Hostile action between Israel and Hezbollah forced the Department of State (DoS) to request immediate military support on July 15, 2006, to sustain embassy operations in Beirut, Lebanon, and to begin large-scale evacuations of approximately 5,000 American citizens via sealift by July 21, 2006. U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) directed U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) to establish an Intermediate Staging Base (ISB) at Royal Airfield (RAF) Akrotiri, Cyprus, and to coordinate with U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) to support the evacuation. The Joint Staff established a Joint Operating Area (JOA) in the eastern Mediterranean to extend the NAVCENT area of responsibility. Combined Task Force Five Nine (CTF-59), which consisted of the Expeditionary Strike Group Three command element, was directed to provide the command and control for executing the Lebanon Noncombatant Evacuation Operation (NEO).
As the supported component commander for conducting the NEO, NAVCENT coordinated all logistical requirements for the operation with the component commanders and the CENTCOM Deployment Distribution Operations Centre (CDDOC). The biggest challenge to supporting this operation was adapting to operating in the JOA, which consisted of water and land space that normally lies in the U.S. European Command and U.S. Naval Forces Europe area of responsibility. To overcome this challenge, NAVCENT N4 fully exploited joint logistics resources in the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), Combined Forces Land Component Command (CFLCC) C4, CDDOC and Air Mobility Command (AMC) to source and transport all required material to support the operation. NAVCENT N4 sent a liaison officer to SIXTH Fleet in Naples, Italy, to ensure open lines of communications and to coordinate with SIXTH Fleet for logistical support from their resources. Literally overnight, NAVCENT N4 duties increased exponentially, requiring the team to simultaneously plan, execute and adapt. The team quickly established a joint logistics command and control framework for this unique operation that can be used as a model for future operations and planning. NAVCENT N4 staff actions were swift, decisive and effective. The overarching and significant challenges the team addressed and overcame were a lack of an established communications network, inaccurate estimates of evacuees, which continued throughout the operation as well as insufficient logistics visibility.
By day two, the NAVCENT N4/CTF-59 logistics professionals in concert with FISC Sigonella, Detachment Bahrain, (FISCSI-NRCD BAH), established a battle rhythm, clearly defined team members’ responsibilities, established a web page to disseminate real time logistics data, defined near and long-term logistics requirements and solicited support from AOR logistics partners. The team established processes to effectively field communication issues and time constraints. This provided the successful foundation for a large-scale evacuation effort and is a transferable model for future operations. The model was found on a combination of planning, leveraging technology and tenacity in execution to ensure logistics requirements were accurately identified in a dynamic environment. Global visibility and urgent evacuation requirements demanded a successful operation that exceeded the expectations of American citizens whose quality of life during the evacuation depended on the NAVCENT N4 logistics professionals. CTF-59 logisticians immediately made preparations for the Joint Reception, Staging, Onward Movement and Integration (JRSOI) of forces as they began to arrive in Cyprus. Hundreds of personnel from the U.S. Army, Air Force, Marines and Navy were expected to be received, staged, supplied, fed, quartered and assimilated into the operation with the utmost expediency. This integrated team of logisticians quickly adapted to the environmental conditions, tactical and operational situations and unforeseen support requirements and ensured continuity of assistance throughout the operation. They also provided critical and timely information to assist in the expeditious arrival of resources in the area of operation.
NAVCENT N4’s staff coordinated the majority of the logistical requirements for the evacuation of the American citizens. This was accomplished by exploiting the AORs available joint resources: the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), Combined Forces Land Component Commander (CFLCC), CENTCOM Deployment Distribution Operations Center (CDDOC), Air Mobility Command (AMC) and Sixth Fleet. NAVCENT N4 coordinated closely with elements deployed in the first phase of the operation. These were CTF-59, the Joint Mobile Ashore Support Terminal, Marine Security Force Company and an Expeditionary Base Camp, which deployed from Bahrain to RAF Akrotiri. The NAVCENT N4’s Logistics Response Cell coordinated the movement of these naval forces, which consisted of 434 passengers and 614,793 pounds of equipment, with CDDOC and AMC utilizing the Intra-Theater Airlift Request System (ITARS). NAVCENT N4 sourced the initial supply of Meals Ready-to-Eat (MRE), bottled water and health and comfort packages form CFLCC C4 and cots from DLAs Defense Distribution Depot Kuwait Southwest Asia, in addition to deploying forces.
