Red Ball Express Rides Again?


Lifeline to Victory — The concern with logistics and supply can–in wartime–suddenly turn from exact numbers and cold calculations to chaos and hot, flying lead in combat. This scene features LTC Richard N Batchelder Chief Quartermaster for the Second Corps. The fierce Confederate raider John Mosby and his partisan rangers struck frequently and violently, but Batchelder personally commanded his men in fighting them off, insuring the constant delivery to the army of food for the men and forage for the animals. For his tireless actions and distinguished gallantry, LTC Batchelder was awarded the Medal of Honor.

The beans and the bullets and the go-juice must get through.  Some times it has to be fought through. 

When I worked at KAF I responded to many a call around dark time at the Container Reception Point because the Romanians guarding the place had knocked off leaving a gaggle of unescorted Host Country National (usually Pashtun) and Third Country National (Pakistani passport-holding Pashtun and Punjabi) jingle truck drivers on our hands.  What I know about what goes on between Karachi and Kandahar I picked up during the interminable wait for the Base Defense Operations Center to get Force Protection out to come police these guys up.    Some of it I picked up from drivers, some from our guys in the yard, some from our terp, and the rest I’m guessing.  All anecdotal, but T.I.N.S.

Karachi is the Sea Port of Debarkation for Operation Enduring Freedom.  The place where they unload the boat. Karachi is for OEF what Shuaiba, Kuwait is for OIF, and the Main Supply Route, or OEF’s Route Tampa up from Karachi, is 759 klicks.  472 miles of bad road, shake down, extortion, break down and delay.  The drivers get jacked around at Karachi by Pakistani Customs, the Pakistani version of the Teamsters, the trucking company they contracted with, and all the various trolls setting up road blocks for the collection of protection money, and then they get to sit in a parking lot at Chaman waiting to cross over to Spin Boldak.  Things go boom in the night in that parking lot.  By the time they got to us, a lot of them were a bit testy. Some times they wanted to fuss at us over what ever shaft they had got or abuse they had suffered on the way. They exaggerate to pull on your heart strings with the most pitiable ordeals imaginable, but some of that was indeed happening. Neither the U. S. Army, Afghan National Army, Afghan National Police, Canadian Forces, British, Romanians or Dutch military escorted these jingle trucks until they got through Spin, and often not even then. Some times they weren’t even part of a convoy. Just a lone truck, a driver and his alternate lifestyle partner diddy-bopping on up the road.

This situation may be changing. The Bagram Regional Contracting Center, Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan seeks information pertaining to the availability of convoy support within the private industry. This would involve the capability to provide armed convoy protection that covers Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The contractor shall ensure that all convoys consist of at least one (1) English-speaking expatriate for every gun truck that will be used.

That won’t be a job.  That’ll be an adventure.

But where does the Red Ball Express fit in?  That’s what I was thinking of when I started this post.

These Private Military Company “mercenaries” lefties love to hate will be more like Merchant Mariners manning guns on Liberty Ships during the Battle of the Atlantic.

See also Listen to your Loggy Toads.



Filed under Logistics, The Forgotten War

5 responses to “Red Ball Express Rides Again?

  1. The President of the United States takes Pleasure in Presenting the Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal to
    Clyde Neil Andrews
    Second Mate on SS Heffron 07/05/42

    For heroism beyond the line of duty.

    The ship upon which he served was without defense armament, except for two 30 caliber machine guns, mounted without protective shielding, on the bridge [PQ-16] . During six days of continuous attack, Andrews manned one of these guns, and aided in successfully standing off numerous dive-bombing attacks. On one occasion, while picking up survivors from another vessel, two enemy bombers attacked within a hundred feet of his ship. Andrews’ position was sprayed with machine gun bullets–his life jacket was nearly torn off by the enemy’s fire–but he continued to pour bullets into the nose of the nearest dive-bomber, causing it to lift from its dive and over-shoot with a string of four bombs. Homeward-bound his ship was mined and sunk [QP-13]. On this occasion, Andrews, with complete disregard for his own safety, exhibited exceptional courage and skill in moving injured men into the lifeboats.

    His personal courage and devotion to duty will be an enduring inspiration to seamen of the United States Merchant Marine everywhere.

    For the President
    Admiral Emory Scott Land

    Andrews lived in Seattle WA.

  2. Our supply lines run through enemy terrority because our Sea Port Of Debarkation is Karachi and there are only a few highways and rail lines going from Karachi to Chaman and Torkham. Operation Enduring Freedom’s version of Main Supply Route Tampa is not under friendly control, unless Pakistan is counted as friendly.

    We used to have access to our logistical facilities in Germany via rail through Poland, Russia and Uzbekistan, but the Uzbek dictator got a better offer from the Chinese and Russians.

    Musharaff’s primary contribution to the war effort has been in keeping the Line of Communications open, for the most part. When Pakistan drops that ball and blockades us, it will be time to drop the hammer on them.

    A Sanctuary Counteroffensive Operation ROCK CRUSHER-style incursion into the F.A.T.A using ANA supported by US would be the hammer I’d drop on them. And on the way back out, IF the ANA leaves, they should keep the high ground dominating the natural topographic boundary where the writ of Islamabad stops and the writ of Kabul begins, thus rectifying the Durand Line.

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