By Lt. Col. Mike Hammond and Command Sgt. Maj. Dion R. LightnerApril 1, 2019
Army Doctrine Reference Publication 3-0, Operations, defines decisive action as "the continuous, simultaneous combinations of offensive, defensive, and stability or defense support of civil authorities tasks." The tactical endurance of Army forces is directly related to sustainment tasks and systems that provide support and services to maneuver commanders to ensure freedom of action, extended operational reach, and prolonged endurance.
Sustainment determines the depth and duration of operations and is essential to retaining the initiative gained on the battlefield. Logistics and sustainment planners must consider creative solutions and use critical thinking to succeed on the distributed battlefield of the future.
Considering the principles of sustainment is essential to planning and executing tactical logistics. Synchronized sustainment and logistics operations at this level underwrite the maneuver commander's ability to maintain tempo and extend operational reach to seize the initiative gained on the battlefield.
BRIGADE COMBAT TEAMS AT NTC
The National Training Center (NTC) provides an austere environment, the best opposing force in the world, and a professional observer, coach, trainer team for brigade combat teams (BCTs) to conduct decisive action rotations. Accomplishing combined arms maneuver in such an austere environment against a "thinking" enemy force with its own planning cycle requires synchronized logistics from division sustainment assets, such as combat sustainment support battalions (CSSBs), to forward support company (FSC) combat trains that support the execution of tactical tasks as part of unified land operations.
Brigade support battalions (BSBs) and CSSBs face planning and execution challenges that cannot be replicated during home-station training. Planning against these battlefield realities is critical to underwriting the ability of the BCT to maneuver and to providing options for the commander to apply combat power.
Sustainment units at NTC must consider several factors when it comes to sustainment warfighting planning and execution.
THE TRIFECTA OF SUCCESSFUL SUSTAINMENT PLANNING. BCTs struggle to integrate the sustainment warfighting function into combined arms maneuver. The basis of this problem is a failure to develop the roles and responsibilities of the BCT executive officer, BSB commander, BCT S-4, and BSB support operations officer. The BSB commander must own the sustainment warfighting function and act as the chief and integrator of sustainment for the brigade commander.
The sustainment rehearsal is the venue from which to determine friction points in the scheme of maneuver. Undefined relationships between the BSB commander and FSC commanders result in further complications. Working relationships are key, and leadership is required during the execution of sustainment operations.
ECHELONING OF SUSTAINMENT NODES. BCTs struggle to understand the field trains command post (FTCP) and combat trains command post (CTCP) concepts. FTCPs in the brigade support area (BSA) typically lack the mission command capability to synchronize and integrate logistics to support the scheme of maneuver for their battalions.
CTCPs normally do not have the communications platforms to maintain situational awareness of the battle forward and to relay sustainment requirements to the FTCP. The location of the FSC commander, first sergeant, FSC executive officer, and battalion S-4 are critical to uninterrupted sustainment.
UNDERSTANDING DOCTRINAL TERMINOLOGY. Understanding BSB and CSSB doctrinal terminology is critical to achieving a viable concept of support. Commanders and BSB or CSSB planners routinely misuse terms such as logistics release point, logistics package, and forward logistics element.
Understanding these and other terms and how to apply them on the battlefield is the basis of synchronized logistics during BCT-level combined arms maneuver operations. BSB and CSSB leaders and planners must return to the doctrinal fundamentals of sustainment.
CONCEPT OF SUPPORT. Battalion-level leaders routinely fail to understand the tactical scheme of maneuver and, therefore, cannot develop a detailed concept of support. The concept of sustainment often lacks integration and synchronization with the maneuver plan. Planners rarely take time and space into consideration. BSBs and CSSBs consistently fail to conduct a proper military decision-making process (particularly wargaming) and operations process.
ANALOG AND DIGITAL STAFF AND TRACKING PRODUCTS. BSBs and CSSBs must focus on managing both analog tracking systems and logistics information systems. Logistics information systems will become irrelevant in a decisive action environment against a near-peer competitor with cyber capabilities. BSB and CSSB leaders and planners must still maintain visibility and situational awareness of sustainment assets when systems are jammed. Planners should disseminate analog products, overlays, and other logistics products after every orders briefing and sustainment rehearsal.
SUSTAINMENT REHEARSALS. Sustainment rehearsals rarely contain any substance or show that logistics planners understand the scheme of maneuver. In many cases, the audience is not composed of decision-makers and the rehearsal is just a back briefing of an expanded paragraph 4 of an operation order. Planners also fail to produce analog graphics and other products to increase situational awareness for maneuver units.
