MILITARY LESSONS FROM OIF
by Scott R. Gourley
From extreme physical performance environments to operator training to logistics distribution challenges, Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) shattered existing military vehicle transportation and distribution paradigms in a way that has prompted a wide-scale re-evaluation of vehicle design and performance thinking.
In the case of military wheeled vehicles, some of this new thinking was revealed during a recent Tactical Wheeled Vehicles (TWV) Conference, held in Monterey, California. Sponsored by the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA), the annual TWV gathering draws a cross section of government and industry participants in the design, development and production of wheeled military vehicles and associated technologies.
Not surprisingly, a highlight of the February 2004 gathering was a U.S.
Army panel presentation titled, “Tactical Wheeled Vehicles in Iraq: A Warfighter’s Perspective.” Panel participants included two Army action officers with recent TWV experience in the Iraq theater: Major Robert A. Bean and Major Samuel C. Homsy. The panel reinforced many emerging lessons learned that had been presented throughout the conference while raising new issues for audience consideration.
Major Bean, who is currently assigned as Assistant Project Manager, Force
Provider, at U.S. Army Natick Laboratory, opened the presentation with a series of “shared observations” concerning the operational environment in Iraq over the last year.
One of the key observations concerned the overall size of the operating environment. In terms of comparative size, Bean provided a United States perspective, likening the distance from Kuwait to Tikrit to the distance from Washington D.C. to Buffalo, New York and the distance from Kuwait to Mosul as the same as going from Washington to Detroit.
He added that the distances involved are exacerbated by a road condition mix that includes city driving, highway driving, dirt road driving, and cross country transits; coupled with the potential for physical attack.
Another challenge involves the operational tempo (OPTEMPO) at which the equipment is operated. Earlier presentations had noted that, from a planning perspective, there is general agreement that the OPTEMPO in Iraq is “aging” the TWV fleet at between 10 and 12 times their typical peacetime rate.
“When you put together the high OPTEMPO – 24 / 7 operations – with the size of the theater and the great distances, then you put that in an environment where it’s hot and the wind is alternating hot and cold with constant dust, our Soldiers and our equipment are faced with an extreme challenge,” Bean explained.
The equipment itself serves the broad spectrum of critical missions; with an equipment fleet consisting of approximately 50,000 trucks and trailers, bridging systems, Army watercraft, water and petroleum supply systems, mobile electric power systems (generators to power the force), and force sustainment systems.
“If you think of the amount of this equipment, and you think about the requirement that they were originally designed to, and then you think about the theater size and the environment that they are operating in, I think it’s a fair assessment to say that we’re pushing a lot of the equipment beyond the original design requirement,” observed Major Sam
Homsy, U.S. Army Deputy Product Manager for Construction Equipment and Material Handling.
He offered the Rough Terrain Container Handler (“Retch”) as a
representative example. “It’s original purpose was to work out of the key ports of embarkation and
ports of debarkation,” he said. “But when we got over there what we found was that the Rough Terrain Container Handler was ‘fed’ all across the country in ‘onesies and twosies’ — across the whole AOR. And I bring that up to show that the equipment wasn’t necessarily designed to be supported or operated that way. And that’s a challenge we f