PMAC 2012: Military intelligence

Moving 65 containers of ammo was just a piece of closing major Canadian operations in Afghanistan

June 8, 2012
by Michael Power

Moving  65 containers of ammo was just a piece of closing major Canadian operations in Afghanistan

Think your job’s tough? Try running logistics for a major military operation in a war-torn, landlocked country that’s literally halfway around the world. That’s what Commander Yves Biron, commanding officer, 3rd Canadian Support Unit (3CSU), faced working for the Canadian Armed Forces to move equipment and infrastructure to and from Afghanistan for Canada’s mission there. Biron spoke at PMAC’s 87th annual national conference in Moncton about some of the challenges he faced.

Based in Montreal, Biron‘s team works to package goods and ship them overseas. “We do a lot of what you do in terms of supply chain, but it can be in tough conditions,” he said.

Biron explained the phases involved of the deployment, which include material and equipment mounting, deployment, theatre activation and sustainment (which includes resupply, procurement and rotation).

“I do a lot of local procurement out of Montreal,” he said. “From specialized batteries to nice-to-have stuff like gym equipment or Tim Hortons, it all comes through me. And let me tell you, when they run out of coffee in Kandahar, it gets to be a panic.”

Pulling operations out of Kandahar was, for the first time, done by logistician, he said, and it proved to  be one of the largest operations the military has undertaken. It included 206 pieces of infrastructure, 6,000 file boxes of records, 65 sea containers of ammunition, 16 helicopters and 1,000 vehicles.

There was a mission closure unit and logistics support group, as well as a material disposal unit, Biron said. In Afghanistan, contracting involved a verbal agreement and a handshake. Bids couldn’t be posted, since so few potential contractors had electricity, much less a computer.

The operation has been ongoing for the past two years, Biron said, and could mostly wrap up by this Christmas. Still, some parts of the operation will continue for another year. “That’s how much equipment is in Afghanistan,” he said.

The current challenge is to switch priorities to fixing and cleaning equipment and getting it ready for the next mission.