By Maj. Everett HenryJuly 24, 2018
The Army Materiel Command's (AMC's) brigade logistics support teams (BLSTs) are deployable, table of distribution and allowances organizations made up of both military and Department of the Army civilian employees. It operates in direct support of a designated brigade-level unit while providing limited general support to other units on an area basis.
The BLST consists of the BLST chief, the logistics management specialist (LMS), and a complement of logistics assistance representatives (LARs) from the life cycle management commands (LCMCs). BLSTs are normally assigned as direct support to brigade combat teams (BCTs) and combat aviation brigades. The BLST also provides general support to Army units such as separate brigades and battalions, echelons-above-brigade units, and direct reporting units.
The BLST chief, a major, is AMC's advisor to the BCT commander. The chief facilitates all AMC support and related acquisition, logistics, and technology support in conjunction with the BCT, combat aviation brigade, or special operations forces commander and staff. The BLST chief synchronizes day-to-day activities through the BCT's brigade support battalion (BSB) support operations section. A BLST is designated to deploy with its direct support brigade and is attached to an Army field support battalion (AFSBn), which provides life support, logistics, facilities, and security in conjunction with the supported brigade.
The LMS, also known as the Army Sustainment Command (ASC) readiness LAR, is a Department of the Army civilian representative assigned to the logistics assistance program carried out under the auspices of ASC. The LMS oversees supported unit equipment readiness, disseminates logistics assistance program-related trends, and provides analysis, reporting, and improvement implementation.
The LMS is an advisor to the AFSBn commander on equipment readiness issues and trends that affect national-level provider resources. The LMS provides training as required to unit-level readiness personnel on logistics information systems. The LMS serves in the capacity of the BLST chief in his or her absence. The LMS also deploys with the BLST chief to support BCTs in forward-deployed environments. The synchronization and working relationship between the BLST chief and LMS are paramount.
The LARs of the four LCMCs are assigned to AMC and are under the operational control of the AFSBn. LARs take an active role in educating and training Soldiers and may perform hands-on maintenance training to resolve unique readiness situations or to effect substantial cost savings, subject to the approval of the appropriate LCMC. Working together, each member of the team is critical to leveraging the AMC enterprise to set conditions for success at the tactical point of need.
The BLST's role of supporting a BCT or non-divisional unit is a unique leadership challenge. In this role, the BLST has the opportunity to exercise and hone its abilities to positively influence materiel readiness outside of the direct chain of command.
First, the BLST must integrate with the supported organization. The BLST is an outside entity, so BLST leaders must develop relationships and earn the trust of the supported organization's key leaders to influence sustainment operations and improve materiel readiness. The BLST identifies sustainment functions, challenges, or training deficiencies and offers recommendations to address those deficiencies to improve the unit's readiness.
Second, operational tempo and competing organizational requirements present challenges in obtaining and sustaining technical proficiency. A unique opportunity that the BLST chief can leverage is working in an integrated capacity within the BSB support operations section or BCT S-4 to become more in tune with supported unit's battle rhythm events and materiel readiness priorities.
The BLST can help facilitate knowledge management and information-sharing. The BLST's attendance at BCT maintenance meetings and other readiness forums gives it the opportunity to identify gaps in training and information within the supported organizations. The BLST can take this information and develop recommendations for the BCT.
With high personnel turnover in the Army today, continuity is lacking, so newer personnel continually have to learn from scratch with no reference documents. The supporting BLST and AFSBn can be leveraged for back-up materiel readiness continuity when key leaders responsible for materiel readiness are switched out annually.
BLSTs AT COMBAT TRAINING CENTERS
BLST support to combat training center (CTC) rotations is continually evolving. The overall concept of support is generally the same. The differences that affect the BLST concept of support are geography, weather, and battlefield geometry (array of forces and scheme of maneuver).
The BLST will project forward in most cases with or ahead of the torch party or advance echelons to the CTC location to establish mission command of its LCMC elements and synchronize support efforts with the local logistics support team that is assigned to the installation.
