The 916th Support Brigade (SPT BDE) is a unique organization that exists to provide command and control to synchronize echelon-above-brigade (EAB) sustainment at the National Training Center (NTC), in Fort Irwin, California. In providing sustainment at NTC, 916th SPT BDE is uniquely organized to replicate theater sustainment commands (TSC), expeditionary sustainment commands (ESC), and sustainment brigades. In addition to the rotational division sustainment support battalions (DSSB), 916th SPT BDE has a support (transportation) battalion, aviation battalion, and contracted transportation battalion replicating host-nation support. As each geographic combatant command has a TSC serving as a sustainment expert of that theater, 916th SPT BDE is the sustainment expert for the NTC theater.The 916th SPT BDE provides critical capabilities to bridge the sustainment enterprise with tactical operations by replicating or performing sustainment functions necessary for the Army’s brigade combat teams (BCTs) and enablers to successfully complete NTC rotations.Predeployment/Theater OpeningBefore arriving to NTC, rotational units learn through several events how sustainment at NTC is conducted, including:Initial Planning ConferenceRotational Support ConferenceLeader Training ProgramConcept of Support TeleconferenceThese events occur 210 to 45 days prior to each rotation’s execution.A best practice is to send the recommended leaders and sustainers from both the rotational BCT and DSSB to these events. BCTs and DSSBs that fully understand how sustainment at NTC supports the rotation are better prepared once their rotation begins. Frequently, units fail to attend or do not send the proper representative, causing the entire rotation to struggle logistically during their rotation. In addition to learning the sustainment systems available at NTC, Soldiers in geographically-separated units are able to physically meet and conduct planning activities at these conferences.More than 70% of the U.S. Army’s sustainment assets are in the National Guard and Army Reserve components. The DSSBs that support each rotation are typically comprised of elements from all three Army components: Active Duty, National Guard, and Reserves. The conferences provide opportunities for the DSSB and company elements to get to know each other and understand their strengths and weaknesses to better prepare for executing sustainment. 916th SPT BDE staff also assist the DSSBs to understand the scope of responsibilities and conduct mission analysis. DSSBs leave these conferences with clear requirements regarding the equipment, training, and personnel necessary to fully support the rotational BCTs.DSSBs’ understanding of these requirements helps their leaders to resource shortfalls ahead of their rotation.Two key aspects DSSBs evaluate are:Communications systems necessary for command and controlReception, Staging, Onward movement, and Integration (RSOI) tasks to build combat power Rotational units bring equipment from their home station and draw equipment from U.S. Forces Command prepositioned (PREPO) fleet at NTC. DSSBs must analyze what communication kits are installed on the PREPO fleet and what organic communications equipment can plug in the PREPO vehicles.When rotational units arrive to NTC, their capability to successfully conduct more than 100 RSOI tasks requires a deliberate plan in order to build combat power in the allotted time. Units need to review the RSOI tasks ahead of arrival and select the necessary personnel and equipment for each task. Units that wait until arrival to begin to analyze the RSOI tasks often find themselves behind the power curve. As theater opening begins for each rotation’s arrival, a well-communicated and rehearsed RSOI plan enables the unit to effectively build combat power. The 916th SPT BDE provides specifically assigned planners to support each rotation as they prepare for their fight.As each BCT and DSSB is assigned an NTC rotation, 916th SPT BDE assigns both a rotational coordinator and current operations officer. Rotational coordinators assist BCTs and DSSBs to plan their deployment to NTC, answer units’ requests for information, provide points of contact, and plan for redeployment. Current operations officers assist units to develop plans to sustain their fight and understand how rotational units plug into sustainment assets at NTC. The 916th rotational coordinator and current operations officer for each rotational unit are two of the most important individuals for units to collaborate with in order to conduct successful theater opening, theater distribution, and theater closing operations. As a rotation’s “D-Day'' nears, the focus turns to theater distribution once units start to arrive at their NTC rotation.Theater DistributionSynchronization of distribution is the most important sustainment function in large-scale combat operations (LSCO). This synchronization spans all commodities; the most critical are liquid logistics and Class IX, repair parts. The 916th SPT BDE is able to synchronize distribution using a robust support operations shop and a mixture of attached and organic battalions. The brigade support operations officer (SPO) uses all units in the brigade, organic and attached, to support a rotational unit. The support battalion provides movement control and heavy equipment transport.The aviation battalion has a mixture of aircraft providing troop transport, opposing-force (OPFOR) attack aviation, real-world air medical evacuation, and unmanned aircraft systems. The contracted transportation battalion provides additional commodity transport to supplement the rotational DSSB, which provides commodity transport in support of the rotational BCT. The 916th SPT BDE’s