Combat configured loads are the most efficient type of ammunition load

By Capt. Evelina N. Taylor and 1st Lt. Paul J. RyckmanMarch 26, 2019

Units with an operational plan need to react quickly to a call to action with little or no notice. Units assigned to the Korean peninsula to assist the Republic of Korea must be able to effectively shoot, move, and communicate when called upon. For this reason, using combat configured loads (CCLs), one of the six doctrinal ammunition load types, is imperative to reducing the overall preparation time of any such unit. One of the lessons learned from missions on the peninsula is that proper storage and an effective CCL, more so than all other types of loads, can preserve precious time that can mean the difference between defeat and victory on the battlefield.

Ammunition loads come in six different types based on use and purpose. According to Army Techniques Publication (ATP) 4-35, Munitions Operations and Distribution Techniques, "Ammunition loads include basic, combat, sustainment, operational, combat configured loads and mission configured loads."

Optimally, a unit's entire ammunition load would be on hand to minimize time and effort. This is the fundamental definition of a basic load, but this method forces Soldiers to carry their individual loads at all times, potentially preventing the heavy hitters of the battalion from using their most casualty-producing weapons early in the fight. Since a unit similar to a brigade engineer battalion (BEB) requires a lot more than just the small arms that one person can carry, including larger caliber rounds such as tube-launched, optically tracked, wire-guided missiles and M58 mine clearing line charges, only using a basic load method for storage or carrying is unrealistic and troublesome.

Can a regular combat load be more efficient than a CCL, and are they not one and the same? According to ATP 4-35, A regular "combat load is the standard quantity and type of munitions an individual weapon, crew-served weapon or a weapons platform and its modified table of organization and equipment [MTOE]-designated munitions carriers are designed to hold." In other words, ammunition in this type of configuration sits in groups based on platform and weapon type by the current MTOE.

Using a regular combat load would still be very inefficient for units like those in Korea that require an allocation of MTOE ammunition for other sister companies not organically attached to a battalion. For example, a full military police company and a brigade headquarters company are attached to the BEB for the purpose of mission execution, which unfortunately is not the usual task organization of the unit. Depending on the unit's makeup, this configuration and allocation can cause additional issues that lead to less ammunition for other units in need.

To test the efficiency of regular combat loads over a CCL, E Company, 10th BEB, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, took advantage of a recent rotation to the Republic of Korea to test the concept of CCLs. The unit strove to create "a mixed ammunition package designed to provide for the complete round concept, type of unit, type of vehicle, capacity of transporter, and weapons system," the manner in which ATP 4-35 describes a CCL.

In the end, the unit shaped each company in the BEB to have their essential ammunition placed in the last two magazines of the assigned ammunition holding area. Drawing ammunition for the unit in a CCL proved to be much faster. Soldiers improved their turnaround time from about 26 hours to around 18 hours for a full execution. Designated ammunition maps of the CCLs helped to segregate each company and ensure organization within the chaos.

The last three configuration methods (sustainment, operational, and mission configured loads) are better for shorter operations and can be issued faster than ammunition in a CCL. Sustainment loads concentrate on supply to initiate operations, while operational loads support day-to-day operations but cannot sustain a unit that is transitioning between offensive and defensive operations.

The only other method that could possibly match up with a CCL is a mission configured load, which consists of an ammunition load "configured to support specific mission requirements across task forces or organizations" but only covers one specific mission type--offensive or defensive situations, not both. The operational environment and unit type will dictate what each package looks like, but if units tailor essentially any load based on a more realistic picture of the unit, available internal and external assets, and mission essential platforms, upload times will drop significantly, no matter the circumstance.


Capt. Evelina N. Taylor is the commander of E Company, 10th BEB. She is a graduate of Florida State University and the Logistics Captains Career Course.

First Lt. Paul J. Ryckman serves as the distribution platoon leader in E Forward Support Company supporting the 10th Engineer Battalion, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. He has a bachelor's degree in clinical psychology from Houghton College and is currently working on his master's degree in business management with a focus in finance through Liberty University.


This is an Army Sustainment product.

Related Links:

Browse Army Sustainment