|Planners Feed, Supply Warfighters |
Planners Feed, Supply Warfighters
By Master Sgt. Rick DelaHaya, 8th Air Force Public Affairs
Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisianna -- (ACCNS) -- In time of war, the Herculean effort required to sustain combat troops in the field rarely receives much attention. Strategy and tactics are easy to understand, but the science of equipping and feeding troops half way around the world is extremely technical -- a mystery to those not involved.
During Roving Sands 2001, a group of Air Force planners were able to break down the complicated process and learned how to maintain and resupply an air force during a major conflict.
Working from the 8th Air Force headquarters here, but separated from the air planning conducted in the Combined Air Operations Center here, the Air Force Forces, or AFFOR, team took on the daunting task of maintaining a lifeline of supplies that could make or break a mobile, modern military operation. Providing aircraft, spare parts, munitions and fuel, and moving troops and reserve manpower, the team provided the "beds, beans and bullets" necessary to sustain the aerospace operation.
Roving Sands is an annual air- and missile-defense exercise involving more than 15,000 people around the United States. Mock battles are fought in the southwestern desert; the forces are controlled from centers at a number of bases, including Barksdale. It kicked off June 14 this year and runs to June 24.
"This is the first time we’ve exercised the AFFOR during Roving Sands," said Col. Michael Reese, deputy commander of the Air Force Forces. "It was a complicated process that we were able to get our arms around and learn the best way to support a theater aerospace operation."
The AFFOR takes care of the infrastructure and personnel in the fight. "Our basic job is the basing and supplying of our deployed troops while they’re in the field," said Col. Myrna Fuller, Battle Staff director and chief of logistics. "If people don’t have the tools to do their job, and if the aircraft aren’t flying, then it is an AFFOR problem and we’re not doing our job."
During the mock wargame, team members received inputs from the Air Force Command and Control Training and Innovation Group from Hurlburt Field, Fla., and the Joint Exercise Control Group at Fort Bliss, Texas. These exercise controllers passed scenarios that required action by the AFFOR, such as explosions on weapons-build up pads, the need for additional water and Meals Ready to Eat, and requests for the movement of troops and aircraft.
In one scenario, an airman was killed when the fuel truck he was driving struck a bridge; the bridge was crippled when the truck exploded. The accident caused a chain reaction among the AFFOR team.
"This was typical of the kind of ‘injects’ we received," explained Fuller. "From this one event, our logistics personnel had to work together to get more fuel, with Civil Engineering to repair the bridge, Mortuary Affairs for the killed airman, and Personnel to replace him. So you can see it can be quite a complicated process."
The key piece to the puzzle is the Combat Support Center, according to Lt. Col. David Parker, CSC director, who is quick to credit his staff for easing the process. "We take immediate action and help resolve the situation. That may mean we have one to eight different action agencies working together responding to one issue. They are the primary piece in maintaining the war effort."
Since this was the third time the AFFOR has been involved in a major exercise, the planners were able to quickly insert themselves into the battle and coordinate for all needed items necessary to keep the planes in the air and the troops on the ground supplied.
"We showed that even though we weren’t directing or executing the war, we were a vital link to its success," said Reese. "The success of any aerospace operation depends on the ability of its forces to resupply and sustain itself. And that’s what we were able to do."