Rear Services of the Armed Forces
Rear Services of the Armed Forces
that part of the armed forces comprising the military units, agencies, and sub-units charged with transporting supplies and supplying support in the form of materiel, transportation, technical services, airfield engineering, airfield technical services, medical and veterinary services, commissariat services, quarters and personal equipment, and financial and payroll services. In the navy, the rear services also provide emergency and rescue support. The primary tasks of the rear services of the armed forces are to maintain established reserves of weapons, materiel, ammunition, fuel, food, and various types of equipment for the army and navy; to build and maintain transportation lines and carry out all types of military shipping; to repair weapons, war materiel, and military stores; to treat the sick and wounded and carry out sanitary, anti-epidemic, and veterinary work for the army and navy; and to build, reconstruct, and operate airfields and ports and carry out other work designed to give comprehensive support to naval combat operations and training.
Rear services support to armies developed with the emergence of the armies of slaveholding states. It first assumed an organized form in the Roman Army, which had special agencies to issue wages, weapons, clothing, and other equipment to the troops. Special camp workshops produced and repaired weapons and other military equipment. Food was purchased from the civilian population or collected as tribute from conquered peoples. Small stocks of weapons, food, clothing, and footwear were transported behind the armies in wagons. For this purpose draft animals, wagons, and water-transport equipment were provided by the civilian population at the demand of military leaders. Much attention was devoted to the construction of roads and bridges and the location of sources of water along troop routes. The first paymasters, quartermasters, and personnel in charge of road and fortification work, the establishment of camps, and the quartering of troops appeared in the armies of slaveholding states.
From the 11th to the 15th century centralized troop support did not exist. In the mercenary armies of the 15th to the 17th century, mercenaries were obliged to buy weapons, equipment, clothing, and food with their own pay. During a campaign, an army was accompanied by merchants, known as sutlers, who supplied the troops with food and the everyday articles used by soldiers. As regular armies grew in size, it became increasingly difficult to supply them with food and forage during wartime. For this reason the magazine supply system was adopted in the late 17th century, first in the French, and later in other European armies. Later still, mobile magazines were introduced, which, although owned by the state, were not under the jurisdiction of the armed forces.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, as armies grew still larger and their organization became more elaborate, authorized subunits gradually were formed within larger units in order to centralize rear services support to the army and navy. The rear services of the armed forces in the modern sense were organized at this time. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with the appearance of massive regular armies and navies and the growing task of supplying the armed forces with new combat materiel, the rear services of the armed forces grew increasingly complex and multi-faceted.
When Peter I the Great established a regular army in Russia in the early 18th century, he formed two services: the provisions service, for supplying troops with food and forage, and the commissariat service, for paying the army and supplying it with equipment, transport, and small arms. The regiments had administrative subunits—permanent trains with stocks of supplies—that baked bread, prepared rusks and meat, and sewed and repaired clothing and footwear. In the 18th century lazarets and hospitals were established.
At the beginning of the 19th century, the Ministry of War included a commissariat department and a provisions department; both became part of the Main Quartermaster Directorate, formed in 1864. This directorate assumed functions that had been carried out by the troops themselves, providing all types of supplies and organizing the sewing of clothing. Quartermaster positions were also instituted, from that of quartermaster general to division quartermaster. Quartermaster courses were established in St. Petersburg in 1900; they formed the basis of the Quartermaster Academy, established in 1911. At the beginning of World War I, the rear services included quartermaster directorates, which functioned as administrative agencies; these included the Main Directorate and directorates at the district, fortress, corps, and division levels. The rear services also included various rear services agencies, such as storehouses, workshops, and bakeries. Subunits and units for materiel, medical, and veterinary support, as well as emergency and rescue support in the navy, also became part of the armed forces.
In the German Army of the early 20th century, the quartermaster general commanded the quartermasters of the armies and had charge over food stores in the theater of war and mobile food stores on trains, railroads, and ships. Army, corps, and division quartermasters managed troop quartermaster activities. Other armies had a similar organization.
