Desert Storm: Logistics and the Build Up
Everything to do with supplies and carrying equipment and troops is called logistics in the military. If you don’t have the supplies, soldiers can have problems with basic things like not get enough food. That was one of the reasons the First Battle at Manassas during the Civil War was such a surprise to everyone. That railroad at that location was logistics, in this case, bringing more troops in.
Because the military moved so fast to start getting soldiers over to the Persian Gulf, we were reading in the newspaper about shortages of toilet paper, toothpaste, and other personal hygiene items. So our supply sergeant ordered everything and tried to anticipate what we would need.
My company was what was called a “Medium Truck,” which gives a very different impression than the reality. We had M915 tractor trailers — yes, a tractor trailer is a medium truck. There’s an even bigger truck with tires that are taller than me! As the supplies came in, we either packed them into boxes mounted on pallets, or packed them in corrugated steel shipping containers called conexes. The conexes could be mounted on the back of a truck flatbed or lifted by a crane and put on a ship. They also could be locked. Anything worth stealing went in those.
I remember that one of the trucks pulled up outside out company area, in the gravel parking lot. The lot always had muddy holes in it and was on the 10 year waiting list for repair.
We had the shipping boxes out and were throwing things in. I had a clipboard and lots and lots and lots of copies of packing lists. This was in the days before computers, and even copy machines were a bit on the early side. I sat on the ground and hand wrote the contents of each box on six copies. One copy went inside the box, and one was put outside the box, one went to the supply sergeant, and I don’t remember any more where the rest went.
We were like zombies at that point, almost mindlessly going through the packing. It was a foregone conclusion we were going, though we still didn’t have a date. It wasn’t like if you get really stressed out at work, because at the end of the day, you can leave. Deployment was all around us, and we never could quite get away from it. We were all racing to get done without the end actually in site. I remember in one of Tamara Pierce’s books, Daja’s Book, the main character is using her magic to put out a massive forest fire. All she can see is what’s in front of her, and it’s go, go, go! Then the fire is gone rather abruptly, and it’s like “Now what?”
We got the trucks packed up, and then they were driven off to the Seattle port to be shipped out. Suddenly we had nothing to do but wait.
This an interesting article on the build up, which discusses some of the logistics. It also mentions the 7th Transportation Group, which would be eventually assigned to after we arrived in the country.