The Invasion of Ukraine offers a lesson to all those would would know more about military operations. Although this tragedy has not been going on for long, there is one lesson that stands out above all others. It is arguably the least ‘sexy’ but the most important: logistics.
During my early life as an armour officer, I knew little of logistics and cared even less. When my professional military education (PME) began in earnest, my eyes were opened – and how. The romantic (but stupid) notion of wide, sweeping armoured thrusts or gallant airborne drops onto enemy targets suddenly took on whole new perspectives. Soldiers need ammunition, water, fuel, food, medical treatment, casualty evacuation et al in order to do their jobs. That is the concept of logistics and we fail to learn it at our peril. Russian tank commanders have illustrated the point so well that I need not re-iterate it here.
In my book on tactics, Praxis, I speak of logistical supply to a tank squadron. That example was used because the book was aimed at junior tactical commanders. But logistics, like all fundamental principles of war, spans the entire spectrum of conflict. It is a giant, non-stop, multi-directional conveyance system that enables those soldiers sailors and aircrew who are engaging their enemies to do what they need to do. That part is the more obvious aspect. The less obvious aspect is that, as I said above, it is non-stop. This aspect of logistics has hidden warnings not understood by the uninitiated. Even a temporary halt in the conveyance system can create bottlenecks, which may take weeks or months to correct.
I am not an expert on this aspect of war by any means and have been fortunate to have had friends like Colonel Gord Grant to educate and mentor me. If you are a combat arms leader, find a smart logistician and befriend him or her. Do it now.
Sun Tzu famously wrote that we must know our enemies in order to succeed; I would add that we must also understand the concept of logistics.