ’08, but may not leave that soon. Many people think that talk about expanding into Iran is bluster; meant to influence their people. I worry that it is a serious intention. That our government hopes to have a base population of ninety thousand in Iraq at all times to protect a destablized region. bstr

  9. pbrownlee says:

    Plus we seem to have a situation where members of our family/friends/team think it’s really smart to let the bears/thieves/killers know what we know about them:
    “Today’s Washington Post fronts the news that last month’s bin Laden video was leaked to the press by the Bush administration, much to the dismay of the private intelligence company who obtained and analyzed the video. The Post reports:
    “Within 20 minutes, a range of intelligence agencies had begun downloading it from the company’s Web site. By midafternoon that day, the video and a transcript of its audio track had been leaked from within the Bush administration to cable television news and broadcast worldwide.
    “What was the rush? Maybe it was just an honest security-compromising screw-up–lord knows, that sort of thing isn’t out of character for this administration–but it was surprising that the Post didn’t mention the fact that the leak happened on September 7, only three days before General Petraeus’s testimony to the House on September 10. Considering the Bush administration’s history of strategic political leaks, and of stoking terror fears at opportune moments, one can’t help but wonder if this was an attempt by someone in the executive branch to shore up support for the General. Pity an effective counterterrorist operation was undermined in the meantime.”

  10. Will says:

    i have a young friend in the US Army, betraying my age, he’s a light Col. now, he’s been trained as a logistician and maintenance all his career. So there are people in the services that specialize in this stuff.
    Then there are organizational and transport geniuses- George B. McClellan for one. He knew how to build up an army. He had been chief engineer and vice president of the Illinois Central Railroad wheras AbrahanLincoln had been merely a lawyer for that railroad. But of course later it was Abe that said to George “Let me borrow your Army since you are not using.”
    Railroads were very important in the 19th century for quickly marshalling forces and were crucial for Bismarck in his victory in the Franco-Prussian War.
    The subject of movers has been brought up. It seems that a combat unit in the field would be self-moving. That’s the whole point of a mechanized or armored unit. The “teeth” in Walrus’ lingo would be self moving, the “tail” may need civililan contract movers.

  11. W. Patrick Lang says:

    A sandstorm would have no relevance in regard to the condition of the equipment. what you are missing is tha a lot of this equipment (tanks and aircraft, etc.) will be as good as new when re-built. Nobody cares about Humvees. Most of them will probably be left in Iraq. pl

  12. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Want to bet on whether the marines leave first? pl

  13. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Depleted uranium would be in “discarding sabot” rounds of main gun tank ammunition, not in the vehicles. Do you really understand this? In a DS round the big brass shell has a wooden or plastic collar fitted to it that holds a slug (much amaller in diameter) that is made of a super dense metal like DU or a nickel- (?) alloy. When the round is fired, the sabot separates into two pieces as it leaves the muzzle of the tank gun (usually 120mm. in diamter). The slug travels on alone to the armored veicle or fortified target where the very dense slug punches a hole in the “wall.” This is not an anti-personnel round, although it is not a good idea to happen to be where it arrives. The amount of residual radiation in these rounds is really very small. DU is used becasue it is so very dense. pl

  14. Jose says:

    I miss the point, why are we talking about a withdrawal that none of the politicians will ever order?
    There is no way we are leaving all that oil unguarded.
    There is no way we are leaving Iran with two client states in Shiiastan and Kurdistan.
    There is no way out of this mess without more blood being wasted in vain.
    Has anybody even considered the following.
    Withdraw all northern forces via Turkey, central forces via Jordan and Southern forces via Kuwait.
    So AQI can follow us into Turkey, Jordan while the Iranian backed Shiite forces follow us into Kuwait and maybe even the Saudi Eastern province.
    So we can export terrorism into Turkey (Kurdish rebels provide AQI with a sanctuary), into Jordan (pissed of Palestinians after the failed peace conference in November) and into Kuwait-Saudi Arabian (angry Shiites).
    Colonel, this is what I believe we called a Cluster-F*$&.
    By the way, if anybody in here has coordinated the movement of an Infantry Bradley Company from point A to Hohenfels or Baumholder, please tell enlighten me how easy that was…lol
    And remember, that was in an allied country with no threat of violence or hostile climate like Iraq.

  15. CSTAR says:

    Do I really understand this?
    Well I’m pretty sure I understand the kinematics of impact, stress-wave propagation and material failure.
    As they say, all I know is what I read in the papers:
    “The M1A1 tank incorporates steel-encased depleted uranium armour.”
    “Also, DU’s density and physical properties make it ideal for use as armor plate.”
    I assumed that no special provisions were made to remove this kind of armour in military vehicles in Iraq.