By July 16th, CTF-59 was on the ground in Cyprus, and they received the initial logistics push package from Kuwait to RAF Akrotiri via intra-theater air and began the evacuation. With the initial shipment of humanitarian supplies, the first group of American citizens was evacuated from the U.S. Embassy in Beirut via CH-53 helicopters to RAF Akrotiri. To support the large-scale evacuation, TRANSCOM contracted four commercial ships to transport those American citizens requiring assistance to leave Lebanon. By July 21, 2006, the requested DoS start date for the evacuation, NAVCENT and CTF-59 had safely evacuated 7,554 American citizens to Cyprus. Sustainment throughout the operation required NAVCENT N4 to continuously work with CFLCC C4 to source requirements; however, they also looked to DLA to assist in providing MRE’s and bottled water from their resources in Europe. Since there was no veterinary approved source for procuring bottled water in Cyprus, the DLA representative embedded with the NAVCENT N4 rapidly established a contract with a vendor in Greece to have bottled water transported via ferry to Cyprus.
The successful execution of the Lebanon NEO depended very heavily upon an effective logistics support plan that could rapidly respond to the ever-changing requirements. NAVCENT N4 carefully orchestrated the logistics plan and rapidly developed the communication network which resulted in timely support from TRANSCOM, DLA, CDDOC, CFLCC C4 and AMC throughout the operation. At the completion of the operation, the joint logistics team had moved 614,793 pounds of humanitarian supplies via AMC, SIXTH Fleet Naval Air Logistics Office (NALO) and FIFTH Fleet NALO airlift. The support provided by this team of professional logisticians ensured the safe evacuation of nearly 15,000 American citizens from Lebanon.
Once the first team was on the ground, it was determined cell phone communications were not reliable enough to support the flow of information, therefore, the Joint Mobile Ashore Support Terminal (JMAST) was mobilized to increase the communication capabilities for CTF-59. Additionally, within twenty-four hours after the operation began, NAVCENT N4 developed a website to provide visibility of logistics information to interested stakeholders. It provided disciplined communications use in a degraded environment. This proactive and innovative step freed up limited NAVCENT N4 resources to execute the plan instead of responding to multiple requests for information.
Based on prior planning and awareness of resources in the AOR, the NAVCENT N4/CTF-59 team quickly engaged multiple logistics commands to assist. Leveraging joint expertise and assets in the AOR resulted in receiving immediate support for comfort items, MREs and water requirements from Combined Forces Land Component Commander (CFLCC) C4. Follow-on support was received by coordinating with the Defense Logistics Agency, reaching to their resources in Europe.
At the beginning of the crisis the initial evacuee throughput was estimated at 2000 per day. As the crisis unfolded, the number mushroomed to nearly 4000 evacuees per day. This change in logistics requirements was immediately communicated to TRANSCOM by NAVCENT N4. TRANSCOM expeditiously took action and contracted for four commercial ships to accommodate the increase.
A single spokesman from NAVCENT N4 with a direct line to CDDOC and a conduit to the N4 Logistics Response Cell (LRC) was established. This step was taken to ensure the transportation priority for the humanitarian assistance and personnel movement was clear. CDDOC then had one touch point from NAVCENT N4 to clarify requirements. NAVCENT N4 established a routine of communicating daily updates to CDDOC via phone, as well as reconfirmation transportation assets were moving the correct material in a timely fashion. This step ensured transportation requirements were in ‘sync’ with the latest evacuation requirements.
An additional step was taken to ensure the United States European Command was included in supporting the operation. A senior logistics representative from NAVCENT N4 was sent to SIXTH Fleet in Naples, Italy, to coordinate support of resources available from that command. This action ensured there were no gaps in support despite the fact evacuation was located in a Combined Joint Operating Area assigned to NAVCENT for the NEO.
