By Lt. Col. Charles L. MontgomeryApril 1, 2019
The 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team (ABCT), 1st Armored Division, from Fort Bliss, Texas, is the sixth rotational brigade supporting the 2nd Infantry Division in the Republic of Korea. Unlike any other ABCT within the last thirteen years of operational deployments, the 3rd ABCT deployed its supply support activity (SSA) common authorized stockage list (CASL) to Korea as part of the operation. The task was monumental, but the experience gave the 3rd ABCT a valuable opportunity to train a skill that has atrophied.
The 3rd ABCT operates a multiclass SSA that contains 4,264 lines supporting seven battalions consisting of more than 4,000 Soldiers and nearly 2,000 pieces of rolling stock equipment. The central idea of combat preparation, at echelon, is to train as the unit will fight. Doing so creates a realistic mental paradigm that allows Soldiers to apply training lessons learned to combat operations.
Brigade combat teams (BCTs) must deploy their SSAs during home-station field training, combat training center rotations, and forward deployments in order to exercise the full scope of the organization. This will pay enormous dividends when called to operate in austere environments without modern infrastructure.
The Department of the Army contributed significant financial resources of approximately $100 million to ensure each BCT is equipped with a CASL to increase readiness. The rationale for standardizing BCT SSAs falls into two lines of logic. First, standardization increases readiness for worldwide operational deployments. ABCTs can immediately tap into any SSA's CASL, regardless of location, and receive parts that enable operational endurance without experiencing drastic differences in on hand stocks.
The CASL is packaged to remain mobile in combat environments and designed to sustain an ABCT for 25 to 30 days. Organizations can offset any differences with a shop stock list (SSL) designed to sustain their unit for an additional 15 days. Demand-supported (ZV line) items in the Global Combat Support System-Army (GCSS-Army) represent 90 percent of the SSL. The battalion commander has the discretion to keep the final 10 percent of items labeled as command-supported (ZM line) items in GCSS-Army.
Demand supported and command supported lines are updated every 30 days in GCSS-Army. The SSL is validated based on demand analysis conducted at the sustainment brigade. Foundationally, the SSL provides one third of materiel requirements, the SSA provides the second third, and strategic sustainment echelons provide the final third to sustain armored formations.
Second, SSA standardization eliminates individual technicians' interpretations of items to stock. Historical consumption analysis served a significant role in CASL development. The Combined Arms Support Command (CASCOM), in conjunction with the Army Materiel Command (AMC), conducted a comprehensive look into supplies consumed at high rates. This research identified roughly 4,268 CASL line items to stock across ABCT formations. Variances in stocked lines are based on unique equipment fieldings that require additional lines for sustainment.
The 3rd ABCT initiated CASL conversion in April 2017 and completed the transition in September 2018. The conversion increased the brigade's ASL from 2,884 line items to 4,264.
The increase of 1,380 lines is significant and requires the organization to use additional resources, to include space, mobility, and manpower, to support the pace and tempo of the ABCT.
MOBILITY AND DEPLOYABILITY
The CASL structure consists of 18 BOH Environmental, LLC, field pack-up (FPU) containers and 35 container roll-in/out platforms (CROPs). In accordance with the CASL planograph, smaller items are stored in FPU containers alongside sensitive items. CROPs are designed to store bulk items; ultimately, CROPs are placed inside 20-foot equivalent unit containers for immediate transport.
In order to move the SSA in one lift, the distribution company requires 27 palletized load systems (PLSs), load handling systems (LHSs), or a combination of the two. Currently, the SSA is authorized 12 systems, leaving a shortfall of 15 vehicles. CASL implementation increased the total number of stocked lines by 1,380. For perspective, an infantry BCT SSA maintains 2,243 lines and a Stryker BCT maintains 3,327 lines.
CASL implementation in ABCTs increased stockage levels by 48 percent, drastically increasing the number of required transportation assets needed to ensure complete mobility. Therefore, until the mobility gap is closed, moving ABCT SSAs in one lift is problematic. This mobility gap forces brigade commanders and brigade support battalion (BSB) commanders to accept tactical risks on supply movement priorities during the initial attack until the sustainment brigade is postured to transport additional assets forward in the area of operations.
The 3rd ABCT developed three courses of action (COAs) based on 552 usable pallet spaces. (These are the spaces available once the ABCT deducts transportation for LHS compatible water tank racks and modular fuel systems from tactical movement plans.) Based on the CASL package, it takes 432 pallet spaces to move the SSA in one lift.
The first COA was to move the entire SSA and dedicate the remaining 120 pallet spaces for moving days of supply (DOS). The focus of the second COA was DOS movement; it dedicated 465 pallets to moving supplies and the final 87 pallet positions to SSA and other BCT movement requirements.
