“Sustainment doctrine is heavy on the ‘what’ and ‘who,’ but light on the ‘how’ for both maneuver and sustainment commanders. This lack of detail leaves too much room for misunderstanding between commanders, especially for sustainment operations inside brigade combat teams where tactical operations and sustainment tasks must be closely coordinated. We must think about the sustainment fight in decisive action as the synchronization of the distribution loops of materiel. The loops described in sustainment doctrine are from the CSSB to the BSB, the BSB to the FSC and the FSC to the Company Trains. This is one too many and in my 30+ years of experience, three loops has been nearly impossible to synchronize. Therefore, we must reduce the number of loops and be more prescriptive as to how we will fight sustainment."
Maj. Gen. Patrick Matlock, Commanding General, 1st Armored Division
Brigades at National Training Center, Fort Irwin, California routinely face mission failure because they do not establish a clear and consistent approach to executing critical sustainment tasks. Brigade logistics is hard; this should incentivize leaders to develop standard operating procedures (SOPs) that are clear and concepts of support (COS) that are precise. Leaders at echelon must understand the orders and instructions that flow from the COS.
Units must strictly adhere to SOPs that dictate personnel, equipment, and task requirements for sustainment nodes. By embracing a higher-level of precision in sustainment planning and preparation, brigades increase their chances of mission success during training and combat.
This article provides scaffolding for the development of the COS and unit SOPs, anchored on three pillars. First, brigades should standardize and resource sustainment nodes at echelon, including the company trains, combat trains command post (CTCP), field trains command post (FTCP), and brigade support area (BSA). Second, brigades should establish clear standards for logistic packages (LOGPAC), accounting for methods of distribution under mission, and operational variables such as mission, enemy, terrain and weather, troops and support available, time available, and civil considerations (METT-TC) and political, military, economic, social, information, infrastructure, physical environment, and time. Finally, brigades should establish clear SOPs for casualty evacuation (CASEVAC) and medical evacuation (MEDEVAC). Ultimately, this article argues that brigades could minimize friction and avoid failure by adopting a more specific and standardized approach to sustainment efforts.
Company Trains Purpose and Organization
The most immediate and reactive sustainment echelon to the changing battlefield environment is the company trains. The primary purpose of the company trains is to evacuate casualties and non-mission capable (NMC) equipment from the company area to battalion (BN) collection points and to request and distribute company supplies. Company trains are typically one distinguishable terrain feature, approximately one to four kilometers, behind the forward line of troops (FLOT). The company trains perform five key functions, the priorities of which change based on mission:
- Submit a logistics status (LOGSTAT) request to re-supply (via radio, digital, or paper) to the CTCP, with Class III (petroleum, oil, and lubricants) and Class V (ammunition) supply prioritized
- Facilitate the repair and return of combat systems by the field maintenance team (FMT) to the maneuver companies
- Conduct resupply via logistics release point (LRP) operations
- Provide evacuation of casualties to Role I Medical Treatment Facility (MTF)
- Perform evacuation of NMC equipment to the unit maintenance collection point (UMCP) in the CTCP
To highlight the second function, company trains require the FMT to repair and return NMC combat systems to the fight or to evacuate vehicles that are not repairable in four hours to the CTCP. FMT mission requirements typically dictate the following items from the modified table of organization and equipment (MTOE):
- One M88 recovery vehicle
- A contact truck with VRC-89/90/92F radio and Joint Capabilities Release (JCR) system
- Forward Repair System (FRS) mounted on a Palletized Loading System (PLS) with a M1076 Palletized Load Sys-tem (PLS) Trailer and Container Roll-in/Out Plat-forms (CROPs)
- M1083 Medium Tactical Vehicle with storage shelter to carry select bench stock and smaller shop stock listing (SSL) parts to enable rapid forward repair of combat systems to the maneuver company
The SSL should be tailored to support the equipment density in the maneuver company (analysis is available from United States Army Materiel Systems Analysis Activity Logistics Analysis Division to stock most frequently ordered items). Ultimately, the forward positioning and proper resourcing of FMTs allow the company trains to rapidly fix forward at the tactical point of need, or evacuate both casualties and NMC equipment from the company area to BN collection points.
