Home' Army Acquisition Logistics and Technology Magazine : Army ALT January-March 2012 Contents ASC.ARMY.MIL 51
The launch of combat operations
in Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2001,
not only signaled the start of
Operation Enduring Freedom
(OEF), but also marked the beginning of
a period in which the U.S. military has
continually adapted to the challenges of
an era characterized by persistent conflict.
Like many DoD organizations, Military
Surface Deployment and Distribution
Command (SDDC) has experienced
radical transformation based on lessons
learned while supporting the ongoing
overseas contingency operation.
SDDC, the successor to Military Traf-
fic Management Command (MTMC),
is the Army Service Component Com-
mand of U.S. Transportation Command
(USTRANSCOM) and a major subor-
dinate command to U.S. Army Materiel
Command. Whenever and wherever
Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen, and
Coast Guardsmen are deployed, SDDC
is involved in planning and executing
the surface delivery of their equipment
and supplies. SDDC partners with the
commercial transportation industry as
the coordinating link between DoD sur-
face transportation requirements and the
capability that industry provides.
A BUMPY LANDSCAPE
To fully grasp the change SDDC has seen,
it's important to understand what SDDC
looked like at the turn of the 21st century.
In the past 25 years, a political land-
scape that was dominated by two global
superpowers has evolved into an argu-
ably more delicate arrangement that is as
unpredictable as it is complex.
The U.S. military has radically transformed
along this bumpy and unpredictable path,
from a forward-based approach with
vast echeloned formations to a modular,
brigade-centric structure that is home-
based and deploys in smaller packages.
Military logistics similarly has transformed,
adapting to the new way we fight while
incorporating the new way we do business
and the technology that drives it all.
OEF and the buildup for Operation Iraqi
Freedom (OIF) further changed SDDC.
Most notably, increasing U.S. military oper-
ations in Southwest Asia meant a greatly
expanded surface transportation workload.
Before this point in the command's his-
tory, its predecessor, MTMC, focused
solely on the strategic aspect of transpor-
tation, moving international unit cargo
from seaport to seaport---commonly
referred to as "port-to-port" operations.
Traditionally, international cargo traffic
moved between seaports that maintained
a permanent MTMC presence, and move-
ment from those ports was coordinated
by units stationed there. Similarly, mili-
tary equipment returning from Europe
would sail into an East Coast port, a
local MTMC stevedore contractor would
download the vessel, and unit traf-
fic managers would coordinate onward
movement with tendered carriers.
Port selection was determined largely by
where MTMC had a presence and where
contracts were in place to load or unload a
vessel. This approach, while adequate in a
static environment with a known threat, was
not sufficient to support the modern force.
NEW WAYS OF THINKING
Resupply challenges via surface transpor-
tation became evident during the initial
stages of OEF. As the U.S. footprint in
Afghanistan grew, traditional military
logistics units, storage sites, and supply
lines were not an option.
Without a static military port structure,
MTMC began to rely on commercial
carriers with networks moving through
established, albeit primitive, lines of
communication (LOCs). Small-scale
movement began through Pakistan and
along the Northern Distribution Network
routes used today. While there were many
issues with throughput and reception, the
small force and the access it had to abun-
dant airlift overshadowed surface problems
that would later prove significant.
Additionally, large-scale activity in the
buildup and initial phase of OIF forced
new ways of thinking; the inadequacy of
distribution methods and gaps in force
structure were evident. As the U.S. foot-
print in Iraq increased, so did contracted
and commercial support to those forces.
While unit cargo flowing into Iraq was
moved primarily on Military Sealift Com-
mand (MSC) naval or chartered vessels to
the military port at Ash Shuaiba, Kuwait,
HEADING HOME FROM IRAQ
The first truck of a large convoy carrying military tactical vehicles pulls out of the staging area on Contingency Operating Base Adder, Oct. 25,
2011, as the U.S. military presence in Iraq was drawing down. In comparison with Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, redeployment from
Operation Iraqi Freedom has been very forgiving from a logistics standpoint. Because cargo moved via regularly programmed convoys to Kuwait, there
was no real impact if planning was inaccurate. Redeployment cargo might be delayed, but eventually the cargo found its way onto a vessel home.
(U.S. Army photo by SPC Anthony Zane.)
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