The motto of Tactical Supply Flight in Royal Air Force Germany in the early 1970′s was ‘First In – Last Out’. This small section of RAF supply personnel was formed to provide full logistic support to the 3 squadrons of Harrier jump jets based in Germany which, on exercise or in war, operated in the countryside, within a short distance of the forward edge of the battle area providing a plethora of support and mobile infrastructure ahead of the aircraft and aircrew’s arrival. However, ‘first in’ could easily have been applied to other supporting units too. The Royal Engineers constructed mobile runways, taxi areas and revetments for portable fuel tanks and explosive storage; the Royal Corps of Signals provided long and short range communications; the Territorial Army of the Royal Corps of Transport (now Royal Logistic Corps) provided railway specialists to assist in the move of hundreds of weapons; the provost branches of the Royal Military and RAF Police provided liaison teams for convoy support; RAF Field Catering fed us; RAF Light Aid Detachments kept our vehicles serviceable; the RAF Medical Branch kept us healthy; RAF Engineers set up the flying sites – so we few in tactical supply were not exactly alone as we deployed, some days ahead of the fast jet strike force.
And this is just a microcosm of the logistic infrastructure required today to support Her Majesty’s Government (HMG) policy for HM Forces to operate world wide in an expeditionary capacity. In 1970 the operation of forces in Germany was primarily predicated on a 30 day war, in-theatre assets and surface movement. Today, with a world wide role, longer term three dimensional thinking is required – sea, air and ground with more emphasis on sustainment, recuperation and regeneration.