CTCP Purpose and Organization—Regenerate Combat Power
The primary purpose of the CTCP is to regenerate combat power and return it to the unit’s fighting formations. CTCPs are positioned according to the mission variables as defined by METT-TC and must be small and agile; they are typically collocated with the UMCP. All operations require the CTCP to coordinate sustainment in support of tactical operations by compiling the BN LOGSTAT and transmitting it to the brigade S4 and BSB support operations officer (SPO) to request resupply. During the fight, the CTCP regenerates combat power through the repair of damaged equipment and the treatment of casualties at the Role I BN Aid Station (BAS). The CTCP coordinates the retrograde of equipment to the brigade support area and evacuation of casualties to the Role II MTF Brigade Support Medical Company (BSMC), as necessary.
The key personnel located at the CTCP are the Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC) commander, HHC first sergeant, HHC executive officer (XO) and the S1 (administration) and S4 (logistics). Additionally, approximately 20% of the elements of the FSC distribution and maintenance platoons, the BAS, and the unit ministry team are located at the CTCP. Locating the battalion maintenance technician (BMT), and either the maintenance control officer (MCO) or maintenance control sergeant (MCS), at the CTCP is critical to maximize the experience on site to fix NMC equipment as far forward as possible and rapidly return fully mission-capable equipment to the fight. Additionally, some of the battalion Equipment Record Parts Specialists (ERPS) clerks at the CTCP with access to Global Combat Support System-Army (GCSS-Army) pro-vide the ability to open faults on NMC equipment, order parts, and maintain the SSL. Maintaining the larger portion of bench stock and SSL forward at the CTCP (in mobile storage) allows the BMT and FMTs quick access to fix forward at the tactical point of need. CTCP mission requirements typically dictate the following MTOE:
- Two M88 Recovery Vehicles and one M984A4 Recovery Truck (Wrecker)
- Two High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) Shop Equipment Maintenance Contact Trucks
- AN/VRC-89/90/92F Vehicular Radio Set and Joint Capabilities Requirements (JCR) Tactical Operations Center (TOC) Kit
- One Forward Repair System (FRS) mounted on a PLS
- One Standard Automotive Tool Set (SATS) trailer
- One Load Handling System (LHS) with M1076 PLS Trai-ler and CROPs
- One M978 Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck (HEMTT) A4 fuel servicing truck (tanker) with Tank Rack Module (TRM)
Additionally, the maneuver BN Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) and a Combat Service Support Automated Information System Interface must be at the CTCP. Having the VSAT at the CTCP provides the capability of ordering and receiving a Class IX (repair parts) part on the next LOGPAC to fix a NMC pacer. The VSAT also provides a communications platform for maintenance processes, attendance of brigade maintenance meetings via Defense Conference Services, and a means for the BN S1 to conduct daily reporting.
The temptation to position the VSAT at the BSA based on past SOPs is persistent, but delays the ordering of high priority parts until 5988 equipment maintenance and inspection work-sheets from the FLOT arrive at the BSA, with the FSC returning from LOGPAC. Having the VSAT forward allows ordering as fast, and as often, as the company/troop/batteries push 5988s to the CTCP. Numerous BN battle rhythm events can be conducted in the UMCP to induce face-to-face decision making, including the BN maintenance meeting and logistics synchronization meeting (LOGSYNC).
FTCP Purpose and Organization—Receive, Configure, and Deliver Supplies
The purpose of the FTCP is to receive, configure, and deliver all classes of supply to the companies via LOGPAC. FTCPs are located at the BSA to allow forward support companies to request, receive, organize, and configure loads for distribution. Those functions are completed by the FSC and occur simultaneously as the BSA receives all classes of supply and personnel replacements for the brigade from the CSSB. FTCPs located outside of the BSA create another loop in the supply chain which often results in mission failure when the Alpha Distribution Company (ADC) distribution platoon assets are not present at the BSA when the CSSB resupply arrives.
