The Logistics of Readiness

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- “You will not find it difficult to prove that battles, campaigns and even wars have been won or lost primarily because of logistics.” -- Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower.

When you ask someone what logistics means, most people can give you a basic answer, usually mentioning supplies, and they’re not wrong. “Moving things from point A to point B”, “bullets bandages and beans”, “supply and demand”. A lot of people have a general idea of what logistics is, but few seem to realize the extent of the support that logistics airmen bring to the fight, and how involved they really are in making the mission happen. 

“I thought stuff magically happened,” said Maj. Lee Holfert, 366th Logistics Readiness Squadron commander, a nine-year veteran of the aircraft maintenance career field prior to commissioning as a Logistics Readiness Officer. “Just like when you crank your car up in the morning, all you know is that it’s supposed to crank, you don’t care about all the other stuff: spark plugs, etc...[there’s] so much coordination behind the scenes that I was never aware of.”

Nicknamed “loggies”, logistics airmen pride themselves on their work and the speed at which they do it. There’s a reason their motto is “Lightning Ready” and their career badge illustrates an eagle clutching tightly onto a cluster of lightning bolts.

LRS was split into two different squadrons, Supply and Transportation, prior to 2002.

Spread out across eight buildings on base and made up of at least eight different job specialties divided into four flights, the Mountain Home LRS team is a broad spectrum team capable of supporting the Gunfighters across the full range of Air Force operations.

From securing your household goods, booking your travel itinerary, building shipping containers, transporting and storing cargo across the world, fueling a jet in 30 minutes or less, maintaining fleets of vehicles and even planning deployments from start to finish; if it has to, needs to or the Air Force wants it to move, logistics readiness personnel have a hand in moving it.

“Cradle-to-grave” seems to be a common term in their career fields, and most assets handled by logistics are not only carried from point A to point B, but are cared for every step of the way.

Take the fuels flight, also known as POL or petroleum, oil and lubricant, one of the four main flights in the LRS.

“Fuels doesn’t just dispatch a truck, come out and fill the plane up,” Holfert explained. “They store it, manage it, they even have a laboratory and they actually test the fuel to make sure it’s safe.”

The Fuels flight alone supports and maintains around 4.3 million gallons of fuel for the Fighter Wing, which is equivalent to roughly six-and-a-half olympic-sized swimming pools.

Supply is another key example of the “cradle-to-grave” concept. Holfert explained that LRS doesn’t just deliver parts to the Maintenance Group when they receive them. Every time a part is removed from an airplane, they have to return it to LRS who ships it out for repairs if it can’t be fixed locally.

“We’re responsible for three warehouses,” said Holfert, “we’re talking over $700 million worth of equipment that we’re responsible for.”

 LRS even has teams of supply airmen embedded in maintenance squadrons who are permanently assigned within the group so that when maintenance needs something, they can help them get it first-hand.

Holfert explained that logistics airmen are more than just delivery personnel, they’re facilitators, a middle-man for the mission, and while that gives them a broad handle over most operations, they’re not complete masters of the domain and can’t necessarily control all aspects of it (e.g., airlift, customs, vehicle authorizations, etc.)

“[The Deployment and Distribution flight] has major coordination with so many agencies and different entities: securing airlift, coordinating with Air Mobility Command, Tanker Airlift Control Center, trying to get this plane in this day, it needs to be in theatre by this date, etc.” Holfert said. “I have to give kudos to the [unit deployment managers] and other units across the wing, they do a great job and the success we all have as a team is indicative of our great relationships,” Holfert said.

The Vehicle Management Flight in LRS is not only responsible keeping the vehicles on base running, they are also responsible for managing the entire fleet of over 400 vehicles, which entails keeping track of ‘swap outs’, routine and preventive maintenance, etc.

While novels could be written on every capability LRS has, what is the essence of what they do?

“Our main job is to the support the base, and, in turn, the fighter squadrons and maintenance,” Holfert said. “You look at [the wing commander’s] mission statement, ‘provide mission ready Gunfighters to fight and win today’s wars and the next’ that’s exactly what we do.”

It takes the efforts of an entire wing to launch a jet, and while maintainers fix the jets, and the aircrew deliver combat airpower, LRS gets the parts, pieces and people to make sure that all airmen can do what they need to do for the mission.

“Sometimes, what you’ll do isn’t very tangible. But to see our people take pride in their work...when we saw all the equipment and personnel literally fly away on our most recent Fighter Wing deployment, it definitely reminded us what we do matters and boosted our pride a bit,” Holfert said.

And Holfert’s encouraging words to his team?

“Do your job with pride and never forget or undermine your contributions to the mission and the warfighters.”