By Maj. Richard ReevesJune 5, 2018
Army sustainment officers and noncommissioned officers who are newly assigned to a sustainment brigade staff have likely spent most of their careers in companies or battalions. Often they are unaware of the processes and procedures they must undertake to successfully accomplish their brigade-level missions.
This article is intended to help sustainment brigade staffs understand and accomplish their missions. These suggestions are based on my observations both as a member of a sustainment brigade staff and as a sustainment observer-coach/trainer in the Mission Command Training Program (MCTP) at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
THE SUSTAINMENT BRIGADE'S CRITICAL PATH
According to Army Techniques Publication (ATP) 4-93, Sustainment Brigade, the sustainment brigade provides support and services to enable operational reach, ensure freedom of action, and prolong endurance for Army forces. So how does the sustainment brigade staff accomplish these monumental tasks? The sustainment brigade's critical path consists of several meetings that the staff must conduct during its daily operations process battle rhythm. These meeting culminate with the production of an operation order. When sequenced properly, these meetings enable the staff to conduct the mission command tasks to plan, prepare, execute, and assess.
The sustainment brigade staff's critical path consists of four meetings that include working groups and boards. (See figure 1.) They include the support operations section (SPO) logistics synchronization (LOG SYNCH) working group, the SPO movement board, the SPO distribution management board (DMB), and the S-3 operations synchronization (OPS SYNCH) board. Together these meetings help the commander understand, visualize, describe, direct, lead, and assess the unit's mission.
The SPO is responsible for the first three critical path meetings. The SPO distribution integration branch (DIB) conducts two of them, and the SPO transportation operations branch (TOB) conducts the other one. All three SPO-led meetings focus on distribution management. The SPO builds the agendas based on the commander's intent, unit priorities, supply priorities, and movement priorities.
THE LOG SYNCH WORKING GROUP
Because the DIB is responsible for the sustainment brigade's future operations integration cell, it oversees sustainment planning in the 72- to 96-hour planning horizon. During this working group, the DIB consolidates distribution requirements from all SPO commodity managers and creates a draft distribution course of action that describes how sustainment will flow from the sustainment brigade to supported units. The DIB builds the plan in concurrence with supply and unit priorities.
There are two parts to the working group's agenda. First, the group assesses previous plans in the 24- to 72-hour time frame and makes adjustments if necessary. It then extends the plans for the next 72- to 96-hour window.
THE MOVEMENT BOARD
The SPO's TOB takes the lead for the second meeting in the sustainment critical path. The TOB determines the current capacity of the supply chain to deliver sustainment over the next 96 hours.
The movement board does not directly link its decisions with the DIB's distribution plan. Rather, it balances available transportation capabilities with the commander's movement priorities. The TOB provides its decisions to the DIB as an input to the DIB's second critical meeting, the DMB. When the operational environment necessitates a compression of the sustainment brigade staff's critical path, one option is to combine the LOG SYNCH working group with the movement board.
The SPO marries the requirements of the draft distribution course of action with the TOB's movement plan during the DMB. Like the LOG SYNCH working group, the DMB agenda has two parts. First, the board assesses and adjusts preplanned convoy movements for the 24- to 48-hour time frame. Then it prepares new convoy movements for the 72- to 96-hour time frame.
Upon the board's conclusion, the DIB produces a draft fragmentary order (FRAGORD) and passes it to the current operations (CUOPS) section. The DIB also submits the new movement requests to the division transportation officer (DTO) for the next 72- to 96-hour time frame. The requests become inputs for the division's daily movement board. The DIB often uses a movement control team to submit these requests to the DTO.
THE OPS SYNCH BOARD
The critical path's final meeting is the CUOPS OPS SYNCH board--arguably the most important event in the sustainment brigade's critical path. The S-3 conducts the meeting and incorporates the DIB's distribution plan, the DTO's movement credits and march tables, and input from the other warfighting functions into a shared CUOPS common operational picture. If the S-3 determines that current conditions allow for the SPO's 24-hour distribution plan to go forward, the S-3 produces a FRAGORD. (See figure 2.) The FRAGORD can also contain a warning order for convoys that will tentatively depart in 48 hours.
The DIB has a role in current operations as well as future operations. The DIB typically places personnel in the S-3's current operations integration cell (COIC) where they serve as the link between the SPO and the S-3. The DIB monitors current operations in the COIC and determines implications for its mid-range planning horizon.
When the S-3 produces the FRAGORD, the operation process of the sustainment brigade staff has completed a full revolution, and it is ready to start again. The critical path that the headquarters follows is a highly effective staff battle rhythm. The path is anticipatory. It meets the commander's intent, and it heeds unit priorities, supply priorities, and movement priorities.
The critical path described here is flexible, allows for multiple modifications along the way, and it even allows for the staff to combine meetings should the common operational environment dictate it. Together, the support operations officer and the S-3 can rest assured that the daily FRAGORD meets the commander's intent of providing support and services to enable operational reach, ensure freedom of action, and prolong endurance.
Maj. Richard Reeves is a sustainment observer-coach/trainer in the Mission Command Training Program's Operations Group Sierra. He has a bachelor's degree in history from California State University at Humboldt and a master's degree in history from Brigham Young University. He is a graduate of the Theater Sustainment Planners Course and the Command and General Staff Officers' Course.
This article is an Army Sustainment magazine product.