As we continue to hone our skills for large-scale combat operations (LSCO), there are several ways to sustain a Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) battalion in a contested environment. This article offers lessons learned from sustainment operations and methods to improve a battalion’s sustainment techniques during LSCO. Forward logistics must incorporate a 24-hour battle rhythm, refuel on the move that allows distributed expedient and secure logistics, and implement a resilient recovery plan in place to maintain momentum and surprise on the battlefield. Incorporating these elements sustains units for longer periods and enables them to be successful; LSCO is a marathon, not a sprint.67th Forward Support Company (FSC) conducted support operations for 2nd Battalion, 20th Field Artillery (2-20 FA), during a scenario-driven exercise named Operation BOBCAT, from October 29 to November 6, 2019. This field training exercise tested the FSC’s ability to provide vital Class I (subsistence), Class III (fuel), Class V (ammunition), and maintenance support to enable 2-20 FA’s success in LSCO. 67th FSC significantly exercised three main tenets of sustainment during the operation: Petroleum distribution, ammunition distribution, and vehicle recovery, and follow-on maintenance.ROM OperationsPer Army Techniques Publication (ATP) 4-43, Petroleum Supply Operations, refuel on the move (ROM) sustainment operations are primarily used to extend the time U.S. forces can spend on their objective. ROM sustainment operations criteria are:• Location selection• Reconnaissance• Alternate locations• Rehearsals• Staging/Marshalling areasFocusing on ROM selection criteria provides all leaders with a clear idea of the plan and enables them to refine the plan before and during the operation. The distribution platoon conducted three deliberate ROMs during Operation Bobcat. The ROMs the FSC executed allowed the Battalion to understand the flexibility of forward logistics and the criteria that best suit a ROM.Site selection is dependent on security, proximity from high-speed avenues of approach, cover and concealment, and freedom of maneuver within the site. Freedom of maneuver within the ROM location is a priority and must be considered when selecting the site, either through map reconnaissance or the preferred “on-the-ground” leader’s reconnaissance. These criteria must be identified during the reconnaissance prior to occupation. Leaders who are critical to a recon, and if the mission allows, are the distribution platoon leader, FSC commander, and an experienced 92F (petroleum fuel specialist). During a ROM recon, leaders must know the scheme of maneuver, Class III requirement, and Class V locations and segregation. Furthermore, key leaders must be present to consider command and control within the ROM while selecting the site.Occupation is heavily reliant on establishing security and emplacing vehicles within the ROM site. Once security and the petroleum fuel site are established, the distribution platoon leader must conduct a rehearsal. Rehearsing the operation ensures that the operators distributing supplies know the plan and are included in any of its refinement. This allows Soldiers executing the ROM to assist with traffic flow and security. Any changes to the plan must be relayed through the FSC commander for approval and sent through appropriate battalion communications channels. 67th FSC executed three ROMs, each time implementing lessons learned that provided 2-20 FA with vital Class III and Class V support. ATP 4-43 dictates that “resupply must be flexible and innovative,” allowing for maneuver forces to complete their mission.Before discussing 2-20 FA BN’s lessons learned, ROM and Rearm, refuel, refit supply point (R3SP) are two different terms. R3SP includes Class I, Class III, and Class V, whereas what 2-20 FA BN conducted was a ROM with an added ammunition resupply point.Incorporating lessons learned from the distribution platoon’s first ROM site, on their second ROM site, 67th FSC sharpened its knowledge of the ROM criteria. The success of the ROM operation is predominantly attributed to proper site selection, recon, and rehearsal. Our sit selections afforded enough space for a staging area, refueling station, and enough room to add a Class V reload point before the marshalling area. The recon occurred during daylight and enabled the recon team, which consisted of all key leaders, to rehearse the operation prior to occupation. These key leaders identified potential friction points and discussed the flow of traffic inside the ROM, and subsequently refined the plan as needed.Incorporating command and control elements at the battalion level and within the ROM ensured smooth execution throughout the operation. 