By Lt. Josh Coffman, Logistics Officer, NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center Sigonella
NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center (FLC) Sigonella provides logistics support to local customers and U.S. ships operating in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations. The theater logistics network is geographically dispersed, and dynamic, which enables rapid response to world events and shifting operational requirements throughout the European and African operating areas.
As wide as the continental United States, the Mediterranean Sea is the traditional backbone of NAVSUP FLC Sigonella’s logistics infrastructure. The command uses the hub and spoke concept, where NAVSUP FLC Sigonella Site Sigonella, Italy is the hub and NAVSUP FLC Sigonella Sites Rota and Madrid, Spain; Souda Bay and Athens, Greece; Naples, Gaeta, and Rome, Italy are the spokes. These sites not only support ships operating in the Mediterranean Sea but also in the Black Sea, Adriatic Sea, North Sea, North Atlantic, the Baltics, and the vast expanse of the land and waters surrounding Africa. This creates significant logistics challenges with respect to timeliness of materiel movement.
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The combined team of U.S. civilians, local nationals, Reservists, and active duty service members pose for a photo. Included are representatives from the United States Air Forces in Europe–Air Forces Africa (USAFE), 100th Air Refueling Wing, 727th Air Mobility Squadron, NAVSUP FLC Sigonella, and USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). Without support from the U.K. and USAF, the cargo routing information file (CRIF) shift to Mildenhall would have been a failure. –photo by U.S. Navy
Flight availability, aircraft pallet configuration, trucking contracts, country-specific customs restrictions, hazardous material (HAZMAT) restrictions, threat conditions, inclement weather, fuel availability, and shipboard evolutions are all critical factors that must be assessed by multiple stakeholders when moving materiel to meet fleet requirements.
NAVSUP FLC Sigonella logistics support officers (LSOs) are uniquely trained to support fleet requirements from enduring bases as well as provide support to austere locations such as Dakar, Senegal or to an established port like Portsmouth, England. An experienced LSO recognizes what the requirements are, where local assets are, and how to surge personnel appropriately to meet the requirement.
In the 2014 to 2017 timeframe, U.S. aircraft carrier deployments typically followed the Optimized Fleet Response Plan (OFRP) cycle. The OFRP cycle is 36 months and consists of maintenance, training, and a regularly scheduled seven-month deployment followed by 15 months of surge capability. Carrier deployments typically involved transiting from the United States through U.S. 6th Fleet in order to operate out of U.S. 5th Fleet. The carrier operates in U.S. 5th Fleet for a five to six-month period before transiting back to the United States through U.S. 6th Fleet. As carrier strike groups began to support Operation Inherent Resolve from the Mediterranean Sea, U.S. 6th Fleet employed the strike groups’ other assets for missions that support our NATO allies and partners while demonstrating commitment to the region.
Fleet deployments are increasing in areas where there is no enduring U.S. Navy infrastructure. U.S. 6th Fleet is conducting extended operations in austere and expeditionary locations far away from FLC infrastructure. This created a demand for a new logistics approach to supporting the warfighter.
During its seven-month deployment in 2017, USS George H. W. Bush (CVN 77) followed the OFRP cycle. NAVSUP FLC Sigonella supported three port visits for the ship, two of which occurred over 600 miles from the nearest FLC support site. The last George H. W. Bush port visit of 2017 was in Portsmouth, England, where the ship participated in exercise Saxon Warrior 17.
As the U.S. Navy does not have an enduring logistics footprint in the U.K., NAVSUP FLC Sigonella, in conjunction with the NAVSUP Enterprise, deployed a 13-person logistics response team (LRT) to support fleet and exercise requirements. The LRT concept was organized through the coordinated effort of NAVSUP FLC Sigonella, NAVSUP Global Logistics Support, U.S. 6th Fleet, Commander–Task Force 63 (CTF-63), the U.S. Air Force, and the British Royal Navy. LSOs, transportation officers, contracting officers, and logistics specialists were all key members of the Saxon Warrior LRT.
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Warehouse space at RAF Mildenhall. The warehouse held materiel for two big decks, their screens, support ships, and independent submarines and destroyers. –photo by Lt. Mitchell Fuselier
NAVSUP FLC Sigonella chose Royal Air Force (RAF) Mildenhall as a temporary U.K. hub, and strategically selected temporary U.K. spokes near George H.W. Bush’s Carrier Strike Group operating areas, British Royal Navy assets, and U.S. Air Force supporting infrastructure. Cargo and mail from the U.S. arrived at NAVSUP FLC Sigonella (permanent hub) and was then forwarded to RAF Mildenhall (temporary hub) for further transfer to U.K. spokes near ship operating areas.
In 2018, the Secretary of Defense introduced the Dynamic Force Employment (DFE) concept, which is complimentary to OFRP, and allows us to be strategically predictable while remaining operationally unpredictable in an era of great power competition. This concept will improve readiness, allowing for combat capable forces to deploy on short notice.
Mirroring George H.W. Bush’s deployment, NAVSUP FLC Sigonella supported USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) for two port visits during her 2018 DFE deployment. Building upon the insight gained from exercise Saxon Warrior in 2017, NAVSUP FLC Sigonella deployed an operational support augmentation (OSA) team to the U.K. in 2018 to support Harry S. Truman’s Carrier Strike Group. This evolution was longer in duration than the LRT used during Saxon Warrior.
NAVSUP FLC Sigonella active duty military and civilian personnel, in coordination with U.S. based NAVSUP FLCs and NAVSUP FLC Sigonella Reserve detachment personnel, established a forward logistics site at RAF Mildenhall with tremendous logistics support from the U.S. Air Force 100th Wing and the 727th Logistics Readiness Squadron.
Carrier strike group cargo routing was shifted to RAF Mildenhall and OSA personnel received, sorted, and staged materiel in preparation for onward movement via CTF-63 flights, C-2 Carrier Onboard Delivery (COD) flights, or trucks to ultimate destinations. All cargo was received and dispatched using the In-Transit Visibility (ITV) system Automated Mobility System-Tactical (AMS-TAC) which provided continuous cargo tracking. U.S. mail was routed to London, and trucked to RAF Alconbury where it was sorted for truck shipment to RAF Mildenhall. Once the bulk mail was received at RAF Mildenhall, the mail was sorted for each unit and then prepared for shipment. Mail on hand reports were consolidated with the cargo on hand reports to keep all units informed on their materiel staged at RAF Mildenhall and subsequent shipping.
NAVSUP FLC Sigonella is continuing to explore new logistics support approaches and is working with U.S. 6th Fleet to find more permanent solutions to logistics support in the Baltic and high north regions.