Integrating FSCs into field artillery battalions

By Capt. Jeffrey T. Finley IINovember 6, 2017

Integrating FSCs into field artillery battalions
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Brigade support battalions (BSBs) in armored, infantry, and Stryker brigade combat teams (BCTs) have forward support companies (FSCs) that provide multifunctional logistics support to maneuver battalions. One FSC supports each armored cavalry squadron, combined arms battalion, field artillery (FA) battalion, and brigade engineer battalion in a BCT.

Each FSCs is typically assigned to a direct support role and falls under the mission command of the battalion it supports. The mission of the FSC is to provide full-spectrum logistics support to its supported battalion in order to sustain unified land operations. FSCs provide transportation, supply, maintenance, and food service support to enable their supported units to execute missions.

An effective method for an FSC to support an FA battalion is through a decisive action sustainment plan. There are multiple ways that an FSC can execute such a plan. Observers at the National Training Center (NTC) at Fort Irwin, California, have noticed that FSCs in FA battalions, especially in armored BCTs (ABCTs), have unique logistics challenges and greater planning and synchronization requirements.


FA doctrine describes sustainment guidance but allows individual leaders to determine how to apply it. FSC commanders and first sergeants must understand sustainment doctrine, have technical expertise, and know how to apply logistics planning methods.

A common issue observed in FA battalions at the NTC is confusion concerning the roles and responsibilities of the FSC commander and the battalion S-4. In garrison, units gain experience by repeating procedures that work well within the cantonment area, but those procedures do not necessarily work well in a deployed environment.

The S-4. The battalion S-4 develops the battalion sustainment plan as units deploy into NTC's simulated country of Atropia for a decisive action rotation. The S-4 must anticipate, request, coordinate, and supervise the execution of sustainment by either the headquarters and headquarters battery or the FSC.

The FSC commander. The FSC commander is ultimately responsible for everything that the FSC does or fails to do, which includes providing all sustainment the supported battalion requires. The FSC commander is responsible for assisting the battalion S-4 with developing the concept of support for the battalion. The FSC commander informs the S-4 of the FSC's capabilities in order to provide field feeding, vehicle and shop maintenance, fuel and water support, and distribution operations.

Ultimately the support plan for the battalion relies on the battalion S-4 and FSC commander working together to establish a logistics common operational picture for the battalion.


FA battalion doctrine has undergone many changes. For example, Army Techniques Publication (ATP) 3-09.23, Field Artillery Cannon Battalion, superseded Field Manual (FM) 3-09.21, Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures for the Field Artillery Battalion.

Some immediate sustainment changes outlined in the new publication were the addition of the rearm, refuel, and resupply point (R3P) and the deletion of the survey point and the single- and double-loop methods of sustainment. In addition, the tasks and purposes of the combat trains command post (CTCP) and the field trains command post (FTCP) are not defined in the ATP, but it does define updated roles and responsibilities for sustainment personnel.

The NTC uses the most current doctrine in order to coach and evaluate units through their rotations. When units execute sustainment operations in accordance with obsolete doctrine, such as FM 3-09.21, it disrupts the establishment of a shared understanding across the battalion.

The most notable characteristic of units that attempt to use outdated doctrine is that they quickly strain their distribution platoon's work/rest cycle. Failing to manage the cycle will ultimately cause the platoon to take a safety halt because of insufficient rest or decreased proficiency. Not managing the cycle also reduces resupply efficiency because it desynchronizes the concept of support plan.

This is a common occurrence as units arrive at the NTC. When observer-coach trainers (OC/Ts) witness poorly managed work cycles, they are prompted to assist the unit with effectively managing logistics assets. OC/Ts do this by showing units how to become more proactive in anticipating logistics requirements during the planning phase through the military decisionmaking process.


The placement and size of the FTCP is often based on a linear battlefield and depends on mission, enemy, terrain and weather, troops, support available, time available, and civil considerations. The headquarters and headquarters battery commander is responsible for the battalion tactical operations center and security.

The FSC commander is typically responsible for the CTCP but can alternate with the battalion S-4 because they both receive the same guidance from the battalion executive officer in order to develop and execute the sustainment plan. The FSC commander serves as the senior logistician in the battalion and has the responsibility of refining battalion logistics procedures and operations.

