Food for Operation Joint Endeavor

By Lieutenant Colonel Anthony H. Kral and Captain Drefus Lane

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Logistics support of more than 20,000 soldiers and airmen deployed to Hungary, Croatia, and Bosnia in support of Operation Joint Endeavor has provided plenty of challenges for logisticians. One challenge was providing food and other subsistence items during the deployment and sustainment phases of the operation.

Developing the Plan

In late October 1995, officers from Defense Logistics Agency (DLA)-Europe, Defense Distribution Depot Europe (DDDE), and Defense Personnel Support Center Europe (DPSCE) met with representatives of the 21st Theater Army Area Command (TAACOM) in Grafenwoehr, Germany, to develop a class I (subsistence) plan for troops participating in Operation Joint Endeavor.

The TAACOM representatives presented the DLA officers with their requirements and the operational limitations known at the time. They anticipated that the majority of the deploying soldiers and airmen would be sent initially to an intermediate staging base (ISB) in Hungary, while selected units would deploy directly to the Sava River crossing point in Croatia. (The Sava River divides Croatia and Bosnia.) A small number of troops would be deployed by air directly into Bosnia.

The 21st TAACOM planners wanted to provide all deployed forces with a T-M-T ration cycle. This meant that tray-packed rations (T rations) would be served for breakfast and dinner, and meals, ready-to-eat (MRE's), would be served for lunch. In addition, fresh fruits and vegetables would supplement the T-ration meals. The planners also knew there would be a severe shortage of materials-handling equipment (MHE) and ration-handling personnel at the deployment sites.

Twenty-four hours after coming together, the DLA and TAACOM group produced a subsistence support plan. According to the plan, deploying units would be furnished with 20-foot containers of rations. The rations would be arranged in each container so the units could withdraw them for meals without having to rummage through the container. In this way, soldiers could "eat through" the containers from front to back. The containers also would be packed so no menu would be served more than once every 10 days. Until a bridge could be constructed over the Sava River, subsistence for those forces deploying directly into Bosnia would be provided by air.

The subsistence plan called for three separate container configurations-one each for breakfast and dinner T rations, and one for refrigerated fruits and vegetables. Each container would be configured with 10 pallets of T rations, each pallet containing a separate menu. Additional pallets of supplemental items such as ultra-high-temperature milk, fruit juice, cereal, and condiments would be included in the containers also. Each T ration container would hold 20 to 22 pallets, which would be enough to feed 400 soldiers either breakfast or dinner for 10 days. A dining facility that could feed 400 soldiers would be issued one breakfast container and one dinner container every 10 days. An 800-soldier dining facility would receive two of each type of container every 10 days. Issuing the containers directly to the dining facilities would greatly simplify handling at the theater, corps, and division materiel management centers. Instead of managing over 30 types of semiperishable subsistence, class I managers would have to manage only two "standard" types of T-ration containers.

U.S. Army, Europe's 20-foot, chassis-mounted, refrigerated containers would be adapted to hold enough fresh fruits and vegetables for 400 soldiers for 20 days (or 800 soldiers for 10 days). Only hardy fruits and vegetables with a shelf life of 20 days or more would be chosen for these containers. Like the T-ration containers, the containers of fresh fruits and vegetables would be issued directly to the dining facilities.

DDDE's perishable food distribution facility in Kaiserslautern was experienced in providing subsistence support by air, because it routinely provided air shipments to commissaries and troop issue support activities in the Middle East and the Azores. In addition, the Kaiserslautern facility recently had provided perishable subsistence support by air to the 3rd U.S. Army, the 24th Corps Support Group, and the 1st Brigade, 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized), for exercise Bright Star '95 in Egypt. Therefore, it was decided that the Kaiserslautern distribution site would configure rations on Air Force 463L pallets and move them to either Ramstein or Rhein-Main Air Base for subsequent movement to Bosnia. The number of soldiers stationed in Bosnia fluctuated, so the quantity of rations airlifted would vary according to the actual headcount.

The DDDE distribution sites held successful rehearsals of the subsistence support plan. In November 1995, the 21st TAACOM approved the concept for implementation.

