|Posted on Monday, June 16, 2003|
We Mean Business. Illinois Business.
Military orchestrates arrival of troops with supplies
SCOTT AFB - Nowhere can the importance of integrated technology and its swift, efficient application be seen any clearer than in the U.S. military, particularly during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
U.S. Army Reserve Brig. Gen. William Johnson, mobilization assistant to the director of Operations and Logistics at the United States Transportation Command at Scott Air Force Base, recently briefed the media on details of what occurred in the Iraq conflict.
Technological advances made since Operation Desert Storm, Johnson said, not only improved visibility and efficiency this time around - they also saved a serious amount of money in the war campaign.
"Providing exquisite support to CENTCOM (Central Command), the war fighter, and Gen. Tommy Franks, is what we've been charged to do," Johnson said. "Now we're planning the redeployment, bringing everything back, and technology is playing just as crucial of a role."
Sustainment - the continual incoming supply of food, water, repair parts and rotational forces - is also a major responsibility at this time.
The "brains" of the entire Defense Transportation System joint command system, USTRANSCOM plans, coordinates and tracks the movement of all military personnel, vessels and supplies in the world.
With complexity to that degree, USTRANCOM's matrix-organized system has to know who and what is moving where at all times.
"We actually determine the mode, and we're into a very much multi-modal decision, which includes air, land and sea through our component commands," the general said.
In Operation Iraqi Freedom, deploying the Army's U.S. Air Force 101st Airborne "Air Assault" Division from Fort Campbell, Ky. Out of Jacksonville, Fla., for example, involved transporting 14,579 passengers on commercial carriers (totaling 59 missions) and moving more than 145,000 tons of cargo on 14 vessels - equivalent to 2.9 million square feet of cargo.
Elaborate synchronization also made it possible to send three missions and 67 tons in air assaults from this airborne unit alone.
Deploying the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division - comprised of 24,800 personnel - was also possible through advanced military telecommunications systems, Johnson said.
Rapid deployment time, spanning just a few days between executive order and movement, has been another hugely positive byproduct of advances in technology.
"The Secretary of Defense approved the deployment order on Feb. 6, and by Feb. 11 - five days later - we were actually moving ships into place," he said. "By Feb. 11, the first ships were under way to Kuwait."
Precisely orchestrated communications and movement by USTRANSCOM timed the arrival of the supply ships with the arrival of the 101st Airborne soldiers to meet those vessels - marrying up personnel with gear so no time was wasted in getting into the fight.
"This system worked incredibly well," Johnson said.
Intensive information technology tools used by USTRANSCOM and military personnel serving in and around Iraq include time-phased force deployment data, also known as TPFDD, that allows planners to create a strategy for getting forces supplies to the war fighter within a specified timeline.
The joint flow analysis system is another USTRANSCOM information technology resource; it enables the military to plot out, based on information from the TPFDD, exactly how to flow troops and equipment so military personnel arrival precisely when they need to in order to meet docking vessels.
Joint operation planning and execution systems, or JOPES, facilitate the planning, monitoring and execution of any large deployment, Johnson said.
The military's Enhanced Logistics Intra-Theater Support Tool - also known as ELIST - sets the route along which materials will be transported from the port and the airfield to the foxhole - or wherever it's needed.
Another execution technology tool the U.S. military regularly uses is sharp aerial photography. Military personnel took a series of aerial photos of Baghdad International Air Field as a planning tool so strategists could learn as much as possible about the field before capturing it.
The global position support system, a single mobility system, helps monitor air shipments and a common operating picture to track vessels to the conflict and back to the U.S., Johnson said.
Radio wave frequency identification tags or RFIDs have gotten a lot of use in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The data of what's inside each container is burned onto the RFID tag and attached to the container's exterior. Antennas stationed at the ports then automatically scan and read these tags as the vessels enter, instantly forwarding the information to a giant database.
Information workSspace sessions - real-time, interactive conferencing that functions like a warp-speed Internet chat room - utilize a current emerging technology in a secure communications mode known as TransViz. Emerging technologies will be incorporated into TransViz which is currently beyond the testing phase, the general said. It will be used widely by the military to facilitate collaborative decision making and eliminate hours of phone calls and e-mails daily.
USTRANSCOM's Global Transportation Network or GTN - the repository of all movement information - is arguably the most profound IT tool used by the military today.
"GTN gives situational awareness to the war fighters, where they know exactly where their supplies and their equipment are, so that they don't order more," Johnson said. "That (redundancy in supplies) was a problem that we overcame since Desert Shield/Desert Storm. We had a lot of stuff in theater that we didn't need because we didn't have good visibility of what was around. We solved that since Desert Shield/Desert Storm, and now have tremendous ITV (in-transit visibility). Knowing what's coming in advance really builds trust into the whole supply system."
Some 40 different commercial systems and two supply systems feed the GTN.
"The GTN is really a system of systems to get this information to our 6,000 customers," Johnson said.
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