Equipment belonging to the 1st Infantry Division are staged by like-item and force-loaded after passing through the Installation Transportation Office’s inspection station during the National Training Center Decisive Action Rotation 20-10. This division-level rotation was used as a proof of concept that division or corps headquarters could employ NTC’s Decisive Action Training Environment for large-scale combat operations.
Equipment belonging to the 1st Infantry Division are staged by like-item and force-loaded after passing through the Installation Transportation Office’s inspection station during the National Training Center Decisive Action Rotation 20-10. This division-level rotation was used as a proof of concept that division or corps headquarters could employ NTC’s Decisive Action Training Environment for large-scale combat operations. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army Photo) VIEW ORIGINAL

Proper force projection planning, force flow integrity, and strategic movement mission analysis for division operations is crucial for command teams and staff planners to perfect, as it enables overall mission success. Army Techniques Publication (ATP) 3-35, Army Deployment and Redeployment Operations, defines force projection as the capability to project the “military instrument of national power from the United States or another theater, in response to requirements for military operations. It is a demonstrated ability to alert, mobilize, rapidly deploy, and operate effectively anywhere in the world.” 1st Infantry Division's (1ID) successful movement to the National Training Center (NTC) in support of the 20-10 rotation at Fort Irwin, California Aug. 31, 2020, to Oct. 8, 2020, highlighted several force projection challenges and lessons learned as the division trained to validate for division operations and large-scale combat operations (LSCO) in a decisive action training environment. 1ID's theater entry and clearance operations facilitated a rapid and organized end-to-end deployment from home station.

Overall, four brigade elements and 17 geographically separate enabler units participated in the rotation from multiple locations across the United States, consisting of more than 1,876 pieces of equipment valued at more than $6.5 million. 1ID successfully conducted the end-to-end deployment of more than 200 pieces of organic equipment designated to move via linehaul from Fort Riley, Kansas, to Fort Irwin, California, and more than 1,050 pieces of 1ID equipment via rail on more than 292 rail cars. The division safely deployed and redeployed more than 3,370 1ID Soldiers to include the enabler entities' personnel via air and ground transportation modes across the United States valued at more than $9.8 million. The deployment phases highlighted several critical lessons learned in division-level force projection and force flow planning as 1ID sought to project the “appropriate mix of combat forces together with support and sustainment units,” according to ATP 3-35.

Pre-Deployment Lessons Learned

1ID approached mission analysis with the purpose of maintaining personnel and equipment accountability while conducting and synchronizing multimodal deployment operations that built combat power in a COVID-19 restricted environment. The COVID-19 restrictions presented 1ID command teams, staff, and Soldiers with an additional layer of operational complexity in movement and force flow planning. The COVID-19 complexity required a total division-led team effort to lead and manage movements given quarantine, sanitation, safety, and testing requirements associated with each movement. The mission analysis process included multiple division-led mobility synchronization meetings with brigade mobility warrants, command teams, the G3/G5, and other key staff planners to identify critical equipment on the unit deployment list (UDL) and personnel required before the UDL locked on June 1, 2020.

Due to the unique nature of the division-level rotation, task organization requirements drove multiple units to deploy in a fashion they had not trained to execute. For example, several platoon-size elements were deployed separately. Unfamiliarity with their platoon-sized container requirements led to an overestimation of container requirements in some cases. Finally, one of the most significant risks 1ID faced to strategic movement planning was with an NTC-directed decision to shift to expeditionary reception, staging, onward movement, and integration (ERSOI) after the UDL was locked on June 1, 2020. In ATP 3-35, it defines reception, staging, onward movement, and integration (RSOI) as the “process that delivers combat power to the joint force commander in the operational theater. The very nature of seizing the initiative demands expeditious processing of personnel and equipment throughout the deployment pipeline.” However, the shift to a more austere ERSOI triggered multiple UDL unlocks as command teams and staff grappled with identifying novel equipment, personnel, and movement requirements.

Shortfalls in deployment planning and frequent mission essential and subordinate commander-directed changes after the UDL was locked injected friction into proper strategic movement intermodal planning. Late changes in mission, shortfalls in the unit-level understanding of command deployment discipline program requirements, and the under-prioritization of force flow integrity also resulted in challenges with 1ID's force projection planning process.

1ID conducted several strategic movement rehearsals of concept (ROC) drills at the Fort Riley installation transportation office (ITO) site on Camp Funston, and during division-level sustainment ROC drills held at 1ID's joint operations center. These pivotal rehearsals identified brigades responsible for command and control at the out load nodes on both Fort Riley and Fort Irwin while covering estimated logistics and sustainment requirements that enhanced the overall strategic movement plan's shared understanding.

Deployment and Redeployment Lessons Learned

1ID sustainment equipment, personnel, distribution, and transportation assets required to support ERSOI were not fully understood during the deployment phase. As a result, the ERSOI process was delayed. 1ID also had delayed access to mission-essential containers due to a train delay en route to Fort Irwin, further complicating and delaying ERSOI.

