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Logistic Challenges and the Future of the Stand-by Brigade

The following article describes the duties and challenges I faced as the G4 in SHIRBRIG (Multinational Stand-by High Readiness Brigade) at Hovelte, Denmark, when I was a part of the permanent staff.

The article also contains comments on the new SHIRBRIG logistic concept and some ideas with regard to the future of SHIRBRIG itself. The draft concept of the new logistic planning was done by my branch and me last year. The article should be seen as a mere reflection of my personal opinion and the experiences made, resulting from nearly two years of staff work in a multinational headquarters, which was created ten years ago in order to provide the United Nations with a stand-by brigade. I must emphasise that this is not an official SHIRBRIG-publication, since I did not submit the article to SHIRBRIG officials for authorisation.

Out of Georgia and Arriving in Denmark

I arrived (mission hardened) at SHIRBRIG headquarters in Denmark in October 2005. In June 2005 I had just finished a fourteen-month tour to Georgia as a UN military observer. There I had first served as a Foxtrot team member, later as operations officer in Zugdidi, and finally as a team leader based at Gali Golf Team Base (G9) for seven months.

At home in Austria I work as an instructor and acting section leader of the training section at the Armour School. In addition, I am in charge of coordination and execution of field logistics during the annual mechanised field exercises of the Armour School. Therefore, in accordance with the UN logistics terminology, I might be considered to be the chief of the ISS (Integrated Support Services), since the responsibilities are similar.

Before that I had gained practical logistics experience with IFOR in 1997, having worked as a technical and transport officer in the multinational supply unit known as BELUGA (Belgian, Austrian, Luxemburg and Greek transport unit for IFOR in Bosnia).

Due to my international deployments and postings I felt quite prepared for my new position in SHIRBRIG.

UNMIS - Lessons Learned

When I reported for duty at SHIRBRIG barracks, the brigade staff was just redeploying from the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), making it possible for me to get updated with the latest information on the operation’s logistical aspects. Subsequently, as a result of the UNMIS After Action Review (AAR), I learned that UN logistics had worked well in Sudan, so we decided to use the same procedure again in the next operation. In spite of this very positive report from UNMIS, there were also some signals that not everything went so well. In this way, the UN signalled concern that SHIRBRIG had left after having completed six months of service and, eventually, had taken along its HQ equipment. That seemed to cause the UN some logistical problems.

Also a SHIRBRIG equipment transport had been stopped by Sudanese customs officials and our branch started a long and work-intensive process to regain the equipment and have it sent back to Denmark.

Military life had to continue, so SHIRBRIG prepared for a new operation, supposedly to be carried out not later than in spring 2006, which presumably would be conducted in Africa again. This meant that the normal reconstitution phase of the officers who had just served in Sudan would be rather short. After this period, we continued preparing for this new deployment scenario by attending staff training courses in Canada and other intensive courses in Denmark and Sweden.

The United Nations Logistic Base in Brindisi

During my appointment as chief of logistics of SHIRBRIG as of October 2005, one of the main challenges for me and my staff section was to develop a new logistics concept based on the reality that SHIRBRIG nations were not able to provide the full brigade pool required for operation. So we had to look for a solution to compensate the lack of logistical brigade assets.

Conversely, the branch focussed on improving the planning relationship with the Office of Mission Support (OMS) of the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations (UNDPKO) in New York and on levelling the way for a new mission support conference with the United Nations Logistic Base (UNLB) in May 2007.

The conference was an important event in my service with SHIRBRIG. UNLB conducted a fly-away-kit exercise, loading a virtual "Antonov" An-124 volume in a special hangar. We exchanged opinions and expertise and enjoyed the excellent work atmosphere.

The UNLB in Brindisi is very impressive. We met with its highly motivated staff and were shown an equipment variety, especially with regard to communications, which would be a suitable tool box even for a big army.

At the end of the conference SHIRBRIG and UNLB agreed on entering into a closer relationship in the coming years and on cooperating by using the Strategic Deployment Stocks (SDS) based at Brindisi.

