The father of modern armored warfare, Gen. Heinz Guderian, indicated that logistics is the "ball and chain of armored warfare." Arguably, the difficulty of synchronizing logistics to the armored force scheme of maneuver is still very difficult on the modern decisive action battlefield. Brigade support battalions (BSB) and forward support companies (FSC) struggle at the National Training Center (NTC) to execute simultaneous sustainment tasks due to multiple points of friction. BSB commanders and their maneuver counterparts are proficient at supply point distribution in decisive action and are hesitant to conduct a Logistics Package Operation (LOGPAC) to an LRP, and a Forward Logistics Element (FLE) that could support a wide and deep brigade area of operations. Supply point operations, although doctrinally acceptable for units that are located in close proximity to Brigade Support Area (BSA), are easy to plan and require little analysis of battlefield consumption and the development of sustainment requirements during combat operations. To illustrate this point, BSB planners rarely consider the reconnaissance squadron, which typically operates far forward and within a wide geographic area on the battlefield, requires sustainment through LRP operations in addition to capabilities provided by their attached FSC. The remaining combined arms battalions and engineer battalion operating simultaneous on the Forward Line of Troops (FLOT) require sustainment as well and cannot mitigate shortfalls in critical classes of supply without an additional sustainment node such as FLE or LRP. Therefore, the BSB commander must synchronize distribution at echelon and achieve unity of effort by successfully executing LRPs, and establishing FLEs to achieve the simultaneity necessary for maneuver commanders to maintain the tempo and initiative during combat operations in a large area or operations against a near peer enemy force.Background: Army DoctrineThe execution of Logistics Release Points (LRP) is critical to underwrite the tempo that brigade combat team (BCT) commanders require to accomplish their assigned tactical tasks on the battlefield. Army Field Manual 4-0 and 4-90 delineate the requirement for the execution of LOGPAC to an LRP. A BSB or FSC must use an LRP to maximize limited distribution assets and reduce the amount of time and distance of extended Lines of Communication (LOC). An armor brigade combat team is resourced with sufficient transportation assets to execute at least two preplanned LOGPAC operations per day. These missions are allocated based on the concept of sustainment, logistics synchronization matrices, or projected consumption rates based on the supported force.The FLE is comprised of task organized multifunctional logistics capabilities designed to support the tempo of fast moving offensive operations in the early phases of decisive action. Doctrine further indicates that a FLE is also employed on the battlefield to provide uninterrupted sustainment support while the BSA displaces. This indicates that a FLE, with a specific task and purpose, is tied to the relocation of the BSA and is a timed event not tied to a tactical trigger. BSB planners have planned and executed numerous FLEs in the early phases of decisive action at the National Training Center while the BSA relocates from the Division Consolidation Area into the brigade area of operations.However, once that deployment is completed at the start of the fourteen-day training rotation, are reluctant to utilize a FLE that is not tied to relocating the BSA as the FLOT shifts across the decisive action battlefield, and therefore lose the ability to execute simultaneous sustainment operations.
The BSB's distribution company is the primary supply and transportation organization of the BCT. The company manages the distribution of supplies and provides distribution capability to the brigade for all classes of supply. It also provides cargo transportation in general support of its brigade combat in decisive action operations. The distribution company is multifunctional and capable of operating in the BCT area of operations Likewise, the FSC, with its transportation platoon provides distribution support for its supported battalion. Sustaining BCT level combat operations requires the right synchronization and precision planning. BCT commanders expect the right sustainment at the right location on the battlefield and at the right time. Synchronization, timing, and the development of movement triggers tied to tactical actions on the battlefield is critical for the success of LRP operations and the execution of a FLE.The FLOT at the Army's National Training Center battlefield confounds BSB sustainment planners. BSB planners struggle to comprehend the depth and width of the brigade area of operation and as a result, they plan sustainment in a sequential fashion. In other words, maneuver battalions consume, develop a requirement, then BSB acts which expends precious time and is not responsive the customer unit. As indicated, BSB are equipped with distribution assets to conduct up to two preplanned LRPs and should synchronize FSC level LRP operations to ensure velocity requirements are met. However, when the FLOT extends to 25 kilometers or greater beyond the BSA, two LRP are not sufficient to sustain up to seven maneuver battalions in a BCT and BSB commanders must consider additional sustainment operations such as employing a forward logistics element (FLE) to achieve simultaneity and allow BCT commanders to maintain tempo during combat operations.BCT Equipping and Consumption Planning FactorsIt is imperative to demonstrate the BSB potential to conduct simultaneous sustainment operation on the Decisive Action Battlefield by first examining equipment authorized and BCT level consumption factors on a decisive action battlefield. BSB commanders and staffs must conduct extensive planning and synchronization In order to mass sustainment at the critical battlefield point, at the right time, and other planning factors such as a BSA re-location on the battlefield. BCT commanders must empower their BSB commanders