As military professionals who aggressively execute our training plans, per our eight-step training model, neatly aligned with our tactical standard operating procedures, we often overlook the last critical step—recovery. The recovery of our equipment and personnel is pivotal to ensuring the successful execution of future missions. The importance of a deliberate recovery phase cannot be overstated. We execute this phase with the vigor and leader focus applied to the training event itself. We simply do not separate the preparatory and recovery phases from the execution phase. This approach has paid huge dividends in terms of increased operational readiness, reducing the overall non-mission capable period of our equipment, and installing a sense of pride and confidence throughout our formation.
We found that troop commander involvement is key. During the recovery phase immediately following a field exercise, commanders provide their leaders with a “refit to fight/recovery schedule” that delivers top-down guidance, while receiving bottom-up feedback, which is a constant communication flow of completed tasks. When explaining the significance and process of restoring a unit’s personnel and equipment to the desired level of combat readiness and meeting the operational requirements to the most junior Soldier, it cultivates shared understanding and fosters leader engagement. We have found that this is a developmental opportunity for our junior leaders. As COVID-19, cases continue to surge, we implement precautionary measures. We have found it immensely beneficial to empower junior Soldiers and NCOs to execute decentralized recovery operations. Furthermore, we have developed and implemented our recovery operations across five phases that are nested within the commander’s intent.
Phase I - Redeployment. Upon redeployment, the most critical task is achieving 100% accountability of all personnel and equipment. Confirming every Soldier and piece of equipment, with a keen focus on sensitive items, returning from a field exercise is each leader's obligation across the formation. Personnel accountability is the most important step; it signals commanders that every Soldier is safe and present. As equipment—rolling and non-rolling stock, returns to a garrison setting, leaders must account for by inventorying all equipment based on the unit density list. An area that is often overlooked is key control. We must quickly establish effective key control, after the redeployment of all equipment. Since assuming command, just over 100 days, Command Sgt. Maj. Willie Allen and I have changed our focus from full mission capable (FMC) to 10/20 standards. This change of focus will leverage updates within the Global Combat Support System-Army that capture missing equipment and basic issues items (BII). We have discovered that when we strive for 10/20 standards, our operational readiness/FMC rate increases. In short, FMC is a byproduct of 10/20 standards.
Phase II - Maintenance Intensive Focus. Execution before, during, and after Preventive Maintenance Checks and Services (PMCS) to prevent the loss of lives and enhance readiness in follow-on missions is critical. We have empowered junior leaders and implemented daily updates to the squadron commander to ensure we have the proper focus and resources available to enable decentralized operations. The lives of Soldiers can inadvertently become endangered when operators fail to properly PMCS their equipment and vehicles; this laser focus and personalizing of a routine action has increased the quality of our inspections and the speed at which they are executed.
During this phase, by using a DA Form 2404 or DA Form 5988-E and following the required technical manual, Soldiers perform maintenance on their vehicles, communication equipment, night-vision devices, individual and crew-served weapons, protective masks, and their chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear equipment. A proper and thorough PMCS directly improves an organization’s equipment readiness and ensures Soldiers are postured to execute upcoming missions and tasks. We found that this is a critical step that postures the unit for the next mission and with time will reduce the preparatory phase of the next mission.
Phase III - Inventory Intensive. Each Soldier is responsible for maintaining the accountability of their equipment, including their TA-50 and organizational clothing and individual equipment (OCIE). We have operationalized all inventories, by directly linking them to our command supply discipline program and our command deployment discipline program. Troop commanders and/or executive officers crosswalk the results for our inventories and use the results as triggers to initiate the appropriate relief documents. After each field exercise, Soldiers and squad leaders conduct an inventory and inspect their Soldiers’ equipment to identify any missing or damaged items, as the Soldier may need their equipment replaced or repaired. Soldiers must understand they have an obligation to maintain their equipment; failure to do so may result in financial liability to reimburse the government for property loss. Vehicle BII and components of end item (COEI) are required parts for vehicles according to their respective TM; if a vehicle lacks these items, Soldiers will not be able to conduct a proper PMCS. Soldiers must clean, service, repair, inventory, and identify any shortages of their vehicle BII and COEI.
Phase IV – Leader Checks / Inspection of Equipment and Facilities. During this phase troop leadership validates the unit's operational readiness through a final inspection of each vehicle, completion of maintenance, condition and serviceability of BII and COEI, inspection of TA-50/OCIE, weapon cleanliness, and storage bays for overall appearance. We have found that submitting deserving Soldiers for public acknowledgment for superior achievement has paid dividends with enforcing an aggressive approach to recovery operations. This includes, but not limited to, publicly praising Soldiers, issuing coins, certificates of achievement, and Army Achievement Awards. We hold our troop commanders responsible for the degree of maintenance and inventories performed during the respective recovery phase is consistent with technical and tactical requirements. We have found that, while conducting final inspections, not only allows troop leadership to verify the conditions of equipment and enforce standards and discipline but also allows leadership the opportunity to assess their Soldiers' morale. This intangible aspect also enforces and shapes a positive command climate.
Phase V - Return Soldiers to “Combat Ready” State. The final phase includes verifying that Soldiers make their necessary medical, financial, and legal appointments. Meeting individual requirements is the responsibility of each Soldier and is shared by the NCO support channel and the chain of command, but remains a leader's business. Commanders maintain the responsibility of his/her unit readiness and certify that every Soldier is “green” on their medical protection system profile, confirming Soldiers are fit to fight. We added the final element to recovery operations as capturing, codifying, and sharing the after-action review (AAR) comments with fellow troop commanders and higher headquarters. It is important that all Soldiers are involved in the AAR process to properly capture all perspectives. We must capture all strengths and areas for improvements displayed during the field exercise, recording all lessons learned to further develop the entire organization, standard operating procedures, and enhancing their tactics, techniques, and procedures. Soldiers must understand that the intent of an AAR is to improve individual and collective task performance by providing immediate feedback.
Another area we often overlook is knowledge management. We must develop and, more importantly, enforce a system where information is easily accessible, in terms of sharing best practices, templates, example training plans, or event ideas. This largely depends upon available information technology infrastructure, local policy, and procedures.
Throughout this process, it is also essential to report daily updates on completed and pending tasks. It provides constant communication of any shortfalls to commanders if they require support or assistance from their higher headquarters. Moreover, Soldiers must understand the importance of recovery tasks and how they directly relate to the mission regarding accountability, maintenance, inventory, inspection, medical readiness, and effectively returning to the fighting stance. Ultimately, the leader’s responsibility is to actively oversee the recovery process and explain the importance, value, and purpose of helping their Soldiers understand the commander's intent and end state.
Lt. Col. Christopher M. Richardson currently serves as the Commander of the Regimental Support Squadron, 2D Cavalry Regiment. He is a graduate of Command and General Staff College, Joint Professional Military Education II, and Advanced Navigation Operations.
Command Sgt. Maj. Willie Allen currently serves as the Command Sergeant Major for the Regimental Support Squadron, 2D Cavalry Regiment. He is a graduate of the Sergeant Major Academy class 68.
Sgt. 1st Class Alfredo Moreno currently serves as the fuel and water Platoon Sergeant, assigned to Alpha Troop, Regimental Support Squadron, 2d Cavalry. He is a graduate of the Senior Leader Course.
This content is published online in conjunction with the April-June 2021 issue of Army Sustainment.