Key personnel located at the FTCP are the FSC commander, FSC first sergeant, FSC XO, and representatives from the BN S1 and S4. Additional forces located at the FTCP are elements of the FSC distribution and maintenance platoons (approximately 80%), the field feeding team (FFT), and the company supply sergeant. Positioning either the MCO or MCS—whomever is not at the CTCP—at the FTCP is critical to maximizing their experience to ensure the repair or evacuation of NMC equipment. The MCO or MCS also provides supervision of BN ERPS clerks that open faults, order parts, and organize supplies into company configured loads to push forward with the FSC distribution platoons’ twice daily LOGPAC. The FTCP also maintains the larger and less mobile portion of the SSL (major assemblies) to facilitate the FSCs configuration of those parts for transport and push forward on LOGPAC by the FSC to the company LRP. FTCP mission requirements typically dictate the following equipment requirements:
- One M984A4 Recovery Truck (Wrecker)
- One HMMWV Contact Shop Equipment Maintenance Truck
- AN/VRC-89/90/92F Vehicular Radio Set and JCR TOCs
- Eight Load Handling System (LHS) with M1076 PLS trailers
- Five M978 HEMTTA4 fuel trucks
- Five TRMs
- One LHS-compatible Water Tank Rack
- One Unit Water Pod System (Camel II)
- One Containerized Kitchen
- One Multi-Temperature Refrigerated Container System
- One Light Capability Rough Terrain Forklift (4K RTFL)
- One M1088 Medium Tactical Vehicle “Bobtail”
- One M129A1 Semitrailer Van, containing the Combined Arms Battalion SSL
Distribution and LOGPAC Operations
The purpose of the BSA is to receive, configure and distribute all classes of supply for the brigade combat team. Distribution is primarily accomplished through three methods, which include:
- Supply point distribution
- Unit distribution
To synchronize distribution while operating across extended distances and durations, the COS must specify both the method of distribution, the location, and function of key sustainment nodes. The linchpin of BCT sustainment centers on ensuring that BN FTCPs are located in the BSA. The positioning of FSCs within the BSA facilitates the FSCs twice-daily LOGPAC and successful execution of distribution operations.
There are five primary benefits to arraying the FTCPs in the BSA. First, it allows the SPO to tailor asset allocation for LOGPAC operations and maximize sustainment responsiveness. For example, an FSC will usually resupply their BNs through twice-daily LOGPAC (unit distribution). However, when required, the SPO can utilize the ADC fuel, water, or transportation assets to augment an FSC or to conduct a BDE LRP to provide endurance specifically when the battlefield expands and distribution distances are extended and more taxing, especially in a successful offensive operation.
Second, this technique is beneficial for receipt of bulk supplies from the CSSB resupply to the ADC assets in the BSA. When the CSSB arrives at the BSA, ADC assets must be on hand and empty to receive the resupply, which is especially critical for Class III (petroleum, oil, and lubricants-bulk) supply. Since the arrival time of the CSSB resupply to the BSA can be unpredictable, it is critical that the ADC is present in the BSA to receive the full resupply quantity from the CSSB. This loop is too difficult to synchronize if the ADC fuel and water platoon M978 HEMTTs and TRMs are out on LRP missions to the FSCs, or are at full capacity of fuel due to missed LRPs with the FSC.
Third, co-locating FTCPs in the BSA improves the FSC’s ability to configure combat loads by company prior to movement to the BN LRPs, thus reducing time on site at the LRP. As the BSB receives and issues supplies to the FSCs in the BSA, the FSC is simultaneously configuring company combat loads for the next LOGPAC. Configuring loads by company becomes particularly important with Class IX repair parts. In the BSA, FSCs are able to request and receive Class IX from the 4,252 lines of the Authorized Stockage List (ASL) in the SSA, and the 400 lines from the Bravo Maintenance Company SSL, and push it on the next LOGPAC. This consolidation of FTCPs in the BSA also allows BNs to share SSL through the Movement In Goods Out process in GCSS-Army, allowing each BN access to 2200 lines of SSL as opposed to the 300 maintained by the individual BNs. The process of sharing SSL becomes even more effective when maintenance meetings are conducted face-to-face daily with BN XOs or BMTs in the BSA.
Fourth, twice-a-day LOGPAC provides the means to complete daily 5988E exchange. The morning LOGPAC delivers clean hard copy 5988Es from the FTCP or the CTCP to the LRP and distributes them to the company first sergeants. 5988Es are then distributed to the platoons and operators who complete the preventative maintenance checks and services and have the FMT mechanics verify and research the faults. The evening LOGPAC retrieves the completed 5988Es and provides them to the BN ERPS clerks at the CTCP who add the faults and order parts in GCSS-Army where the NMC information becomes digital. This enables the supply system to fill the requisition from the SSL or ASL and the parts are picked and configured by the FSC for the next LOGPAC, or the requisition is referred to national.
