NEWS | Aug. 12, 2020

The Show Must Go on – Army Division Logistics Support in the World of COVID

By Story by Maj. Jean Kratzer Task Force Spartan

The show must go on! The old show-biz quote aptly applies to military operations as well as logistics support, and the quote is especially relevant as the world slows down over the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the military, we cannot cease operations or “work from home.” How could any of us have foreseen the current operating environment?

When the 42nd Infantry Division took over its mission to the Middle East, they were tasked to coordinate with U.S. and other coalition forces in the U.S. Central Command region to help sustain troops conducting missions there.

But with a shift in operations to support COVID-19, the 31 Soldiers in the division’s logistics section were prepared to accomplish any challenge.

“We were prepared in the same sense that everyone was, by that I mean we have adaptability which works in any situation,” said Sgt.Maj. Scott Hays, the 42nd Infantry Division noncommissioned officer in charge for logistics.

In sustainment, as with any of the warfighting functions, when confronted with a problem or constraint, you figure out a way to accomplish the task at hand. A global pandemic was never one of the scenarios we faced in training, but we take it in stride and figure it out, Hays explained.

Before the start of the deployment, the logistics section participated in several different exercises to prepare themselves.

During these training events, Soldiers war-gamed situations that may arise while overseas giving each section a chance to work together and learn or re-learn how to accomplish their missions.

Since 2017 the division headquarters has taken part in a division-level command post exercise called Warfighters, two brigade-level command post exercises, and two separate staff training exercises.

Typical logistics scenarios in training exercises revolve around supply routes going red or black due to indirect fire or improvised explosive devices; shortages of water, fuel, or ammo when convoys get hit; or bad batches of apples at the chow hall.

COVID-19 has dealt a whole new set of logistic challenges.

“During the beginning stages of the COVID response, Maj. Mark Knoeller was selected to work for the COVID cell. He has worked tirelessly to mitigate any logistic shortfalls related to the pandemic within our area of operations, said Lt. Col. Charles Schiralli,” the deputy officer in charge for logistics under the 42nd Infantry Division.

COVID-19 has greatly challenged our team and they have responded with extraordinary professionalism and dedication, Schiralli added.

There are three major entities under the division’s logistics section; transportation, maintenance and supply, and services.

The transportation section is responsible for the movement of supplies, personnel, and equipment throughout the area of operations, which is a daunting job in itself.

With COVID-19, the difficulty is not in the conditions of the road network, but in wading through numerous policies that allow movement.

Add to that the dynamics of the constant flow in and out of theater, the personnel and systems of the transportation section are under continuous pressure to keep everything moving.

The maintenance section is tasked with ensuring the equipment readiness of critical equipment in the area of operations with a primary focus on those low-density/high priority items that are critical to the fight and for force protection.

The supply and services section has taken the COVID environment in stride.

In addition, to the everyday challenges of ensuring units have the food, ammunition and construction materials they need, they also work closely with the medical logistics planner to provide adequate quantities of medical supplies and equipment are on hand.

One of the keys to success is the resilience of the personnel in the logistics section.

“The team has become more resilient but has also learned new skill sets like developing a close working relationship with the 1st Theater Sustainment Command - which is something that cannot be replicated during warfighter exercises,” Hays said.

The proficiency of the logistics section and their ability to work one-on-one with our counterparts, whether they are above us in the command structure or below us, has been a strength and contributed to mission success, Hays emphasized.

Warfighter’s, training exercises and a diversified command and control of thousands of U.S. service members in the Middle East help assist in making the Division ready to face the enemy, whether it’s a wet-gap crossing or a global pandemic.

Without a doubt, our logistics efforts have made a tremendous impact throughout our area of responsibilities, Schiralli stated.

Sgt. Maj. Scott Hays, contributed to the article