By Lt. Col. Gerard M. Acosta, Lt. Col. Mike Hagerty, and Maj. Sean HollarsJuly 18, 2019
As Army divisions prepare to conduct operations in complex, changing, and uncertain environments, effective mission command throughout the battlefield is critical. Because the doctrinal framework to execute mission command in the consolidation and support areas is nascent, the 3rd Infantry
Division (ID) developed and tested a construct designed to fulfill this need.
Over the course of three command post exercises (CPXs) and an externally evaluated division warfighter exercise (WFX), the structure, manning, processes, and integration with other mission command nodes evolved and eventually fulfilled the commanding general's mission command requirements. The 3rd ID's concept is outlined in this article in order to assist other organizations in developing and implementing a support area command post (SACP).
PREPARATION FOR CONVENTIONAL CONFLICT
When the 3rd ID's headquarters redeployed from Afghanistan in 2018, the division commander directed his leaders to transition their mindset from a counterinsurgency-centric operational approach to that of a conventional operational environment. The commander's challenge to the staff was to develop an operational framework focused on how the division would fight against a near-peer threat.
During initial mission analysis, it was unclear how the division would manage the consolidation and support area. The initial problem set was to develop the SACP framework, while meeting the commander's intent to generate combat power, sustain the fight, and consolidate the gains made in the deep and close fight.
The division commander established the SACP's foundation by establishing its parameters. He stated that the SACP had to retain its strategic and tactical mobility; it could not be so large or cumbersome that it would become unable to move and survive. And, as a divisional mission command node, the SACP needed to integrate all of the warfighting functions (WfF) and produce a rapid support area mission decision cycle in order to sustain momentum.
Before WFX 19-02, the corps and division headquarters used the SACP as an extension of the sustainment or protection mission command node functions in the corps and division support area. During WFX 19-02, 3rd ID expanded the SACP's mission command responsibilities to assume the command and control of combat operations in the consolidation area. This provided flexibility to lead the division to seize the initiative and dominate during large-scale combat operations.
The Army has not created a manning and organization standard for the SACP, but it has doctrinally defined the consolidation and support areas in which the SACP operates. Army Doctrine Reference Publication 3-0, Operations, defines the support area as, "The portion of the commander's area of operations that is designated to facilitate the position, employment, and protection of base sustainment assets required to sustain, enable, and control operations."
The publication defines the consolidation area as the "portion of the commander's area of operations [AO] that is designated to facilitate the security and stability tasks necessary for freedom of action in the close area and to support the continuous consolidation of gains."
Field manual (FM) 3-0, Operations, reinforces the idea that corps and division commanders have the authority to establish consolidation areas to enable exploitation in the close fight. According to FM 3-0, a combined arms unit must control the consolidation area, conduct security and stability tasks, and be capable of employing and clearing fires.
According to the Center for Army Lessons Learned Handbook, Mission Command in the Division and Corps Support Area, due to a lack of resourcing, manning, and organization by the Army, divisions have used organic personnel and equipment to create a SACP capable of managing the consolidation and support areas, as doctrinally defined. Since the Army has no official standard for resourcing or operating a SACP, divisions must define the role of the SACP and the capabilities required to synchronize operations.
THE 3RD ID SACP FRAMEWORK
The approach below outlines how the 3rd ID resourced and employed the SACP during WFX 19-02. Deviating from the traditional administrative and logistics operations center, a SACP can best serve to integrate divisional sustainment mission planning, operation order production, and mission assessments.
The 3rd ID's goal was for the SACP to provide commanders with a consolidation area common operational picture to leverage and, at certain times, influence consolidation area movements to meet an operational objective. Key statistical measures included the following:
The ability to use lift capabilities to transport personnel and goods to operational areas, reduce wait time, and maintain ground freedom of movement. This was identified during the air tasking cycle.
The ability to improve asset visibility of critical information, including ammunition expenditures, recommended controlled supply rates, and projected ammunition allocation. This was identified during the fires targeting cycle.
The ability to track ground movements, critical classes of supply reconstitution, materiel management, asset visibility, and emergency resupply operations. This was gained though support operations synchronization.
