First In, Last Out!
Heroic stories of Army operations always have Scouts as the ‘First In’ and the battled embittered infantry holding down the fort as the ‘Last Out.’ True, perhaps, for many historic battles. But lesser known and more frequent military engagements begin with Logisticians forming the advanced and trailing parties. (Logisitcs Soldiers first in last out)
“Condition Setting” is vital for any successful endeavor, and Army operations are no exception. To successfully set conditions so the maneuver commander retains flexibility and a clear set of viable options, the logistician is usually the first guy on the ground organizing the reception party to welcome in the commander’s ‘killers.’ After the operation concludes, the log guy is left behind to clean up before heading home.
Such was the case as exemplified in ‘Operations Golden Pheasant.’ It was perhaps not the most valorous of operational names (probably designated by a random name generator) but it was a ‘Real World’ and now forgotten Army deployment, none-the-less. Over Spring Break in March of ’88, President Regan launched an Army Task Force to Honduras to protect its border integrity from Nicaraguan incursion. The Task Force included two Battalions from the 7th Light Infantry Division, two Battalions from the 82d Airborne Division and their Brigade Headquarters & Support to manage the operation.
For us log soldiers, it started out as a typical day in the 82 while on Rapid Deployment Force (RDF) recall status. Sometime in the mid-morning I was called to the Battalion Headquarters (the Company Commander was on leave) and told the RDF was deploying and that I needed to get the company down to Green Ramp to load our prepared equipment on the staging aircraft to take us to Honduras. Honduras wasn’t on our operational radar, but, back in the 80s, we were spending a lot of time in Central America, so it came as no big surprise.
Log Soldiers – Wheels Up!
‘Wheels up in 18 hours’ was the Division’s motto for deployment. True to form, we loaded out our equipment, said our goodbyes, and in 18 hours the Task Force was on our way to Honduras to defend the country from the Sandinista invasion. Except, on this initial entry force, there was only mid-grade leadership and log soldiers leading the way. The combat arms guys (killers) and commanders weren’t to come for another day – the support guys spearheaded this operation.
Clearly, the operational requirements didn’t demand a forcible entry as JTF-Bravo on Palmarola Air Base could provide much of the resources, and Honduras was a permissive environment. But, it was sardonically ironic the next day as the news reported the 82d had parachuted into Honduras to save the country from its aggressive neighbors, while we (the 82d Logisticians) watched the operation from nearby rooftops after setting up the drop zone and provisions for receiving the ‘Deployment Force.’
The major effort for the TF for the next fifteen days or so was in supporting the four battalions arrayed along the southeastern Honduran border, miles from any civilization or navigable roads or towns. While they, the ‘Killers,’ conducted ‘demonstrations and resolve,’ we ‘loggies’ resupplied the deployed force with LogPacs (logistics Packages) by air (CH-47 Helicopter). It was a herculean effort. Food, water, gas, medical supplies, clothing, and every other form of support was daily received and downloaded from inbound fixed-wing aircraft or locally purchased. All was collected, repackaged and pushed out to the four battalions from our little Helicopter Landing Zone (HLZ) on a small open field on the base.
The helicopter missions would start at first light and the day would end after the newly prepared packages were positioned around the HLZ for the next day’s operations, usually completed around 0300 or so. Fortunately, the ‘Show of Force’ was successful, and the Sandinista military stayed on their side of the border without further incident.
The President and country called the deployment a success, and we all returned home to wild acclaim, awards, speeches, musical bands, and tearful families. We’ll not all of us.
While the Infantry Battalions parachuted back into Sicily Drop Zone for ceremonies, waiting families and the press, we ‘loggies’ remained behind to clean up the deployment and ensure everything made it back home for the next fight. We arrived three days later to a quiet reception on Green Ramp in time to make it back to the motor pool to clean up our deployed equipment and hear about the great time the infantry was having on Block Leave from their recent victorious deployment.
One may detect a bit of ‘sour grapes’ in the telling of this story. Sure, we ‘loggies’ are an envious, bitter and a acerbic assortment of Soldiers, all due to the fact that we’re driven by Alexander the Great’s maxim “My logisticians are a humorless lot … they know if my campaign fails, they are the first ones I will slay.”
Because of that, we ‘loggies’ are generally the first in and the last out!
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