One of the common issues for units of all types is the accurate and timely processing of the DA Form 5988-E, Equipment Maintenance and Inspection Worksheets, following the completion of preventative maintenance checks and services (PMCS). While the accuracy of the actual process can only be verified by properly trained operators, mechanics, and leadership at the squad, section, and platoon level, the timeliness of processing varies significantly per unit’s standard operating procedure. Often, the process passes through multiple hands before parts are ordered, and a ‘clean’ 5988 is returned to the operator. This becomes even more challenging when in a tactical environment. The current process still requires the transfer of hard-copy 5988s, both from the maintenance control section down to the operator—many of whom will be geographically distributed from the maintenance collection point (MCP)—and back up from the operator to the MCP. Individual processes varied, from packaging and handling in simple folders and placed on daily logistics convoys to the more ornate fabrication of cylinder carrying devices to protect them from the elements or an errant breeze during transit. The current process is time-consuming, requires personnel to traverse the battlefield—sometimes simply to hand out 5988s, and increases the amount of time it takes to accurately account for faults in the system of record, Global Combat System Support-Army. This lag impacts reporting accuracy, placing the combat slant—usually word of mouth—against the equipment status report. Given the importance of executing our maintenance processes, are we using all existing capabilities inherent to the brigade combat team from the support battalion’s sustainment automation support management office (SASMO), and what advances in existing processes and technology can be modified to streamline the process?
Using personnel and equipment stationed at Fort Irwin, California, a team set out to determine if, using existing capability organic to a modified table of organization and equipment (MTOE), they could execute the 5988 workflows without having to physically pass a piece of paper and transmit using the Logistics Information System. In theory, this process would increase the efficiency and decrease the workflow timeframe for the 5988, decreasing the parts-on-order timeframe and increasing the fully mission-capable status of the equipment and overall unit readiness.
The proposed paperless process is relatively simple given the experienced resident in the SASMO. Using the existing architecture of the Combat Service Support Automated Information Systems (CAISI)/Very Small Aperture Terminals (VSAT), it is possible to transfer documents without requiring physical transportation. After the user completes a digital 5988 on a Getac tablet, maintenance support device, or other digital platforms, the 5988 is held in a digital repository or folder established on a locally accessed server with permissions given to qualified/authorized personnel. Unlike current processes, the digital 5988 would only be waiting on the mechanic to QA/QC the vehicle and 5988. Until the mechanic digitally signs off on it, only the mechanics assigned to the unit will have access to this document. Once the mechanic digitally signs the document, the operator no longer has access to the document. Simultaneously, access is allowed for the motor sergeant or the designated approver. Once the document is approved, access will then be authorized by the clerk for further processing. This is applying a document workflow to a process that is, for the most part, manual. This workflow protection is based on permissions granted by the unit identification code and can be controlled by the SASMO or decentralized to a designated point of contact.
This concept test included using multiple CAISIs to cover distance and to mitigate interference from terrain features. The function of the CAISI is the same as a home internet router; it provides access to an internet service provider that, in this case, is the VSAT. Up to 39 CAISIs can be connected to one VSAT allowing for enormous range coverage and battlefield connectivity and circumventing mountains and other interference.
The first test was in a garrison environment using one VSAT and two CAISIs. One CAISI was configured as an omnidirectional antenna mounted to a quick erecting antenna mast (QEAM) and pointed in a direction while connected to the VSAT. The second CAISI was taken to a distance of 4.59 miles, set up at an approximate 12 feet elevation, and pointed in the direction of the first CAISI. This was a clear line of sight on a warm day with no significant obstructions. This test was simply to achieve a “ground truth” regarding how well the CAISIs work across an arbitrary distance. The test was successful, and we were able to pull pages from this distance with only a CAISI and a laptop.
The second test was executed in a field environment and was expanded to include an additional CAISI used as signal repeaters. This test consisted of a VSAT and four CAISIs. The VSAT was established at the operations center of the field exercise, connected to a directionally configured CAISI (CA1) that was pointed to the furthest reachable hilltop the eye could see—approximately eight miles across flat desert terrain with no significant obstructions or noticeable degrading air quality. The second CAISI (CA2) and third CAISI (CA3) were set up at a height of approximately 12 feet above ground level. This situation equates to approximately 40 feet higher than CA1 at the operations center based on terrain changes. CA2 and CA3 were configured as directional, and a fourth CAISI (CA4) was set up as directional at the main access point/gate on Fort Irwin proper pointed in the direction of CA3. CA2 and CA3 were set up at the relay point, back-to-back. Each CAISI location had a Soldier with a computer tied into the CAISI network.
CA1 acted as the server in this network scenario and had a shared folder containing three subfolders. Each subfolder was labeled operator, mechanic, or motor sergeant, simulating the different tiers of administrative processing for this test. Using an in-house generated 5988, it was filled out from an operator perspective. Once complete, it was saved in the operator folder, then copied over into the mechanic folder. The CA2 Soldier, acting as the mechanic, reviews the operator comments on the 5988 and acts accordingly; they place it back into the operator folder for additional operator actions or approve/process the 5988 by placing it into the motor sergeant folder. The CA3 operator would retrieve the 5988 and approve/process the document by either placing it back into the mechanic’s folder for additional information or approving it for clerk processing. The metadata is automatically saved on each document (saved date-time group, last accessed by, etc.), providing an easy method to determine if the status had changed.
This test was a success, and a digital 5988 was created, leaving a digital trail across the battlefield without the need for troops to travel to complete the mission. This ultimately minimized associated risks and increased efficiency. The only modification to our authorized equipment was adding the QEAM to a mechanic’s contact truck, enabling increased line of sight capability and the use of cover/terrain in a tactical setting. Based on the results, it is realistic to see this process implemented in tactical formations to increase PMCS velocity, minimize the delay between requirement and requisition, and decrease the amount of time spent traversing to “push paper.”
Lt. Col. William J. Parker currently serves as the senior sustainment trainer in the operations group at the Army's National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California. He holds a Bachelor of Arts from Wake Forest University, a MMAS in Operational Art and Sciences from the Command and General Staff College, and a MA in Procurement and Acquisition Management from Webster University. He is slated to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Transportation and Logistics as an Army War College Fellow.
Maj. Leonardo E. Cleversley served as the SASMO officer in charge for the Regimental Support Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin. He has a Bachelor of Business Administration from South University, Savannah, Georgia, and is a graduate of the Infantry Basic Officers Course and Maneuver Captains Career Course.
This content is published online in conjunction with the July-Sept 2021 issue of Army Sustainment.