The third COA took a percentage of the SSA, DOS, and key BCT movement requirements to maximize the transportation assets required to extend operational reach. Sustainment leaders identified maintenance significant parts, in accordance with Logistics Support Activity guidance, in order to streamline CASL movement priority. The 3rd ABCT has 2,784 lines containing maintenance significant parts, which, combined with each battalion's SSL, allowed the BCT to sustain operations for a maximum of 30 days (from a maintenance perspective).
The remaining 1,744 lines will move forward at a later date based on the BCT's movement priority. This COA allows the BSB an opportunity to support the fight and provide operational endurance until the full complement of sustainment assets are positioned forward at the brigade support area.
Readiness ensures units are capable of executing their assigned missions. The implementation of CASL represents a substantial investment in increasing and maintaining readiness across the Army. Although CASL implementation is in the early phases, there are key indicators that suggest it will achieve its intended purpose over time. BCTs face three challenges to CASL implementation: planograph analysis, mobility constraints, and additional storage requirements.
PLANOGRAPH ANALYSIS. The CASL planograph serves as the systematic guide to properly store and account for CASL items. Deviation from the planograph is not recommended; however, CASCOM provides sourcing solutions when units encounter situations affecting item placement.
The key friction point during this process is when parts do not fit into the identified space as directed by the planograph. The planograph is primarily dimension-based, and different vendors package and ship items in a variety of methods that alter space requirements.
The national stock number or manufacturer label should be visible to expedite the retrieval of parts during the verification process; this is not always the case since item packaging is not standardized. If the packaging does not fit into the prescribed location, CASCOM will provide sourcing solutions to accountable officers.
MOBILITY CONSTRAINTS. The extra 1,380 lines increased mobility requirements. The SSA's modified table of organization and equipment authorizes 12 PLS or LHS systems; however, the SSA requires 27 systems to move the CASL. The difference of 15 systems places the brigade in a peculiar position because of the distribution company's requirements to move three DOS in order to ensure operational endurance.
ADDITIONAL STORAGE REQUIREMENTS. Space is an issue complicated by facility management, which may take years to rectify. The Army standard for SSA facility implementation is described in an April 14, 2009, memorandum of record that originated from the Army's Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management. The memorandum states that SSA facilities composed of a warehouse facility will not exceed 20,640 gross square feet. This design is consistent with military construction projects for fiscal year 2012 and beyond. The decision to implement CASL was made five years later, and its additional space requirements were not accounted for.
CASL has improved efficiencies in the area of configuration, and mobility will follow once additional transportation assets are fielded. CASCOM and AMC placed tremendous effort into detailing the precise location of each stored part.
The FPU configuration decreases blocking and bracing requirements during transport, which makes movement less of a hassle. Mobility has improved in that the package is quicker to load and displace as the mission requires.
Storing the CASL in 18 FPU containers and 35 CROPs eliminates the requirement to maintain additional containers. Historically, SSA accountable officers were plagued with additional containers that accumulated over time. Based on CASL configuration, the package represents the only requirement for containers, thus relieving SSAs of the burden to maintain unnecessary seaworthy containers during home-station operations.
The implementation of CASL has improved the 3rd ABCT's ability to maintain readiness. Careful consideration and resource solutions for the identified CASL challenges would enhance the overall efficiency and productivity of SSA operations.
The goal of the 3rd ABCT is to remain 100 percent mobile, and the CASL configuration has fundamentally increased mobility. However, until the appropriate transportation assets are issued to close the gap, ABCT formations will not be 100 percent mobile.
CASL effectiveness is based on expert logistics analysis from senior sustainment echelons, inclusions of lessons learned from SSA leaders and Soldiers fielded the CASL, and technological advancements designed to make SSA operations more efficient.
BSB commanders, with guidance from brigade commanders, must continue to conduct in-depth analysis on every individual pallet space to determine the correct supply loads to transport. Information from this analysis provides brigade commanders with opportunities to increase operational reach during initial operational phases.
From an area support perspective, CASL provides ABCT formations the capability to reach across vast distances with confidence in item availability. Units can conduct physical walkups or execute ZDIRECTs to transfer repair parts from one SSA to another SSA, immediately improving readiness.
AMC has clearly advanced the goal of holistically increasing readiness. CASL execution is still in the early phases, but clear signs indicate the implementation will have a significant impact on maintaining readiness at a high level.
Lt. Col. Charles L. Montgomery is the commander of the 123rd BSB, 3rd ABCT, 1st Armored Division, located at Fort Bliss, Texas. He holds a master's degree in operational art and science from the School of Advanced Military Studies. He is a graduate of the Pathfinder, Airborne, Joint Planners, and Joint Firepower courses.
This article was published in the April-June 2019 issue of Army Sustainment.