Soldiers with 325th Brigade Support Battalion, 25th Infantry Division,
reacts to indirect fire during a convoy movement as part of a Home Station Combat Training Center brigade level collective training event on Oct. 20, 2021, at the Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Center, on East Range, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Soldiers with 325th Brigade Support Battalion, 25th Infantry Division,
reacts to indirect fire during a convoy movement as part of a Home Station Combat Training Center brigade level collective training event on Oct. 20, 2021, at the Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Center, on East Range, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. (Photo Credit: Pfc. Matthew Mackintosh)
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A Soldier with 325th Brigade Support Battalion, 25th Infantry Division, reacts to indirect fire during a convoy movement as part of a Home Station Combat Training Center brigade level collective training event on Oct. 20, 2021, at the Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Center, East Range, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. JPMRC Rotation 22-01 is a Home-Station Combat Training Center (HS-CTC) rotation that will build combat readiness in America’s Pacific Division.
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – A Soldier with 325th Brigade Support Battalion, 25th Infantry Division, reacts to indirect fire during a convoy movement as part of a Home Station Combat Training Center brigade level collective training event on Oct. 20, 2021, at the Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Center, East Range, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. JPMRC Rotation 22-01 is a Home-Station Combat Training Center (HS-CTC) rotation that will build combat readiness in America’s Pacific Division. (Photo Credit: Pfc. Matthew Mackintosh) VIEW ORIGINAL

In 2020, Army Futures Command published Army Futures Command Concept: Brigade Combat Team Cross-Domain Maneuver – 2028, describing how future brigade combat teams (BCT) will conduct operations against near-peer threats. This publication’s framework for modernization depicts how the Army will organize, train, educate, man, and equip itself to fight under the multi-domain operations (MDO) concept. BCTs are employed within the MDO construct to conduct a range of military operations across the conflict continuum, from deterrence to large-scale combat operations (LSCO). Operating with ‘semi-independence’, BCTs fighting in a LSCO environment are likely to face resource constraints that make them more vulnerable to culmination. The lethality and survivability of logistics platforms are critical to preserving the endurance and extending the operational reach of maneuver formations. Regrettably, logistics formations within BCTs lack organic crew-serve weapons systems and the skills required to fight and endure during LSCO. Therefore, the Army must look to equip forward logistics formations with the tools and faculties to ensure lethality and survivability to sustain the operational tempo of the brigade combat team.

Multi-Domain Operations and Large-Scale Combat Operations

Training and Doctrine Command defines MDO as “how the U.S. Army, as part of the joint force (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or Space Force), can counter and defeat a near-peer adversary capable of contesting the U.S. in all domains (air, land, maritime, space, or cyberspace), in both competition and armed conflict.” Importantly, MDO drives the Army’s operational and organizational structures, and modernization efforts. Within MDO, “conducting LSCO presents the greatest challenge for BCTs and represents the most significant readiness requirement.”

Executing logistics operations within a kinetic battlefield during LSCO requires resupply executed across contested and extended lines of communication. Sustaining the operational tempo of the BCT demands logistics formations generate their own security and fight through enemy contact to defeat threats. Without proper weaponry and training, logistics formations are vulnerable to degradation and defeat, compromising the operational reach, freedom of action, and endurance of supported units. A logistics package (LOGPAC) failure to reach a supported element can jeopardize the tactical mission by causing the supported formation to reach a point of culmination prematurely.

Current Mitigations

In their current structure, brigade support battalions (BSB) and subordinate forward support companies (FSC) within BCTs are not equipped and trained to fight independently and survive across contested battlefields. These formations have had to improvise at combat training centers, receiving external augmentation from within the BCT, or redirect inadequately trained sustainment crews to protection platforms. Neither of these ad hoc solutions is without cost. In the former, commanders at echelon must compromise flexibility, firepower, or protection in other areas. In the latter, distribution assets are simply unable to carry doctrinally required basic loads, potentially compromising the unit’s ability to conduct one of its core missions: resupply. To alleviate this deficiency and sustain the endurance of BCTs, three critical areas require remedy.

The Issues

Army BCT logistics platforms, particularly the M978A4, Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck Fueler, and the M1075 / M1120, Palletized Load System / Load Handling System, families of vehicles lack organic crew-served weapons platforms such as turret-mounted M2s, MK-19s, M240Bs, or M249s. Additionally, distribution and forward support companies are not allocated protection platforms to accompany LOGPACs. There are no turreted platforms listed in any modified table of organization and equipment for these most forward logistics formations. Crew-serve weapons systems are in short supply inside these formations in general. The doctrinal employment of these limited assets assumes a dismounted and stable area weapon used to defend perimeters instead of a turreted system securing mounted maneuver.

Lack of institutional training further exacerbates this dilemma. Enlisted logisticians receive insufficient training on the employment of crew-serve weapons during initial entry training (IET). Further, neither logistics officers nor non-commissioned officers receive training and certification in a mounted maneuver during professional military education (PME). In situations where the priority of fires may provide an opportunity for the protection of LOGPACs, logisticians across all ranks lack the call for fire skills necessary to employ indirect fires.