The ability to align security assets with transportation movements, protect key sustainment infrastructure, and maintain route control and assessments. This was determined through the maneuver enhancement brigade (MEB) operations planning cycle.
Within the sustainment WfF, the SACP afforded 3rd ID the ability to integrate key logistics lines of efforts to include human resources, legal, medical, and financial management operations. Human resources provided the ability to track the movement of key military occupational specialty replacements within the AO. It also helped to link crews with combat systems before onward movement into the AO and sped decision-making for personnel processing.
Legal provided the ability to gain legal opinions regarding key operations and mission sets associated with displaced civilians, civil affairs (CA), and the use of host-nation support and non-governmental entities.
Integrating medical operations expedited the transport of casualties, enhanced planning for contaminated area operations, and prioritized medical operations integration in the operation plan. Financial management ensured the inclusion of cross-service agreements and contracted host-nation support.
SACP OPERATIONAL DESIGN
The 3rd ID SACP was not originally co-located with either the sustainment brigade or the MEB headquarters. Because the MEB headquarters was only a response cell for WFX 19-02, utilizing its staff and mission command platforms was not an option. Instead the SACP staff came directly out of the division headquarters.
The SACP officer-in-charge was the deputy chief of staff and the SACP G-3 was a G-3/5 planner. The deputy commanding general for sustainment (DCG-S) supervised and coordinated all SACP actions and ensured SACP priorities were nested with those of the division commander.
The SACP's tactical operations center was divided into two sections: operations and sustainment.
Operations consisted of the G-2, G-3, fires, division artillery, engineers, protection, special operations forces (SOF), and the liaison officers. Sustainment included the division transportation office (DTO) and the G-4, G-1, and G-6 sections. An additional tent connected to the main command post (CP) contained the civil-military operations center and psychological operations personnel. Liaison officers for the MEB and the consolidation area brigade combat team (BCT) were also located in the SACP.
During WFX 19-02, the consolidation area force was designed to balance the combat power required for wet gap crossings and constricted terrain with one avenue of approach. The 3rd ID decided that the Stryker BCT (SBCT) was the best-suited BCT for the consolidation area fight; it was mostly focused on area security and eliminating the threat in an ever expanding consolidation area. The SBCT had both mobility and an abundance of infantry to secure high ground and isolate urban population centers.
The 3rd ID task organized two rifle battalions from the SBCT to secure the division artillery and add mobility to the attached infantry BCT. This allowed the SBCT to control the consolidation area using a rifle battalion and a reconnaissance squadron. This task organization afforded the SBCT the reconnaissance, infantry, and limited anti-tank assets to control the terrain. The SBCT also retained control over its organic fires battalion and brigade engineer battalion, which enabled the brigade headquarters to use the battalions' unmanned aircraft systems, RQ--11 Shadows, to conduct intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance and their field artillery battalion to employ and clear fires within the consolidation area.
The division established a dedicated force of AH-64s Chinook helicopter from the combat aviation brigade to react to and destroy an armored threat within the consolidation area.
The 3rd ID tasked the MEB with securing the support area because its' organization was terrain-focused. The MEB had the resources to secure the support area base clusters and conduct supply route security.
SACP battle tracking and operational involvement centered on the SACP's participation in division battle rhythm events. The main briefs that the SACP focused on were the 3rd ID WfF Working Group and the 3rd ID WfF Synchronization and Decision Board. These key meetings in the division main CP ensured the commanding general had the most up-to-date information to make decisions.
Because the meetings were completely analog, the SACP would connect through Skype to see the analog map in the G-3/5 tent and communicate through a secret voice over internet protocol conference call. The SACP attended the synchronization and decision board to reconcile changes to the plan over the next 24 to 96 hours and ensure anticipated changes were synchronized with the sustainment brigade's concept of sustainment.
