In planning for 'surge,' the rule is 'expect the unexpected'
November 7, 2004
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait — Planning for the influx of 250,000 troops heading in and out of Iraq is sort of like planning for a hurricane.
“You can’t account for intangibles,” said Capt. Joe James, a Florida National Guard force flow analyst, who worked side-by-side with Lt. Col. Jeff Carra, chief of plans for deployment for the Combined Forces Land Component Command. It was Carra who was responsible for handling the “Surge,” the name Army logisticians gave to the handoff between the first and second waves of troops to serve in Iraq.
James arrived at the beginning of the Surge in mid-January as the officer-in-charge of the 264 wash points, where all of the Humvees, trucks and tanks leaving the theater would be cleaned before passing through customs and being loaded for home. He asked what the plan was for handling all the vehicles.
He found out there was none — he’d be expected to develop it on the fly.
To complicate matters, Carra said, Kuwait suffered its wettest rainy season in 50 years. For two weeks in early January, the only highway from Kuwait to Iraq lay impassible under floodwaters.
In late February, the engine room of one of the giant cargo ships, the USNS Shugart, caught fire at the peak of the 1st Infantry Division’s deployment. The entire port shut down for two days, Carra said, so shore workers could fight the fire. On another day, contract truck drivers from India and Pakistan got in a brawl in their motor pool, halting part of the truck operations for the day.
As soldiers and Marines poured into the camps, Carra ordered new tents erected and trucked in portable shower units, sometimes hours ahead of arriving troops.
The schedule had little flexibility because the Pentagon wished to keep its promise that troops would head home within 365 days of their arrival. Since they had come at almost the same time in 2003, they had to leave at the same time in 2004.
Private contractors hired to supplement military personnel sometimes didn’t deliver. Running short of sturdy Army cots, CFLCC bought thousands from a Middle East contractor. But the camping cots frequently fell apart under the weight of troops and gear and had to be replaced with the Army’s own.
CFLCC contracted with a Kuwaiti trucking firm for 400 trucks to haul freight. The owner coughed up only 250. Since this was the only big trucking company in the tiny Rhode Island-sized country, the Army had no choice but to work with him.
“You can sue him for breach of contract,” Carra said, “but that doesn’t give you your trucks.”