8th TSC uses holistic approach to mitigate risk in AWS operations

By Maj. Oliver Schuster and Timothy Ah Young-SheltonDecember 15, 2020

FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii -- Using a closed-loop system of risk management, the 8th Theater Sustainment Command assesses, evaluates and mitigates risk to its Army Watercraft Systems while conducting joint operations to support theater opening, theater sustainment, and theater distribution within the U.S. Indo-Pacific area of responsibility.

The 8th TSC AWS are subjectable to increased risk as these systems continue to conduct maritime operations within the Indo-Pacific AOR. Because of this risk, the 8th TSC Commander, Maj. Gen. David Wilson, has implemented a risk management conference to be held prior to sailing, placing special importance on the risk mitigation aspect of the sailing orders process for these mission.

This approach emphasizes a safety and risk management focus to protect the force while enhancing the unit’s ability to conduct safe AWS operations.

The Sailing Orders Process

Army Regulation 56-9, Army Intratheater Watercraft Systems, dictates sailing orders are required to get a vessel underway and are the official authority for an Army vessel to conduct its operations. At a minimum, sailing orders must contain a memorandum cover sheet, deliberate risk assessment sheet, voyage plan, presail checklist, crew list, and deployment orders when required.

Emphasis of safety is part of the DRAW, presail checklists and crew list of the sailing order process.

Deliberate Risk Assessment Worksheet

The 8th TSC uses the Army’s standardized risk mitigation process as its baseline for conducting safe operations. It entails using a DRAW to identify hazards, assess the risk of those hazards, develop controls and make risk decisions, implement controls, and supervise and evaluate.

Prior to every AWS mission, the 8th TSC holds a risk management conference, hosted by the commanding general, to go over the DRAW. This allows for a more comprehensive worksheet that has received input from and communicated with personnel down to the lowest level, showing even the most junior members of the command how much risk mitigation is a priority.

Crew List

Additionally, during the RM conference the crew list is gone over to ensure the crew members have the right certifications, received regional intelligence briefs, conducted the emergency drills/rehearsals and are up to date on the necessary vaccinations.

Presail Inspections/Tests

In addition to the Transportation Branch Marine Safety Office’s triennial safety survey, 8th TSC AWS units conduct annual, monthly, weekly and on-demand inspections to make sure everything is in good working order. These inspection are outlined in Army’s Training Manual 4-15.21 and range from checking communications equipment to navigation equipment to safety equipment. Upon completion the inspections must be recorded and kept for regulatory requirements and historical record.


It is the vessels master’s responsibility to ensure all drill/rehearsals are conducted in accordance with TM 4-15.21 and logged in the vessel’s official log. These drill include abandon-ship drills, fire drills, and drills with other lifesaving appliances the vessel has onboard. Logbook entries must include at a minimal the date and time of the drill, muster, or training session, the survival craft and fire-extinguishing equipment used in the drill or drills practiced emergency drills; and any pertinent guidance or technical information relevant to safety and survival of personnel or equipment and systems that was disseminated Additionally, mission rehearsals are meticulously conducted to ensure personnel are familiarized with all facets of operations as well as the implemented control measures.

During this whole process, the safety officers take an active role in assisting commanders with the necessary tools to make informed decisions. They make sure pre-sail inspections are completed and hazard tracking systems are working properly. Whenever needed, they provide additional training to ensure the unit is able to maintain operational readiness and safeguard resources.

Sailing Orders Approval:

These steps are tracked and recorded in a risk management packet as part of the mission’s sailing orders. These packets provide a comprehensive snapshot of risk mitigation, ensuring proper command decisions are being made when approving missions.

Real World Results

The catalyst of mission success is the commander’s application of deliberate risk management into all missions. Since June 2020 the TSC’s AWS have conducted numerous high-risk missions while facing real threats and experiencing zero safety incidents. They have transported long-range fires equipment, critical assets, and forces west of International Date Line; performed opposing forces tasks; participated in joint training exercises; and most recently retrograded Marines Rotational Force-Darwin assets to Okinawa, Japan, without incident.

Additionally, the 8th TSC’s AWS conducted its longest voyage since World War II in July when it sailed LSV-2, USAV CW3 Harold C. Clinger, from Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam through the Panama Canal Zone and on to Joint Base Langley-Eustis. This movement took 42 days and required coordination with the combatant command headquarters, Pacific Fleet, and 3 Navy Fleets (2nd, 3rd, and 4th Fleets) during this operational move. This demonstrated that the AWS remain capable of moving in and out of contact with authority, are capable of marking and bypassing maritime obstacles, able to protect its platforms, and provide relevant operational incident reports associated with their mission.

Broader Applications

No matter the formation, units can build upon the Army’s risk management process to take a deeper look into its approach to safety and increase its ability to protect the Army’s top priority, its people.

The 8th TSC is the Indo-Pacific Theater’s senior Army logistics unit. The TSC is responsible for theater opening, theater distribution and theater sustainment operations throughout the vast region, and the unit's represent 167 different skill sets, with 35 unique capabilities, to include military police, explosive ordnance disposal, AWS, dive, engineer, transportation, and sustainment operations.

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