2-20 FA incorporated command and control elements at three levels: the battalion tactical operations center (TOC)/tactical actions center (TAC), the FSC TOC, and the distribution platoon leader. These three levels ensured that both Class III and Class V were tracked at all echelons. From the battalion TOC/ TAC, the battalion ammunition noncommissioned officer (NCO), Fire Direction Officer, and S4 (logistics)—who were co-located— communicated over BN administration and logistics operation center (ALOC) frequencies for initial loadouts, changes due to planned fire missions, and intelligence reports from S2 (intelligence). Resupply occurred once ammunition numbers at the firing platoon level reached a certain threshold, mainly due to fire mission frequency and the FSC’s ability to sustain as far forward as possible. Whenever the f iring platoons hit a 60% threshold on ammunition, the platoon leader notified their battery operations center (BOC), triggering a reload point designated by the S4 and confirmed by the FSC commander/ TOC. Once reload was complete, the BN TOC/TAC updated their tracker and repeated based on fire missions. Refuel triggers were logistic status (LOGSTAT) based, meaning the batteries and company sent up reports twice per day. The S4 tracked fuel consumption and resupply missions based on percentages given from the batteries (70% was the trigger for resupply).ROM sites must incorporate ease of access from the staging area to the marshalling area. During this ROM, the distribution platoon established a reception area where the distribution platoon leader briefed conditions for success. Providing a basic layout and brief of the ROM site prevented congestion inside the site. The first station consisted of the Class III resupply. Three M978 Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Trucks (HEMTT) were spaced out fifty meters apart, staggered on the left along a gravel path to allow two vehicles to stage between fuel trucks. Additionally, the M978s pushed far enough off the route to allow vehicles to bypass the fueling station. By creating a bypass area, the ROM enabled freedom of maneuver for vehicles not receiving fuel and allowed easier flow of traffic. Freedom of maneuver afforded the distribution platoon the opportunity and space to establish a Class V reload point after the Class III resupply.The distribution platoon established the class V reload point approximately 100 meters past the fueling station and off the main route for bypass purposes. This reload point consisted of live Multiple Launch Rocket System pods. Per ATP 4-35.1, the live pods needed to be stored 163 feet away from any habitable area. In order to prevent any catastrophic losses in ammunition or fuel, we decided that the 100-meter distance between the fuel trucks and the live pods, and we also established an additional supplementary route for the Class V reload point. Including an ammunition reload point into the ROM reduced the personnel required to run two separate points during the operation to distribute supplies and additional security for the ROM.Security at the ROM addressed three aspects: Securing all high-speed avenues of approach where the ROM was established, the semi-open terrain surrounding the North side of the ROM, and the high ground located to the West and Northwest. The distribution platoon leader emplaced two M240B crew serve weapons at the entrance and exit of the ROM, while the platoon sergeant identified sectors of fire for each vehicle. Once the platoon sergeant collected sector sketches, both he and the platoon leader refined the security plan by emplacing a squad of eight Soldiers near the entrance as the quick reaction force should the ROM get attacked. The platoon sergeant then occupied the exit of the ROM to ensure all areas of the ROM had platoon leadership control. Once occupation and security were established, each Soldier was briefed on the challenge and password, aid and litter teams were identified, and Soldiers were notified of markings inside the ROM. Communications were relayed on the platoon’s frequency between the platoon leader and platoon sergeant.Cross-training Sustainment MOSsOn the battalion’s third ROM operation, based off commander’s guidance to increase the platoon’s ability to operate on a 24-hour battle rhythm, the distribution platoon cross-trained MOSs of Soldiers outside of their primary MOS, specifically 88M, 89B, 91B, and 92F. The distribution platoon certified two alternate ammunition noncommissioned officers, which established work/ rest cycles and enabled safe 24-hour ammunition operations. Furthermore, it enabled each NCO more time to cross train their squad members and build depth.The distribution platoon also established several reload points in support of the battalion during Operation Bobcat. The distri-bution platoon’s 88Ms (Motor Vehicle Operators) and 92Fs (Petroleum Supply Specialists) cross-trained on tasks outside of their MOS to enable 67th Forward Support Company’s flexibility to accomplish its mission. Concurrently with the ROM, LRP cross-training Soldiers in tasks outside of their MOS promoted mission success, healthy work/rest cycles, and provided Soldiers the opportunity to learn skills they would not normally learn in their current MOS.Recovery OperationsThe maintenance platoon also sharpened their recovery skills which increased speed on the battlefield and ensured mission success during Operation BOBCAT. By cross-training and utilizing available equipment and personnel, the maintenance platoon met their vehicle recovery mission. As per field manual 4-30.31, self and like recovery are the first course of actions selected to maintain speed on the battlefield and allow the maintenance teams, collocated with the firing batteries, more time to troubleshoot/repair and reach a FMC status. Most Soldiers outside the maintenance field do not understand