support operations shop, in addition to the four battalions, allows the synchronization of EAB sustainment to tailor support to any rotational BCT.NTC provides a realistic, complex environment and enemy for rotational BCTs to fight and train against. The problem set is seldom replicated at any other training that BCTs experience. These factors force rotational BCTs to think outside the box and execute plans not previously tested in order to fight and win. Learning and testing new plans does not only apply to the maneuver fight but to the sustainment supporting the maneuver as well.The predetermined concept of support plans from the Brigade Support Battalion (BSB) within the BCT often change throughout the rotation. The 916th SPT BDE’s support operations focuses on monitoring the BCT’s requirements as forecasted by the BSB and synchronizing the distribution to support the BSB and BCT. The 916th SPT BDE works diligently with the commander of the Operations Group to ensure sustainment at NTC will not impede a rotational BCT’s fight.The 916th SPT BDE coaches and mentors sustainers on different factors that can affect sustainment operations at NTC and assists in planning to mitigate any disruptions in the distribution of commodities. The first, obvious disruption to address is that rotational units are consistently engaged by the OPFOR over multiple domains. Sustainers will see their convoys and lines of communication targeted. The rigorous desert environment will also disrupt operations while traveling along sustainment lines of communication.Drivers must be proficient at night driving using night vision devices with varying conditions of ambient lunar light. Most roads at NTC are hard-packed dirt or sand. Executing convoys on these roads requires drivers to extend intervals between trucks due to the dust rising from the road. Additionally, the mountainous terrain can make line-of-sight navigation difficult. Convoy operations within NTC environment will test even the best-trained Soldiers and can affect distribution operations by slowing or halting commodity movement. Units should expect for the planning, preparation, and execution of distribution operations to take longer than anticipated (by several hours) during LSCO.The nature of decisive action against OPFOR in LSCO at NTC can also disrupt distribution. LSCO require rotational units to fight and travel across large distances at a fast tempo. The speed of this flight requires periodic displacement of sustainment support areas. Both the DSSBs and BSBs need to plan against conducting distribution of sustainment commodities while also displacing their support areas in order to shorten the line of communication between customers. Typically, a DSSB will displace the Division Support Area (DSA) every 72 hours based on mission variables. Displacing the DSA requires the DSSB to execute a deliberate plan.916th SPT BDE coaches DSSBs to simultaneously execute a DSA displacement along with distribution of sustainment commodities to the BCT. DSSBs require a thorough knowledge of establishing a base defense and force protection measures. When displacing the DSA, DSSBs must understand what capabilities to establish, in what order, and when to stand down what capability. DSSBs benefit when their command post is mobile and easy to displace. Finally, DSSBs need to know how to maintain a logistics common operation picture of their sustainment operations while displacingAnother key role 916th SPT BDE provides to rotational units is bridging the connection between strategic and tactical sustainment. At NTC, 916th SPT BDE owns and operates the bulk fuel farm, installation ammunition supply point, central receiving point, and installation Class IX warehouse. Additionally, 916th SPT BDE facilitates the issuing of Class I subsistence from the subsistence supply management office (SSMO) and bulk water points. Each of these enterprise commodity supply points is similar to other installations; several aspects of these supply points’ operations have been adapted in order for 916th SPT BDE to provide this robust and unique support.One adaptation is hours of operation. 916th SPT BDE evaluated the demands from multiple overlapping rotational BCTs and tenant units and extended the hours of operation at NTC supply points. For example, the installation Class IX warehouse is open 16.5 hours per day, Monday through Friday, and 11 hours per day on weekends.Another adaptation is the capacity to simultaneously support multiple overlapping rotational BCTs and tenant units. For example, 916th SPT BDE bulk fuel farm holds 500,000 gallons of F-24 and DS-2. Additionally, the installation ammunition supply point maintains 1,700 lines of Class V, valued at $80 million, capable of supplying three BCTs’ worth of ammunition for both live and blank Standards in Weapons Training (STRAC).Understanding the robust sustainment enterprise for bulk commodities, what do commodity consumption rates look like for a rotational unit?The tempo and size of LSCO cause rotational BCTs conducting decisive action to consume large quantities of commodities. For example, most ABCTs consume 35,000 gallons of Class III bulk fuel each day while SBCT rotations consume 25,000 gallons.916th SPT BDE commands and controls the EAB sustainment at NTC in order to echelon logistics from the enterprise base to the BSBs supporting the BCT. When elements of the 916th SPT BDE begin transporting 35,000 gallons of fuel to the BSB, the BSB needs to be able to receive the supplies. Forecasting the specific amount of fuel, and delivering the fuel when the BSB has the capability to receive the commodity, is a continuous operation. If a convoy arrives out of sync with the BSB—when the BSB is not able to receive