LOGISTICS ESTIMATES. Sustainment planners have difficulty developing a logistics estimate with an assessment of capabilities, specific analyses, sustainment requirements, and mitigation strategies. A failure to understand the meaning of tactical tasks further exacerbates this situation. Sustainment planners must realize that logistics estimates get Soldiers to the battle, and the proper use of logistics status reports supports the maneuver operation in that battle.
Logistics planners must determine requirements and translate unit capabilities into an assessment of current operational reach or endurance. Considerations must include how to maintain logistics reporting in an environment where the enemy can execute cyber capabilities against a friendly force.
COMMON OPERATIONAL PICTURES. Units continue to grapple with developing and maintaining a logistics common operational picture (LOGCOP). LOGCOPs must be both digital and analog in accordance with a unit PACE [primary, alternate, contingency, and emergency] communication plan. The proponent of the LOGCOP or medical common operational plan must maintain the accuracy of both to allow commanders to make decisions regarding maneuver and sustainment operations.
MAINTENANCE MANAGEMENT. Many units do not have pre-established brigade-level maintenance policies and procedures. Issues like controlled substitution, the flow of equipment maintenance and inspection worksheets, and authorized stockage list and shop stock list management are not developed and enforced.
The right audience of decision-makers, such as the battalion executive officer, maintenance technicians, leaders from Army field support brigades and battalions, logistics assistance representatives and field support representatives, and brigade and BSB staff members, must attend a weekly or sometimes daily maintenance meeting to apply brigade-led solutions to maintenance problems. The BSB commander must underwrite the brigade maintenance meetings and maintain visibility of the operational readiness rates of the brigade's equipment and fleet.
CASUALTY AND MEDICAL EVACUATION. Success in casualty evacuation and medevac planning efforts continues to elude BCTs and BSBs. These operations are successful only when BCT command sergeants major (CSMs) are the ramrod and battalion-level CSMs and first sergeants are involved in the planning, rehearsal, and execution of these important battlefield tasks.
BCT medical professionals and planners must apply time and space to their solutions and determine command and control responsibilities, an ambulance exchange point activation timeline, and the launch authorities for medevac aircraft.
AIR DELIVERY. Logistics planners do not consider the use of air assets as a method of distribution. BCTs remain ground-focused and rarely are allocated air assets for critical supply delivery. BCT staffs generally inhibit these operations by not planning for sustainment operations as part of the scheme of maneuver.
BSA DEFENSE. Sustainment operations and the requirement to defend the BSA challenge battalion commanders. Generally, BSB S-2s do not routinely engage the BCT S-2 section for route analysis and information on enemy movements in the rear area. The execution of tactical logistics operations directly affects the security posture of the BSA. Knowledge of the employment of weapons systems, interlocking fires, preparation of range cards, creation of company-level sector sketches, and engagement area development is severely lacking in BSB and CSSB formations.
THE FIRST HUNDRED YARDS. Many sustainment planners do not consider the challenges of providing sustainment during the first 36 hours of combined arms maneuver. The focus during this period is a transition to tactical assembly areas. Units shut down all systems in preparation for movement.
Sustainment planners do not consider echeloning sustainment onto the battlefield and therefore do not anticipate sustainment challenges within the first 24 to 36 hours of combined arms maneuver. The sustainment of the reconnaissance squadron, which typically moves out 24 hours prior, challenges planners and produces an overdependence on FSC capabilities. Skill sets related to sustainment on the move and the command and control required to accomplish this critical task are severely lacking in BSB and CSSB formations.
Planning and executing tactical sustainment and logistics while deployed to NTC challenges even the best logistics planners and commanders. The decisive action environment at NTC is no doubt as close to combat conditions as possible. CSSB and BSB commanders must balance operational risk in such an environment and develop nested sustainment decision points that support the BCT commander's decisions.
The planning considerations listed above will help BSB and CSSB commanders to hone their sustainment skills and strengthen their ability to sustain maneuver forces on the battlefield of the future.
Lt. Col. Mike Hammond is Goldminer 07, the senior sustainment trainer, NTC Operations Group, at Fort Irwin, California. He is a graduate of the School of Advanced Military Studies.
Command Sgt. Maj. Dion R. Lightner is Goldminer 40, the senior sustainment CSM observer, coach, trainer of the NTC Operations Group. He is a graduate of the Sergeants Major Academy.
This article was published in the April-June 2019 issue of Army Sustainment.