The convoy release to Camp Funston on Fort Riley, coupled with a timed-release strategy, increased overall equipment flow through ITO's inspection weigh stations, which was a clear win for 1ID. The brigade command and control (C2) node responsibility designation between the Combat Aviation Brigade and 1/1 Armored Brigade Combat Team was well executed for personnel, linehaul, and rail out load operations on Fort Riley. 1st Sustainment Brigade's detailed C2 of ERSOI at Fort Irwin and the Fort Riley ITO support was also critical to 1ID's success.

Finally, an area of necessary improvement was a shortfall with enabler units not providing detailed movement plans and UDLs before the Fort Irwin reception. Supported units were hard-pressed to identify when enablers needed to redeploy, leaving 1ID units responsible for turn-in of enabler prepositioned equipment. This enabler oversight challenge is common to NTC rotations with Compo 2 and 3 training constraints.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Employing unit staging checklists, movement control teams (MCT), rail load plans, and prioritizing personnel are essential elements to a division movement. 1ID learned to ensure proper time allocation for unit-level pre-deployment tasks. At the same time, brigades and battalions must pre-stage equipment to conduct pre-deployment checklist inspections before movement to deployment nodes. The MCT must be tasked at the deployment nodes to sustain asset and in-transit visibility for the division.

Rail load plans must be submitted to the ITO by the unit mobility warrant officer with their initial UDL before requesting rail cars, while rail cars must be loaded with force flow integrity. Rail load planning provides equipment visualization on planned dedicated transportation assets while operationalizing railcar planning requirements. A refined rail load plan, produced by requesting units, reduces costly underutilized rail cars and actualizes the rail load UDL resulting in better force projection visibility. Units must leverage their unit mobility officers (UMOs) to receive and account for equipment while ensuring equipment drivers are identified, trained, and prioritized on the torch movement before deployment.

UDL signing, organizational equipment list (OEL) validation, G3 mission command, and deployment readiness exercises (DRE) are essential to proper force projection. 1ID learned that units must validate OELs and sign their UDLs during monthly inventories while final UDLs must be signed by battalion and brigade command teams with input from brigade mobility teams. Brigade commander involvement in signing the UDL to identify bottom-up force projection priorities will improve mission and movement requirement identification, enabling force projection throughout ERSOI. Finally, tracking and managing movements during deployment out loads must have an overall mission command node as a G3-led operation.

1ID already exercises DREs to regularly validate load plans, which must continue, combined with container pack-out exercises. Units that had recently completed a DRE, for example, had significantly better results with accurate container and equipment requirement projections. 1ID must operationalize deployment processes across the division that includes precise intermodal movements, tracked by transportation control number, while running it as a G3/S3 operation and not as an exclusive “logistics” task.

Mobility Warrant Officer/UMO Utilization and Force Flow Integrity

Mobility warrant officers must rotate through each nodal location during out load operations and ERSOI, ensuring the process flows as planned, while UMOs must have a presence in the unit motor pool areas. Posting battalion-level UMOs at weigh station inspection sites and brigade UMOs at C2 node locations to report out load and reception statuses will enable the execution of force projection. Force flow integrity enables an effective RSOI which “matches personnel with their equipment, minimizes staging and sustainment requirements while transiting the Ports of Debarkation, and begins onward movement as quickly as possible,” according to ATP 3-35.

1ID must ship equipment with force flow integrity to have the right equipment at the right place and right time, which requires G3 oversight. This G3 oversight must synchronize requirements with the G4, division transportation officer, G1, and key division staff sections to include strategic enablers at Surface Deployment and Distribution Command and the U.S. Transportation Command. This action supports the deployment principle of synchronization, which ATP 3-35 describes as essential because effective synchronization of scarce lift assets and other resources maximizes their use. Synchronization normally requires explicit coordination among the deploying units and staffs, supporting units and staffs, a variety of civilian agencies, and other services.” 1ID learned the importance of building tactical assembly area support packages that include life support, communications, and force protection to be deployed via line-haul with the torch party movement. Finally, units must identify equipment items that will move first by priority tied to the UDL with G3 validation to sustain force projection and combat power during LSCO.


Maj. Matthew N. Mayor is a logistics officer and the division transportation officer for the 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, Kansas. He holds two bachelor's degrees in criminology and philosophy from Marquette University. He also holds a Master of Business Administration from the College of William and Mary, a master's degree in public policy and administration from Northwestern University, a master's degree in operational studies from the Command and General Staff College (CGSC), and a master's degree in management and leadership from Webster University. He is a graduate of the Transportation Basic Officer Leader Course, the Combined Logistics Captains Career Course, and CGSC.


This article was published in the April-June 2021 issue of Army Sustainment.


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