Alan Stadeli, a  U.S.  Army  Communications-Electronics  Command sensor logistic assistance representative provides troubleshooting assistance on radar systems during a July 2020 rotation at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, California.
Alan Stadeli, a U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command sensor logistic assistance representative provides troubleshooting assistance on radar systems during a July 2020 rotation at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, California. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army Photo) VIEW ORIGINAL

Our Army is changing, and Army Materiel Command (AMC) is changing with it. In particular, the Army’s tactical focus has shifted—and continues to shift—from the employment of modular brigade combat teams (BCT) in counterinsurgency operations to division-centric operations supporting large-scale combat operations (LSCO). AMC no longer employs brigade logistics support teams (BLST) integrated with BCTs either at home station or in the field. Instead, AMC integrates support at the division level through divisionally aligned Army field support battalions (AFSBn) at home station, which deploys a division logistics support element (DLSE) to provide forward support to divisions in LSCO.

The purpose of this article is to describe the doctrinal purpose of the DLSE, and to explore the application of this doctrine during major training events, including combat training center (CTC) rotations, division and corps warfighter exercises (WFX). The analysis in this article is based on current doctrine in Field Manual (FM) 3-0, Operations, and FM 4-0, Sustainment Operations, compared with the author’s experience in multiple DLSE exercises.


Army operations in large-scale combat, as defined in FM 3-0, Operations, imply levels of violence and operational tempo not experienced since WWII. We assume the highest risk in LSCO will occur forward of the division support area (DSA). While FM 3-0 assumes the enemy will target the DSA and areas further to the rear, the enemy will likely focus their main effort on isolating and destroying American forces at the BCT level and below. Given these assumptions, the employment of AMC civilian logistics assistance representatives (LAR) and field service representatives (FSR) would be infeasible forward of the DSA. This situation corroborates AMC’s decision to disband BLST that integrated AMC civilians into the BCT formation to favor a new construct that integrates AMC civilians at echelons above the BCT.

Today, the DLSE is now the forward echelon of AMC support to Army forces on the battlefield and is described in FM 4-0, Sustainment Operations, as follows:

The AFSBn deploys a division logistics support element operational control (OPCON) to the division to which it is allocated and coordinates support with the forward-stationed AFSB. The composition of the division logistics support element depends on operational variables but generally includes AFSBn senior leadership and the life cycle management commands (LCMC) senior service technical representatives. The remaining portion of the continental United States (CONUS)-based AFSB delivers materiel readiness, force generation, power projection, and mobilization force generation installation. The division commander may OPCON the DLSE to the division sustainment brigade (DSB).

Like the BLST of old, the DLSE is a task force of AMC and the Assistant Secretary of the Army, Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology (ASA/ALT) personnel organized to support a specific mission or operation. Unlike the BLST, the DLSE is commanded by an AFSBn commander and operates in direct support of a division headquarters and/or DSB. The DLSE provides command and control of all AMC and ASA/ALT personnel within the supported division’s area of responsibility. This may include LARs and FSRs assigned to LCMC and OPCON to the DLSE, forward repair activities (FRA), and Logistics Civil Augmentation Program capabilities. Any AMC or ASA/ALT capability within the supported division’s area of responsibility goes to the DLSE for accountability, direction, and administrative support.

The DLSE also provides reach-back to additional AMC and ASA/ALT capabilities controlled by the corps logistics support element—commanded and staffed by a corps-aligned AFSB—and the theater-aligned AFSB. The DLSE forms a continuous line of communication from the tactical division to the Army’s organic industrial base.

DLSE in Practice at Major Training Events

There are currently three major training events that provide opportunities to exercise the DLSE: CTC rotations, division and corps WFX, and Defender Europe/Defender Pacific exercises. Each type of event presents unique opportunities and limitations for exercising the DLSE.

Combat Training Centers

CTC rotations are the most common major training exercise for the DLSE. A typical CTC rotation includes a full BCT as the primary training audience, enabled by an aviation battalion task force and division sustainment support battalion (DSSB). The rotational BCT and enablers are commanded and controlled by the CTC operations group, replicating a division headquarters. The BCT’s assigned division headquarters also usually provides a division support element (DSE) to facilitate the BCT’s deployment and redeployment, and support the BCT’s senior mentor (assigned commanding general or deputy commanding general), who ensures the BCT meets the assigned division’s training objectives.

