A new generation of highly trained and skilled armor brigade combat team (ABCT) veteran personnel now exist that are proficient at unit movement operations (UMO). They have been exposed and experienced to deploying for nine months at a time as part of the relatively recent heel-to-toe deployments beginning circa 2015, to the Middle East, Europe, and South Korea. From the sustainment perspective, the results are forward-deployed multi-echelon sustainment commands ranging from strategic to tactical. These sustainment organizations are afforded the capability to exercise fundamentals of ATP 3-37.10, Base Camps. The exercised support areas contain feasible ports of debarkation ready to provide direct support to the rotational units and its port support activity (PSA).
The success of these deploying rotations relies on the readily available resources leveraged by these units. Consistent success depends in part on the relatively predictable training calendar. The rotations supporting budget and manning priorities creates an enduring culture of lethal Soldiers that are also highly knowledgeable and successful on PSA’s involving rail and line haul operations that are critical at the ports of embarkation and debarkation. This is very well described by the Army Sustainment November 2018 article “Synchronizing the Seaport of Embarkation,” by Maj. Joseph D. Komanetz. However, often overlooked on these ABCT rotations are the unique existing forward-deployed sustainment elements that are readily available to execute reception, staging, onward movement, and integration (RSOI) for these ABCTs.
Rotations to South Korea demonstrate the criticality of providing a highly trained and motivated PSA to execute its debarkation to support the Eighth Army’s enduring mission to support the Republic of Korea (ROK)-U.S. Military alliance. Each of these rotations remains expeditious through the entirety of RSOI experience during both initial deployment and redeployment operations.
Like the comparative ABCT rotations to U.S. Army Central Command and U.S. Army Europe (USAREUR), all personnel arrive at a standard aerial port of debarkation. The immediate quarantine of arriving personnel emerged in 2020 as an integral part of the rotation deployment plan. Post-quarantine, the PSA will move to a predetermined seaport of debarkation and experience a highly expeditious logistical feat, while billeting at an equally critical base camp.
Unique to the rotation to Korea, is that no single port offers an existing base camp with enough permanent infrastructure capable of independently sustaining a PSA immediately. Instead, all locations require the establishment of an austere base camp in combination with support from Army pre-positioned stock (APS), operational contracting support, and organic unit equipment.
The 19th Expeditionary Sustainment Command charges its Sustainment Brigade, Materiel Support Command-Korea (MSC-K), along with its 498th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion (CSSB), Korea Service Corps (KSC), and its 25th Transportation Battalion with the mission essential task of RSOI and maintain proficiency for possible contingency operations.
The active-duty 20th, 23rd, and 34th Area Support Groups (ASG) de-activated nearly a decade ago leaving a component 2 based Army Reserve organization, the 658th Regional Support Group (RSG), to flex as necessary in contingency or training. The primary purpose of the ASG according to FM 54-40, Area Support Group circa 1995, was to “…establish and coordinate logistical support at the operational and strategic level of war.” and be “the forward presence forces remaining in USAREUR and Korea to support alliances.” The role of the ASG included 14 separate tasks including the RSOI and the noncombatant evacuation operation task. Interestingly, the doctrine highlights that ASG compositions and missions varied across time and the Army.
This enduring support mission tasked to MSC-K provides the brigade’s tactical level logisticians an exciting and real-world opportunity to train on the South Korean-based contingency operation. The 498th CSSB is tasked with establishing the base camp. These base camps per ATP 3-37.10, Base Camp, “are an evolving military facility that supports the military operations of a deployed unit and provides the necessary support and services for sustained operations.”
Sustainment and maneuver commanders are capable of conducting repetitions on the RSOI mission by exercising the most rudimentary level of a base camp during these rotations.
The CSSB commander offers the opportunity to execute the task of base camp establishment according to ATP 4-93.1, Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, and the associated “Base Camp Life Cycle.” This experience is doctrinally before the relief by a RSG. The RSG manages large base camps or base clusters with multiple senior commanders present.
Even more critical of these rotations for the sustainment commands exercises is the ability to build continuity and experience that is often lost due to the very common one-year assignment to the Korean Peninsula.
The success of these operations begins with the typical site visit to the proposed port and base camp location at Busan storage facility (BSC). This location provided prime power, limited shower and laundry, a maintenance facility, and a central receiving and shipping point. It includes access to the 6th KSC, space to establish approximately 30 tents for rotational units, and to stage equipment and vehicles. However, BSC’s primary purpose is a theater stock warehouse. Its railhead and landing zone are no longer operational and much like the U.S. Army Garrison-Yongsan, the city's government is growing disconcerted with continued U.S. presence on this prized piece of city real estate. In addition, due to the location in Busan, all large vehicle movements rely heavily on the Korean national police escort.
The BSC base camp grew to consist of 30 Temper Tents. Twenty tents and 360 cots are drawn from APS4. Preventive medicine guidance established in Technical Bulletin 531, Facility Sanitation Controls and Inspection, modified the tent living arrangements to 12 cots per tent to enforce COVID prevention measures in the training environment. MSC-K’s Care and Preservation manufactured 200 pieces of wood flooring specifically for the APS4 Temper Tents costing approximately $30,000. These are stored in containers for rapid delivery to potential contingency base camps. The APS4 draw included an entire power grid validated by APS4. It included generation, distribution, lighting, and heating capable of supporting three separate billeting areas for the 30 tents. The grid design and its implementation without a doubt requires tapping the experience of a knowledgeable senior non-commissioned officer.
To further augment organic sustainment, operation contracting support was utilized consisting of additional shower and hygiene sink containers and a bagged laundry service. Chinhae Navy morale welfare and recreation provided an exceptional WiFi service while Pier 8 provided access to its barbershop and Army & Air Force Exchange Service. Lastly, the 176th Financial Management Support Unit provided cash disbursement valued at over $1,500. It further included numerous blanket purchase agreements.
Although the base camp establishment every nine months appears initially expensive, the results are sustainment organizations are highly trained and proficient on contingency RSOI training objectives. It provides the opportunity for sustainment organizations at all echelons across the peninsula the ability to refine their concept of support for rotational units in preparation for contingency.
Much discussion has occurred about the practicality of rotational ABCTs vs forward deployed. However, for the sustainment community, the training value of supporting the rotational units is obvious during these real-time training events. Sustainment organizations hinge on obtaining crucial “T” ratings on mission essential tasks through the execution of these predictable rotations. The most recent Korean-based ABCT rotation occurred while simultaneously implementing an effective health system support concept assisted by the 168th Multifunctional Medical Brigade. COVID-19 mitigation included the use of Technical Bulletin 531, and additional recently learned COVID battle drills to react to a positive case at the base camp were critical to the entire planning process. Granted, following the close-out after action review with 19th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, several sustains and improvements were voiced; the takeaway is that the alliance maintains a sustainment community that truly is logistically capable and ready to support the “Fight Tonight.”
Maj. Chase N. Kochkodin is the support operations officer (SPO) for the 498th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion (THE VICTORY BATTALION), Materiel Support Command- Korea (MSC-K), 19th Expeditionary Sustainment Command (ESC), Camp Carroll, Waegwan, Republic of Korea. He was commissioned through Valley Forge Military College and earned a bachelor’s degree in History from George Washington University and a master’s degree in Military History from Norwich University.
This content is published online in conjunction with the April-June 2021 issue of Army Sustainment.