With the publication of Field Manual (FM) 3-0, Operations, in 2017, the Army acknowledges that the current operational environment presents significantly more dangerous threats in terms of capability and magnitude than those faced in Iraq and Afghanistan. These rising threats, along with the evolution of the current operational environment, have caused the Army to shift its focus away from counterinsurgency operations (COIN) to an approach that is multi-domain and large-scale combat operations (LSCO) centric.
Following the publication of FM 3-0, the Army published a revision of Army Regulation 600-8-111, Army Mobilization, Manning, and Wartime Replacement Operations. One of the updates within this revision was the Army Enterprise’s wartime replacement roles and responsibilities and how wartime replacements would be sourced—with either unit replacements or non-unit related personnel (NRP) (formally known as individual replacements). Similarly, utilizing FM 3-0 as its basis, the sustainment enterprise updated its cornerstone doctrine with the revision of FM 4-0, Sustainment Operations, which annotates how the sustainment enterprise supports LSCO.
LSCO are intense, lethal, and brutal and may produce casualty rates at a scope and scale the Army has not encountered since the Korean or Vietnam Wars. This rise in anticipated casualty rates and the increased demand for NRP replacement operations capacity provides an emerging problem set for the sustainment enterprise that challenges its ability to “enable freedom of action, create strategic and operational reach, and provide the joint force with prolonged endurance” Field Manual 4-0, Sustainment Operations, that is necessary for mission success in LSCO. Specifically, its ability to support NRP replacement operations to maintain combat power.
FM 4-0 identifies sustainment commands as responsible for reception, staging, onward-movement, and integration (RSOI) as directed by the Army service component command (ASCC). RSOI is an essential task that facilitates the flow of NRP replacements into a theater. Normally “the theater sustainment command (TSC) will be assigned that responsibility and subordinate units of the TSC from an expeditionary sustainment command (ESC), sustainment brigade, combat services support battalion, down to a movement control team can be assigned specific tasks in support of RSOI.” However, the specific tasks for NRP support operations and those responsible for their execution are not identified within FM 4-0.
To address this gap within sustainment doctrine, the Soldier Support Institute (SSI) researched previous doctrine that might provide a framework for which the sustainment enterprise could use to produce solutions. The resulting research identified FM 12-6, Personnel Operations, used during the air land battle era, as a possible reference. It provides the sustainment enterprise the ability to leverage successful lessons learned and processes used during replacement management in the past and apply them in today’s operational environment, mitigating the risks that would prevent sustainment units from executing its core principles.
FM 12-6 clearly identified the functions that were required during replacement management operations (command and control, billeting, transporting, equipping, medical, feeding, processing, battlefield orientation, personnel accountability, applying manning priorities, and limited essential personnel services) and the organizations at echelon who were responsible for the execution of them. The organizations that executed most of those functions in the joint security area and the corps support area were the personnel replacement battalions and companies, and the division support commands (DISCOM) in the division support area. When comparing the organizations present during the FM 12-6 era and those available in the Army’s current inventory, the division sustainment brigades (DSB) can replicate the execution of the functions of the DISCOM in the division sustainment area. However, the personnel replacement battalions and companies are no longer in the Army inventory, and present-day human resources (HR) structure (theater gateway personnel accountability teams and human resources companies) are not viable options to execute these tasks. The lack of an identified and dedicated structure to execute the functions that the replacement battalions and companies were responsible for challenges the sustainment enterprise within the joint security area and the corps support area (see Figure 1).
The SSI leveraged FM 12-6, and the concepts found within Army Techniques Publications (ATP) 3-90.20, Regional Support Group, and produced a potential option of addressing this capacity gap. Modeling the replacement flow found within FM 12-6, the SSI worked in conjunction with the sustainment battle lab at Fort Lee, Virginia, during the NRP tabletop exercise (TTX) in February and developed a potential replacement operations framework (see Figure 2).
While not an approved solution, this draft framework shows how the Army could execute NRP support operations and regenerate combat power during LSCO. It leverages the regional support group (RSG) as a potential solution to serve as the organization responsible for the majority of roles and responsibilities of NRP support operations in the joint security area and the corps support area, and leverages the DSB as the responsible agent for the roles and responsibilities of NRP support operations in the division support area.
