Commanding the delivery of ‘bullets and beans’

The U.S. Army is streamlining the way it manages the delivery of “bullets and beans” to its troops and Brig. Gen. Gregory Couch, of Olathe, is at the forefront of the process.Couch is the commander of the Army Reserves’ 316th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), based in Pennsylvania. The unit was the first of its kind and a few months ago it completed a tour of duty in Iraq. A headquarters unit, it oversaw and coordinated logistics support for U.S. and coalition forces while training Iraqi Security Force logistical units. It provided command and control to all sustainment forces, which includes 20,000 logistical soldiers.The 316th took about 400 soldiers to Iraq in September 2006. It replaced what was known as a Corps Support Command, which had 1,000 soldiers. The size of the unit and the way it does command and control are the big differences. The new logistical command concept is called “modular force logistics.””What it’s really done is take out a layer of command,” Couch said during a recent interview. “You now have a colonel commander who is dealing directly with division commanders and that’s taken away another layer of a support. When that division commander needs logistics support, it happens much quicker.” David Petraeus, (left) when he was multinational forces commander, visited the 316th Sustainment headquarters for a tour and briefing with Gen. Gregory Couch. Petraeus then had photographers take pictures of him with 150 individual soldiers, including Couch.The 316th was able to do that because the sustainment brigades under it are much larger and can handle a much larger area than they could before, Couch said.”We were the first unit of its kind,” Couch said of the 316th. “Being the first unit and being a Reserve unit at the same time is pretty phenomenal in my mind because nobody had ever tried it.”Couch’s unit went to Iraq at about the same time the troop surge was being implemented. An extra 30,000 troops were going to Iraq and the demand for logistical supplies also surged. Modular support logistics is all about numbers. If you are going to increase the combat force in numbers you have to design a smaller force to support them, Couch said. There also was a lot of reliance on private contractors to help increase logistical support and get supplies delivered.”Everybody got what they needed,” Couch said.Couch, 49, a Kansas State University graduate, is back in Olathe now. Couch has been in the Army and Army Reserves for nearly 30 years. He intends to stay in the Reserves “until they kick me out” and command the 316th until given a new assignment. He has spent much of his career in logistics units, including a couple of years with Lawrence’s 317th Quartermaster Battalion as executive officer.Of course, logistics soldiers don’t get the attention the combat troops get, but that’s OK with Couch.”We don’t need the glory,” he said. “But it’s very important that people know that there is a band of soldiers out there that on a daily basis is outside the wire on dangerous roads in Iraq, downtown Baghdad, wherever, delivering supplies to those combat guys so they can be out on the streets doing what they do.”

We’d like to tell other stories about military personnel from the Lawrence area and the things they are doing.