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Military supply crises pose unique challenges

Author and military expert discusses supply chain crunches and defense logistics

Author and military expert Jobie Turner said military supply problems can affect soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines on the front lines. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Supply crunches have a serious impact on military operations and global conflicts, Jobie Turner said Tuesday during a conversation at FreightWaves’ The Future of Supply Chain event in Rogers, Arkansas.

Turner, a retired Air Force colonel, served as commander of the 37th Airlift Squadron and the 314th Operations Group, leading C-130 flying units. He is the author of “Feeding Victory: Innovative Logistics from Lake George to Khe Sanh, 1755-1968.”

Turner said military supply problems can affect soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines on the front lines.

“They can’t get their stuff; that’s the nature of the military supply crunch,” he said.

It’s different from commercial supply chain issues.

“On the commercial side, the supply crunch is too little too late; supply cannot meet demand,” Turner said. “The military is the adverse to that: too much too soon, which then leads to too little too late.”

The U.S. military has a vast armada of ships, planes, trucks and rail cars that can “jam a bunch of cargo and a bunch of people into a place that cannot handle it.” 

“Either you don’t have the labor force, or you don’t have the material-handling equipment on the airfield or at the port to do it,” Turner said. “Your IT systems fail you and you do not know where things are. As a result, important cargo that’s coming in urgently can get moved out, and cargo that’s there in the field can’t get moved out either.”

He said the military can work through supply chain issues by training people to act in crises in three major areas, including basic training, formal planning and testing systems.

“Training from a military logistics standpoint is to train the newest person how to do their basic job,” Turner said. “From a war game and an exercise standpoint, you can easily do an exercise to see what you would do in different situations. You’d be surprised across the table, the answers you will get, and most importantly, you will find out your problems.”

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Noi Mahoney

Noi Mahoney is a Texas-based journalist who covers cross-border trade, logistics and supply chains for FreightWaves. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in English in 1998. Mahoney has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working for newspapers in Florida, Maryland and Texas. Contact [email protected]