Former Deputy Commander speaks on Desert Storm and early days at USTRANSCOM
Starling, who served as U.S. Central Command's Director of Logistics and Security during Desert Storm, became USTRANSCOM’s Deputy Commander in June 1991. As such, he was uniquely qualified to address how the aftermath of that war impacted on the operations of, what was then, the newest unified command.
Starling recalled that in the early days of Desert Shield, the large volume of troops and equipment USCENTCOM was bringing into Saudi Arabia was straining the host country's transportation network, and presenting unique challenges to his logisticians.
"It was about that time that I remembered this phone call I had gotten previously from a fellow named Walt Kross." Gen. Walter Kross was then the Director of Operations at USTRANSCOM, and later became USTRANSCOM’s Commander.
"So I called Walt up and explained to him some of the problems we were having," said Starling, "And it is amazing how all of a sudden, all of those things started to fall into place for us."
The results USTRANSCOM delivered deeply impressed Starling. "Even at the time, I realized I could never, ever have accomplished that part of my job, of getting all those airfields open - particularly the civilian airfields - had I not had the support of a guy named Walt Kross and the staff that backed him up, here at USTRANSCOM," Starling said.
In June 1991, newly promoted to lieutenant general, Starling found a new organization, still defining itself with no shortage of critical issues to handle, one of which was the same as he had faced at USCENTCOM.
"One of the biggest problems facing not only the command, but the services, and the units we were deploying," Starling explained, "was In-Transit Visibility."
At USTRANSCOM, he was in a position to do something about ITV. As he recalled, "We began to work this system called the Global Transportation Network. I was very gratified to learn today in all the briefings I received, that, in fact, that system is still alive. Now, obviously, it has grown tremendously in sophistication and in the resources that have been brought to bear to make it a more viable system than it was in those early days of development. I was extremely pleased that it has become one of the workhorses of the command to try and get a handle on this problem of ITV."
"In those days," he continued, "when it came to ITV, I remember all the services, the Department of Defense - everybody -- had their own idea of how it ought to be done, and everybody thought they ought to be in charge of it. As a result, nobody was in charge. So it’s kind of nice to come back and see that USTRANSCOM has taken the reigns and taken over, and is fully developing and continuing to mature that system. And the latest version, GTN 21 is about to come on line [expected Dec. 2004]- that is very rewarding for me."
One of the greatest challenges during his tenure with USTRANSCOM was the post-war budgetary crunch that threatened to stifle the implementation of plans vital to new command.
"The services were beginning to retrench," he explained, "the Congress was beginning to cut budgets, and those were problems for what USTRANSCOM wanted to do, which was to increase the number of Fast Sealift Ships and go out and procure new large, Roll-On Roll-Off vessels. So the USTRANSCOM CINC began to spend an incredible amount of his time back in Washington, D.C."
"Not only was he there wearing his Air Mobility Command hat, where he was trying to defend against a major run at drastically cutting the C-17 buy," said Starling, "but he was in there with the services in his USTRANSCOM capacity, trying to defend their money for prepositioned stocks, and trying to defend the new acquisitions for Military Sealift Command. Today, it is gratifying for me to see that many of those efforts have come to fruition and have paid off."
Starling said he was glad to see the concept of prepositioned ships being validated not only in Operation Desert Storm, but also in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He added that it was ironic that, prior to the invasion of Kuwait and the start of Operation Desert Shield, these ships were deemed too expensive and that they needed to be eliminated.
"Looking at the tremendous progress that has been made on some of the issues we faced back during my time at USTRANSCOM," Starling concluded, "seeing the acquisitions that have been made, the increased technological support that helps you do your jobs - I feel very satisfied that I was able to contributed to that in the early days of USTRANSCOM standing itself up and learning how to do its job as a unified command."
For those military and civilian personnel still working at USTRANSCOM, he had these final words; "You don't realize how truly important your job really is."
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