As part of our role as Department of Defense lead proponent for in-transit visibility and automatic identification technology, USTRANSCOM is sharing the following update from the Army product management office for total radio frequency identification and AIT solutions, Product Manager, Joint Automatic Identification Technology.
Prior to and after combat operations in Iraq in 2003 by U.S. and coalition forces, PM J-AIT installed radio frequency in-transit visibility “read” sites in critical logistics nodes (or distribution sites including depots, ports, reception areas and forward operating bases) to track shipments of supplies and equipment. (“Read” sites read data from an RFID tag which has been populated with the data at a “write” station where tagged cargo originated.)
This gave combat commanders and logisticians unprecedented visibility of assets flowing into Iraq. As operations there began to phase down, PM J-AIT received a mandate to provide continued RF-ITV support during the retrograde of equipment and drawdown of U.S. forces from Iraq, while simultaneously taking down RF-ITV sites that were no longer required.
In early 2003, the Army’s Logistics Innovation Agency had already begun to flesh out what would become the world’s largest infrastructure of RF-ITV sites to track supplies, equipment, and unit movements in the DOD supply chain. This early infrastructure included, the U.S. bases (posts, camps, stations) known as power projection platforms or power support platforms, key Army and Defense Logistics Agency depots, and aerial and sea ports, including those overseas that would play key roles in the projection of U.S. power, particularly in Southwest Asia.
This infrastructure enabled the tracking of unit deployments from home stations to reception areas in the theater of operations, along with the supplies and equipment they would need upon their arrival. Such visibility avoided, to a large degree, the massive “iron mountains” of supplies and equipment that had accumulated in ports and reception areas in previous conflicts including Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm a decade earlier.
PM J-AIT, having been assigned the RF-ITV mission in January 2003, began immediately to plan the expansion of the RF-ITV infrastructure to locations in Iraq. As soon as U.S. and Coalition forces had established a presence in Iraq, PM J-AIT began to install RF-ITV sites throughout the country at logistics nodes and forward support bases.
PM J-AIT deployed field service engineers to install and maintain these fixed RF-ITV sites. Unit movements and sustainment shipments into, within and out of Iraq became part of the massive logistics operation, and the RF-ITV system played a big role in controlling and tracking these tagged shipments. At one point between 2003 and 2011, RF-ITV readers in Iraq, including a substantial number of mobile read sites and standard army retail supply system sites, read up to 124,000 tags per month as recorded on the RF-ITV tracking portal.
Drawing down critical logistics assets in an area of operations requires close coordination with tenant forces to ensure critical logistics support remains constant, while at the same time the logistics footprint itself is being reduced. This necessitates a thorough knowledge of planned mission hand-offs and timelines of withdrawing forces, as well as retrograde movement routes and nodes.
As manager of the global RF-ITV infrastructure, PM J-AIT, in close coordination with Army Central developed a support/demobilization plan which detailed the level of support, timelines and personnel support requirements to synch the drawdown at strategic locations with tactical/operational timelines. The drawdown of RF-ITV assets progressed on schedule under the oversight of PM J-AIT’s liaison officer in southwest Asia. At the peak of operations, there were 118 fixed read sites in Iraq in 2008, and all sites were removed by mid-November 2011
PM J-AIT recovered and redistributed the RF-ITV equipment to meet requirements in Afghanistan and other locations and withdrew or reassigned the supporting field service engineers that had been stationed in Iraq. RF-ITV continues to play a critical role in the \southwest Asia theater of operations, and PM J-AIT continues to maintain and improve the infrastructure that makes critical asset visibility possible.
PM J-AIT provides global asset tracking and web-based radio frequency in-transit visibility services through the upgrade, implementation and maintenance of the RF-ITV system.
“We also offer a single point of contact for acquisition support and technical expertise for joint services, Federal agencies, North Atlantic Treaty Organization and multinational forces by establishing and maintaining contract vehicles for the procurement of AIT products and services,” noted Mr. Jim Alexander, deputy product manager. He continued, “PM J-AIT offers complete program life cycle support while providing the joint warfighter and coalition partners with automated, near real-time ITV of their materiel and equipment worldwide.”
Jerry Rodgers may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
A PM J-AIT field service engineer installs an RF-ITV Read site in Iraq in 2004. Photo by PM J-AIT.