Deployment Ration Support

In anticipation of the December 1995 order from President Clinton to deploy U.S. troops in support of Operation Joint Endeavor, DDDE's Germersheim, Germany, distribution facility began to configure standard 20-foot containers of breakfast and dinner T-rations. MRE's, water, and health and comfort packs were also configured in 20-foot containers. As requirements from the 21st TAACOM began to come in, the containers were moved from Germersheim to Hungary and Croatia by commercial ground transport. Radio frequency tags were attached to the containers so they could be tracked en route. When the containers were delivered to the sites, they were positioned near the dining facilities so rations and supplements could be removed as needed.

During the deployment phase, the concept plan had to be modified to incorporate a different method of providing fruits and vegetables to the troops. Due to limited on site storage facilities for perishable items, the 21st TAACOM deployed the majority of U.S. Army, Europe's 20-foot refrigerated containers directly into Hungary, Croatia, and later to Bosnia and used them to store perishables. As the number of available refrigerated containers dwindled, DDDE explored the possibility of leasing additional containers for shipping fresh fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, they found that leasing commercial containers could cost up to $12 million. So, instead, DDDE opted for leasing commercial refrigerated trucks to ship fruits and vegetables and other perishable subsistence items. It was important to lease trucks with 20-foot refrigerated trailers so the meals could be packed according to the standard configurations already developed.

Only four of the commercial carriers contacted had trucks with 20-foot refrigerated trailers available. Nevertheless, soon after the deployment order was issued, commercial trucks loaded with fresh fruits and vegetables were moving toward Hungary and Croatia. Because there were so few trucks, they were off loaded immediately when they arrived at their destinations to allow quick turnaround and reuse. As planned, initial "push packages" of class I supplies for forces deployed to Bosnia were sent by air. These air shipments continued until the Sava River pontoon bridge was completed. After the ground route over the bridge was established, supplies were shipped by air only in emergencies.

Ration Support for Holiday Meals

Even before the deployment order was issued, the DDDE distribution sites were formulating plans to support the Christmas and New Year's meals. For all the Operation Joint Endeavor sites-Hungary, Croatia, and Bosnia-Christmas dinner would be the first A-ration (fresh) meal since the deployment began.

The perishable holiday food, which included several frozen and chilled items, would be moved on commercial refrigerated trucks to Hungary and Croatia, except that support to Bosnia would be by air. Frozen food would be packed in insulated triwall boxes with dry ice, and chilled food would be packed in wet ice.

A backup plan that called for shipping rations by air to Taszar airfield in Hungary was developed in case headcounts and troop densities fluctuated greatly. The plan was put into use on 22 December 1995, when an emergency request for rations for 1,200 soldiers in the ISB in Hungary came in. The shipment of A rations arrived in Hungary on 23 December, just in time for Christmas.

Sustainment Ration Support

Except for holiday meals, deployed forces subsisted on the T-M-T ration cycle. However, as Operation Joint Endeavor transitioned from the deployment phase to the sustainment phase, so did the rations transition from T rations to A rations. Originally, the A-ration transition plan called for a private contractor or the logistics civil augmentation program (LOGCAP) contractor to distribute food directly to the individual dining facilities. The contractor would establish a local warehouse to receive and store food provided by the DDDE distribution sites in Germany and issue it to each dining facility based on an established delivery schedule. However, the commanders involved wanted to switch to A rations as soon as possible, and they decided to begin serving A rations before the contracting agencies could award the distribution contracts.

In early February, the ISB in Hungary began serving A-ration breakfasts 7 days a week and A-ration dinners 2 days a week in each of eight separate dining facilities. Without a contract for food storage and delivery in place, the DDDE distribution sites in Kaiserslautern and Germersheim were tasked to distribute the rations to the individual dining facilities. Using 40-foot dry cargo and refrigerated trailers, the Kaiserslautern and Germersheim sites distributed breakfast and dinner A rations directly to the eight dining facilities. This distribution of food from the wholesale level directly to the "foxhole" was a first for DDDE.

In late February, commanders of the units in Croatia and Bosnia decided to convert to A-ration menus also. With no contract established, the responsibility for distribution again rested with the DDDE activities in Germany. They shipped the first A rations to Bosnia in late February and scheduled subsequent deliveries for each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Initially, the Kaiserslautern and Germersheim sites distributed rations to six different base camps in Bosnia. However, because the division and corps support units had no means of breaking down the bulk rations, the depot shipped A rations to over 28 separate sites.