  16. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I did not know that about the armor on the Abrams. I have looked into it and am told that it is in a few places on the tank for the same reason that it is in the DS anti-tank ammunition. That is, the high density and weight strengthens the armor at key points and balances the weight of the tank. In any event, no armored vehicles should be left in Iraq, especially the tanks.
    Thanks for improving my knowledge of this. pl

  17. W. Patrick Lang says:

    As you know I do not share your opinion with regard to the economically determined nature of the war. pl

  18. Jim Schmidt says:

    Depleted uranium would be in “discarding sabot” rounds of main gun tank ammunition, not in the vehicles.”
    W. Patrick Lang
    FYI. Good post explaining how the hypervelocity dart encased by the sabot works.

  19. Jose says:

    Col. I apologize. It’s your blog, you determine the topics. You have more more knowledge where we are heading anyways and why we are there in the first place.

  20. Jim Schmidt says:

    I did not know that about the armor on the Abrams. I have looked into it and am told that it is in a few places on the tank for the same reason that it is in the DS anti-tank ammunition.” W. Patrick Lang
    Two info items regarding armor:
    Ablative Armor
    Reactive Armor
    Scientific American had at least one article on the sabot dart several years ago, but I don’t have a referance.
    Also, the EFP using a molten copper slug works in a similar fashion to the sabot dart, using high kinetic energy to penetrate and spall even though not as dense as DU.

  21. Grimgrin says:

    I’m wondering if one of the more knowledgeable commentators here could discuss the impact preparations for withdrawal will have on the US counterinsurgency strategy. As I understand it, American forces are currently widely dispersed in Iraq, as part of their mission to provide local security. My take is that you can withdraw those troops in one of two ways, pull them back to their bases first, which risks a rapid deterioration on the security situation in Iraq while trying to withdraw. Second you can leave those troops in the field as long as possible while you dismantle the larger bases, which risks having troops in the field without adequate support. Is there a middle ground approach that minimizes each of these risks? For that matter, is what I’ve outlined at all accurate?

  22. JohnH says:

    Are you sure that the tanks and other heavy systems are worth rebuilding? I’d love to see the make vs. rebuild cost comparison. Rebuilding sounds like a war profiteer’s dream come true.
    Plus this:
    “Today’s arsenal is fairly old, and Iraq is accelerating the pace of the aging process.
    For example, during his tenure as defense secretary, Dick Cheney terminated production of the Army’s only heavy tank, its only heavy attack helicopter, and its principal infantry fighting vehicle.
    Since no new programs materialized to take the place of these signature systems on the battlefield, the Army is prosecuting the war in Iraq with weapons that largely predate the information age.”

  23. Cold War Zoomie says:

    Would that be betting on whether the Marines leave before the Air Force? If so…
    My guess these folks will be some of the last ones out…
    447th Air Expeditionary Group
    332nd Expeditionary Medical Group
    And maybe these guys although they are in Kirkuk and we may be heading back out through Kuwait…
    506th AEG
    Of course, the Embassy detachment won’t be going anywhere.

  24. jonst says:

    The tanks and aircraft, the ones that will eventually be rebuilt, did us a lot of good in Iraq, did they not? Same with the Humvees, both the old, and refitted ones. Did us a lot of good too. I’m with Yohan’s view on this. It can be done. Tremendously difficult but doable, and we should get started now. When I read this post the first thought that came to me head was, ‘gee, I wonder how they did D-Day+7. There were a lot of bears around that week too. And the sea can be as unfriendly as the desert. But it got done.

  25. mike says:

    I do remember from those long ago lessons at school, learning about Hannibal in Italy. He invaded the peninsula from the north, and swept southwards annihalating army after army sent by Rome – Trasimene, Cannae etc. It was shock and awe, ancient world style. Then he settled in southern Italy, effectively occupying it for some ten years or more, undefeated and unassailable, the Romans only able to harrass him and erode his military strength by a series of guerilla attacks dreamed up by Fabius Cunctator. Carthage had seemingly won the war, though Rome resisted. The trouble was, if I remember rightly, the greater part of the Carthaginian army, manpower, horses, and arms and equipment was tied up in Italy. What did the Romans eventually do? Send an army led by their star general Scipio, to North Africa itself to threaten the city of Carthage. Hannibal was hastily sent for, but the army he had to confront Scipio was inferior, inexperienced, squabblesome. Scipio’s legions defeated Hannibal’s makeshift army and Carthage was forced to accept humiliating defeat.
    Ther is no power capable of slipping past the US Navy ans Air Force to invade the US as Scipio invaded the Carthaginian homeland. Even so, with the US land forces so tied up in Iraq, does not that leave the US dangerously vulnerable, either the homeland itself, or the overseas territories where the US has a controlling interest? The US cannot stay indefinitely in Iraq, year after year, at immense cost, achieving nothing, losing in small dribbles men and weapons and equipment. Sometime, the immense convoys are going to have to roll south, When? next year? 2009? 2015? 2025?

