Ad Omnia Paratus – ‘Prepared for Anything’
In June 2016 CILT members attended an event at Collins Barracks Cork, organised by the Southern Section. Hosted by Comdt Laurence Egar of the Irish Defence Forces, members were given a guided tour of the military museum and military logistical equipment. Capt Robert Moriarty gave an impressive presentation on the logistical challenges faced by the Defence Forces (DF) as part of their attachment to the Nordic Battle Group. Steve O’Sullivan, Logistics Manager with Nualight, outlines Ireland’s Nordic Battle Group role, and how the Defence Forces overcame significant logistical challenges leading up to, and during, deployment.
Battlegroups: Historical Context
In 1975 the Helsinki Accords were signed, a non-binding agreement aimed at reducing tensions between the Communist bloc and the West. Members of the European Economic Community (EEC as the EU was known then) subsequently signed the Helsinki Headline Goal to enable the completion of the so-called Petersburg Task. These included humanitarian roles, rescue, peacekeeping and crisis management tasks. From this, an EU Battlegroup was established, now comprising 18 sub-groups of small, independent, self-sufficient, rapid-response units capable of swift deployment.
One such unit is the Nordic Battle Group (NBG), headquartered in Enköping, Sweden, which has been active since 2008 and has a force of 2500 soldiers. NBG members include Sweden, Finland, Norway, Republic of Ireland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The Irish Defence Forces, with the second largest troop contingent, is the eyes and ears of the Battlegroup, providing an ISTAR component: intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance. Another vital Irish element has been logistical support.
The Irish Defence Forces operational rotation of the Nordic Battle Group spanned 18 months. The mission statement, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by the Deputy Chief of Staff (D-COS), authorised the capability to set up a theatre of operation anywhere in the world within a 72-hour notice period from its base in Collins Barracks, Cork.
An expeditionary logistics concept was initiated to integrate with the Swedish armed forces and set up within a green field site in Skillingaryd, in Sweden. This concept derived from the Commanding Officer Lt Col Paul Carey, who issued a commander’s ‘intent of operation’ to Comdt James Hourgan and Capt Robert Moriarty to lead strategic procurement and tactical deployment, respectively. The MOU adopted a non-traditional, all-arms approach that facilitated crossorganisational support to the Battlegroup, such as knowledge and equipment sharing.
Capt Moriarty was issued with a CS-41 document, a type of service level agreement that outlined the available resources to meet the mission objectives. Supply, sustain and maintain were the tenets applied in order to develop a self-sufficient unit of excellence, with food and hygiene being at the forefront of considerations. This used a front load policy which meant positioning all personnel and equipment in Sweden at the start of the operation. The CS-41 made certain provisions from which certain challenges arose within a broad categorisation of ‘constraints, restrictions, freedoms’:
• Fifty-one personnel were needed to maintain equipment such as weapons (valued at €1.6m) and catering systems and transportation which included two DAF 6×6 trucks, each with two drivers.
• Nineteen containers which included: tents in two units, 3000 pack rations capable of sustaining the
brigade for 20 days, dry goods, fuel pod, ammunition, pyrotechnics in a separate container and thereby not completely utilised, weapons systems, together with dangerous goods certificates, and generators.
Due to the front load policy and for security reasons, the Irish moved ammunition, baggage, a fuel pod, generators, weapons and communications to the brigade assembly point in Skillingaryd in advance of the exercise. This included a C2 Container housing the Tactical Operations Centre (TOC) which became the epicentre of the site from which all other elements developed.
Logistical Challenges in Deployment
The main strategy, or NBG logistical concept, was to conduct operations, regardless of environment, from 30 to 120 days, characterised by a high level of flexibility, modularity and endurance. Many logistical challenges arose at various stages of operational preparations. For example, in advance of the exercise, Capt Moriarty attended a coordination conference in Sweden and discovered that an MOU signed between the Irish and Swedish governments did not legislate for electricity maintenance, which was assumed would be provided by the Swedish forces. The DF cannot have more than 850 troops overseas at any one time, and a subset of the Statement of Requirement, a Raise and Concentration Order (RCO) did not permit additional electricians etc.
One solution was to secure site generators but these were all deployed on other missions and had to be transported in pairs, each one in a 20’ container, necessitating an unplanned additional sealift with an engineering detachment. Instead, an improvisation was made to transport smaller generators and lighting systems within the allocated 19 containers on the manifest. The mission readiness exercise (MRE), which commenced in June 2014, giving clearance to build all systems, identified challenges.
The newly purchased HP 508 tents were not fit for purpose, and were not previously integrated into the Defence Forces, and this resulted in damage. Whilst the tents were erected through power from vehicles, there were three topside struts that needed to be secured manually, which could not be reached without potential injury. Therefore, A-frame ladders were added to the manifest and these were placed neatly to the rear of the tent racking systems during transportation to Sweden.
These systems were themselves not without challenges, in particular with regard to optimisation of container space, for which an outsourced solution was sought. Standard state procurement legislates the tendering of three RFQs to vendors. Timeframe was a key component to NBG tenders, coupled with the vendor listening to very specific needs.
