Polish, Hungarian, German and French punctuated a cacophony of English conversations in the Readiness and Movement Coordination Center at Panzer Kaserne, Germany. The interactions embodied the spirit of DEFENDER-Europe 21 — the U.S. Army led multinational exercise designed to build readiness and interoperability between the U.S., NATO allies and partner militaries.
Staffed by U.S. and NATO partner military logisticians, the center tested and improved U.S. and Allies’ ability to rapidly move forces and equipment throughout the European theater. If it moved by air, land or sea, the team used Logistic Functional Area Services, referred to as LOGFAS, to track it.
While the official NATO languages are English and French, LOGFAS was the mother-tongue for Capable Deployer 2021. The logistic interoperability exercise was linked to Saber Guardian 2021, part of DEFENDER-Europe 21.
Working with U.S. Army Europe and Africa, the 21st TSC Theater Movements Center, known as TMC; the Movement Coordination Center Europe, known as MCEE; Standing Joint Logistic Support Group, and the Multinational Logistics Coordination Centre, known as MLCC, based in Prague, planned and coordinated Capable Deployer 21, also called CADR21. The MLCC is the NATO Department Head for Logistics Education and Training.
Although 21st TSC has used LOGFAS in the past, previously non-compatible systems required U.S. personnel to recreate and maintain data manually during NATO-related exercises. CADR21 represented an investment in interoperability and automation started in 2017.
The U.S. can now translate and share national data with LOGFAS immediately, allowing NATO and Allies to track multinational movements at the NATO Movement Coordination Hub in Ulm, Germany.
With the information-sharing infrastructure in place, during CADR21, MCCE gave U.S. and Allied personnel intense training on the LOGFAS system. They put their new knowledge to work, sharpening their LOGFAS skills, supporting more than 28,000 multinational forces from 26 nations as they conducted nearly simultaneous operations across more than 30 European training areas.
“It has been a one-year journey to get to this execution,” said German Army Capt. Andreas Kirk, who trained personnel to plan, execute and schedule movements in LOGFAS. Explaining that the U.S. has not relied heavily on LOGFAS over the last 10 years, he is encouraged at the proficiency and rate of adoption of the U.S. and participating nations. “To be a part of this and to see how clever the guys are after three weeks of training to use this stuff — that is a highlight,” he said.
Interoperability is key to alliance readiness.
Working together to quickly deploy combat forces and equipment to austere locations demonstrates the U.S. and Allies’ capability to rapidly respond to any threat from any direction. This deters aggression and validates the strength of their collective capabilities.
“That’s why we use LOGFAS,” said U.K. Warrant Officer 1 Craig Lovitt, Allied Rapid Reaction Corps.
“Each nation has their own way of doing things, but NATO needs that one way of doing it. That’s what LOGFAS does —it is the standard NATO reporting tool for movements and transportation and supply maintenance,” said Lovitt.
According to Lovitt, LOGFAS is like learning a new language. “If you don’t use it you lose it,” he said. “So this was an ideal opportunity… more exercises would be fantastic.”
During his two-month duty at the RMCC, Lovitt worked with U.S. Army Staff Sgt., John Carmona, Lead LOGFAS operator. “We track movements through the entire theater with our NATO partners,” said Carmona. “So, I’m not only tracking U.S. movements, but also tracking British, Hungarian and all the movements involved in DEFENDER 21.”
LOGFAS puts detailed information on force requirements, units, transportation assets, infrastructure, deployment plans, routes, consumption rates, shipping manifests, and timelines at operators’ fingertips. The team provided Ulm with daily updates with the goal of projecting at least 72 hours out.
The LOGFAS is very important because it is a really complete system,” Carmona explained. “It can generate the missions and can also track it. We can project how they are going to move, and if there are any issues or concerns, we can determine how we can de-conflict the movement.”
Maj. Wesley Fink, RMCC officer in charge, says one of the most useful LOGFAS features is that individual units or countries can monitor movements or areas of interest, and do not have to rely on other countries to provide updates. Multiple echelons can obtain information simultaneously. “So, if we project that a flight is coming in to Romania or Hungary, we know that we will need buses and the host nation will know there will be that type of activity,” Fink explained. That knowledge can clear the way for diplomatic and other needed approvals.
When rapid mobility is critical, addressing diplomatic issues, custom regulations, infrastructure limitations and COVID-19 requirements ahead of time can minimize delays.
According to Polish Army Colonel Artur Stopka, MLCC Deputy Director, being able to share that type of information is an example of LOGFAS’ value. “It should be used by all nations,” he said. “The question is now how to increase LOGFAS capabilities and how to implement.” He added CADR21 was an ideal opportunity to strengthen international cooperation, as well as get greater acceptance of LOGFAS from all nations.
Master Sgt. Grachya Kazanchyan, RMCC noncommissioned officer in charge, says that buy-in is inevitable. “Everyone is energized,” he said. “They see the potential and the value of it. We are not planning in a vacuum but rather incorporating other nations into our planning. Transparency gives us lead-time to work out potential challenges and this value provides us the speed and flexibility to conduct large operations at this scope. LOGFAS provides the U.S another tool to strengthen interoperability and strengthen partner relationship.”
CADR21 tested the U.S. Army’s ability to use LOGFAS, given that it was the first time most U.S. personnel used the NATO system. According to Maj. Fink, NATO observers determined the U.S. Army demonstrated its ability to integrate with and leverage joint, alliance and host nation capabilities on a large scale, using LOGFAS.
“We definitely demonstrated that we have the capability and potential to manage logistics in the NATO environment,” said Fink.
By making it possible for military logisticians to communicate on the same page, LOGFAS, like language, is building relationships.