Either the battalion maintenance officer or the FSC executive officer works best as the one in charge of the FTCP. This individual has the responsibility to coordinate with the CTCP and synchronize support from the brigade support area (BSA). An S-1 representative is also needed at the FTCP to track personnel going in and out of the theater, assist with the flow of casualties to and from the BSA, and track and report personnel statuses.


Self-propelled howitzer units do not have sufficient personnel to execute an outdated dual trains concept that includes immediate resources and staff at the CTCP and the bulk of resources at the FTCP. Challenges arise, especially during a decisive action rotation, because most of the FSC (the headquarters, distribution platoon, field-feeding assets, and maintenance headquarters) is at the FTCP, which is co-located with the BSA.

Most maintenance assets are located throughout the battalion in the form of field maintenance teams for each firing battery, and a unit maintenance collection point is placed near the CTCP.

This support configuration is designed to allow the FSC to draw supplies from the support area and push them forward to the CTCP for distribution. Unfortunately, this delays resupply because forecasted supplies and resources are not staged forward. The dual trains method also disperses logistics personnel, which creates communication, personnel management, and security challenges.


The current field trains concept in ATP 3-09.23 is vaguely written so that leaders have the flexibility to enhance effectiveness. ATP 3-09.23 also provides more flexibility to conduct mission analysis and develop a support concept that fits units' placement on the battlefield.

As much as possible, FSC personnel and assets should be pushed forward to the CTCP. This allows the FSC to have supplies forward, and the CTCP typically is close to the firing batteries being supported. Staging supplies and assets forward reduces the time and distance planning factors for FSC resupply missions.

One factor that is rarely addressed is the priority of support for the FA battalion within the BCT. The FA battalion is usually the fifth priority for support, so forecasting plays a major role in receiving necessary resupply. Inaccurate forecasting could cause a delay in support from the BSB when resources are taken up by higher priority units.


To most sustainers, the doctrinal terms R3P and rearm, refuel, resupply, and survey point (R3SP) are not familiar. R3P and R3SP are not methods taught in sustainment doctrine. Therefore, perfecting them is challenging if additional guidance or clearly defined standard operating procedures are not available.

During every NTC rotation, FA units execute R3P plans. Sometimes it is a full R3P, and other times it is a modified version that provides just one class of supply such as class V (ammunition). ATP 3-09.70, Paladin Operations, explains that "a battalion refuel, rearm, and resupply point may be established to provide critical supplies to the battery. This site is a location where the battery can pass through and take on needed ammunition and class III [petroleum, oils, and lubricants] products."

ATP 4-90, Brigade Support Battalion, defines a logistics release point (LRP) as "any place on the ground where unit vehicles return to pick up supplies and then take them forward to their unit."

The two different methods share many similarities, but their execution is where differences arise. The FSC links up with the batteries at both the RP3 and the LRP; however, one involves batteries going to a designated location that has most of their assets, and the other is a small element located in between the CTCP and the firing batteries.

During decisive action rotations, OC/Ts generally see LRPs best used for daily planned resupply operations and the R3P/R3SP best used in conjunction with the movement of batteries from one position area for artillery (PAA) to another. Most unit standard operating procedures design an R3P/R3SP to support movement in which a battery moves to receive or turn-in ammunition, refuel all vehicles through a fuel point, receive rations and water, and drop off trash.


The LRP is used to conduct resupply more rapidly. All the battery first sergeants link up with the FSC at a central location between the CTCP and the firing line. Based on the battalion S-4 resupply plan, the combat trains receive mermite food containers, meals ready-to-eat, and water; fill fuel cans; receive or turn-in ammunition and parts; drop off trash; and turn-in and receive equipment and maintenance inspection worksheets.

LRPs generally work best if the first sergeants escort fuel and ammunition assets configured to their unit's needs back to their PAA. An organizational challenge for both M109A6 and M777 Paladin FA battalions is the quantity of M978 heavy expanded-mobility tactical truck (HEMTT) fuel tankers that the FSC is authorized.