Certain suppliers offered generic storage units for the transport of tents, whereas the successful company (TDH Design Engineering) invested time and resources into designing a bespoke racking system with significantly improved utilisation. This was an example of the Irish Defence Forces investing in the local community and supporting a start-up SME in East Cork. The additional engineering cost of this was offset by:
• Additional space to take an armoured vehicle,
thereby increasing troop safety.
• One less (soft-skin) truck meaning one less driver, enabling one additional specialist to support
the maintenance of the site.
• In addition, one less ‘soft-skin’, means less protection needed from a security perspective.
• One less container on a ship or aircraft, meaning less weight, resulting in greater fuel efficiency, and by default, incremental cost savings on subsequent DF missions.
• Maximum return for the taxpayer by co-coordinating procurement, engineering and operations.
Capt Moriarty was particularly proud of this triangular alignment. Other adjustments to the manifest were the inclusion of tent repair kits and clip flooring to prevent floor damage. Generators for the mission were also found to be temperamental but this was resolved through specialist training and maintenance.
Food portion sizes and storage of plates was resolved by securing stackable and sectioned prison service plates. The Raise and Concentration Order (RCO) also did not provide for cooks and it was recognised that the field kitchen should be part of exercise/certification training in Ireland.
In terms of information systems, the Tactical Operations Centre (TOC) enabled increased situational awareness, range of operation and capabilities when delivering orders, a significant increase in data transfer rate, and the provision of live streaming. However, the satellite communications link was intermittent, and additional equipment was needed, such as, batteries, laptops and phones.
Movement of vehicles also presented challenges and it was immediately evident that a low loader would be extremely beneficial for future rotations. Bulk collection was arranged for all MOWAGS (armoured) and six Nissans, which resulted in significant time and labour savings. This strategy was later adopted for the transfer of vehicles to the German BG. Another consideration was the training of drivers and fitters to enable licenses and qualifications in fuel pod operation, and LTAV / MOWAG maintenance.
In the absence of military aircraft, a 3PL Ocean Freight solution was needed. Equipment was loaded at Ringaskiddy Port using LIFO bound for Halmstad Port in Sweden. The loading concept of choice was RO-RO (8-hour operation) but LO-LO (20-hour operation) was the procured system due to 3PL availability and sailing schedules. This presented another immediate challenge in that it would have required two drivers moving four containers at a time from Halmstad to the brigade assembly point 141km away in Skillingaryd. Comdt James Hourigan expertly negotiated with the Swedish Forces and secured their assistance to move 13 of the Irish containers using seven of their trucks.
In the business domain, strategic renewal is a perenniallyunfinished process that all organisations undertake as they aim to alter their path, and positively affect their long-term prospects. For most logisticians and supply chain professionals, such renewal is often ‘directed’ by the business goals of senior management.
There seems to be an absence within academic literature as to how supply chain operations can influence the formulation of subsequent strategies. However, although directed, there is naturally a degree of ‘shaping’ or ‘re-framing’ of strategies to resolve logistical challenges and to align with situational needs, without moving outside the boundaries of the organisation’s core competencies (and strategic orders).
Most reframing in the present climate is in order to enhance agility and responsiveness, where supply chain disruption is rising significantly due to increased globalisation and security threats.
Logistics: An Irish Defence Forces story
The Logistics Branch of the Irish Defence Forces successfully re-framed and aligned ‘business’ strategy to operational readiness as part of Ireland’s rotation of the Nordic Battle Group. It was demonstrated how a senior management directive (strategy) underwent an extensive period of preparation, shaping and re-framing to align with situational needs, while simultaneously maximising stakeholder value (the Irish taxpayer) and ensuring actions taken were to the benefit of future rotations and missions. Arising from this mission, and potentially leading to greater influence on future strategic formulation were some key findings:
Preparation Phase: The extent of shaping and re-framing (a natural phenomenon) of the directed strategy is an indication of the shared understanding between senior management and the logistics division. One would hope that excessive re-framing would justify involvement in future strategic formulation rather than the predominant role of ‘execution’ that our discipline plays, particularly when such execution is time sensitive.
After Action Review: (stand down) led by Lt. Col. Paul Carey: This was an open forum in which lessons learned were communicated and recommendations made for future deployments, a process of retrospective analysis that is detrimentally not often utilised by corporate firms. One example was the consolidated transfer of vehicles to the next battle group, which would not have been considered prior to the NBG rotation.
Financial: Incremental cost efficiencies for subsequent missions arising from container utilisation demonstrates the benefit of testing the boundaries of core competencies. The ability and foresight to achieve this, however, should be factored into the strategic formulation process, given the importance of value recognition.
The Irish Defence Forces are international leaders in areas such as bomb disposal, peacekeeping and humanitarian missions amongst others. The success of the Nordic Battle Group rotation and the accolades received from their Swedish counterparts suggests that the proficiency and resolve of the Logistics Branch is indistinguishable to that of their peer divisions.
Credits: Lt. Col. Paul Carey, Comdt Laurence Egar, Capt Robert
Moriarty and Comdt James Hourigan and Grainne Lynch,
Immediate Past Chairperson 2016-17 Term, CILT Southern
Logistics Manager – NuaLight
Article edited by Universal Media