The use of SDS of the UN for a SHIRBRIG deployment has a great impact in all planning assumptions, such as - The configuration of the HQ company; - Timelines for deployment; - Training of SHIRBRIG non-permanent staff and - Reimbursement rates for SHIRBRIG Troop Contributing Countries (TCC).

To continue this progress, I suggested considering a logistic Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) Annex between SHIRBRIG nations and UNDPKO, which would facilitate the planning process in advance and speed up deployment.

African Capacity Building

In spring 2006, African capacity building kept us really busy. I participated in three ASF (African Stand-by Forces) workshops held in Kenya and Nigeria, and which were highly instructive for both sides.

The African Union (AU) relied on the SHIRBRIG concept and SHIRBRIG main documents, such as the Standing Operating Procedure (SOP), while the ASF used the SHIRBRIG CONOPS (Contingency Operations) as reference documents.

Over the years SHIRBRIG has developed a very good and friendly relationship with the African Union, mainly to ECOWAS (Economic Communitiy of West African States) and EASBRIG (Eastern Africa Stand-by Brigade) brigade staff.

The ASF officers I worked with turned out to be well-trained and real professionals. UN, NATO and other foreign logistics experts provided their input in the workshops, and all conferences were conducted on a high level.

As a closing remark on the SHIRBRIG effort regarding African Capacity Building (ACB), I would like to give some reasons why we should actually continue with this ACB: Africa is very close to Europe, and a destabilised Africa will, sooner or later, affect European countries as well (illegal migration, breeding ground for international terrorism, etc.). Any UN troops like SHIRBRIG would probably have to cooperate with the AU or the ASF in an African operation, e.g. in a transition phase, or as-sist in acting as a link to a host nation country (operational logistical support without the help and assistance of the host nation is in reality a time and money-consuming disaster). Moreover, I would like to point out local customs clearances (operating hours of airports, fares of unloading equipment, national transportation rules etc.; simple spare parts like tires were delayed in Sudan for up to 6 months because of national customs regulations). At the moment, European countries cannot draw on freely available troops, even though some specialist units and funds are available. Therefore, it could be a win-win situation for both parties if UN TCC and ASF cooperated in future operations. ASF is building up a new ASF logistical concept based on regional depots - would it not be wise, for that reason, to invest in these depots and use them at a later stage as operational depots in UN operations?

Logistical Situation Analyses

In the beginning of SHIRBRIG, an ambitious pool of logistical assets was pledged, which was comprised of Logistic Assets: - 1 logistic battalion; - 1 field hospital level 3; - 1 transport company (wheeled); - 1 helicopter squadron; - 1 engineer battalion (EOD and construction); - 1 HQ company; - 1 defence and security unit; - 5 (+) national support elements; Optional: - 1 water drilling/purification unit (recommended) and - Other log assets (air, maritime).

Based on SHIRBRIG’s new level of ambition for the period between 2006 and 2010, we have to take into account that, right now, no brigade logistic troops are pledged at all.

This is a risky thing, because even on the assumption (!) that the UN provided the main supply items, e.g. fuel, water and rations, in time and in the required quantity, and that the troop-contributing countries arrived with at least 60 days of self-sufficiency, there would still be some gaps to be filled, including: - Brigade or division-level support groups, i.e. a logistic battalion, a helicopter squadron, level 2 or 3 medical facilities, a transport unit and so forth; - Strategic and high-level operational transport facilities; - Enabling units; - Green field unit and - Initial deployment capability for the first two months without UN support for a start-up mission, (see UN supply at the start of the operation in East Timor).

SHIRBRIG Logistic Support Planning Matrix

In order not to give a too pessimistic picture, the remaining SHIRBRIG still has some (small) logistical assets or resources available: Pledged: - HQ staff equipment in Hovelte, mainly communication assets for the advance party; - HQ company as well as defence and security company.

On the radar: - UNLB strategic deployment stocks, if provided by UNDPKO, and - Non-pledged national assets in a case-by-case scenario, such as water drilling, recovery unit etc., provided by SHIRBRIG nations.

