By Kevin FlemingDecember 21, 2017
ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. - Equipping the Army's newest Security Force Assistance Brigades involves detailed and challenging logistics across the Army that outsiders rarely see, according to officers at the U.S. Army Sustainment Command.
The SFABs were established earlier in 2017 in an effort to improve the quality, reliability and deployment speed of missions to advise and assist security forces from allied nations.
Prior to the SFABs, most advise-and-assist missions were done with teams pulled from larger combat units or with teams reassigned on short notice. The SFABs are specifically equipped, structured and trained for these missions.
ASC was one of the primary organizations responsible for organizing the logistical operations to stand up the 1st SFAB at Fort Benning, Georgia.
The U.S. Forces Command and other units across the Army were also heavily involved, as the SFABs' readiness remains a top initiative for Army leaders.
"Logistics is so often behind the scenes - it just happens," said Lt. Col. Rodney Smith, chief, Distribution Integration Division, ASC. "But this is one of those opportunities where we can demonstrate logistics in the forefront - it shows our worth to the field."
In most ways, the logistics involved in standing up a brigade are the same for any military unit, except there is more of it in a narrower timeframe.
The job of Army logisticians is to decide where equipment is coming from, how to ensure the equipment meets quality regulations, and how it gets to its destination.
Deciding where the equipment would come from was a complicated process, said Smith.
"It's like a Rubik's Cube involving questions of statistics and calculus, and it is not easy math," he said. "We went through the mental gymnastics of how and when to move equipment. Every action had a reaction; there were second, third, and fourth-order effects on everything we did.
"We had to ask, 'If we move this equipment, what else are we doing to the rest of the Army?'"
Beyond the legal knowledge, technical expertise, and lifting capacity required to move military equipment, the receiving end of the process takes work, too.
In August, ASC sent three Soldiers to help the 1st SFAB with staffing and senior expertise.
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Paul Gatlin Jr., senior property accountability technician, Distribution Integration Division, was one of the Soldiers sent to support the process.
He said there were more than 5,000 pieces of equipment on the ground, ranging from heavy vehicles to radio equipment that needed processing.
In fewer than two months, Gatlin said the logistics team processed 14,000 to 15,000 pieces of equipment - with more to come.
Officials at the 1st SFAB were grateful for the assistance.
"ASC has provided us with the logistical support we needed to give our combat advisers the best and most advanced equipment the Army has to offer," said Maj. Justin McGovern, brigade logistics officer, 1st SFAB.
Gatlin agreed some of the equipment he worked with was advanced.
"Some of the equipment is pretty high speed, like the networking equipment... commercial, off-the shelf radios and networking equipment for Soldiers," he said. "Very, very high-speed stuff - I haven't seen this before."
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Joseph Dean, senior property accountability technician, Distribution Integration Division, ASC, said one of the challenges the team faced was that some equipment transferred from other Army units needed additional maintenance to ensure the 1st SFAB's readiness.
Personnel at the Fort Benning Logistics Readiness Center worked to make sure all equipment was up to the Army's regulation 10/20 standards.
"The LRC also had a large part in this process as the logistical hub for where equipment arrived, processed then sent to the SFAB," said Smith. "There are a lot of touch-points within ASC that have been part of this."
ASC is the higher headquarters for the Army's Logistics Readiness Centers, with each LRC aligned under one of ASC's seven Army Field Support Brigades. When equipment is transferred to units across the Army's footprint, it likely passes through an LRC at some point.
While at Fort Benning, Dean worked to approve equipment transfers to the 1st SFAB from the LRC using a relatively new network-based program called Global Combat Support System-Army. GCSS-Army is the central logistics software that enables personnel to document and coordinate equipment globally.
Dean worked closely with Kelly Olsen and Classica Laster, supply technicians assigned to the Instillation Property Book Office at the Benning LRC, to transfer the equipment to the 1st SFAB property book.
The 659th Maintenance Company, a Logistic Assistance Team from the 18th Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, traveled to Fort Benning to sort the equipment destined for individual 1st SFAB units.
Gatlin and another ASC Soldier, Staff Sgt. Jason Harris, delivered equipment to the 1st SFAB and assisted Chief Warrant Officer 3 Heath Stone, property book officer, 1st SFAB, to establish an operational property book office with the proper processes for efficient operations.
Dean and Gatlin said this support is important because it allows the 1st SFAB to train and to meet its timeline for building a unit ready to deploy.
"We are the 'behind the scenes guys," said Gatlin. "We don't like to take glory or credit. We just want to make sure everyone has what they need and that they are successful."
Smith said the satisfaction that comes from the work, however, is not immediate.
"We will see down the road the fruits of our labor," said Smith. "We can't fully see it now because we know it as goals most people don't pay attention to... it's when [those we support] go out to do their mission, that's when you pat yourself on the back and say you were a part of that."
Soldiers volunteer to join the SFABs, where they are assessed and selected to conduct missions to train, advise, assist, accompany and enable foreign security forces globally.