The logistics support team serves in the simulated capacity of an AFSBn in a forward-deployed environment. The BLST integrates with the BCT as personnel and equipment arrive to track combat power and identify and assist in the development of critical equipment requirements and slants. The BLST leverages the logistics support team for sustainment resources and coordination support as necessary to support the BCT during reception, staging, onward movement, and integration.
During a recent Joint Readiness Center Rotation, the BLST chief embedded with the BSB support operations section. It was identified during the rotational after action reviews that the BCT S-4 section would be a potentially better location to because of proximity to the sustainment planning information center of gravity.
Within the rotation, the BLST could assist with future operations sustainment planning to leverage AMC enterprise resources more effectively. The BLST's LMS and LCMC LARs can assist in executing supply requisition and equipment technical assistance.
The BLST's work begins long before arrival at a CTC with the receipt of the deployment order. The BLST team must synchronize efforts among the BCT's mission planning, training schedule, and sustainment enterprise key players to ensure the conditions for success are set. The BLST must master the concept of on-time logistics by leveraging the right AMC assets at the right place and time.
THE GCSS-ARMY CRUCIBLE
The Global Combat Support System-Army (GCSS-Army) is now the system of record for materiel readiness and supply accountability. Leaders have to change their thinking about maintenance management and supply accountability. The process to conduct maintenance management and supply accountability has not changed. But the new terminology and the way information is accessed and processed in this new system needs to be learned and understood at all levels.
Readiness data overload is the blessing and curse that comes with GCSS-Army. The challenge is to derive the key information points from the data that leaders require to make informed decisions. A sustainment implied task must be specified in order to determine the right frequency and format for the data to provide a common operational picture for leaders.
GCSS-Army places an enormous responsibility on managers and lower enlisted personnel to update data and maintain its accuracy. Time invested in training readiness proficiency tasks will save time and lives later when it counts. Monthly training plans should include tasks from command deployment discipline, command maintenance discipline, and command supply discipline checklists to prevent mission or deployment choke points.
The BLST chief concept has been rescinded by the ASC Futures initiative to streamline and integrate the AFSBn and logistics readiness centers on divisional installations into AMC's true single face to the field. The BLST is somewhat a victim of its own success. The mastery of the supply chain has led the BLST to be labeled as a "glorified parts chaser." On the contrary, the BLST experience goes far beyond supply chain management. The BLST is integrated into the BCT's daily plans, operations, mission readiness exercises, concepts of support, transportation, and sustainment plans. It leverages the AMC enterprise from the foxhole to the depot to the point of need.
Calling the BLST a glorified parts chaser is like calling AMC a "super supply room." The BLST is so much more than a method to obtain supplies. On power projection installations, it is normal for the BLST to assist a BCT with unit equipment listings, sustainment operations, work schedules, suspenses, statements of work, quality assurance, overage repairable items lists, and test measurement and diagnostic equipment.
Reducing the BLST to a single civilian LMS will vastly affect the ability of the AFSBn to stay engaged and sustain customer support. This new concept without personnel augmentation will reduce the AFSBn's ability to gain situational awareness of training and operations at the tactical and operational levels and provide that information to AMC.
The AFSBn table of distribution and allowances and mission command relationship will also change to become integrated and directly responsible for the divisional logistics readiness center within its area of responsibility. Rescinding the BLST chief position will preclude future ASC officers from having the opportunity to experience and gain knowledge of the entire AMC enterprise.
Maj. Everett Henry served as a BLST chief in support of the 82nd Airborne Division and XVIII Airborne Corps separate units. He has a bachelor's degree in computer science from North Carolina A&T State University. He is a graduate of the Infantry Officer Basic Course, the Mechanized Infantry Leaders Course, Airborne School, the Combined Logistics Captains Career Course, and the Command and General Staff College.
This article is an Army Sustainment magazine product.