the fuel—then Soldiers’ lives are put at risk for no reason and the transport assets were wasted.For assets such as combat platforms and military vehicles, NTC has observed multiple units who fail to keep accurate accounts of the location of non-mission capable (NMC) equipment. Consistently, rotational units will leave NMC equipment at unit-maintenance collection points or leave equipment wherever the equipment broke down across the area of operation. Units do not execute a developed NMC equipment plan and thus lose accountability. This has caused sustainment at NTC to adapt in order to provide support.916th SPT BDE’s 2916th Aviation Battalion conducts aerial reconnaissance with either MQ-1C Gray Eagle unmanned aerial vehicles or UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters to locate and identify the quantity and type of a rotational unit’s missing NMC equipment. Rotational units training at NTC need a suitable plan to track NMC equipment, and then actually execute it.Theater ClosingFrom initial draw to final turn-in, maintaining the PREPO fleet vehicles is a task that most rotational units struggle to efficiently manage. PREPO vehicles are offered to each rotation for two main purposes:To provide rotational units with non-combat platform types of vehicles to save on transportation costs, eliminate shipping like-items from eachDrawing PREPO vehicles provides training to the rotational units by simulating drawing from Army Prepositioned Stocks. Units draw the PREPO vehicles at the fully-mission capable (FMC) plus safety standard, and must turn in the loaned vehicles at the same standard.Maintaining the PREPO fleet vehicles at FMC plus safety appears to be a simple task: units use the vehicles for 19 days from RSOI one through the rotation’s training days, and are afforded 12 days for regeneration (REGEN), repair, and turn-in. However, units generally do not conduct regular preventive maintenance checks and services (PMCS) on these vehicles during the training days. As a result, units fail to know when a vehicle is malfunctioning until the issue causes the vehicle to become inoperable. Additionally, when units do not conduct PMCS, and are not identifying vehicle faults, they do not order the necessary repair parts in a timely manner. Observations show that units view the rotation not as a moment in time during a longer LSCO campaign, but simply as 19 days of fighting.This ‘short-time’ view causes rotational units to push the PREPO vehicles to the limit and skip standard maintenance practices. Normally, only once the rotational training days are complete and the unit enters the 12-day REGEN period do they finally begin conducting thorough PMCS, identifying maintenance faults, and ordering repair parts. Most rotational units take eight to nine days to turn in the PREPO fleet vehicles at the FMC plus safety standard. NTC has seen several best practices to prevent culmination and to maintain combat power.Rotational units who approach their fight as a long haul, frequently conducting maintenance on their vehicles and consistently ordering repair parts, have a much more smooth REGEN process. Units who deliberately plan out their maintenance systems and communicate this process across their BCT maintain a higher operational readiness rate on both their home station and PREPO vehicles.The best deliberate maintenance plans include:Sequencing the early arrival of maintenance equipmentTop-down enforcement of maintenance logistics information systems processes Robust presence of maintenance personnel through all phases of the rotation Practiced distributed maintenance meetingsKeeping the unit’s maintenance equipment sets at NTC until REGEN is complete ConclusionWhile performing theater opening, theater distribution, and theater closing operations, 916th SPT BDE has observed many lessons learned from past rotations and developed best practices for future units. In working with the Observer Coach/ Trainers within NTC’s Operations Group throughout deploying, training, and redeploying ten rotational BCTs a year, 916th SPT BDE has many repetitions in monitoring each rotational BCT’s performance across all warfighting functions. Coupled with an understanding of how the OPFOR affects the sustainment of these units, 916th SPT BDE has developed an advantage over other sustainment commands within other theaters.This advantage allows 916th SPT BDE to forecast EAB sustainment in order to assist rotational units to prevent culmination and extend operational reach of BCTs at NTC. While every theater of operations is different, 916th SPT BDE is an expert at bridging enterprise and tactical sustainment within the NTC theater to provide the best support to rotational BCTs.-----------------------------Brig. Gen. David Lesperance serves as commanding general, National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif.Maj. Adam Bolliger is stationed at Fort Irwin, Calif., as support operations officer for 916th Support Brigade. During his 15 years as a logistics officer, he has traveled to and conducted logistics operations within every geographic combatant command. Bolliger is a graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and holds a master’s degree from Central Michigan University. He has completed the Theater Sustainment Planners Course, Joint Logistics Over-the-Shore course, Defense Support of Civil Authorities Phase II, and Support Operations Phase II.-----------------------------This article was published in the April-June 2020 issue of Army Sustainment.RELATED LINKSArmy Sustainment homepageThe Current issue of Army Sustainment in pdf formatCurrent Army Sustainment Online ArticlesConnect with Army Sustainment on LinkedInConnect with Army Sustainment on Facebook