A team from 21st Theater Sustainment Command attended phase two of Orion 23, a French exercise, to observe and discuss reception, staging, onward movement, integration, and sustainment of troops and equipment movements on a large scale with French Logistics Command, COM LOG, in southern France, Feb. 28-March 4.
Orion 23 is a French-led, national level, multi-domain operations exercise to initiate crisis response with division echelon operations including the rapid mobilization of land forces against a sizeable enemy force. Phase two of the exercise focuses on the projections of those large forces into global conflict and is three weeks long.
Under the U.S. Army Europe and Africa and French Land Forces Unit Partnership Program signed in 2020, 21st TSC is partnered with COM LOG to strengthen capabilities and to increase the program’s interoperability at the battalion, brigade, division, and corps levels.
“Orion 2 is a change of scale,” said French Land Forces Brig. Gen. Pierre Fauche, Commander, Joint Logistics Support Group. “The main challenge for us now, is to go up and to be able to manage a larger scale operation.”
The magnitude of this exercise is unlike any exercise France has executed since the Cold War.
“We want to guarantee to our allies that we are able to be this framework nation for logistics,” said Fauche.
The exercise observation began in Miramas where French troops deployed to the seaport of embarkation in Toulon and headquarters of 519th Transportation Regiment, a unit within COM LOG and partnered to 838th Transportation Battalion, 598th Transportation Brigade, Surface Deployment and Distribution Command. Troops left Toulon on a vessel overnight and disembarked in Sète for RSOM. This production of onloading and offloading vehicles and equipment from a vessel allowed 21st TSC to engage with their counterparts in the 519th Transportation Regiment and discuss processes and effectiveness.
“It was extremely insightful to see how the French are exercising their ability to deploy from a strategic SPOD [seaport of debarkation] into a tactical port,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Vance Zemke, head of delegation, operations planner, 21st TSC.
Capt. Austin Peiffer, transportation planner, 598th Transportation Brigade, 21st TSC, engaged with several members from 519th Transportation Regiment to discuss operations.
“What we are doing here is talking to them to understand their capabilities and how they fit into their larger hierarchy of the deployment enterprise,” said Peiffer.
Lt. Col Frederic, chief of operations, 519th Transportation Regiment said, “The best way to evolve our mutual knowledge is really to be at the port and on the ship together.”
Observers from 598th Transportation Brigade agree with Frederic and hope to see more of these engagements occur and the integration of personnel into operations.
The theater support command, located in Sète, is where Logistics Force Command Post, PCFL, held operations to track movement, supply, and medical services. From Sète, logistics teams led a convoy of over 170 vehicles to Castres to set up a logistics support command. French leaders guided 21sts TSC observers through command post bunkers to view the tactical operations center and logistics communications center.
The visit incorporated meeting medical transport and support services as well. The 21st TSC’s 421st Multifunctional Mobility Battalion, 30th Medical Brigade is partnered with a French Medical Regiment, RMED, under the same unit partnership program with USAREUR-AF and French Land Forces. 421st MMB observed a forward resuscitative surgical detachment equipped with operating room, emergency room, and intensive care unit in Sète and emergency care services in Castres.
“It was good to see they are concerned about the same things we are about protective platforms and being able to move with maneuver units because we have to protect evacuation assets,” said Lt. Col. Thomas Collette, commander, 421st MMB, 30th MB, 21st TSC.
According to 421st MMB, the units have common capabilities and personnel so training alongside each other is possible and a future endeavor.
The observation allowed COM LOG and 21st TSC to have face-to-face discussions about tactical and operational capabilities and spurred ideas and feasible future agreements such as RSOM support, staff exchanges, and port accessibility.
“We had good conversations with their senior logistics leaders about where they are right now with their logistics capabilities and aspirations to be able to do something like this for a corps level operation in the real world,” said Zemke.
This most recent engagement between 21st TSC and COM LOG executed an agree-to-action item that was mutually agreed upon to observe one another’s RSOM and medical services operations in combined joint operations regionally and globally.
The fourth and final phase of Orion 23 is an operational and tactical live exercise involving nearly 12,000 troops. The 21st TSC will send heavy equipment transporters to be embedded with a French division to line haul U.S. fires contributions to the exercise. In addition, 21st TSC will send a movement control team to coordinate multinational movements within the Movement Transportation Control Center and strengthen the interoperability between Allies.