Fifth, having FSC commanders at the BSA allows face-to-face coordination and deconfliction of LOGSTATs to ensure the SPO’s synchronization matrix is both accurate and feasible. Additionally, it allows the FSC commanders to be able to participate in the brigade LOGSYNC and the brigade maintenance meeting which is conducted face-to-face in the BSA providing greater fidelity and common understanding of the COS. In addition during high operations tempo, the FSC commander is able to coordinate with the BSB commander to gain authority to temporarily increase logistics capabilities at the CTCP based on METT-TC factors in order to facilitate twice daily LOGPAC while maintaining a safe work rest cycle for the distribution platoon.
CASEVAC and MEDEVAC Operations
To conduct effective CASEVAC with the number of casualties expected in decisive action, it is important to clearly delineate the battlefield areas of responsibility between the line company, the maneuver BN and the BSB medical company.
The responsibility for evacuation of casualties from the point of injury (POI) to the Role 1 Battalion Forward Aid Station or Main Aid Station typically located at the combat trains falls on the line company medics and the first sergeants, utilizing primarily CASEVAC. Actions at the POI include establishing security, treatment by self-aid/buddy-aid or combat lifesaver, and preparation for movement to the casualty collection point (CCP). Casualties are triaged and extracted when they arrive at the CCP. The extraction can occur utilizing the MEDEVAC company ambulance (M113 Armored Personnel Carrier or M997 HMMWV Ambulance), when casualty numbers are low, or by a nonstandard CASEVAC vehicles (Humvees or light medium tactical vehicles (LMTV) when casualty numbers are high. In the latter scenario, company first sergeants who are proficient in nonstandard evacuation of casualties, by using Humvees or LMTVs to evacuate patients from POI to Role I MTFs, have the most success. When higher numbers of casualties are anticipated, it is imperative to predesignate CASEVAC vehicles.
The responsibility for MEDEVAC from the Role 1 MTF to the Ambulance Exchange Point (AXP) falls on the maneuver BN to execute. The BN’s Role 1 assets typically include three or four ambulances (M113s or M997s) that they can provide to evacuate patients from Role 1 to the AXP, as the mission dictates.
The responsibility for MEDEVAC from the AXP to the Role 2 BSMC falls on the BSMC evacuation platoon. They use their six M113s (or M997s, depending on road conditions and terrain) to clear casualties from AXPs back to the Role 2 MTF. Mission dependent, the BSMC should preposition Role 2 M113s forward at Role 1 in order to expedite patient transport between the two MTFs. AXPs that echelon wheeled ambulances, forward coupled with prepositioning Role 2-tracked ambulances, at select Role 1 locations will significantly decrease the rate of patients dying of wounds. It is important to note that patients transported from Role 1 MTFs or AXPs via air MEDEVAC should primarily fly directly to a Role 3 MTF, bypassing Role 2 when mission geography allows.
In conclusion, sustaining the brigade combat team during sustained ground combat operations requires a precise COS and refined unit SOPs. Leaders at every echelon must understand the purpose and organization of the company trains, CTCP, and FTCP in order to conceptualize how these key nodes interact with the BSB and CSSB functions. The COS should specify distribution methods, key sustainment node locations, and methods for evacuation of medical casualties and NMC equipment. Brigade combat teams that spend time thinking about how they will sustain themselves will have greater success when operating across extended distances for long durations, in both training and combat operations.
Lt. Col. Gabe Pryor recently commanded the 47th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, and is currently assigned to the division G-4, 1st Armored Division. Pryor earned a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Gonzaga University and a Master of Policy Management from Georgetown University. His military education includes Ordnance Basic Officer Leadership Course; Combined Logistics Captains Career Course, and Command and General Staff College.
Maj. Jason Bost was assigned as brigade S4 and support operations officer, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, and is currently assigned to U.S. Army Cadet Command as an Assistant Professor of Military Science at Cameron University. Bost earned a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from Illinois State University. His military education includes Ordnance Basic Officer Leadership Course, Combined Logistics Captains Career Course, and Command and General Staff College.
This article was published in the October-December 2020 issue of Army Sustainment.