For the past two decades, the Army focused on force optimization in support of counterinsurgency efforts in the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) area of responsibility (AOR). As we shift to global strategic readiness, resetting the theater has become a key priority. U.S. Army Materiel Command (AMC) has implemented initiatives like the Army pre-positioned stocks (APS) 2028 strategy while also balancing more urgent operational requirements such as force reductions and associated equipment retrograde in Afghanistan. These efforts require cooperation across the entire joint logistics enterprise.
While the 1st Theater Sustainment Command (TSC) is responsible for operational-level sustainment across the CENTCOM AOR, AMC’s key integrator and “face to the field” in the Middle East remains the 401st Army Field Support Brigade (AFSB). Headquartered in Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, the 1st TSC, the 401st AFSB, and its subordinate units (Army Field Support Battalion (AFSBn)-Kuwait, AFSBn-Southwest Asia, AFSBn-Qatar, AFSBn-Afghanistan, and the 2nd Logistics Civil Augmentation Program Support Battalion) span the breadth of the Middle East and enable the strategic reach and endurance of the Army Central Command.
The 1st TSC sets the theater and provides mission command and operational-level sustainment to enable unified land operations in support of the combatant commander’s directives. In co-ordination, the 401st AFSB integrates and synchronizes AMC resources to deliver materiel readiness at the operational and tactical points of need in support of operations Resolute Support, Freedom’s Sentinel, Inherent Resolve, and Spartan Shield. Over the past two years, the 1st TSC and the 401st AFSB also have taken on the mission of optimizing the theater in support of critical requirements, including growing other APS unit sets and assisting in Army force modernization and readiness efforts.
Beginning in 2020, the team focused on the redeployment of the legacy APS-5 Armored Brigade Combat Team (ABCT). This formation and its enablers consisted of roughly 500 tracked vehicles, 700 wheeled vehicles, and hundreds of containers of repair parts and associated equipment. By closely coordinating with the Surface Deployment Distribution Command’s (SDDC) 595th Transportation Brigade, the 401st AFSB redistributed these assets across global APS sets and depots while also filling critical equipment shortages in units worldwide. This effort enabled U.S. Forces Command to avoid cascading M1 systems to the National Guard and saved over $20 million per brigade combat team by allowing formations to turn in tanks without bringing them to 10/20 standards. As a result, the National Guard was able to modernize three ABCTs directly to M1 System Enhanced Package (SEP) Version 3 ten years ahead of schedule. Additionally, these platforms positioned the Army to divest of legacy M1A1s and M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles (BFVs) and provided critical M88 recovery vehicles to force-generating formations in support of advanced individual training. Self-propelled howitzers (M109A6) and M2/M3 BFVs from the set served as seed assets for Red River Army Depot under the regionally aligned readiness and modernization model initiative.
In addition to the ABCT effort, the 1st TSC and the 401st AFSB spearheaded divestiture and redistribution of Army Watercraft Systems (AWS) from the APS-5 set. This entailed the demilitarization of 23 vessels in preparation for possible future foreign military sales and the transfer of two critical landing craft utility (LCUs) to APS stocks in Korea. The 401st AFSB teamed with the SDDC’s 595th Transportation Brigade to conduct the first LCU float-on/float-off operations in the CENTCOM AOR in more than 20 years. While shifting equipment to other APS sets, the 401st AFSB also coordinated the transfer and fielding of CENTCOM-based Mine Resistant Ambush Protected All-Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV) systems in support of force modernization efforts for military police formations and center of excellence training institutions. From June to September 2020, the 401st team—again working in close coordination with 595th Transportation Brigade—prepared and shipped 602 M-ATVs to AFSBn-Charleston (406th AFSB) for contractor reset (ManTech) and reissue across the Army.
While divesting legacy APS-5 unit sets, AMC operationalized Army war reserve sustainment stocks in the CENTCOM AOR to improve overall Army readiness. From October 2020 to March 2021, the 401st AFSB, under the direction of 1st TSC, prepared and shipped approximately 800 twenty-foot equivalent unit containers of Class II, Class IV, and Class IX supplies to Army depots and other APS sets in Europe and Korea to fill critical shortages and return key materiel to the supply system. In total, the effort returned more than $100 million in repair parts, aerial delivery equipment, nuclear/biological/chemical outer garments, and similar items to the Army supply system. For six months at both Camp As Sayliyah, Qatar, and Camp Arifjan, Kuwait the 401st AFSB team inventoried, packed, and shipped materiel via both dedicated and opportune strategic lift assets to improve Army global force posture. This herculean effort required 1st TSC-wide coordination between Area Support Group Qatar, Area Support Group Kuwait, the 595th Transportation Brigade, and the 401st AFSB.
In response to the recent force reduction in Afghanistan following Intra-Afghan peace talks, the Resolute Support Sustainment Brigade (RSSB), and the Army Field Support Battalion-Afghanistan (AFSBn-AFG) re-postured forces in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. Following initial directives from operation Resolute Support leadership in June 2020, the team immediately reworked existing maintenance contracts in anticipation of a large-scale retrograde effort. Drawing on lessons learned by the 401st AFSB and the 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command during similar operations in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2014, the 1st TSC leadership built a robust redistribution property accountability team (RPAT) capability at hubs in Bagram and Kandahar. In coordination with the Resolute Support Sustainment Brigade, the 1st TSC also established a second RPAT at Bagram using Soldiers to augment the AFSBn-AFG’s contracted labor force. This provided the Resolute Support leadership three points where equipment could be turned in and retrograded, allowing for an increased capacity to meet the maneuver commander’s intent.
Divestiture and redistribution began immediately. Under the guidance of the 1st TSC, the 401st AFSB worked with Army Sustainment Command to determine the disposition of all in-theater equipment utilizing the lead materiel integrator decision support tool. Working with the Resolute Support CJ4, the 401st AFSB identified more than 1,400 pieces of rolling stock and approximately 25,000 non-rolling stock items requiring retrograde. To validate this increased RPAT capacity in preparation for future operations, the AFSBn-AFG processed on-hand mission-essential equipment list (MEEL) sets, consisting of critical engineer equipment and upgraded M-ATVs designated for future security force assistance brigade deployments. Immediately following validation with the MEEL equipment, formations began turn-ins at the RPAT yards based-on Resolute Support force reduction directives.
In coordination with the RSSB and the 595th Transportation Brigade, the AFSBn-AFG received, processed, and shipped more than 1,000 rolling stock, and more than 16,000 non-rolling stock pieces in a six-month period using multi-modal transportation. As equipment began to accumulate, the 1st TSC coordinated with the U.S. Central Command Deployment and Distribution Operations Center, co-located in Kuwait, to conduct hybrid multi-modal movement by which equipment flew from hubs in Afghanistan to Kuwait. Upon receipt, AFSBn-SWA at Camp Arifjan received and processed the equipment for onward movement to the continental United States and outside the continental United States locations using strategic lift assets coordinated through SDDC.
Col. Michael LaBrecque, commander, 401st Army Field Support Brigade, is a graduate of Command and General Staff College and the Army War College. He was also a Columbia University Army War College Fellow. He has a bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering from the U.S. Military Academy and a master's degree in Administration from Central Michigan University.
This article was published in the April-June 2021 issue of Army Sustainment.