By Lt. Col. Eric McCoyJune 5, 2018
The purpose of a reconnaissance and security (R&S) brigade combat team (BCT) is to fight for information on behalf of a corps or division in order to protect formations from unexpected enemy attack. This is accomplished by performing covering force operations as a tactically self-sufficient combat force fighting more than 50 kilometers from the main body.
The 4th Brigade Support Battalion (BSB), 1st Stryker BCT (SBCT), 4th Infantry Division, was given a unique training opportunity to sustain an R&S BCT during a National Training Center (NTC) rotation. Logisticians were tasked with sustaining a diverse force that included Strykers, armored vehicles, rocket artillery, aviation assets, and other enablers during high-tempo operations at the end of extended lines of communications (LOCs) in an austere environment.
Not since the early days of Operation Iraqi Freedom with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment have sustainers been required to develop innovative methods for agile sustainment in such conditions.
THREE BIG IDEAS
During the 1st SBCT R&S Academy in November of 2016, leaders identified training precepts that included three big ideas:
• Accurate logistics reporting.
• Robust methods of supply distribution.
• Improvisation of medical, maintenance, and recovery tactics, techniques, and procedures to sustain operational momentum.
These precepts allowed the 4th BSB to effectively provide sustainment to a 5,600-Soldier R&S BCT during the NTC rotation.
ACCURATE LOGISTICS REPORTING. During the rotation, the logistics status report (LOGSTAT) was one of the most important reports submitted inside the BCT. The LOGSTAT drove supply forecasting and gave the support operations officer (SPO) and the BCT S-4 the status of all supplies inside of subordinate units. This report allowed the BSB commander to prioritize supplies and unit support.
The battalions submitted LOGSTATs in a templated format to the SPO, who then submitted each battalion's LOGSTAT to the BCT S-4. The BCT had an 81 percent submission rate, which was above the average normally captured at NTC.
Some instances of inaccurate reporting resulted in forward support companies (FSCs) executing emergency logistics package operations, and 22 of 176 (13 percent) of logistics missions occurred because of LOGSTAT inaccuracy. Thirty-two unplanned tactical convoy operations occurred during the rotation, and 22 were caused by LOGSTAT inaccuracies.
ROBUST DISTRIBUTION. In January 2017, the BSB distribution company task organized its fuel and water platoon and transportation platoon into two composite distribution platoons. This allowed more efficient use of company assets and made the BSB base company distribution platoons identical in capability to those in the FSCs.
The BSB used a combination of supply point distribution, logistics release points (LRPs), and a forward logistics element (FLE) to supply the 1st SBCT through all operations during the R&S exercise.
Supply point distribution allowed FSCs to pick up from the brigade support area (BSA) and move forward to their battalion trains. The 1st SBCT also exercised LRPs to shorten the lines of communication between the BSA and forward units. The BSB employed both air and ground assets to conduct sustainment to the R&S BCT, completing 16 air ring routes, two sling loads, and 195 tactical convoy operations.
IMPROVISATION TO SUSTAIN MOMENTUM. Fixed sites such as medical treatment facilities and unit maintenance collection points were designed to be scalable and more mobile to keep pace with rapidly moving maneuver units. As a result, the BSB, FSCs, and medical platoons became proficient at quickly establishing support capability.
Over the course of the campaign, the BSB opened 426 maintenance work orders and closed 427 work orders. For recovery missions, the BSB used the newly fielded modular catastrophic recovery system for Stryker and large platform recovery missions along with the M984 heavy expanded-mobility tactical truck wrecker.
In the medical operations arena, 49 percent of notionally injured Soldiers eventually died because of their wounds. Within that 49 percent, 45 percent expired while being transported from their point of injury to a role 1 aid station. The remaining 4 percent expired while being transported from a role 1 to a role 2 aid station.
BCT leaders could have lowered the mortality rate if air medevac had been better utilized or ground evacuation distances were shortened. Because of the extended distances between the role 1 and role 2 aid stations, typically between 12 to 19 miles, the urgent patients who were not evacuated by air had a higher risk of dying from their wounds.
NINE KEY TASKS
In addition to the three big ideas, leaders identified that a BSB must master these nine tasks to support an R&S BCT:
• Sustain the BCT across a wide front under austere conditions with contested ground and air LOCs.
• Defend the BSA and BCT sustainment assets through fixed-site security and tactical convoy operations.
• Integrate rotary-wing aircraft and low-cost/low-altitude assets to facilitate tactical and operational distribution.
• Conduct tactical resupply with organic assets.
• Integrate combat sustainment support battalion (CSSB) enablers into BCT tactical distribution operations.
• Exercise both air and ground casualty evacuation and medevac procedures.
• Establish a role II medical facility that can provide patient holding and ancillary services.
• Maintain a logistics common operational picture (LOGCOP).
• Exercise logistics reporting standard operating procedures (SOP) that are accessible across the BCT area of operations and understood at all echelons.
