By LT. James E. Woolsen, QMC
Quartermaster Review November-December 1953
DIVISION Quartermaster trucking missions in the combat zone are as diversified as they are numerous, and not necessarily limited to the support of Quartermaster operations. Often where a railhead provides the necessary facilities for Quartermaster supply, vehicles can support other Technical Services within the Division.
According to the T/O & E of the Quartermaster Company in an infantry division, 68 two-and-a-half-ton trucks are authorized. Of this number 48 vehicles are divided into three truck platoons. The remainder of the trucks are assigned to the various sections of the company to provide integral support. These vehicles are under the direct control of the company commander, dispatches being coordinated through the unit S-3, who is the Division Quartermaster Executive Officer.
To provide a centralized agency for control of all transportation in the Second Division, Quartermaster Company vehicles were lumped into one big motor pool with each T/O & E truck platoon being augmented by the vehicles normally assigned to the various operating agencies. Thus the average strength of a truck platoon was increased to approximately 20 two-and-a-half-ton trucks. Through this organization dispatches could be coordinated through the S-3 with the maximum efficiency of operation using more effectively consolidated loads and preventing unnecessary dead-head turn arounds.
In an Infantry Division there are no organic Transportation Corps units, which are under the direct control of the Division Transportation Staff Officer. This means that to provide any transportation required of him by the division, the Transportation Officer must requisition vehicles from any of the major truck operators in the division. The Quartermaster Company with its 68 cargo vehicles falls under this heading, and often must furnish the transportation. A division pool system has been used. During a specific period of the day a given number of vehicles are on stand-by for transportation. Supplementing this system a given number of vehicles are dispatched to Division Transportation daily to perform necessary administrative functions. During division moves the majority of Quartermaster vehicles are called upon to supplement the Regimental Service Companies in moving infantry troops.
In supporting the various supply activities of the Quartermaster Company vehicles haul rations, POL, all types of Class II & IV items, laundry and other Field Service material, and provide the administrative support for the company headquarters. A maximum of coordination is necessary in routing and timing vehicles to the various supply points and railheads to concentrate the flow of supplies to the Quartermaster dumps. Often vehicles trucking Class II & IV items will turn-around for Class III or haul laundry to a Service Center.
When a convenient railhead permits the rapid transit of supply items to a Quartermaster dump, or when issue to the various division units can be effected from the railhead, many transportation units are released from the direct support of the Quartermaster. In such cases support may be given to various engineer, ordnance, and infantry functions: hauling logs for bunkers from a logging site to the front lines, hauling ammunition for the Regimental Service Companies and service batteries. Trucks may even be placed on permanent daily dispatch for these activities.
To provide the rigid control over transportation that is necessary in a combat zone all vehicle commitments should be coordinated through the office of the S-3. Vehicle requests are channeled through that office for the following day and when compiled and consolidated are given to the company commander who in turn assures that the vehicles are dispatched. At all times the S-3 must be kept informed by the company commander and the motor officer of the availability of vehicles, the number that have been placed on deadline, and the number that have been removed from the deadline, also the “in process” information on vehicles still in the unit or ordnance shops. Further the S-3 should be kept informed of the parts situation, especially the availability of those parts in critical supply, and the items that are back-ordered through ordnance channels. An adequate picture of the overall operation of the motor pool at all times eliminates unnecessary confusion and deadlines pending parts which could have been resolved through coordination at a level higher than the requisitioning agency.
The problem of maintenance is the bugaboo of any trucking operation. Each driver must be kept aware of his role in the support of the supply operation and the need to care for his vehicle constantly to prevent failures.
Competent mechanics with a complete knowledge of the function and repair of the types of vehicles used must be on the alert at all times to correct deficiencies before they cause failures. Too often such minor defects are neglected for the pressing job on which his attention is directed, and as a result work must be done over at a future date. Constant supervision and inspection of all vehicles is necessary. Often in giving vehicle a technical inspection deficiencies can be detected before they become major and require extensive second or third echelon work.
Preventive maintenance must be performed regularly on every vehicle, weekly, monthly, and semi-annually. Vehicles used in a combat zone require more than minimum maintenance. A system providing for two weeklys per week and two monthlys per month could be put into effect with a small increase in allocation of personnel. The extra personnel required to perform the additional preventive maintenance would be made up in time from those released from second echelon repair work. Such a system would call for a work load of four monthlys per day in a Quartermaster Company. This work load could be carried with a trained PM crew, in which each man knows his job and performs it as a member of a team. In addition to second echelon preventive maintenance, driver maintenance must be performed. An SOP for maintenance should be set up establishing the system and the manner in which the maintenance will be performed. The SOP should include the before-operation process and the after-operation process.
Upon release from dispatch each driver proceeds with his vehicle to the unit gas station. Next he must go over a tightening rack where he is assisted in locating all places which call for attention. An experienced individual in this critical spot with a thorough knowledge of the vehicle insures that all points requiring attention receive it. The driver then cleans the air filter on his vehicle, including vents, and checks the oil. Next the driver is assisted in the lubrication of his vehicle. Here again there is an experienced drivers’ helper to assure that all fittings are cared for. The driver then passes on to various other stations where he in turn checks his tires, fan belt, battery and other first echelon items. At any time during the process a deficiency is corrected on the spot or if deficiency is of a second echelon nature a tag or slip is made out indicating the fault, and the motor sergeant is informed.
Although this system removes from the driver certain first-echelon functions, it insures the necessary after-operation maintenance. A man must be on duty at the grease rack and tightening rack 24 hours a day, or until all vehicles have come in from dispatch. Each driver must go through this organized maintenance program, no matter what time of the day or night he is relieved from dispatch. If this is carried out all vehicles that are placed on the ready line will be prepared for dispatch and no discrepancies will later be discovered which will cause the vehicle to be non-operational.
In order to have an efficient operation in all respects the first necessity is to have trained personnel. Too often vehicle failures are due to the fact that the men driving them with drivers’ MOS’s are not fully qualified. Often too, the men with mechanics’ MOS’s are new men to the service who have been sent through a brief course and graduated as mechanics. This general rule also holds true for the officer personnel. Supply officers, although they have the organizational qualities needed, lack those of a purely technical nature. Although the officer does not perform the actual mechanical work on a vehicle, he must have at least a general idea of the mechanics and vehicles he has under his command, in order supervise the operation competently.
To remedy this situation on-the-job training is utilized to the fullest extent possible, but the general shortage of qualified personnel, and the rapid turn-over of these men at their highest level of efficiency presents a never-ending problem. Time does not permit giving newly assigned personnel the supplemental training that they need, and so a trial and error system has to be utilized. Perhaps the general situation could be remedied through a more comprehensive technical training program in the initial training cycle. Too, a course for junior officers incorporated in the curriculum of the Quartermaster School would undoubtedly increase the operating efficiency of motor operations.
The problem of trained personnel is of the greatest importance. No operation can function smoothly with the maximum of efficiency and morale unless each individual has the necessary technical knowledge which can be adequately instilled only during the initial training phase. Without this preliminary training valuable man-hours are lost, or costly failures result.