  26. frank durkee says:

    s I recall in a much earlier blog the col. tlaked of withdawall as done in “tranches [sp?]” which as I best recall he described as meaning “slices”. My question still is How would those ‘slices’ be organized, where would they begin, and how would they be protected [ by selves or by others}? clearly it is very complex. Clearly it is more difficult under threat and attack than not. Still what would the order of withdrawal look like and how would it be managed?

  27. David W says:

    Thank you for the in-depth commentary on the logistics of departure. Unfortunately, i’m afraid the neocon US pols in charge see this as a feature, not a bug. After all, since they think they make their own reality, in their mind, they are settling down for a good long while, a la the Phillipines and Korea.
    I’m sure Dougie Feith sees no problem here;>

  28. taters says:

    Well done and thanks for the great analogies.

  29. Peter Principle says:

    “Have you ever had to organise and move a football team? It is a highly complex difficult and time consuming operation even if there is no enemy action to complicate matters.”
    Can’t remember where I read it, but the line sticks in my memory: The most difficult of all military maneuvers is a withdrawal under fire.
    To which one might add: particularly when the Commander in Chief refuses to let anyone plan for it in advance.

  30. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Logistics and Turkey? Put the House Res on Armenian Genocide into the mix:
    ….”The House of Representatives foreign affairs committee yesterday approved the resolution by 27 votes to 21. It goes to the House floor, where there will be a vote by mid-November, say Democratic leaders.
    The committee approved the resolution despite warnings from the president, George Bush, and other top administration officials, who said it would damage relations with a key Nato ally and jeopardise an important route for US supplies to Iraq.
    About 70% of US air cargo going into Iraq goes through Turkey, and US commanders fear access to airfields and roads will be put at risk.
    Turkey also provides thousands of truck drivers and other workers for US operations in Iraq. Supplies also flow from Turkey’s Incirlik air base to troops in Afghanistan.
    More worrying for the US is that the congressional move will weaken its influence over Turkey at a time when the ruling Justice and Development (AK) party is under pressure from the military to authorise a major incursion into northern Iraq against Kurdish rebels…..”

  31. Eric Dönges says:

    To all those remaining sceptical about why a withdrawal should take longer than an invasion
    Since the Colonel doesn’t seem to want to state the obvious, I’ll do so – the invasion of Iraq did not take 3 weeks. There where many months of preparations to get the required equipment into Kuwait, with the support of the locals. Similarily, jonst, D-Day+7 was preceeded by months (years ?) of preparations in Britain -again, with the cooperation of the locals. While I am not a military expert in any sense, I would not be surprised to learn that withdrawing under fire without taking heavy casualties in the process is actually more difficult than getting your troops into contact with the enemy was in the first place.

  32. JoeC says:

    Could re-deploying the marines to Afghanistan be a first step in moving forces out of Iraq?
    It looks like Col. Lang’s prediction of the marines leaving first is pretty accurate.
    See “Marines press to move units from Iraq” at http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSN1030911720071011

  33. jonst says:

    Whatever the numerous and complex issues regarding logistic challenges in Iraq, they have just been made more complicated, (perhaps,a great deal more complicated and dangerous)by what I call the idiotic vote in the House regarding the Armenian resolution. One can almost hear these dumb bastards in the House saying ‘well, that’s just a risk our soldiers have to take’. This, on top of everything else!

  34. Ed Gawlik says:

    I came across this string and found it quite interesting. I thought this would be a great topic for a class I am taking at CGSC. My proposed topic is “What can our military history teach us that can be applicable to our eventual departure from Iraq.”
    My problem is that redeployment / demobilization is not sexy and there-fore not covered as extensively as deploying to war or conducting operations in a campaign. The data that is prominent is how many service members were released back to society. Nothing about how much equipment we left or logistical challenges faced when someone gave the green light to head home. If you can share a search string or vector me towards some sources then I will be happy to share the final product. Regards, Ed

Comments are closed.