See below how these (few) assets might be contributed to the different operational scenarios.

Self-sufficiency and UN Sup-port for UN Force and Mission HQ The UN logistics concept relies on the self-sufficiency at the unit level of member states for a given period, normally between 60 and 90 days. This period is established to give operations administration enough time to set up the headquarters and the logistical structure of the UN operation (SHIRBRIG Initial Logistic Planning Group).

Although initial support for a Force HQ or Mission HQ will be provided by the UN (ISS) in some operations, it is advisable not to count on this supply right from the start of an operation, especially if it is a new one (green field scenario).

The SHIRBRIG initiative to sign a MOU with UNDPKO over the usage of UNLB SDS will solve mainly the equipment issue but not the manpower problem.

The weak point in the logistical chain is located in the port of embarkation of the operation. This has a direct impact on the speed and quality of unloading, storing and transportation of these goods to the end user in the respective sectors. In order to set up the logistical installations already in advance before the main body of the troops, qualified personnel and equipment are needed. Therefore, it will be necessary to back this deployment up with parts of the SHIRBRIG HQ company and the SDS company as well as with national enabling teams.

The Force and UN Civilians

Over the last twenty years the UN has been developing its logistical machinery, supporting more then 100,000 troops worldwide. Due to the fact that the operation budget must be calculated on a long-term basis, UN civilians are in charge of the logistics of a UN operation.

In the past this led to some amount of friction between the force commander (FC) and the chief administration officer (CAO), who actually is the only person to hold command and control (C2) of the logistical assets and, last but not least, the operation’s budget.

Then again, if TCC contribute own logistical assets to an operation and are reluctant to let them be used in the entire UN operation (i.e. for humanitarian purposes), this might result in an under-employment of some logistic units.

From the Force perspective having at least some control of logistical assets is also a must in case of rapid reaction requirements.

A possible solution to this obviously unsolved issue could be reconsidering the distinction between civilian and military personnel. This means that all personnel types should be considered only as UN personnel as soon as the troops and the UN civilians hit the ground. Shared control by the military and the civilians could be the solution to the problem, as is done partly in the case of ISS. The concept, however, still has some unsolved disadvantages, especially for the Force (important assets are not entirely controlled by the FC, mainly in the transportation field).

SHIRBRIG Planning Phases

Professional logistical preparation for an operation requires (this is not an exhaustive list!) among others: - Time (to survey, set up POD and sites; for contracting, tailoring supply chains); - Allocating resources (items, assets); - Dislocation of logistic troops; - Funds must be provided timely.

SHIRBRIG has a small initial deployment budget, which could be used for the technical survey or an advance party.

In order to have made SHIRBRIG really rapidly deployable, it would have needed a full deployment budget as well.

Definitely the wrong approach is to involve the SHIRBRIG planning element not sufficiently or too late in the first phases of a UN peacekeeping operation ("First to go, last to know").

In past operations SHIRBRIG was partly involved in peacekeeping operation phases.

The operation in Lebanon, for example, went past SHIRBRIG without any planning involvement whatsoever; the reason for this is not fully clear from the PLANELM perspective.

Already during the stand-by phase, early involvement in the planning process is crucial for us logisticians.

For each phase and sub-phase SHIRBRIG must have a group or module of its own to fulfil the different purposes.

New modules are the so called Green Field Module and Exit Strategy Module.

Integration of SHIRBRIG Logistic Staff in an UN Operation

SHIRBRIG logistic staff will primarily be employed in an Integrated Support Services (ISS) structure.

In the beginning of an operation, until the ISS is fully operational, SHIRBRIG will create an ISS cell structure similar to that of the staff sections in order to ease the forthcoming merging with the UN civilians.

The G4 and a small group of officers and NCOs will remain with the FC in the FHQ, primarily to advise the FC in logistical matters.

The bigger logistic group (around 25 officers and 7 NCOs) will start working in a core ISS structure.

