Mobile Logistics

by Maj G.I. Wilson, USMCR

Lt Tharp’s article on Anzio (MCG, Sep84) gives us valuable insights into contemporary MAGTF operations and identifies logistics as the Achilles’ heel of maneuver warfare. Lt Tharp is correct in his observation. However, the demands of the modern battlefield are not lost on the logisticians but rather on the tacticians who fail to realize a continuous flow of supplies and fuel is necessary to support moving forces. Sustaining the momentum is tantamount to success.

The key to logistics in the maneuver style of warfare lies in the ability of the combat service support element to provide a constant flow of logistics forward to ground combat elements. This support must be active not reactive, and it must give the frontline commander the logistical flexibility he needs to seize fleeting tactical opportunities. Tactical flexibility ultimately hinges upon logistics.

To achieve constant-flow logistics, the MAGTF’s command element must have a logistician who interacts continuously with both the ground combat element (GCE) and the combat service support element (CSSE). The principal task of this logistician is to ensure that the logistical focus of main effort coincides with the tactical focus of main effort. The logistician must think operationally as well as logistically. Keeping the commander’s intent in mind, he must anticipate support efforts.

In order to sustain a constant flow of supplies to forces in a fluid environment, some logistics personnel are integrated into the forward echelon of combat units. The integrated support personnel move and operate with the combat element in small columns or detachments, functioning as advance receiving and issuing points. The remainder of logistics personnel move with the reserve as part of a mobile combat service support detachment (MCSSD).

Transportation assets (wheeled and tracked) not organic to the GCE are placed under the centralized control of the MCSSD commander. Resupply vehicles are more effectively used in this manner because the MCSSD commander can quickly allocate or shift designated vehicles to support the logistics focus of main effort should the tactical situation change. . . .

The maneuver style of war calls for a large reserve with assault forces attacking on narrow fronts exploiting gaps. . . . Having the preponderance of the CSS with the reserve allows the logistics to be quickly shifted if necessary to accommodate changes in the tactical situation. The logistics go with the ebb and flow of battle. If the reserve is committed to exploit tactical success, the logistics go with it. The net effect is to preclude a large logistics convoy tagging along behind the combat element telegraphing the commander’s every move. The underlying dictum is a combat unit must never be slowed down or halted to wait for supplies and fuel. The logistics to sustain a maneuver style of warfare present special challenges requiring Marines who are both operationally and logistically competent. We are fortunate having young officers like Lt Tharp write for the GAZETTE reminding us of the complexities of modern warfare and our need to be tactically and logistically sound in our thinking.