ARLINGTON, Va. — A new tracking system is helping soldiers in Iraq get the supplies they need quickly, while minimizing the need for moving supplies around via convoys, an Army official said Tuesday.

The Combat Service Support Very Small Aperture Terminal, or CSS-VSAT, a satellite communications system, is a breakthrough for Army logisticians, Lt. Gen. Claude “Chris” Christianson, deputy Chief of Staff for Army Logistics, told reporters in Washington.

The system, which includes a portable, 4-foot satellite dish and the associated electronics plugged into existing computers, “is something I’ve been waiting for [for] 30 years,” Christianson said.

Army officials were not able to get the CSS-VSAT into Iraq in time for the initial incursion, which put Army units at a disadvantage, Christianson said.

For example, in mid-March 2003, the 3rd Infantry Division was each day sending 15,000 to 18,000 supply requisitions back to the United States from Kuwait, he said.

But by March 21, when the unit was over the berm into Iraq, those requisitions “were down almost to zero,” Christianson said — not because the soldiers didn’t need more supplies, but because they couldn’t take the time to stop and connect their communications equipment.

In early May 2003, first-generation versions of the CSS-VSAT began appearing in the theater, Christianson said.

“Today, all the remote points are connected,” Christianson said, with satellite systems in place at the Army’s major supply centers throughout Iraq.

When the 3rd ID goes back to Iraq later this year, it will be equipped with a new, smaller version of the dish that will automatically lock onto its satellite, instead of requiring continual readjustments, Christianson said.

Other Army divisions will get the newest systems over the next six years as they modernize, he said.

Meanwhile, the older systems are slated to remain in Iraq, passing from unit to unit as they rotate, Christianson said.

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