In our series on Bold Alligator 2012, we examined various aspects of littoral operations highlighted in the exercise.
And we did so with the future evolution of such capabilities in mind. We will soon publish our analytical take on how to think differently with regard to littoral engagement in light of Libya, Bold Alligator and other considerations.
A key element of those capabilities is better integration of the logistical element into combat operations.
This can be put many ways, but the core point is that by integrating support ashore FROM the seabase and working better connectivity WITHIN the seabase, combat capabilities are significantly enhanced.
It is another example of what Second Line of Defense has focused upon in a 21st century approach to operations, whereby by the older linear and sequential approach is replaced by an approach which allows engagement across several dimensions simultaneously.
The logistical element within BA 12 was suggestive of such an innovation.
In a recent follow-up interview with Colonel Brad Weisz, Deputy Commander of Expeditionary Strike Group TWO, this aspect of the operation was highlighted and discussed.
SLD: Could you explain the relationship between seabasing and logistics?
Col Weisz: Per joint doctrine, seabasing is the deployment, assembly, command, projection, reconstitution and reemployment of joint combat power from the sea without reliance on land bases within the JOA. It provides the Joint Force Commander with options or courses of action for closing, assembling, employing, sustaining and reconstituting forces for amphibious operations.
Seabasing also provides operational maneuver for ship-to-shore movement and assured access to the joint force during the action phase of amphibious operations while significantly reducing the footprint ashore, and minimizing the permissions or authorizations required to operate from host nations.
Ultimately seabasing increases the maneuver options for Landing Forces ashore by reducing the need to protect elements such as C2 and logistical supplies.
So, with that said, the primary relationship going forward between seabasing and logistics is the unique capability of keeping that Iron Mountain (of logistical support, sustainment and resupply) afloat which significantly reduces or minimizes your combat and combat service support footprint going ashore.
During BOLD ALLIGATOR 12 (BA 12), I think we did an excellent job of deploying only the necessary combat and combat service support forces ashore that were needed to accomplish our assigned missions.
Our seabasing approach conducted during BA 12 enabled us to keep the MEB command element afloat aboard the USS WASP; collocated with ESG-2, the Amphibious Task Force. It also enabled us to keep the MEB aviation combat element afloat aboard the USS KEARSARGE vice having to establish an expeditionary airfield or forward operating base ashore.
We had aviation assets operating from three of our big decks amphibs – the WASP, the KEARSARGE and the IWO JIMA. We also had aviation assets operating from the SAN ANTONIO and the NEW YORK.
That is a definite highlight in that we were leveraging five GATOR, amphib platforms for air support to the landing forces ashore.
The critical piece here though is that the aviation assets onboard those five amphibs were sustained and resupplied by the SS WRIGHT, an aviation logistics support ship. BA 12 was the first time in naval history that an aviation logistics support ship supported a live exercise.
We deployed approximately 180 Marines from the Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron, called MALS, onboard the WRIGHT and they performed their mission superbly. More than 50 aviation repair parts and equipment items were utilized and deployed from the WRIGHT to support the MEB’s aviation combat element afloat. Again, seabasing and logistics was part of the operation, not an afterthought.
The only MEB command element that went ashore was the ground combat element, Regimental Landing Team 2, and again they took the only forces needed to accomplish the mission when they went ashore, no extra fluff. Seabasing and logistical support were tightly integrated into their overall ground scheme of maneuver.
A good example of this was the coordination and use of the USNS PEARY, a Military Sealift Command ship. As another first time event in naval history, we landed an MV-22B Osprey aboard the PEARY. The Osprey loaded and transported Class I, food and water; Class 3, petroleum oil and lubricants; Class 4, field fortifications and Class 5, ground ammunition supplies to a MEB company landing team conducting sensitive distributed operations almost 170 miles inland. That is detailed coordination and integration.
Another example of seabasing and logistical support was the use of the USNS OBREGON, also a Military Sealift Command ship. We embarked and deployed twelve (12) Marine Corps Reserve amphibious assault vehicles, called AAVs, in the belly of the OBREGON and disembarked them at about the 9-10 nautical mile mark from their landing beach. The AAVs swam approximately six hundred yards and were embarked, picked-up, aboard the USS OAK HILL, LSD 51 where they were taken to approximately the 2.5 to 3 nautical mile mark from their landing area and disembarked again for their final movement to the objective.
Another critical seabasing and sustainment piece was the set-up and utilization of the Naval Beach Group’s amphibious bulk liquid transfer system, called ABLTS. We utilized the USNS OBREGON to pump fuel and water ashore from more than three miles off the coast to sustain the MEB and Coalition forces already ashore. This was another successful first for the Blue-Green Team.
SLD: Normally people think of logistics as simply support to operations. You do the operation and then bring your support ashore. The whole approach that we’re talking about here is quite different. It’s looking how you’re weaving logistics into very definition and exercise of combat enablement. It is part of the actual operation itself rather than support after the fact.
Rather than inserting force and then bringing WALMART ashore, you are looking at an interactive and interconnected operation whereby the core force ashore is supported from the seabase and enhanced by the ashore support element, not the other way around.
Col Weisz: Agreed and the approach highlights logistics as a critical going-in enabler. Although we call it combat service support, it was out there as a lead element, as a main effort, accomplishing the mission, so you have hit the nail on top of the head.
With seabasing and logistics tightly integrated in the overall plan, you can deploy that minimum footprint ashore and you know, you can feel comfortable that they will be properly sustained and always ready to go. Logistics from the seabase is an initial enabler, a critical component; not an afterthought.
(For earlier interviews with Col. Weisz see
And for the Special Report on Bold Alligator 2012 see
And for a look at the logistics dimension of littoral operations seen in Bold Alligator 2012 and looking forward see the interview with BG Owens:
And for additional interviews highlighting the Military Sealift Command Perspective see