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YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — As top leaders throughout South Korea change how the U.S. military is stationed here, the Army is reworking how its logistics network can better serve the force, the commanding general of the U.S. Army Materiel Command said Tuesday.

U.S. Forces Korea Commander Gen. Leon J. LaPorte is working to revise U.S. force structure on the peninsula, said Gen. Paul J. Kern. Kern, on a three-day visit to South Korea, met with top leaders to find out how his command can support units.

“A lot of the repositioning and support structure will be announced when our governments have achieved the right balance,” Kern said. “I think that is very much on track from my discussions with Gen. LaPorte. I must make sure that our support structure lines up.”

The materiel command is going through massive changes under Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s transformation plans, Kern said. The command has been tasked with moving new technologies into the field faster, changing the logistic structures to work in “asymmetric environments” — unconventional battlefields — along with new abilities to counter adversaries with weapons of mass destruction.

New commands under the Army Materiel Command include the Army Field Support Command, which works logistics issues in operation theaters; Research, Development and Engineering Command, which develops new technologies; and the Joint Munitions Command, which manages munitions. The newly created Chemical Materials Agency and Guardian Brigade focus on destroying existing supplies of chemical weapons and specializing in response to weapons of mass destruction attacks.

“Rear areas” — the term used for areas away from the front lines which are used to receive supplies — no longer exist, Kern said. As U.S. soldiers saw during the invasion of Iraq, supply lines hundreds of miles long became vulnerable to attacks.

“Our enemies are going to attack where we’re weakest,” Kern said.

Combatants aren’t likely to take on a heavily armored Abrams tank, Kern said, instead opting for soft-skinned fuel and supply trucks. The Army is moving toward providing more armored Humvees and more armor for fuel and supply trucks, Kern said.

“The rear areas and the front areas become the same,” Kern said. “What we really look at is non-linear battlefields, and we are dealing with agile adaptive enemies. I don’t think any [battlefields] on this peninsula are any different than we are confronting in other parts of the world. The lesson for us is: everybody has to be ready to fight.”

And while fighting, they have to make sure supplies get to where they need to go. Containers need to be easily identified and tracked. During the first Gulf War, mountains of supplies formed, but no one knew what was in the containers.

Now, logisticians are using radio tags on containers that can be scanned and reveal their contents. About 70 percent of the materiel going into Iraq has been tagged this way, Kern said.

“We did a pretty good job of eliminating this problem of knowing what was in the containers,” Kern said.


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