Sandstorms, few navigable roads - and a shortage of water!

Water provision is a major concern for the Swedish unit TD 01 in Chad, as is the limited availability of vegetables and other fresh foods. The logistics service faces many tough challenges in the time ahead. Chad is a country with very few roads, a situation that makes maintenance work difficult and demands an ability to solve problems on the spot.

Tough challenges for the logistics service in Chad. Photo: FBB

The primary duty of the Swedish marine force TD 01 in Chad is to guard the headquarters for EU forces in N’Djamena, the country’s capital. This also involves preparing, and providing security for, the arrival of further units of troops. The nearly 200 Swedish soldiers will, in the middle of April, be shifted to the town of Abeche, where they will form the tactical reserve, Quick Reaction Force (QRF) – also known as the “fire brigade force” – for the rest of the European mission in Chad, EUFOR, which has contributions from 14 of the EU’s 27 member states.
Fundamentally the mission is concerned with creating conditions of relative safety for the between half a million and a million refugees from the conflict in Darfur, as well as providing security for humanitarian efforts in the area.   

Swedish and other EU soldiers have the difficult task of dealing with several warring factions, sandstorms, an oppressive heat, the impending rainy season, which may well limit the duration of the mission, insects and diseases. 

These are all well known facts.    
But the logistics service, which keeps the Swedish troops on their feet, providing for their needs of transport, fuel, food and, above all, water, is significantly less well known. It is estimated that each Swedish soldier consumes 27 litres of water per day – in a country whose greatest shortage item (apart from security) is water.   

TD 01’s supply and support platoon consists of 42 soldiers, split into three groups:

Catering (11) 
Supplies (14) 
Repairs and maintenance (17)   

Of the 42 soldiers nine are chefs and two quartermasters. The chefs are able to cater for 260 men per day.  

In the main part TD 01 has been supplied with dried foodstuffs (for example, mashed potato powder)  and so called “rations”, portions of pre-packaged food products that are able to withstand extreme heat, rough handling in transport and long periods of storage.   

The intention is, however, that TD 01 will fit into EUFOR’s supply chain, which will provide necessities, primarily food and water. If all goes well, and nothing unexpected occurs, TD01 should be able to provide for itself, at least during the first few weeks.   

The soldiers are well aware of the acute shortage of fresh food, especially of fruit and vegetables.

Showering facilities  

TD 01 has its own water purification equipment that can provide water for washing clothes and cleaning vehicles. In other words, drinking water is out of the question – at a stretch the water can be used for showering – but that depends on the initial quality of the water, not least the number and type of bacteria to be found in it.   

Drinking water consists in a freight load of bottled water. The shelf-life of the water is strictly limited in the heat and water provision is largely dependent on air transport on a near daily basis.

The question of ammunition deserves a chapter just for itself. The supply and support platoon has a good deal of ammunition, for all types of weapons system, in store, so that Swedish forces will be self-sufficient as possible. But certain sorts of ammunition are sensitive to heat and require storage in refrigerated containers, which naturally complicates matters. Transportation to the area of operations has also been complicated, since some of the ammunition is sensitive to variations in air pressure and as a result could not be flown in.    

The supply and support platoon is in possession of: 
# Seven lorries, including a heavy goods vehicle. 
# One wheel loader, 60 tonnes 
# Excavators 
# Lighter trucks 
# PTG 203 troop carrier, refitted for medical purposes 
# Four Mercedes Geländewagen jeeps.  

- We cannot know for certain at what rate the material will be used up, what will wear out first. It could be that some supplies and certain equipment will not be used at all, but we have to have some leeway in order to be able solve any problems that might arise, says head of platoon, Anette Wiberg. 

Latrine and washing facilities: 
# Latrine facilities are available in the form of portable toilets (converted hygiene containers) 
# Laundry containers, two with washing machine and tumbler dryer (unfortunately the operation of these requires a great deal of water, which is in short supply)

Electricity supplies
One of the lesser problems. TD 01 has its own electricity generator and is able to manage quite well so loans as the generator is in operation...   

A difficulty – TD 01 is dependent on the EU supply chain for diesel, which is a difficult substance to transport.  

Doubling up 
The greater part of the soldiers in the supply and support platoon fill two positions at the same time. Lack of experience of missions of this kind, not least as regards the climatic conditions, has made it difficult to plan for the unit’s logistical needs. The supply and support platoon can very well be short of personnel. A great deal of effort has, as a result, been put into training up personnel to be able to perform at least two roles. For example, the catering personnel are trained to fire machine guns, and the truck drivers are able to operate other machines, such as excavators. 

The author of the article, Kristina Swaan, is head of information for Amf 1, the First Marine Regiment in Berga.