The use of tanks, aviation, and motor vehicle transport during World War I demanded the creation of forces and facilities for technical, road, airfield-engineering, and airfield-technical support and the supply of fuel, tools, and other new equipment. The advent of chemical warfare made it necessary to supply troops with protective equipment against toxic substances. The complexity of supplying combat materiel to millions of servicemen during a war led to a significant expansion of the ties between the rear services of the armed forces and the state economy.
The rear services of the Soviet armed forces were formed simultaneously with the units of the Red Army and Navy. The Central Directorate of Supply was organized in 1918. The first detachments of the Red Army did not have regular rear services subunits; they received supplies from local soviets and military commissars who managed the storehouses of the tsarist army. In 1918 troop supply was managed by the chief of supply of the corresponding front, army, division, or brigade, who had various services subordinate to him. Important steps were taken to organize the rear services of the armed forces after the military reform of 1924–25: materiel support was concentrated in a single body—the Directorate of the Chief of Supplies of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army; procedures were established for coordinating agencies of the rear services of the armed forces and national economic bodies; a supply plan was adopted to move materiel from central command to districts and then to individual units; and rear services support agencies were reorganized. As the national economy developed and the armed forces were re-equipped, units and subunits were established to supply the armed forces with aircraft, armored vehicles, motor vehicle and tractor equipment, stores, and fuel. In March 1941, by a resolution of the Central Committee of the CPSU and the Soviet government, command of the Main Quartermaster, Medical, and Veterinary directorates of the Red Army and of the department of matériel stocks was assigned to S. M. Budennyi, marshal of the Soviet Union and deputy people’s commissar of defense.
At the beginning of the Great Patriotic War of 1941–45, the rear services of the armed forces included rear services units, sub-units, and agencies belonging to units, major field forces, and large units of combat arms and branches of the armed forces. The rear services also included bases and supply storehouses, as well as motor vehicle, railroad, road, evacuation, repair, airfield-engineering, air-technical, medical, veterinary, and other rear services units and agencies under central command.
The decree of the State Committee for Defense, dated Aug. 1, 1941, introduced a centralized system of command and control for the rear services of the armed forces; it created the Main Directorate of the Rear Services of the Red Army and rear services directorates in the fronts and armies, and it established the positions of chief of the rear services of the Red Army and chief of the rear services of the fronts and armies. The Headquarters of the Chief of the Rear Services was formed within the Main Directorate of the Rear Services, and organizational and planning departments were set up within the commands of the rear services of the fronts and armies. In addition, directorates (departments) of military transport and the motor transportation service and inspectorates of the chiefs of the rear services were formed at the level of central command and in major field forces. Also subordinate to the chief of the rear services of the Red Army were the Main Quartermaster Directorate, the Directorate of Fuel Supply, the Main Military Sanitary Directorate, and the Main Veterinary Directorate; the corresponding directorates and departments at lower levels were subordinate to the chiefs of rear services of the fronts and armies.
On Aug. 19, 1941, the position of chief of the rear services of the air force was instituted, and in May 1942 the position of chief of the rear services of the navy was established; at the same time the position of chief of the rear services was instituted in corps and divisions. At the central command level, chiefs of the rear services were given powers corresponding to those of deputy people’s commissars for defense and the navy; in major field forces and large units their powers corresponded to those of deputy commanders or commanders. They were assigned responsibility for the organization of the rear services, the delivery of all types of supplies, and the evacuation and support of troops by subordinate services. The chief of rear services of the Red Army was also responsible for moving all types of replacements to the front. During the war, stationary storehouses at the fronts were replaced by field storehouses, and army field bases were established in the armies.
In January 1943 the Main Directorate of Motor Vehicles was formed, and in June the Main Directorate of Roads was created. In June 1943 the Main Directorate of the Rear Services of the Red Army was abolished; its headquarters, directorates, and departments became directly subordinate to the chief of the rear services. A new system of supply, the “on your own” system, was adopted at this time. Under this system responsibility for delivering supplies from railheads (army storehouses) to the troops (the division distributing point) was assigned to the chief of the army rear services, and responsibility for delivery from the division storehouses to regimental storehouses was assigned to the chief of the division rear services.
