“My logisticians are a humorless lot … they know if my campaign fails, they are the first ones I will slay.”— Alexander the Great
As someone mentioned in a recent class, running and gunning is cool, but the boring stuff is what wins the war. This time we’re going to talk about logistics. The CYRIL has a dedicated line for resupply, while the UNDER is a cache of supplies. Obviously, this is important stuff.
The US Military and NATO break categories or supplies into 10 categories. Those categories also give an idea to the importance of unit survival and the priority given to push those materials to the field.
Class I – Food, rations, water
Class II – Clothing (includes, tools, tents, individual equipment, admin and housekeeping supplies)
Class III – Petroleum, Oils and Lubricants
Class IV – Fortification and Barrier Materials (Barbed wire, sandbags, lumber, etc)
Class V – Ammunition (grenades, bullets, bombs, explosives, mines, etc.)
Class VI – Personal Items (hygiene supplies, cigarettes, snacks, writing paper, batteries, etc. Things you get at the PX)
Class VII – Major End Items (vehicles, tanks, howitzers, trucks, etc.)
Class VIII – Medical Supplies (bandages, dressings, IVs, medications, etc.)
Class IX – Repair Parts (parts to repair vehicles and equipment)
Class X – Miscellaneous Supplies (anything not in Classes I-IX, such as agricultural items like seeds, fertilizer, and gardening equipment)
Normally, the platoon sergeant or assistant patrol leader will make a consolidated list of needed supplies for the unit deployed which is transmitted to the TOC. The company TOC consolidates the list, gives it to the First Sergeant and Supply Sergeant to collect the materials from the battalion S-4 Section and assemble into a LOGPAC which is taken forward to the platoons/teams.
And here is where we learn that running a good LOGPAC is an art form. First, the supplies are broken down into what is needed for the various forward elements, ideally in a last on/first off packing for the supply vehicle so they can spend the minimum amount of time exposed and off the line. Obviously, this may require changes on the fly depending on the tactical situation. The elements coming to the LOGPAC may be anything from a couple of guerrillas with a ruck to a tank company or self propelled howitzer battery hitting their resupply, but for the purpose of this article, let’s focus on the small unit of light infantry. I’ll go in order of the major items of a LOGPAC.
An army travels on its stomach. Good food, while oftentimes rare while in the field, can make or break a small unit. Hot chow has huge morale and physical benefits to the troops. A LOGPAC can bring forward replacement field rations, which could be MREs, freeze-dried camping food, or pemmican and hardtack for the troops to survive on while deployed and away from resupply. Ideally, you would also have the ability to bring forward hot food (stew, steak, fresh vegetables, or even just hot soup) and hot water for drinks and coffee. Hot water will also allow the troops a few minutes for personal hygiene or at least cleaning mess kits to keep down disease. As a reminder, mandatory hand washing and hand sanitizers before and after eating go a long way in keeping down disease.
Fresh food can be transported in good old Mermites, coolers, or other containers that can be cleaned and sanitized between uses. Again, I cannot overemphasize the importance of cleanliness and sanitation relating to food production and handling.
War story follows: During a Hohenfehls rotation in the late 80s, something got missed in the field kitchen and the entire cavalry squadron came down with dysentary. The ENTIRE squadron. And of course, since it was training for war with the Warsaw Pact, and they wouldn’t stop if we were sick, we kept on going for a week. With dysentary. It was hands down one of the single worst experiences of my life, surpassed only by the first couple of months in Saudi Arabia for Desert Shield. Be religious, be ruthless, be violent about hygiene and sanitation.
As for packaged food, ideally the support element will put bundles together for each team/crew/squad that can be easily moved back to the line and quickly distributed among the troops. Remove excess packaging in the rear. MREs for example, the first generations had a crazy amount of wrappers and cardboard inside the meals that had to be disposed of by soldiers. The newer ones are much better but still produce a lot of trash. Other types of preserved food can also produce a lot of waste and packaging. One item to consider adding to the list is 1 gallon ziplock bags for each person for meal trash.
Water is the most critical Class I item. It can be moved in larger containers for the troops to refill their containers, or you can do an exchange of 5 gallon water cans brought back from patrol bases or vehicles to trade for fresh ones. Water takes a stunning amount of cubic space and weight, and clean water is probably the single most critical supply item we carry. Again, sanitation is critical if you don’t want critters growing in your water and making everyone sick. Bleach (sodium hypochlorite) is the simplest method to sanitize water and containers.