in a BCT sustainment coordinator role with authority to harness the collective sustainment assets and capabilities across the brigade. The Army has sufficiently equipped BCT to maintain sufficient distribution and velocity of sustainment to the forward line of troops and provide sustainment to fast moving maneuver battalions.Armored Brigade Equipping Planning FactorsAn ABCT Distribution Platoon is authorized 35 M1075 Palletized Load System (PLS) trucks and 37 M1120 Load Handling System (LHS) trucks. In addition, each ABCT is authorized 72 M1076 PLS trailers, 339 M3 Container Roll In/Out Platform (CROP) Flat racks, and 48 M978 Fuelers, and 48 Tank Rack Modules (TRMs) for a total fuel capacity of 240,000 gallons of JP8 Fuel. The total single lift capacity for a BCT includes 144 CROPs, or 1104 pallet positions, and enough remaining CROP space to haul 339 additional CROP Flat Racks.ABCT Consumption Planning FactorsExamining lift and distribution requirements for an ABCT is imperative to understand distribution capabilities still available to conduct LRP and FLE operations on the decisive action battlefield. BSB commanders and staffs must consider significant consumption rates for an ABCT in Decisive Action. The maintenance readiness of the fleet determines the BSB and FSC ability to distribute critical classes of supply to meet the demand for commodities at the FLOT, and set conditions to receive replenishment at the BSA from the CombatAn ABCT on the attack at the National Training Center requires a total lift requirement of 244 supply TEUs, which includes requirements at the FSC level. An ABCT first lift ability is 178 TEU or CROPs for a transportation lift index of 1.6. This requirement is based on the total number of PLS and LHS prime mover trucks in the BSB. A transportation index of 1.6 indicates that the BSB will require two internal lifts or additional assistance from a CSSB to complete a BSA relocation and transporting FSC across the battlefield. The total lift requirements includes CL I, Water, CL IV, one CL V UBL, various shelters, CL IX Common Core Authorized Stockage List containers, and additional CL IX CROP that contain CL IX Major Assemblies. There are 156 projected CROPs still available for distribution and flat rack exchange during LRP operations or for the emplacement of a FLE while the BSA and ABCT relocates on the battlefield. BSB planners must also consider unplanned secondary loads that will consume a portion of the 156 unused CROP, and should be minimized to allow additional capabilities to build pre-configured loads that facilitate LRP or FLE operations.The BSB ability to plan, prepare, and execute simultaneous sustainment operations will dramatically affect the BCT commander's ability to maneuver. BCT staff and BSB sustainment planner's failure to understand the distribution capabilities resident in the brigade's area of operations undermines success on the battlefield.Fuel is arguably one of the most important classes of supply for BSB planners during an ABCT level attack. An ABCT on the attack moving from engines idling, to movement on primary routes to the point of transitioning to maneuver across cross-country terrain will consume up to 56,255 gallons of fuel every 12 to 24 hours. Therefore, the BSB must distribute 62 percent of its on hand fuel capacity of 270,000 gallons of fuel to avoid total consumption at the maneuver level, and set conditions for CSSB replenishment to maintain the velocity of the fuel distribution in a decisive action environment. Supply point distribution of fuel is not sufficient and BSB planners must consider the distribution of fuel through an LRP or FLE to achieve a balanced fuel distribution and forward resupply plan.Forward Logistics Element and Logistics Release Point Planning ConsiderationsBrigade support battalions and maneuver task forces lack a baseline knowledge in executing LRP and FLE missions on a decisive action battlefield and must educate themselves on how to move from executing sustainment from a "log base" concept learned from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to simultaneous sustainment operations required across long lines of communication. BSB commanders and their staffs are relatively comfortable in establishing a "Supply Base" and conducting supply point distribution replenishment operations. There are several planning considerations that must be taken into consideration to simplify the execution of these difficult sustainment and logistics functions. These include; site security considerations, location of the FLE and LRP in relation to supported units and the overall scheme of maneuver. Equally important, is the synchronization and timing of these events that support an uninterrupted velocity of critical commodity movement. The integration of the FTCP and FSC commander into planning and mission command of these operations is critical to its success. Planners must consider specific BCT and BSB staff planning considerations, and the conduct of an LRP meeting if required to facilitate the transfer of critical consumption data, and the turn-in of 5988E maintenance forms.Security: BSB commanders and staffs must consider security requirements such as the number of gun truck platforms from the BSA required securing a specific site, and balancing this requirement with the ability for continued BSA defense during mission execution. BSB planners must also conduct coordination with adjacent units, land owning units, and commanders responsible for securing the BCT rear area of operations for additional security platforms to augment site security should the enemy situation change in the brigade rear area. BSB S3 and BCT Fires planners should plan artillery or mortar support, and the utilization of military police assets to strengthen the security requirements of each location.LRP and FLE site location in the Brigade Rear Area: The location of these sustainment nodes must support the overall scheme of maneuver to the brigade and battalion task force level. Projected locations must maximize terrain, cover, and concealment. Army Training Publication 4-90 provides a detailed