During the war the rear services of the armed forces received from the national economy, stored, and delivered to the army and navy more than 10 million tons of ammunition, more than 16 million tons of fuel, and an enormous quantity of armaments, machinery, food, and other supplies. Motor vehicle transport alone hauled 145 million tons of supply freight. Military railroad shipping exceeded 19 million cars. The road service built and restored approximately 100,000 km of motor vehicle roads, and railroad troops and special units restored and repaired about 120,000 km of track. More than 6,000 airfields were equipped for aviation. Of those treated by the medical service, more than 72 percent of the wounded and about 91 percent of the sick were returned to the ranks. Army and navy personnel received good, healthful food. The State Committee for Defense solved all the key problems of rear services support to the armed forces through the General Staff, the Chief of the Rear Services of the Red Army, and the chiefs of the other central command and control agencies. The centralization of control and command of the rear services made it possible to use available men and equipment effectively and economically.
The heroic feats of the rear services of the armed forces during the Great Patriotic War were fully appreciated by the party and the government. Fifty-two soldiers were awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union, more than 30 became Heroes of Socialist Labor, and tens of thousands received various orders and medals. Many rear services units and agencies were awarded medals and given the title of guards or other honorary designations.
After the war the rear services of the armed forces were reorganized and reequipped. As new branches of the armed forces were formed, their rear services were established. All rear services units were completely motorized, and new units and agencies for various purposes were created. In June 1958 the position of deputy minister of defense and chief of the rear services of the Ministry of Defense was instituted; in 1962 the title was changed to deputy minister of defense and chief of the rear services of the armed forces. In major field forces, large units, and units the position of chief of the rear services was changed to deputy commander (or commander) for rear services.
The chiefs of the rear services of the armed forces have been Lieutenant General (later General of the Army) A. V. Khrulev (August 1941-January 1951), Colonel General V. I. Vinogradov (January 1951-June 1958), Marshal of the Soviet Union I. Kh. Bagramian (June 1958-April 1968), General of the Army S. S. Mariakhin (April 1968-June 1972), and General of the Army S. K. Kurkotkin (since July 1972).
The current rear services of the Soviet armed forces comprises arsenals, bases, and supply storehouses; special motor vehicle, railroad, road, and pipeline troops; an auxiliary fleet; and airfield-engineering, aviation-technical, emergency and rescue, evacuation, repair, construction, medical, and veterinary, units, agencies, and subunits. The rear services may also include units and subunits of engineer troops, signal corps, and air defense and security forces that support the operations of the rear services.
Depending on the type and scale of the tasks they perform, the rear services of the armed forces are classified as strategic, operational, or troop rear services. Rear services are also classified according to unit level affiliation: central command, district, fleet, front, army, flotilla, fleet aviation, corps, naval base, division, brigade, regiment, ship, and battalion level. The strategic rear services include the rear services of the central command, comprising arsenals, bases, and supply storehouses; units of rear services special forces; and other rear services units and agencies under the direct control of the Ministry of Defense and the commanders in chief of the branches of the armed forces. The operational rear services comprise bases and supply storehouses, units of rear services special forces, and other rear services units and institutions that are part of all branches of the armed forces. The troop rear services comprise supply storehouses and motor vehicle transport, repair, medical, and other units and subunits that provide direct rear services support to large units, units, ships, and subunits. Each large troop unit, regular unit or ship, and subunit has its own rear services, the composition of which is determined by organization and equipment. For example, the rear services of a motorized rifle battalion comprise a supply platoon, a repair workshop, and a battalion medical post. With the required motor vehicle transport, these services can follow a battalion during combat operations or on a march and can carry out their missions under any conditions.
In foreign armed forces, materiel, technical, medical, and other types of support to the armed forces are also centralized. The minister of defense directs the rear services of the armed forces through his headquarters, assistants, and the rear services directorates and commands subordinate to him. Rear services support in major field forces, large units, and units under deputy commanders or commanders for the rear services is organized directly by rear services commands that have at their disposal the necessary control agencies and rear services units and agencies.
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I. M. GOLUSHKO