Forward Logistic Sites have become an integral part of deployed naval logistics in Canadian and Allied navies. While Canada’s first foray into this field over fifty years ago involved only a minimal number of personnel, and concentrated mostly on stores and administration, today’s Forward Logistics Site teams fulfill a vast array of roles that range from overseeing logistics to arranging diplomatic clearances to administrating engineering repairs. And, depending on the operation, they may even be international in composition. For the deployed ships, the Forward Logistics Site provides liaison with shore establishments in the host nation and communications back to Canada. The men and women who now man a Forward Logistics Site when the Canadian Navy deploys a ship or task force are following in the footsteps of the Canadian Naval Liaison team in Korea. Today, just as then, these dedicated officers and sailors ensure that HMC ships are always capable of fulfilling the Canadian Navy’s motto of being Ready Aye Ready.
This strong emphasis on logistics in the Gulf War was much different than happened at the time of the war in Korea, where it took a back seat in planning and many months passed before a small, dedicated logistics cell was established. In the Gulf War, logistics was given high visibility and adequate resources at the outset, essential because logistics was (and still is) a national responsibility. This concept was reenforced by Captain (N) Jarvis when he explained that the “Americans made it very clear that their logistics train was first and foremost to resupply and support the deployed American forces. And while the US military was very good in allowing the Allies to use excess capacity, there were no guarantees.” Thus, the ability for Canada to control its own re-supply line was critical to a successful operation, and the Canadian naval personnel ashore played a key role.
In early August 1990, the Gulf War erupted after the Iraqi Army crossed into the Emirate of Kuwait in an invasion reminiscent of that nearly forty years earlier when North Korea invaded South Korea. Again, as happened in the Korean conflict, the United States promised to help the Kuwaitis regain their freedom, and soon set about creating a coalition force to do so. The first task was the establishment of a naval blockade in the Persian Gulf. The Americans solicited support from a number of countries, and the Canadian government was one of the first to back the American initiative with a visible military contribution: within a week of the UN’s condemnation of the invasion, Canada made a commitment to send three warships to the region “to deter further Iraqi aggression.”
In many ways the Canadian response mirrored the contribution made in the Korean conflict. Interestingly, in 1950, the RCN was the first Canadian service into the Korean Theatre because it could be despatched quickly (a clear benefit of having good logistics) to provide a visible sign of Canada’s commitment to the international force. In 1990, a naval task force was again the first deployed because it was the most readily available asset at the government’s disposal. Fortunately, logistics took on a much different, and, more important, role. Even before the official decision was made to send a naval task group to the Middle East for this conflict, Canadian naval logisticians were at work. This was essential because the Persian Gulf was a region where the Canadian Navy had little or no experience. Since the theatre of war was over 13,000 km from Halifax, and with no allied bases nearby, there was no doubt that there would be unique support requirements when the ships arrived. Accordingly, the Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics at Maritime Command Headquarters, Captain (N) Greg Jarvis (now Vice-Admiral), made arrangements to send a logistics team to the operating area.
Neither Baghdad nor Tehran initiated hostilities of that sort during Desert Shield, and for many reasons might not have. But, the powerful naval force that the coalition rapidly concentrated in the Persian Gulf and contiguous waters could only have counseled Iraqi and Iranian caution. Land-based aircraft formed an aerial umbrella over the gulf. On the surface, east of the Strait of Hormuz, steamed American aircraft carriers protected by U.S., British, Canadian, and Australian cruisers, destroyers, and frigates. Many of these warships were equipped with Aegis and other state-of-the-art radar systems, electronic countermeasures gear, surface-to-air missiles, and Phalanx close-in weapons systems. In coastal waters, GCC naval forces stayed on the lookout for fast craft or commercial vessels whose crews or passengers might have had hostile intent. Navy harbor defense, special warfare, and explosive ordnance disposal units, and Coast Guard port security units formed the final maritime line of defense in the key ports of Manama, al-Jubayl, and ad-Dammam.