SUSTAIN THE BCT WITH CONTESTED LOCs. During the battalion's initial planning and home-station training, leaders had decided to permanently deploy a FLE for the rotation. In the culminating home-station event prior to the rotation, the BSB determined that supply point distribution and throughput worked best for the SBCT.
FLE support was limited to phase III of the operation as the SBCT transitioned to a live-fire exercise. Considerations for when and where FLEs were emplaced included future operations, mission command, commodities and services, medical assets, requirements to maintain communications, operational boundaries, enemy artillery ranges, extended LOCs by time and distance, and security.
DEFEND THE BSA AND SUSTAINMENT ASSETS. Because of the extended LOCs and the threats that were overlooked by the reconnaissance task forces, the BSA had to be able to defend itself. Specifically, the BSB trained to defeat a level I threat (dismounted squad or less) and defend against a level II threat (mounted squad level/complex attack) through an emphasis on weapons qualification, battle drills, and integration of enablers.
During the rotation, the BSB jumped the BSA three times. At each jump, the defensive perimeter improved. During a live-fire exercise, the BSA successfully used M4 carbine rifles, crew-served weapons, claymores, and AT-4 anti-tank rifles to secure the perimeter against combat reconnaissance patrol vehicles, dismounted infantry squads, indirect fires, and non-persistent chemical attacks.
BSB force protection assets integrated with assets from the brigade engineer battalion to contribute to the security of the brigade rear area. Leaders rehearsed these efforts as part of the BCT sustainment rear area rehearsal and validated activities through the BSB's logistics synchronization matrix and the brigade engineer battalion's patrol synchronization matrix.
INTEGRATE AERIAL RESUPPLY. Early on, sustainment leaders realized that aerial resupply would mitigate the long LOCs. The 4th BSB integrated with its rotational aviation task force during home-station training and trained selected personnel in sling load and aerial resupply.
During reception, staging, onward movement and integration, the BCT planned to conduct air ring routes to provide subsistence and repair parts to supported units as well as to coordinate the return of Soldiers from the personnel holding area to their units. The BSB embedded liaison officers in the CSSB logistics support area to pull critical parts. Communications with the landing zone enabled the BSA to add personnel and parts quickly to the dedicated ring routes.
After a slow start during the rotation, the BSB gave the SPO air officer a manpack radio for direct coordination with aircraft, which had a positive impact on air execution. He was able to not only guide the aircraft into the landing zone within the BSA but also coordinate the follow-on flight with the pilots on the ground, which they then relayed back to the aviation control point. The BCT pushed 247 personnel and more than 25,000 pounds of cargo by air during the rotation.
CONDUCT TACTICAL RESUPPLY WITH ORGANIC ASSETS. The BSB concept of support relied heavily on daily resupply to ensure water, ice, and fuel requirements to the BCT were met. The distribution company conducted distribution operations at the BSA and the LRP.
During the rotation, the BSB issued 386,475 gallons of fuel and 323,800 gallons of water using internal assets. Operators demonstrated competence and expertise operating various vehicles. Soldiers conducted routine preventive maintenance checks and services on all of the fuel and water tankers. Using its organic fuel and water systems allowed the BSB to rapidly establish fuel distribution and storage capability at any time throughout operations.
INTEGRATE THE CSSB AND EXTERNAL ENABLERS. The 4th BSB and 68th CSSB are home-station sister battalions, and the BSB used that to its advantage during the rotation. The commanders established partnership early on in the planning stages of the R&S excursion and pursued options for integrating the CSSB logistics task force into the BSB during home-station training. This task force provided a third distribution platoon to the BSB, giving it additional flexibility on the battlefield.
In addition to working closely with the aviation task force for aerial resupply, the BSB SPO also integrated well with the brigade logistics support team chief, who leveraged support from Army Materiel Command logistics assistance representatives throughout the rotation.
EXERCISE MEDICAL AND CASUALTY EVACUATION. Additional ground medevac assets, designated casualty evacuation vehicles, and external support (an area support medical company or forward surgical team) are all needed to combat the extended distances that challenged the medical plan.
ESTABLISH ROLE II MEDICAL FACILITY. In conjunction with developing the medical and casualty evacuation plan, planners must consider several factors when determining the relocation of the role II forward element (which is normally in proximity to the FLE or a battalion role I aid station).
These considerations include the security assets required to conduct ambulance exchange points, the location of the BCT medical supply officer for class VIII (medical materiel) resupply, and Non-classified Internet Protocol Router Network connectivity to support use of the Defense Medical Logistics Standard Support Customer Assistance Module, Medical Communications for Combat Casualty Care, and Armed Forces Health Longitudinal Technology Application.
The BCT should also consider relocating the mortuary affairs collection point and the personnel holding area with the role II in order to synchronize casualty and personnel replacement operations.
MAINTAIN A LOGCOP. The BCT S-4 was responsible for the LOGCOP and produced it on the Command Post of the Future (CPOF) system. The LOGCOP contained on-hand classes of supply along with locations for key logistics nodes and supply routes.