The largest single job undertaken ashore was the establishment, operation and sustainment of an Intermediate Staging Area for American citizens at the Nicosia Fairground in Cyprus. The surge of arrivals from Lebanon placed considerable strain on the U.S. Embassy in Nicosia, which had the task and responsibility of shepherding American citizens to follow on destinations, once they arrived at designated safe havens. By day four of the evacuation, it was evident the Cypriot economy would be unable to handle the demand signal and velocity of American citizens departing Lebanon. This resulted in U.S. embassy leadership turning to CTF-59 to provide logistic support. Given the order to be prepared to support an overflow of 3,000 American citizens on Cyprus, the Logistics Team began coordinating efforts to outfit and supply the Nicosia fairgrounds in preparation for American citizens. Thousand of cots, blankets, linens, and health and comfort kits, MREs, medicinal supplies and bottled water were purchased locally and abroad, and painstakingly assembled and staged. Additionally, laundry and dining services were contracted and shower facilities were purchased. Within 24 hours eight large open bay warehouses were transformed into temporary shelters and a primary care aid station used to accommodate more than 8,000 American citizens who passed through the Fairground.
The processes this team used to manage the requirements for this crisis are ones to be emulated in future operations. The three processes that other crisis operations can easily use in future operations to enhance communication are to quickly establish a web location to allow interested parties to see transportation information twenty-four hours a day, to immediately engage the joint team to support requirements from existing assets in the AOR and quickly assign a single spokesperson to drive the requirement transportation priorities. These three steps were the hallmarks of this highly successful effort and can be easily accomplished in future operations.
Three steps this team took to maintain command and control of the logistics processes to support the successful contingency evacuation were establishing a logistics communication web page, communicating accurate requirements to the joint AOR logistics team and establishing a single spokesperson to communicate with the theater joint transportation authority. All three of the steps ensured the execution of the requirements and movement of the personnel and support resources were masterfully accomplished. Establishing a web page to provide visibility of key data elements for any future contingency is a must-do for any future operations. The web page maximized the use of limited resources so the focus could remain on the critical elements of the evacuation, instead of the steps necessary to reply to repetitive inquiries for information.
Another element of success was the immediate engagement of the AORs joint logistics resources and not limiting support requests to traditional sources. This is easily accomplished by planning, combined with an extensive knowledge of logistics support by all services in multiple theaters. These logistics professionals maximized the capabilities of joint organizations inside and outside of the AOR.
The last element of success was maintaining clear, continuous communication channels and priority establishment with the CENTCOM Deployment Distribution Operations Centre (CDDOC) or its equivalent to control all aspects of intra-theater transportation was essential. The ability to synchronize the priorities during this dynamic evacuee effort was paramount to the successful execution and can easily be accomplished by establishing clear communication channels at the onset of a contingency operation.
The experience the junior officers received from this joint operation not only strengthened their joint logistics and humanitarian assistance training, it also demonstrated how important their service is to the United States of America. The assistance these young men and women provided to the American citizens motivated many to continue their service.
A significant intangible benefit attributed to the NAVCENT/CTF-59 team from the timely transportation and delivery of essential critical logistical assets and comfort requirements was the global recognition of our Sailors and Marines as caring professionals. This evacuation was viewed internationally with a246a61d18e6c6618fd59766c8bfe009 of members of the United States Navy and Marine Corps escorting American citizens to evacuation vessels and safe havens. These a246a61d18e6c6618fd59766c8bfe009 remain a positive and powerful statement regarding the dedicated men and women in the United States Navy and the NAVCENT N4/CTF-59 logistics team. Additionally, the logistics team’s unprecedented achievements, total commitment, and unparalleled operational support to Joint forces has culminated in the NAVCENT N4/CTF-59 logisticians being recognized by senior officers on major staffs as the true ‘911 Responders’ for Contingency Response operations in the CENTCOM AOR. No other group has made such a positive and significant impact during the period – advancing both Expeditionary Logistics and Joint Logistics Doctrine.