example of the use if terrain and potential set-up of an LRP.Predetermined main and alternate supply routes validated by BCT route clearance sections should simplify the time required to travel to and from these locations. The terrain must be suitable to conduct CROP and TRM exchanges and support the movement of PLS and LHS prime movers and trailers.Synchronization and Timing: Synchronization of the LRP should coincide with the execution of a task force level LRP and support the return of BSB equipment to receive planned CSSB replenishment operations to the BSA. BSB planners in conjunction with the BCT S3 and S4 must develop deployment triggers centered on tactical actions on the battlefield and avoid the simplicity of deployment triggers based on a time schedule. The consequence of not synchronizing properly and executing and LRP and FLE based on a tactical trigger could result in total expenditure of critical classes of supply that can interrupt the tempo of combat operations.Integration of FSC Commander and FTCP into planning cycles: The FSC Commander is critical to the planning and execution of LRP and FLE missions. FTCP personnel can assist in building preconfigured loads on CROP racks based on projected battlefield consumption from a LOGSTAT. This will create the precision required to avoid on LRP located too long in one location. FSC commanders should coordinate with the SPO and BSB Commander for Alpha Distribution Company assets to augment their FTCP capabilities to conduct an LRP or ensure the FLE deploys with the right commodities to meet projected consumption.Mission Command of LRP and FLE missions: Command and control responsibilities are paramount when planning and LRP or a FLE. Direct coordination with the BSB commander is imperative to understanding unreported sustainment requirements issues within the TF level. FSC commanders are great candidates to command and control a FLE in support of their task force and the BSB SPO must exercise control of every sustainment operation in the BCT rear area. Mission command systems at each node are critical to facilitate the collection and dissemination of critical information. The FSC commander and SPO can conduct battlefield assessments at each node and provide the BSB commander and staff information that can assist in changes to the concept of sustainment.BCT and BSB Staff Planning: Projected sustainment requirements are the basis of developing an LRP and FLE mission set. This is achieved at the BCT Executive Officer, S3 Operations, and BCT S4 staff level in collaboration with the BSB SPO. BSB staffs must battle track effectively to develop requirements and conduct effective rehearsals to streamline the execution of these important mission sets. The BCT and BSB S2 should collect priority intelligence requirements in brigade rear area to assist in the planning prior to the deployment of an LRP and FLE on the battlefield. The execution of these missions should be delineated in a brigade level order with graphics and control measure to create shared understanding.BSA LRP Meeting: BCTs must consider executing an LRP meeting to share information, disseminate graphics and orders, collect DA Form 5988s, and collect LOGSTATs is required. The Brigade LRP meeting should be chaired by the BSB commander with the convoy commander, SPO, BCT S4, BSB S3 and S2, and supported unit representatives.CONCLUSIONThe BSB commander must synchronize, task organize, and cross level distribution in the BCT to successfully execute LRPs and FLE operations. The execution of a BSB LOGPAC to conduct a logistics release point operation, and the deployment of a FLE, must be viewed as a brigade level mission set with the BSB as a proponent. The Brigade Tactical Standard Operating Procedure (TACSOP) should codify these missions into a BCT level standard operating procedure down to the FSC level of execution. In order to achieve unity of effort, and execute simultaneous sustainment operations, the BSB commander, BCT staff planners, and BSB staff, have to appreciate the width and depth of a large brigade area of operations most likely encountered as part of Large-Scale Combat Operations (LSCO).An ABCT is equipped with sufficient assets to conduct simultaneous operations. In addition, an ABCT can sustain their organizations for a number of days on the decisive action battlefield and can aggressively push sustainment forward to the FLOT with the authorized number distribution assets on the Modified Table of Organization and Equipment (MTOE). If the daily consumption of fuel equals the 56,255 gallons of fuel indicated earlier then the BSB must push fuel and other commodities forward and cannot rely on supply point distribution. Through aggressive planning distribution, assets can be increased by establishing decision points for what commodities are grounded inside the BSA. Stable sustainment nodes such as CTCP and UMCP locations and the BSA will further enhance the BSB ability to create additional capabilities to conduct LRP and FLE operations forward of the BSA.The National Training Center (NTC) is an excellent representation of an environment that ABCT could be faced with in LSCO. Brigade Support Battalions and maneuver task forces struggle with sustainment and logistics operations due an under appreciation of time and space, and the application of precise analysis on potential consumption of major combat systems operating in a large area of operations. Most lack a baseline knowledge in executing simultaneous sustainment operations upon arrival at NTC. BSB commanders and their staffs must plan to execute at the current pace of operations and across a wide area of operations. Understanding of BSB and FSC capabilities on hand and strong maintenance program provides the maneuver commander the ability to maintain the tempo of operations and achieve tactical tasks as part of a wider operational and strategic battlefield goal.--------------------
Lt. Col. Mike Hammond is the 26th Goldminer 07, Senior Sustainment Trainer, National Training Center, Fort Irwin, California. Hammond is a graduate of the School of Advanced Military Studies.