Each SBCT FSC is authorized two M978 HEMTT fuel tankers, and each ABCT FSC is authorized three M978 HEMTT fuel tankers. OC/Ts have observed that the SBCT's M978 HEMTT fuel tankers are best used when one is rotated through the batteries from the LRP and passed through the battery first sergeant to be returned to the FSC at the next LRP.

When managed properly, ABCT units successfully push two M978 HEMTT fuel tankers from the LRP with battery first sergeants to the battery PAA for class III resupply. The M978 HEMTT fuel tankers are then brought back to the LRP either to be passed to another battery's first sergeant or to the FSC to rotate through the next day. This method reduces the time required for first sergeants to refuel dozens of 5-gallon fuel cans and maximizes refuel operations. It also allows the FSC's distribution platoon to maintain a fuel tanker to support the CTCP or to conduct resupply from the BSA simultaneously.

Using established LRPs is the preferred method to issue supplies to multiple batteries at one time. This involves the FSC pushing supplies from the FTCP/CTCP to an established location to link up with multiple batteries to issue supplies and assets.

The individual firing batteries meet the FSC at a single location to pick up their supplies. The most successful LRPs are those that are supplied from the CTCP. This method allows the FSC to conduct bulk resupply more rapidly from the BSA, push supplies farther forward, and reduce resupply time to the batteries.

This method also improves security for the batteries and the distribution platoon because it reduces movement within the battery PAAs and the time the distribution platoon is on the road. This method also provides an avenue for battery leaders to communicate face to face with battalion leaders every day if necessary or desired.


The task organization for an artillery FSC is unique. The artillery FSC is home to some of the BCT's subject matter experts, including an artillery mechanic and a small-arms/artillery repairer. The FSC typically breaks down maintenance support teams (MSTs) in support of decisive action rotations. The MST, normally a squad-sized element led by a sergeant first class, attaches directly to its supported battery. This gives it the ability to fix forward as much as possible as long as it has the necessary equipment and time in position to repair.

MSTs are generally responsible for the quality assurance and quality control of maintenance faults identified by operators. Each fault is annotated on a Department of the Army Form 5988, Equipment and Maintenance Inspection Worksheet, which is passed to the FSC at the LRP. This information is taken back to the maintenance control section, which updates the status of equipment and orders parts.

The maintenance element remaining with the FSC at the CTCP supervises all maintenance control for the battalion. It also provides shop maintenance support such as welding, small-arms repair, and generator repair for all the batteries in the battalion.


Rehearsals assist with reinforcing plans, finding gaps, synchronizing efforts, and ensuring everyone has a shared understanding. One rehearsal regularly overlooked is the battalion sustainment rehearsal. The sustainment rehearsal is meant to focus on areas in which sustainment is required in order to execute FA tasks. It includes a medical plan, route analysis, and water requirements for decontamination procedures.

It is easy to overlook the need for a sustainment rehearsal, especially in an already time-constrained environment. Nevertheless, a shared understanding of sustainment is essential for units to sustain operations for a long period of time, win, and then move on to the next mission. More often than not, the FA battalion does not execute a sustainment rehearsal, forcing the battalion S-4 into reactionary mode. Instead of pre-staging supplies and having tactical triggers that indicate when to push resupply, the battalion S-4 is subjected to operating based on assumptions, a logistics status report, or in response to an emergency request.

The sustainment rehearsal is a great opportunity to bring the battalion together to receive feedback on the battalion sustainment plan, identify triggers, and ensure everyone has a shared understanding of the concept of support and the logistics common operational picture.

The operational environment at the NTC provides a challenging experience for the sustainment plan of the FA battalion. FSCs must be tied into their supported FA battalions and have a full understanding of their tactics, techniques, and procedures for providing FA support to the BCT. FSCs are responsible for providing and synchronizing multifunctional logistics operations to supported units and the overall tactical mission. Within FA battalions, providing fuel and ammunition are the major challenges observed at the NTC. Following the solutions outlined in this article will assist FSCs in organizing sustainment assets to enable FA battalions to provide fire support for an extended period of time.


Capt. Jeffrey T. Finley II is the FA battalion FSC OC/T at the NTC at Fort Irwin, California. He holds a bachelor's degree in business management and marketing from Saint Xavier University and an MBA from Grantham University.


This article is an Army Sustainment magazine product.

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