While this proposal is aligned to the doctrinal mission set of the RSG, it is important to note that the RSG is only an O-6 level headquarters (approximately 70 Soldiers), and does not possess the requisite organic capacity to execute these functions. Rather, it requires extensive augmentation. To provide this capacity, it is essential that the ASCC and TSC plan for this augmentation capacity during their time phased force deployment data and operations plan (OPLAN) development. Additionally, the ESCs must synchronize mission requirements with their supporting RSGs. Even with augmentation, the RSG does not possess the capacity, expertise, and coordination capabilities to execute all facets of NRP replacement support and distribution management independently.
Applying the concepts found within distribution management, this framework provides a course of action that enables NRP replacement delivery at echelon (from the joint security area, to the corps security area, to the division security area, to the brigade security area). However, it also includes a course of action that leverages enablers such as the convoy support centers to facilitate the delivery of NRP replacements from the corps support area directly to the brigade support area, providing risk mitigation alternatives and methods of capitalizing on speed to regenerate combat power for those units in need within the close area.
Key to the success of this framework is the sustainment enterprise’s ability to coordinate, integrate, and synchronize NRP replacement operations mission requirements across the theater. Integral with this requirement is the constant communication that must occur between the ASCC and TSC. It is the TSC distribution management center’s (DMC) responsibility to coordinate, synchronize, and integrate the ASCC’s mission requirements with its subordinate ESC and sustainment brigade support operations (SPOs) and human resources operations branches (HROBs) within the SPO. The corps and divisions must also replicate this coordination with the units within their echelons.
For the HR community, this new framework carries several points of emphasis that did not exist during modularity. With the creation of the new division special troops battalion (DSTB) SPO and LSCO’s increased demand on the HROBs at echelon, leaders cannot assume risk with under-filling these positions as they have during COIN. Talent management becomes essential to place the right talent with the requisite knowledge, skills, and behaviors to serve and thrive in human resources sustainment centers (HRSCs) / theater personnel operations centers (TPOCs), HROBs, and DSTB SPOs. Failure to do so will lead to the failure of integrating HR support to replacement operations mission requirements with the sustainment enterprise. Additionally, HR professionals serving in HRSCs/ TPOCs and HROBs (subordinate branches of the TSC DMC and SPOs) must attend the SPO Course. They will learn the concepts and designs of distribution management—the key fundamentals of “how” NRP replacements are delivered during LSCO. Lastly, HR professionals must be integrated into the sustainment enterprise and actively participate in the planning events. They have a purpose when the sustainment enterprise is conducting planning events. HR professionals must be prepared to participate in the various boards, bureaus, centers, cells, and working groups (B2CWG) at echelon, understanding who the key players are within the B2C2WG and the key functions, outputs, and placement of B2C2WGs within the battle rhythm. It is within these B2C2WGs, such as the movement control board, where the majority of the coordination and decision-making for NRP replacement distribution will occur. Failure to nest with the systems and processes of these B2C2WGs will result in HR support to replacement operations failure and the subsequent failure of sustainers and commands to maintain combat power.
LSCO presents an operational environment that challenges the Army’s ability to regenerate the personnel component of combat power and enable the sustainment enterprise to execute its core principles of enabling freedom of action, creating strategic and operational reach, and providing the joint force with prolonged endurance. It is a capacity gap that the sustainment enterprise must acknowledge and accept full ownership to mitigate. Future TTXs will refine the draft NRP replacement operations framework. FM 4-0 will soon be updated to address NRP replacement operations, and the Combined Arms Sustainment Command is currently developing a new ATP for NRP replacement operations. In the interim, as sustainment units become familiar with NRP replacement operations, the community as a whole must recognize the uncomfortable truth that NRP replacements need to be treated as a commodity (for planning purposes) within the distribution management process. People are the Army’s number one priority and its most critical weapon system, and the sustainment community must balance this within the distribution construct as we organize and execute LSCO.
Lt. Col. Derrick Lucarelli is an Adjutant General officer currently assigned as the Adjutant General Deputy Proponent Chief in the Adjutant General School at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. He has a Masters of Arts Degree in Defense and Strategic Studies from the United States Naval War College at Newport, Rhode Island. He holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania at Indiana, Pennsylvania. He is a graduate of Military Police Basic Training, Armor Officer Basic Course, Adjutant General Captains Career Course, and Intermediate Level Education at the United States Naval War College.
This article was published in the July-Sept 2021 issue of Army Sustainment.