Also, another item to deal with is trash. Teams/vehicles should consolidate trash into trash bags of some type to leave with the LOGPAC. The Supply Sergeant will safely dispose of the trash so it doesn’t stay in the operational area. Trash can give an eye-watering amount of information to the enemy when they find it, not to mention leaving sign and just giving something to attract critters and disease. This includes piddle packs and poo-bags (if you’ve gone to certain schools, you know exactly what I’m talking about).
Clothing and uniform items are simple to deal with when needed, if you can get them. You do have a list of sizes for everyone in your unit, right? Plan on socks getting regularly replaced, along with gloves, hats, and underwear/t-shirts, in that order. Housekeeping and hygiene supplies get prepackaged for each team, especially since you can plot out the usage and get a good idea of consumption levels after a week or two.
Petroleum, Oils, and Lubricants. A fuel tanker if you’re running a bunch of vehicles, maybe a pickup with a tank in the back if only a few vehicles. Or even 5 gallon cans of fuel to resupply and distribute. Most oils and lubricants come in smaller distribution packaging. For weapons lube, do a simple bottle exchange with the troops from their cleaning kits.
Barrier supplies are normally dropped off on site by a cargo truck. You can make sure sandbags are part of the packing list of your teams, but larger supplies are bundled and palletized for easy movement.
Ammunition. Magazines are a durable, disposable item. Originally when designed, the aluminum magazines for the M16 were supposed to be a disposable item, preloaded and packaged into ammo cans for resupply. But, the beancounters won and ammo is packaged as we see it today, and magazines are an accountable item. If the troops can collect empties, trade empties for full mags. Otherwise, try to have ammo at least broken down into a basic load for each team. Remove as much packaging as possible in the rear.
Supply should put together a package of hygiene and comfort items for each team. Toothbrushes and toothpaste, soap, tins of chew and snuff.
Major end items would be driven to the LOGPAC and exchanged, with the broken vehicle driven to the rear to be repaired at the trains. If you can’t fix or replaced within half an hour forward, it goes back to the trains.
Medical supplies get issued. Have packaged IFAKs and boo boo kits ready to go. Also, OTC medications like Advil, Motrin, allergy medicine, etc. Other supplies like IVs and more advanced supplies get packed together to go to the team medics. If you have an IV, you need tubing, a start kit, angios, etc. Bundle it all together for ease of distribution.
Repair parts can be anything from lightbulbs and filters for a truck to bolts and bolt carrier groups for ARs. Your maintenance vehicle should carry a basic load of different items to support your specific equipment.
This will be special items, mainly used for hearts and minds operations.
Organization of a LOGPAC
In a conventional unit, the First Sergeant will normally be in charge of the LOGPAC and be the convoy commander. Your convoy needs to strike a balance between being as small as possible and as big as needed. Generally, two vehicles for security, the 1SG’s vehicle which carries the company medic and medical supplies, mail, chow if it’s not on the supply truck, and other specialty items, like COMSEC and SOIs. The supply truck will carry packages of supplies, food, hot chow, and water. The supply truck usually has the unit armorer with materials and tools to fix weapons quickly. The fueler carriers fuel and other POL products. A wrecker will come with carrying the mechanics and spare parts. Last, the company ambulance will come with, if the company medic is not with the 1SG. This is the ideal, and for a heavier unit. You can trim this down as needed and equipment is available.
The LOGPAC will be positioned as far forward as possible, at least one terrain feature behind your forward deployed units. It needs a path in and a path out, cover for the operation, and concealment from observation.
Vehicles or teams move back from the line and are guided into the LOGPAC. A truck that needs maintenance support goes to the side with the mechanic’s vehicle. Otherwise, it goes to the other side of the fuel truck to top off. If no trucks need mechanic support, you can refuel off both side of the fueler. Then it moves up to the ammo truck to resupply basic loads, then the supply truck to get other supplies, hot food and offload trash. Anyone that needs the medic stops at the MEDEVAC, then past the 1SG’s truck to get mail and SOIs, and deal with any administrative matters. Once clear of that, they move into staging to finish resupply duties and move back to the line. Vehicles going to the trains are staged together move out when the LOGPAC returns. Adjust this based on size, OCOKOA, METT-T. Ideally, you can run a mounted platoon through this in about half an hour per platoon.
This is not doctrine as taught today, and it’s modified from LOGPACs I’ve run for cavalry troops. YMMV, and adjust based on your situation. And lastly, PRACTICE. This is every bit as important or more than getting out on the square range and making piles of brass.
“Leaders win through logistics. Vision, sure. Strategy, yes. But when you go to war, you need to have both toilet paper and bullets at the right place at the right time. In other words, you must win through superior logistics.”
– Tom Peters – Rule #3: Leadership Is Confusing As Hell, Fast Company, March 2001
If you have questions, email me at [email protected]