The SPO used unit LOGSTAT reports to create an analog LOGCOP; a CPOF LOGCOP was available but was not used as frequently as the analog product. As a result, customers did not use the CPOF LOGCOP frequently enough for it to be a truly "common picture."
For future rotations, it is recommended that additional home-station training on the use of Joint Capabilities Release-Logistics (JCR-LOG) for LOGCOP development since it is a more distributed and accessible communications system across the BCT.
EXERCISE ACCESSIBLE AND UNDERSTOOD LOGISTICS REPORTING. LOGSTAT reporting requirements are outlined in the brigade SOP and were validated during virtual, live, and constructive home-station training. The majority of LOGSTATs received were from JCR-LOG.
A lesson learned is that LOGSTAT reports should be sent to both the BCT S-4 and SPO simultaneously for visibility. This allows the BCT S-4 to gain situational awareness and shared understanding and to consolidate the LOGSTATs for submission to the higher headquarters' G-4. This also allows the SPO to have near real-time data to analyze for resupply planning and to coordinate with echelons-above-brigade units for resupply.
RECOMMENDED TRAINING GLIDE PATH
The training glide path below is recommended for tactical sustainment battalions that are identified to provide support to an R&S BCT. While not all-inclusive, this path ensures small units are proficient prior to a training rotation or deployment. These training priorities include combat training center validations.
GATE 1: INDIVIDUAL TRAINING. BSBs must master the individual fundamentals of shoot, move, and communicate. Soldiers should qualify on all assigned individual and crew-served weapons within six months before an NTC rotation. Battalion and company master drivers should schedule monthly initial and refresher drivers' training. Also, monthly combat lifesaver training for Soldiers should be scheduled prior to their deployment.
GATE 2: OPERATING PROCEDURES DEVELOPMENT AND UPDATES. The BSB should have an iterative process for updating and validating its tactical command post SOP, tactical operations center SOP, and planning SOP prior to the rotation. Properly staffed and developed SOP will improve tactical operations for the BSB, particularly in the areas of BSA establishment and defense.
GATE 3: BCT SUSTAINMENT ACADEMY. The BSB should host a sustainment academy for sustainment platoon leaders, sustainment platoon sergeants, and select staff across the BCT. The academy should be a mix of classroom instruction and hands-on training for R&S-related sustainment tasks for leaders.
GATE 4: COMMUNICATIONS TRAINING. Operators should be trained to maximize the use of assigned communications gear to support stable communications over long distances. This should include using command maintenance to conduct radio preventive maintenance checks and services and troubleshooting, field expedient antenna construction, retrains operations, and tactical satellite capability. Soldiers must also be proficient on the use of JCR-LOG to share spot reports, graphics, and text.
GATE 5: INTEGRATION AND VALIDATION. BSBs should use live, constructive, and virtual training opportunities to validate tactical operations center setup prior to BCT collective training. It is recommended that companies use command maintenance to establish warm command posts in order to validate the communications backbone.
GATE 6: SQUAD AND PLATOON COLLECTIVE TRAINING. Sergeants' time training is a forum for facilitating squad and platoon collective training on a routine basis. Sergeants' time training should be conducted weekly in garrison so that sustainment sergeants dedicate five hours per week to training and certifying their Soldiers on individual tasks that support the mission-essential task list and commander's focus.
GATE 7: READINESS EXERCISES. BSB base companies should use higher headquarters-directed emergency deployment readiness exercises to conduct short-term collective training (24 to 72 hours) that assesses readiness.
GATE 8: CONVOY LIVE-FIRE EXERCISE. Prior to a combat training center rotation, convoy live-fire exercise should be conducted in order to certify BSB convoy protection platforms based on Tables III and IV in Training Circular 4-11.46, Sustainment Unit Gunnery and Live Fire Exercise Strategy. Engagement scenarios should focus on multiple forms of contact and include chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosives and casualty and medical evacuations.
GATE 9: BCT SITUATIONAL TRAINING EXERCISE LANES. During BCT collective training, the BSB should deploy and establish a BSA in order to provide sustainment. The scenario should replicate a contested rear-area fight that will stress convoy and fixed-site security.
A BSB supporting an R&S BCT requires a robust and well-resourced training plan prior to deployment in order to provide anticipatory and responsive sustainment. BSBs must be tactically proficient and focused on the key tasks that will allow sustainers to both support and defend. The lessons learned from the R&S excursion not only remind leaders of the fundamentals of battle-focused training but also provide insight into how sustainers can support farther forward on tomorrow's battlefield.
Lt. Col. Eric A. McCoy is a student at the Army War College. He was previously the commander of the 4th Brigade Support Battalion. He has a bachelor's degree from Morgan State University and master's degrees from Central Michigan University and Georgetown University. He is a graduate of the Army Command and General Staff College, the Combined Arms and Services Staff School, the Combined Logistics Captains Career Course, and the Ordnance Officer Basic Course.
This article is an Army Sustainment magazine product.