After the fusion with the UN ISS, the G4/FHQ group will remain in the so called Support Coordination Cell (SCC) as a link to the civilian ISS structure.

The FC should be clear about that the operation’s CAO is in charge of logistical planning and its execution.

The Future of SHIRBRIG and Its Logistic Concept

SHIRBRIG for operations carried out under the aegis of the United Nations consists, at the moment, of a handful of permanent staff officers, who are based in Denmark, and a bigger pool of some 100 non-permanent staff officers and NCOs, who are employed in their home countries in their national routine assignments.

In addition, there are several, some of them very experienced, Danish administrators for administration at home and during an operation (including spiritual support) at the HQ in Denmark.


In 2006 the SHIRBRIG nations have pledged, but not committed, only a HQ company and a defence and security company, which are planned to support the HQ in carrying out its tasks. This seems not very much compared to the original intention of providing a full brigade. On the other hand, the available SHIRBRIG elements still have their uses, such as - Providing strategic and operational planning capacities on the logistical level with OMS and UNLB; - Availability for technical surveys at short notice (SHIRBRIG ISS staff has been trained in Brindisi in May 2007); - Assistance of other new organisations, like ASF and SEEBRIG (South Eastern European Stand-by Brigade); - Being a platform for the further development of UN stand-by forces or even UN standing forces.

The time may have come to reconsider the whole SHIRBRIG project itself. The starting point of reconsideration, however, should not be SHIRBRIG as an organisation, but the original idea going back to after the genocides in Rwanda, when the idea was to have a rapid brigade-size force for UN purposes, as force generation is such a long and extremely complicated process that could result in the UN troops arriving late only after the humanitarian disaster has already occurred on the ground (this eventually happened in the past!). The construct was more a UN stand-by force by nature and not really a SHIRBRIG force. SHIRBRIG was developed because UN and SHIRBRIG nations probably could not agree on the ownership (read: command and control) of the new-born stand-by brigade. SHIRBRIG could never fully match this UN requirement.

Therefore, ten years later the UN and all possible TCC had to re-convene at the negotiation table and draft options to carry out this UN stand-by forces project, the value of which has not changed at all. SHIRBRIG could play again an important role in it.

It may be rather easy for SHIRBRIG member states to end the UN stand-by force idea as such, but later we will realise that it is much harder to develop a completely new design. SHIRBRIG never deployed at the brigade level, however, in retrospect all SHIRBRIG nations made a huge effort in setting up this organisation.

For the future of SHIRBRIG logistic activities I look forward to: - Determine a SHIRBRIG logistical lead nation; - Prepare the SHIRBRIG logistical staff to assist UNDPKO and UNLB on a permanent base and short notice; - SHRIBRIG staff and headquarters personnel must be firm in UNLB strategic stocks and - Logistical partnerships being entered into with organisations like NATO, ASF, SEEBRIG, OSCE, EU battle groups and others.

Finally, some (not really serious) comments made by various SHIRBRIG staff members: "I served in eight operations, this is bullshit!" (Italian officer during a meeting) "Don’t ask for an operation, maybe you will get it!" (Norwegian officer) "This is great and fantastic Canadian food!" (Canadian Officer during an exercise in Kingston, commenting Italian pizzas) "This is not the G3 shop, this is the operations branch!" (Austrian Officer) "We should seek more guidance." (Romanian Officer during the operations planning procedures, after having received no guidance at all) "There is another life, maybe a cheaper one, but that is not a life!" (Spanish LO after having received the bill for the wine, he had ordered) "Where is my chair?" (Austrian Officer in the Briefing room) ___________________________________ ___________________________________ Author: Lieutenant Colonel Helmut Anzeletti joined the Austrian Armed Forces in 1977. He graduated from the Austrian Military Academy as a 2LT into the armoured corps in 1983. For over ten years he served in the 10th and 33rd Tank Battalions (main battle tank) and, later on, was transferred as an instructor to the Austrian Armed Forces Armour School. He participated in four UN- and one NATO-operations, thereby serving in Cyprus, Bosnia, Kuwait, Iraq and Georgia.

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