By Maj. Joseph D. Henderson and Capt. Jessica L. GeorgeJanuary 2, 2019
Sun Tzu once said, "The line between disorder and order lies in logistics." Nothing better illustrates this than the depletion of a crucial commodity. Armies can press only so far without secondary and tertiary combat configured loads, and even those pools are subject to drought without higher echelon support from sustainment brigades and their combat sustainment support battalions (CSSBs).
The Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) at Fort Polk, Louisiana, is one of the Army combat training centers where brigade combat teams (BCTs) have the opportunity to train in a tough, complex, and realistic environment. Historically, a CSSB deploys to JRTC to enable critical sustainment support for the rotational training unit (RTU). But in October of 2017, the 189th CSSB deployed to JRTC as a member of the RTU.
Lessons learned in 2017 led to the 82nd Airborne Division Sustainment Brigade (ADSB) staff serving as a higher command element for the 189th CSSB and managing echelons-above-brigade sustainment operations during JRTC Rotation 18-06 in March 2018.
Although this construct remains in its infancy, the initial feedback from the 189th CSSB and JRTC observer, coach, trainers (OCTs) from the JRTC Operations Group is positive. Areas remain for future sustainment brigade involvement, and the operational design requires further refinement to enhance the training experience for the CSSB and build proficiency for the sustainment brigade staff.
SERVING AS A HIGHER COMMAND
Establishing the sustainment brigade as a higher command echelon allowed for a more robust rotational design, which equated to a more realistic and complex training environment that fully stressed the systems of the RTU CSSB.
Establishing a sustainment brigade tactical operations center exercised mission command systems through day-to-day operations without committing additional resources to the already taxed JRTC joint operations center. The results were a tactically focused CSSB that fully executed echelons-above-brigade sustainment operations for its supported BCT.
A key task the 82nd ADSB codified late in its rotation was incorporating the sustainment brigade into the rotational planning process through Leader Training Program and D-90 planning conference attendance. The brigade also determined that developing a defined framework for the sustainment brigade that clearly articulates the roles and responsibilities for sustainment elements at echelon is essential for the overall success of the sustainment brigade and the supporting CSSB.
ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES
During JRTC Rotation 18-06, learning and defining the roles and responsibilities throughout the JRTC sustainment community consumed valuable time and created unnecessary distractions for the CSSB.
One example is how the 82nd ADSB allocated personnel from the brigade staff in support of garrison operations and external support by providing personnel in support of the JRTC sustainment operations center (SOC). These positions were organic to the sustainment brigade support operations (SPO) section, and the loss of these personnel stretched the 82nd ADSB's operations and caused friction through duplicated effort until the sustainment brigade arranged for the SOC to act as a notional expeditionary sustainment command (ESC) and fulfill essential external support requirements.
Selected SOC personnel worked closely with contractors to schedule required commodity resupply to the RTU CSSB. In future JRTC rotations, the SOC will function as an ESC, allowing sustainment brigades to train on established training objectives and mission essential tasks.
Using the 82nd ADSB Special Troops Battalion (STB) as an intermediate staging base mayor cell permitted the 189th CSSB to deploy into the contested joint operations area for the first time. That created an environment in which the CSSB focused solely on its tactical sustainment mission.
By later establishing the notional 120th CSSB, which consisted of STB personnel and JRTC contractors, the sustainment brigade was able to relieve the 189th CSSB of all administrative roles. This ensured the 189th CSSB remained postured to support the RTU by giving it the opportunity to exercise logistics release point resupply.
The 120th CSSB assisted significantly as a force multiplier by pushing critical commodities into the box while the 189th CSSB was engaged in defensive operations. The battlefield geometry caused multiple displacements of forward logistics elements and logistics support areas, which created prolonged periods of intermittent communication between the sustainment brigade and the CSSB.
MULTI-DOMAIN BATTLE CHALLENGES
On the ground, the Multi-Domain Battle environment stretched the 189th CSSB's ability to conduct expeditionary sustainment. In this setting, the CSSB faced the challenges of balancing force protection and sustainment while encountering numerous level II threats from platoon-sized or greater dismounted enemy forces.
The maneuver enhancement brigade assigned in the training scenario was notional, and the enemy's interdiction of sustainment forces was constant, undermining the effects a fully postured maneuver enhancement brigade can offer. The RTU had not task-organized organic protection assets to include the CSSB as a vulnerable asset or shaping efforts to ensure CSSB survivability.
In the future, presenting the CSSB's protection capabilities and requirements to the BCT's SOC and the JRTC SOC and ESC will improve critical lines of communication. That will also empower the CSSB to establish its own lines of communication with the BCT's brigade support battalion through direct liaison authority.
Incorporating a sustainment brigade into the JRTC rotational design is a positive, effective combat multiplier that must be replicated in future rotations. The 82nd ADSB's rotation to JRTC has increased self-awareness and shown the staff where it is strong and where it can improve to better prepare its staff and paratroopers to meet Global Response Force requirements.
These lessons learned will shape and refine the brigade's operating procedures, and building upon the intensity of training at JRTC, the 82nd ADSB "Providers" will seek innovative ways hone their craft to ensure they are always in step with their division and ready to fight tonight.
Maj. Joseph D. Henderson is the S-3 of the 82nd ADSB. He holds a master's degree from the University of Washington in transportation management and supply. He is graduate of the Command and General Staff College, Division Transportation Officer Course, Support Operations Officer Course, Unit Movement Officer Course, Joint Operations Planning and Execution System Course, and Airlift Planners Course.
Capt. Jessica L. George is the operations officer in the SPO supply and services section, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Special Troops Battalion, 82nd ADSB, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. She holds a bachelor's degree in English composition from Central Michigan University and is a graduate of the Logistics Captains Career Course, Ordnance Basic Officer Leader Course, Unit Movement Officer Course, and Air Movement Officer Course.
All 82nd ADSB staff sections contributed to this article.
This article was published in the January-March 2019 issue of Army Sustainment.