Divisionally aligned AFSBns deploy a DLSE to support the CTC rotational brigade and enablers (aviation task force and DSSB). On the surface, the DLSE appears to replicate many of the former functions of the BLST. However, unlike the BLST, the DLSE integrates at the division level, coordinating with the operations group, support brigade or support operations cell (SOC), and the home station DSE. The DLSE can support the rotational BCT through all phases of the operation, beginning with deployment from home station through reception, staging, onward movement, integration, execution of training, regeneration, and redeployment. During deployment and redeployment, the DLSE assists the rotational BCT and enablers through coordination with its installation capabilities.

Scale is the primary limitation of the CTC in terms of integrating the DLSE, which manifests in two ways. First, CTC rotations focus on a single BCT. As a result, the DLSE tends to behave more like a BLST. The DLSE support operations and staff attend all relevant BCT battle rhythm events and develop relationships down to the battalion level. While this approach maximizes support to the BCT (typically the division’s main effort during CTC rotations), it does not replicate the scale of support required for a full division-size operation.

Likewise, the headquarters for the BCT is not a full division and sustainment brigade headquarters. Instead, the CTC provides an ad-hoc division headquarter described above. While the DLSE benefits from integrating with the operations group, SOC, and DSE, these headquarters elements are focused on training and evaluating a single BCT, not planning and prioritizing the efforts of multiple BCTs and enablers like a full-size division headquarters. Nonetheless, the CTCs are still the largest full-scale maneuver exercises routinely executed in the Army. The DLSE benefits greatly from supporting and observing the large-scale maneuver of armor, infantry, and Stryker formations.

Warfighter Exercises

Compared to CTC rotations, the WFX series provides the inverse set of opportunities and limitations for exercising the DLSE. Unlike CTC rotations, the WFX is the capstone training event and external evaluation for the entire division and sustainment brigade headquarters. Accordingly, the DLSE can fully engage with the division and sustainment brigade staff executing command and control of multiple BCTs and enablers. The DLSE typically integrates with either the division support area command post, or the sustainment brigade headquarters. The DLSE participates in all sustainment planning at the division level, focusing on the integration of AMC enablers such as LAR and FSR support and FRA that enhance the division’s ability to regenerate combat power.

While WFX provides the full extent of DLSE headquarters integration, the key limitation is that the exercise is a simulation. While the division and sustainment brigade headquarters are fully deployed to the field, the subordinate BCTs and enablers are roleplayed by response cells, and all combat operations exist in a constructed environment. The simulations provided by the mission command training program have improved significantly over the last year to replicate the impact of sustainment on maneuver forces (to include AMC capabilities like the FRA). Still, they cannot fully replicate the intricate details of real-world sustainment. As a result, the DLSE’s planning and synchronization efforts are not fully grounded in real-world requirements.

Defender Europe and Defender Pacific Exercises

The Defender series of exercises have the potential to exercise the full capability of the DLSE. Both Defender Europe and Defender Pacific (DE/DP) are large-scale deployments of a corps headquarters with multiple subordinate divisions and brigades in either United States European Command or United States Indo-Pacific Command. These exercises allow the DLSE to participate in combined and joint planning efforts at the division level, and to command and control a wide range of AMC and ASA/ALT enablers in support of actual BCT formations dispersed over a wide geographic area. For headquarters coordination, DE/DP exercises also provide the DLSE with the opportunity to integrate with the corps logistics support element (provided by an AFSB) and the theater AFSB. Further, the DE/DP exercises occur outside of the continental United States (OCONUS), adding the realistic challenge of managing long logistical supply lines back to the CONUS industrial base.

The one significant limitation of DP/DE exercises is the lack of full implementation due to various national and international factors. The exercises are governed by complex international agreements with overseas partners, limiting the size and maneuver capacity of formations at the BCT level and below. In the past 18 months, both Defender Europe and Defender Pacific were also significantly constrained by the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, which understandably required international partners to constrain the numbers and movements of U.S. forces operating in their sovereign territory. Budgetary constraints (both national and international) can also limit the size and scope of DE/DP exercises. However, these limiting factors are temporary; as the COVID-19 pandemic recedes and international economies reenergize, the DE/DP series of exercises hold great promise as the ultimate opportunity to employ the DLSE.


The DLSE concept represents the future of AMC’s “face to the field.” Taken individually, various exercises described in this article each provide different challenges and opportunities for DLSE commanders and staff to command and control AMC capabilities in support of various combat formations. The CTC, WFX, and DE/DP exercises collectively form a continuum of training opportunities, providing a comprehensive picture of how to employ AMC enterprise capabilities in LSCO on the modern battlefield.


Maj. Matt Schade currently serves as the brigade logistics officer of the 4th Security Force Assistance Brigade at Fort Carson, Colorado. He has a master of Military Art and Science degree from the Army School of Advanced Military Studies.


This article was published in the July-Sept 2021 issue of Army Sustainment.


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