the different types of towing equipment required for use on different vehicles, thus creating problems for recovery. By setting aside time for non maintenance Soldiers to practice vehicle recovery under the supervision of 91-series mechanic NCOs, we can identify and fill equipment shortages based on recovery needs and increase unit effectiveness in the field through streamlining the recovery process.Throughout the operation the battalion overcame two recovery challenges. The battalion only had two M88 Hercules Armored Recovery Vehicles and a shortage of 91Hs (Tracked Vehicle Repairer) in the headquarters maintenance section. In order to overcome these challenges, we utilized our M984 wheeled recovery vehicle to recover tracked M1068 Combined Arms Battalion Mobile Tactical Command Posts, both of 67th FSC’s M88s were forward and directly supported the two firing batteries. This meant that two-wheeled mechanics conducted recovery procedures for a tracked M1068s with their M984 Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck, which is generally outside the scope of their MOS. Due to the team’s experience in a maintenance support team (MST), they knew the correct procedure for removing the prop shafts to tow the M1068. In general, a wheeled wrecker can pull a tracked vehicle, however a tracked wrecker can only recover a tracked vehicle, because of turning radiuses. Cross training is also often a result of absorbing the information from being around it; however, incorporating it deliberately into our training plan created a resilient recovery plan and increased our ability to support the battalion and maintain speed on the battlefield.The second recovery challenge came from retrograding recovered vehicles. Every effort should be made to repair vehicles at the lowest level. In order to support ongoing operations and minimize negative impacts on maintenance equipment and personnel, it is important to clearly establish what events will trigger retrograding a piece of equipment, and where it will be retrograded to. The decision must be deliberate and timely. If the equipment can be repaired within a specified time frame, it can be fixed on site at the Battery Maintenance Control Point (MCP). If it is determined that it cannot be fixed within a given time frame, then the equipment can be retrograded to the rear to be secured. In a theater of operations, this would be the Brigade Support Area (BSA) where the BSB would be able to provide a higher level of maintenance support.Retrograding vehicles to a higher level of maintenance is important to ensure recovery assets are not occupied with towing vehicles that will not be able to move under their own power for the duration of the operation, preventing them from conducting follow-on recovery missions. Retrograding vehicles either to a battalion MCP or another echelon frees recovery assets and provides the battalion with speed and the necessary resources to continue its mission and should only be used as a last resort. However, the downside to retrograding back to the battalion MCP exhausts personnel and vehicles until the downed vehicles are fixed and sent back to the unit. This process can be time consuming and potentially hinder unit abilities during LSCOs.ConclusionForward logistics must incorporate a 24-hour battle rhythm, ROM’s which allow distributed expedient and secure logistics, and a resilient recovery plan in place to maintain momentum and surprise on the battlefield. 2-20 FA successfully accomplished its mission during Operation Bobcat due to the sustainment lessons learned and techniques implemented by 67th Forward Support Company; primarily the practicality in cross training Soldiers in different MOSs, effective refuel-on-the-move operations, and vehicle recovery methods. In contrast, an FSC with additional personnel and equipment could use a different method. Such as manning the Headquarters, Headquarters Battalion with a dedicated tracked and wheeled recovery team to only conduct recovery and not conduct maintenance, this could expedite recovery and maintenance operations. However, if a battalion is operating with reduced personnel and equipment, they can easily utilize these methods described to overcome challenges they confront in both training and operational environments.-----------------------------Maj. Jack Benford is a field artillery officer currently serving as battalion executive officer, 2nd Battalion, 20th Field Artillery Regiment, 75th Field Artillery Brigade. The Deep Strike Battalion has recently returned from operations on the Korean Peninsula in 2018.Capt. Peter Christensen is a logistics officer and company commander for 67th Field Support Command, 2nd Battalion, 20th Field Artillery Regiment, 75th Field Artillery Brigade. His deployments include U.S. Army European Command Operations Atlantic Resolve-North and NATO Joint Operation Anakonda with 3rd Infantry Division, in 2016.2nd Lt. Pake Davis serves as maintenance control officer for 2nd Battalion, 20th Field Artillery. Davis previously served as distribution platoon leader for 67th Forward Support Company. Davis holds a Master in Military History degree from James Madison University and is a graduate of Ordnance Basic Officer Leadership Course.-----------------------------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