HOHENFELS, Germany (January 19, 2018) -- It might not be sexy, but battles cannot be won without proper sustainment plans. For the first time, the Army Logistics University from Fort Lee, Virginia, taught the Theater Sustainment Planners Course (TSPC) at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany, Jan. 8-19, where approximately 20 Observer-Coach/Trainers (O-C/T's) learned new methods of planning and sustainability.

For the past 15 years or so, units would primarily fall in on existing equipment and facilities when deploying to a theater of operation. Logisticians rarely had to think about ports of entry and how to get their equipment and supplies into a new theater of operation.

The Army recognized this shortfall and created a 19-week course known as the Theater Logistics Studies Program (TLog). However, due to the declining student enrollment since its conception in 2007, the Combined Arms Support Command and the Army Logistics Management College discontinued the course in 2015 and replaced it with the 2-week TSPC.

Students are required to take 40 hours of computer-based instructions prior to the rigorous two-week resident course that is designed for Logistics Branch senior captains, majors, warrant officers and senior non-commissioned officers.

Now leaders need to consider all obstacles in the grand scheme of things, and properly plan to meet those issues head on. To help leaders with this, JMRC OC/T's will soon start observing, coaching and training rotational units and NATO and partner nations in future exercises.

Capt. Erwin Barrera, an OC/T with the Adler Team at JMRC, and student of the TSPC, was more than happy to weigh in on the benefits of this training.

"One key aspect of understanding sustainment at the strategic level is being able to work with, and support our multinational allies and partners," said Barrera. "As OC/T's, we have an inside look at their planning and military decision making process, and we can positively influence and coach both U.S. and multinational units on how to integrate resources to accomplish a common mission."

The course helps leaders understand and analyze factors, which at the tactical level aren't necessarily looked at. These and many other considerations can be applied to every rotation at JMRC, and graduates of the course will assist training units in identifying key planning factors.

"In the European theater alone, there are a myriad of caveats that can undermine our efforts if we are not aware of them early on; planning for these early can be the difference between mission success or failure," added Barrera. "One specific consideration that comes to mind is the differences in capabilities, availability, and infrastructure of roadways and railways across the European continent. If those aren't specifically looked at and studied early in the planning timeline, they can result in major delays for commanders trying to build combat power in a given area of operation."

Capt. Casey O'Brien, an instructor for TSPC, reminds us that there are a bevy of things to consider when planning theater operations: human resources support; financial management operations; transportation; ordnance operations; quartermaster operations; medical support, and mortuary affairs, just to list a few. These are all facets of theater sustainment aside from actual maneuvering that must be properly planned prior to moving into a new theater of operation.

"Everybody uses 5.56 and 7.62 NATO rounds," said O'Brien. "But there may be a difference in how these are loaded. What do the basic loads look like? What is the basic packaging? How will we contract that once we're in a new theater? Whether it's Coalition Forces, or our sister services, how will we support them? These are all questions sustainment planners need to be asking themselves and planning for."

In future JMRC exercises, rotational units will be expected to incorporate some of this planning before they maneuver into the exercise battle space, commonly referred to as the "Box."

"After taking this course, will OC/T's know everything about theater planning," asked O'Brien. "Of course not. However, it provides them with the new doctrine and where to find the answers, and inevitably how to advise the rotational units on where to find those answers."

The concepts discussed in the course will allow OC/T's to look at sustainment planning from a broader perspective, allowing them to coach rotational units with their newly gained knowledge, which should have an immediate impact on a unit's sustainment planning efforts.

"This course allows sustainment officers and NCO's to expand their aperture and take a look into operational and strategic level planning considerations for sustainment, which will ultimately impact troops on the front lines," said Barrera. "Having a broader understanding of how to provide effective support to U.S. units, NATO allies, and unified action partners in a complex operational environment will allow our team to see the bigger picture and identify friction points across the theater."

The Army recognizes the immediate necessity for this training, and that's why it's taught both at Fort Lee and at unit locations across the globe.

"The days of falling in an established area of operation like Iraq or Afghanistan will soon be gone," said O'Brien. "Leaders need to learn, or relearn, how to plan for an area where we've never been before."