As of 1 March, the Germersheim and Kaiserslautern facilities had shipped over one million cases of semiperishable subsistence and 65,000 cases of perishable subsistence to the deployed troops.

Observations and Lessons Learned

Providing class I support from the depot directly to the "foxhole" by the DDDE activities in Germany was not without its unique challenges and special requirements. There were also some key lessons learned.

Overall, the concept of breakfast and dinner T-ration containers worked extremely well. However, since 20-foot containers are not handled routinely at the DDDE distribution sites, it took a while to figure out the best way to load and unload them. Containers initially were positioned on flatbed trucks by a leased commercial crane, which was a slow and arduous task. Later, a commercial sideloader was leased to move the containers. Handling the containers with the sideloader was faster, and the cost of leasing it was less than the cost of leasing the commercial crane.

Personnel at the Germersheim distribution site built special ramps so pallets of rations could be loaded into the containers with a forklift. However, the wooden ramps did not hold up to continued use. After reinforcing metal plates were added, the ramps were strong enough to handle the work load without breaking down.

Based on customer feedback, additional information, such as ration type, meal type, and number of pallets, was entered on the radio frequency tags. Also, the tags were taped to the containers to prevent them from being detached prematurely.

Shipping A rations directly from the depot to individual dining acilities generated a lot of paperwork. On average, Operation Joint Endeavor documentation requirements were five to ten times greater than those associated with "normal" depot shipments. Dining facility requirements constantly changed, often up to the time delivery trucks were loaded. The DDDE distribution sites became adept at adjusting rapidly to changing requirements with minimum disruption to normal depot operations.

Ground transportation time ranged from 2 to 5 days between depot and dining facilities, so the shipments had to be highly accurate and timely. Signs indicating that the cargo was class I supplies, the truck's destination, and the required delivery date were posted in the cabs of the delivery trucks. Load diagrams were given to both the truck driver and the receiving unit. These diagrams listed the total number of pallets, customer identification information, and type of supplies on the pallets. Special placards that were clearly visible to personnel unloading the containers were placed on each pallet. Strip maps, points of contact, and a special instruction letter were given to vehicle drivers to help them pass through all the en route checkpoints or call back to the depot if necessary. Drivers were also required to notify the depot when they reached the convoy marshaling area before crossing the Sava River.

To help offload the pallets at the dining facility, commercial carriers were requested to provide a pallet jack on each of the 40-foot trailers. With the pallet jack, pallets loaded at the front of the truck could be pulled to the rear. The pallet jack fit under the last pallet loaded so it took up no extra space on the truck.

Quality control was significantly increased for Operation Joint Endeavor shipments. At Kaiserslautern, for example, each perishable shipment received a 100-percent inspection to make sure all requested items were loaded and the pallets were properly labeled before the truck pulled out.

Class I supply support for Operation Joint Endeavor has shown that the DLA community, in concert with supported services, plays a vital role in sustaining U.S. forces deployed in contingency operations. The close coordination among DLA activities, the 21st TAACOM, and customer units led to the successful support of Operation Joint Endeavor forces during the deployment phase. Continued dialog and communication allowed for the smooth transition from operational rations to fresh A-ration meals during the sustainment phase. In the end, it is the deployed soldier who benefits from this cooperative effort. ALOG

Lieutenant Colonel Anthony H. Kral is commander of the 3rd Forward Support Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized), Fort Stewart, Georgia. He was the site commander of Defense Distribution Depot Europe in Kaiserslautern, Germany, when this article was written. He is a graduate of the School of Advanced Military Studies, the Army Command and General Staff College, and the Combined Arms and Services Staff School. He holds a master's degree in food science from Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.

Captain Drefus Lane is the transportation officer for Defense Distribution Depot Europe in Kaiserslautern, Germany. He is a graduate of the Combined Arms and Services Staff School, the Transportation Officer Advanced Course, and the Infantry Officer Basic Course. He was previously commander of B Company, 724th Main Support Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized), Fort Stewart, Georgia.

Reprinted from Army Logistician: THE PROFESSIONAL BULLETIN OF UNITED STATES ARMY LOGISTICS, November-December 1996 issue.


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Last update: October 19, 1996 at 1300