The Forward Logistics Element [FLE] may not be a doctrinal unit within the military services, nonetheless it provides the logistical capabilities essential for troops on the front lines. This article aims to give you a basic understanding of a FLEs operations and some of the key takeaways from our time in Iraq.
A FLE is made up of a diverse team designed for a specific purpose and task organized to support the warfighter within their Area of Operations [AO]. To support the warfighters effectively, the team must be composed of an assortment of military occupation specialties [MOS]. Our team had the ability to facilitate the following operations: supply, petroleum supply, ammunition, movement control, mortuary affairs, finance, and postal. The team was tailored to meet preplanned objectives, while proving to be adaptable to new missions as necessary. The team, specifically in our FLE, was a conglomerate of national guard, reservist, and active duty Soldiers; all coming together as one to execute the mission.
The FLE must be flexible and ready to absorb additional responsibilities or missions at a moment’s notice. Flexibility in a FLE comes through adapting quickly to its particular environment. The FLE must rapidly develop a sound understanding of their AO and their supported unit’s requirements. Without a clear grasp of their operational environment, the FLE would be in a constant state of reaction. However, with mastery of the AO, the FLE can quickly shift to support the mission as it dictates. At some point, the mission may dictate focus to a specific area, and without proper planning and keen awareness, the FLE will potentially fail to support the priority shift. For instance, one of the components of our FLE, the Fuel System Supply Point [FSSP], had to replace a 210K gallon fuel bag and did not have the manpower to support the operation internally. Since we had an acute awareness of the environment, we were able to pool all hands together, refocus our efforts, and accomplish the mission by replacing the bag in a single day.
Limitations levied on the FLE due to various restrictions such as Boots on Ground [BOG], availability of forces to deploy, unforeseeable events (e.g. COVID-19), etc. required the FLE to be an exceptionally efficient unit. As part of the FLE, Soldiers should be prepared to utilize skills which may not be specific to their MOS, but rather, ones they have learned from previous civilian jobs, prior MOSs, or ones learned on their own.
Not only was our FLE lean, in terms of personnel, but it was lean in equipment availability. Soldiers must be prepared to work with little equipment, as well as identify the minimal equipment requirements to accomplish the mission. The FLE must be an efficient unit to
accomplish its mission successfully.
As the FLE, we provided support to all organizations within our AO to include, US Service Members (Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps), Coalition Forces, as well as other Government Agencies. The FLE must be prepared to adapt to whatever the mission set dictates, be it to support or procure the support needed for all warfighters within our AO. This is why the FLE must be a diverse, flexible, and efficient unit.
Task organized under the 541st Combat Support Sustainment Battalion [CSSB] and augmented with personnel from the 101st Special Troops Battalion [STB] to include a Senior Brigade Representative, assigned to the 101st Division (Air Assault) Sustainment Brigade 'Lifeliners', our FLE had a unique reach back capability. It was designed to support the warfighters, and to leverage our Battalions and Brigade for additional support. What we did not possess as the FLE, we outsourced from our Battalions or Brigade, so that the mission could be executed efficiently. In addition to their support, our distinct structure gave us a direct connection to the 1st Theater Support Command [TSC] for some of our specific missions to include mortuary affairs and the Army Post Office.
In addition to higher organization relationships, the FLE must form bonds with adjacent units and other friendly forces. These relations were crucial to our FLE operation success. In our case, these organizations were the Base Operating Support Integrator [BOS-I] and the Base Command Team. The BOS-I played a huge role, not only in the life support at our location, but also in project management for the base. Each of the projects in our location were routed and managed through BOS-I. The FLE maintained constant communication with BOS-I to ensure projects were scheduled and completed on time preventing potential detriment to the mission. Due to the lean structure of the FLE, we relied heavily on the Base Command to provide services for our team. For example, security for our teams leaving the base to conduct mission, as well as obtaining real-estate within the base all went through the Base Command Team. The relationships with the BOS-I and Base Command Team were essential in ensuring mission success.
Several factors play into the success of a FLE, however, in order to be successful the FLE must be diverse, flexible, and efficient. As a unique logistical node, the FLE’s mission is always subject to change. The FLE must ensure relationships and communication through higher, subordinate, and adjacent units is fluid so the mission can be accomplished quickly and efficiently.
1st Lt. Jessica Risher is an Ordnance Officer for the 221st Ordnance Company in Fort Wayne, Ind. She holds a bachelor degree in Respiratory Therapy from Indiana University. She completed the Ordnance Basic Officer Leadership Course at Fort Lee, VA.
2nd Lt. Andrew Rejeski is an Ordnance Officer in the 1st Armor Division Sustainment Brigade. He holds a bachelor in mechanical engineering from Auburn University. He completed the Ordnance Basic Officer Leadership Course at Fort Lee, Va.
2nd Lt. Morgan Stockdill is a Quartermaster Officer for the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) Sustainment Brigade. She holds a bachelor of science degree in German Language from the United States Military Academy. She completed the Quartermaster Basic Officer Leadership Course at Fort Lee, Va.
Capt. Zach Butler is a Logistics Officer for the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) Sustainment Brigade. He holds a masters degree in logistics and transportation management from America Military University. He graduated from Intermediate Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) Logistics Operations Course (IMLOC) as an Expeditionary Logistics Instructor.
Other education: Pensacola Christian College, B.A. Prelaw; Logistics Officers Course (USMC); Expeditionary Warfare School, Marine Corps University; Command and Staff College, Marine Corps University.