Internally, the SACP's key tasks were to disseminate information and establish priorities of work. This was done through 7-minute drills and shift-change briefs. Both briefs have similar briefing formats, but the 7-minute drills were used to quickly update the DCG-S and ensure the SACP's priorities were aligned with the DCG-S's and commanding general's priorities. The shift-change briefs were typically 30 to 50 minutes. These were used to update the DCG-S and ensure each shifts received a full brief on the events of the previous 12 hours.
Unlike divisions in previous WFXs, the 3rd ID SACP had tasking authority over the BCTs in the consolidation and support areas. The SACP did not create its own fragmentary orders, but instead it compiled information from the various sustainment sections and submitted it to the division's main CP for daily division operation order publication.
SACP LESSONS LEARNED
A constant struggle throughout the WFX was maintaining commensurate situational awareness between all of the division's CPs. Essential to the sustainment fight is the development of a logistics common operational picture, which can ensure understanding across the division for sustainment operations. The expertise for sustainment operations remained in the SACP, but the sustainment representatives in the division main CP had to rely on the SACP to ensure that the commanding general had up-to-date information.
Other necessities for situational awareness were the SACP's participation in the nightly WfF synchronization and decision board and a daily touchpoint between the SACP G-3 and the division G-3. This ensured the SACP staff understood the latest changes to the scheme of maneuver and that the G-3 understood identified points of friction where additional division assets may need to be prioritized to support sustainment operations.
The 3rd ID staff identified early that controlling movement within the consolidation area would be a constant challenge and that there were several available airlift assets that could be leveraged to fulfill unexpected sustainment shortfalls (typically ammunition). The DTO coordinated all movement requests within the consolidation area and ensured all lift assets conducted resupply even when it was not needed. In future WFXs, the DTO movement control team should incorporate the transportation movement release process into the daily movement control boards to ensure all convoys have the proper protection assets and mitigate route congestion within the consolidation area.
Another major lesson learned by the 3rd ID SACP staff dealt with securing and protecting sustainment nodes within the consolidation area. The first shortfall identified in early CPXs was the lack of extensive terrain analysis for sustainment node locations. Once the SACP was co-located with the sustainment brigade, the SACP staff was able to leverage the sustainment brigade S-2 section and conduct better terrain analysis for each proposed sustainment node location and the placement of protection assets.
The division engineer cells from the division's main command post, SACP, and tactical command post developed a survivability matrix for all static positions in the division battlespace. Within the consolidation area, horizontal engineers were constantly moving to build survivability positions and fighting positions to protect key mission command and sustainment nodes.
The biggest takeaway of the WFX was that the capabilities of the SACP increased exponentially once it was co-located with the sustainment brigade. The brigade S-2 shop and sustainment brigade support operations section enhanced the situational awareness of the SACP and enabled rapid dissemination of sustainment operations information to the division main CP.
If the MEB would have been a training audience, the ideal scenario would have been to co-locate the SACP with both the MEB and sustainment brigade headquarters where it could serve as a conduit between the two. This arrangement would enable the SACP to better control Fires and Air elements throughout the support area and consolidation area because the MEB would have the requisite systems on its modified table of organization and equipment.
We still believe the correct answer for clearance of fires in the consolidation area is the land-owning unit (the SBCT). The requisite capability in the SACP or MEB would be an alternate if no BCT was in the consolidation area. Displacement procedures would change for the SACP and the other brigade headquarters in the support area, but the level of shared understanding would be exponentially better than it was when all three headquarters were displaced geographically.
Lt. Col. Gerard M. Acosta is the assistant chief of staff for the 3rd ID G-4. He holds a doctorate degree in business administration from Walden University and a graduate degree in legislative studies from Georgetown University. He has been selected to attend a Senior Service College, and he was formerly a Secretary of the Army Congressional Fellow.
Lt. Col. Michael Hagerty is the deputy chief of staff for the 3rd ID. He holds master's degrees in business administration and public administration from Syracuse University. He has been selected to attend a Senior Service College, and he is a certified Defense Financial Manager.
Maj. Sean Hollars is the operations officer for 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, and served as the G-3 for the 3rd ID SACP for WFX 19-02. He has a bachelor's degree in Russian from the United States Military Academy and a master's degree in political science from the University of Gdansk in Poland.