Finally, compounding the paucity of equipment and skill development is the state-side training calendar, where operational BCT logistics formations simply do not have the white space to conduct mounted maneuver training and complete the gates to exercises such as convoy live fire. Meaning even if logistics platforms had turreted crew-served weapons platforms, Soldiers were skilled in employing these systems, and leaders could orchestrate mounted maneuvers and employ direct and indirect fires; current operational tempo and requirements to support combat arms training exercises make collective logistics maneuver training nearly impossible. In short, BSBs and FSCs rightfully sacrifice their readiness to ensure that supported combat arms formations can train free from the constraints of inadequate sustainment.

The Proposal

Creating logistics formations that can fight and survive in a contested LSCO environment requires profound change. The first in a series of changes must occur within the Army’s organizational design and doctrinal framework. The Army must update the table of organization and equipment (TOE) to reflect organizational changes in equipment and capabilities for BCT logistics formations. This revised TOE must direct either the addition of protection vehicles (with requisite crew) or require logistics platforms to include a turret and crew-serve weapon system. Given the addition of this equipment, the amended TOE should direct that these logistics formations can secure themselves while conducting LOGPAC operations. Lastly, a revision of the organizational design of BSBs and subordinate FSCs necessitate changes across Army doctrine to account for the employment of these new capabilities.

The second series of changes must occur in both the institutional and operational training realms. Within the institutional Army, the program of instruction (POI) for all officers, NCOs, and initial entry logistics series Soldiers requires revisions to include mounted land navigation and maneuver, crew-serve weapon systems employment, and call for fire training. Operationally, logistics and supported unit planners within BCTs must carve out adequate calendar space or incorporate logistics formations into maneuver training to ensure ample time for logistics formations to build proficiency in the areas of mounted maneuver and employment of fires. Most profoundly Army logisticians must adopt a new mentality that embraces proficiency within both the maneuver and support realms; a frame of mind that truly embodies the idea of warrior logisticians.

A significant weakness in this proposal is that its entire premise hinges on a material solution. Without fielding protection platforms or turreted crew-serve weapon systems to forward logistic formations, there are no cascading requirements to change doctrine or reimagine training for the security of LOGPACs. The execution of this proposal is sequential and necessitates the appropriate platforms and tools be fielded to formations and institutions before any significant changes are made to doctrine, POI, or unit training plans.

Lastly, it is important to acknowledge the challenges of adding requirements to institutional POIs. Time is a limited resource, and new requirements must come at the expense of some existing requirements. The discussion here is one about tradeoffs and risk. Fortunately, a significant portion of the POI across logistics IET and PME is directly replicated in everyday garrison operations and can be trained ‘on the job.’ Conversely, as discussed above, support requirements and operational tempo make collective logistics training extraordinarily challenging. Therefore, Soldiers and leaders must receive this training in an institutional setting free from competing requirements, enabling time for instruction and replication. The skills gained in this institutional setting will pay dividends in the operational setting, where experience and expertise can help maximize limited collective training opportunities.

The Unmanned Vehicle Conundrum

The Army Vision calls for the Army of 2028 to employ “modern manned and unmanned” platforms, to include “ground combat vehicles, aircraft, sustainment systems, and weapons.” The appeal of unmanned resupply convoys has attracted the attention of the Army’s Combined Arms Support Command, where some have projected a “fully automated convoy system” to be employed later this decade. There are generally two arguments in favor of unmanned systems. The first argues that unmanned systems will free Soldiers to complete other tasks. The second, and more popular, revolves around the protection of the force. In other words, the use of unmanned vehicles will reduce the risk of injury or death to Soldiers in the event of enemy contact. In essence, we are talking about force protection.

The difference between force protection and survivability is often lost in the discussion about unmanned systems. Force Protection refers to “preventive measures taken to mitigate hostile actions against DOD personnel (to include family members), resources, facilities, and critical information.” However, force protection and survivability are not synonyms. Survivability is defined as “a quality or capability of military forces which permits them to avoid or withstand hostile actions or environmental conditions while retaining the ability to fulfill their primary mission.” The last part of this description is critical; survivability demands fulfillment of the mission.

In a LSCO environment, survivability must take precedence over force protection. This, of course, does not mean the abandonment of prudent risk. But it does mean that future logistics formations must fight through contested battlespaces to reach their objective. If leveraging unmanned platforms can enhance survivability, then the Army should requisition and employ these assets to complement logistics formations. But if unmanned systems simply heighten force protection at the expense of survivability, then these platforms may be counterproductive during LSCO.

Conclusion

Modernization and the pivot from counterinsurgency to LSCO brings complexities and dilemmas to the battlefield unseen since World War II. The future battlefield will see the Army contested by near-peer enemies across all domains, with the idea of a linear battlefield unlikely to match reality. BCTs will face resource constraints in this emerging environment while operating in non-contiguous battlefields distant from traditional supply nodes. To ensure victory, Army logistics formations must be capable of fighting and surviving across contested lines of communication. To this end, it is time we equip forward logistics formations with the tools and faculties to ensure lethality, survivability, and sustainment of the operational tempo.

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Maj. Heath A. Bergmann is a student at the United States Army’s Command and General Staff College. His formal education includes a Master of Arts in Public Policy from the University of Michigan; a Master of Science in Safety, Security, and Emergency Management from Eastern Kentucky University; and a Bachelor of Arts in General Studies from Eastern Kentucky University.

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This article was published in the Spring 2022 issue of Army Sustainment.

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