SUBIC BAY, Philippines — U.S. Army Pacific employed Army Prepositioned Stock 3, also known as APS Afloat, for the first time during recent exercises in the Philippines.
Two units from the U.S. Army Sustainment Command planned, oversaw and executed the successful download, inventory, issue and upload of an equipment set used by 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division during bilateral exercises in the Indo-Pacific Theater Salaknib 22 and Balikatan 22.
APS-3, maintained by Army Field Support Battalion-Charleston, consists of forward staged vessels housing complete equipment sets, including spare parts, that are strategically placed across the globe, ready for use should the need arise.
“APS Afloat is just one of the many U.S. Army Materiel Command (AMC) capabilities in our toolbox to support U.S. Army Pacific operations, activities, and investments in the Indo-Pacific Theater,” said Col. Erik Johnson, commander of the 402nd Army Field Support Brigade.
As the Theater AFSB, the 402nd integrates, synchronizes and delivers materiel enterprise capabilities to enable the employment of ready forces and setting the theater in support of the Theater Army and Joint Forces across the Indo-Pacific Theater.
“We go where the Theater Army goes,” said Johnson, “providing the warfighter with logistical and materiel support, so they can successfully execute their mission.”
Strength of the Materiel Enterprise
AMC leads and directs sustainment warfighting functions from home station to the battlefield, playing a key role in maintaining Army readiness across the world.
"We are postured to support any operation worldwide. AMC works with combatant commanders and Army senior leaders to ensure commodities, such as ammunition, prepositioned stocks and medical supplies, are strategically positioned around the world so we can be responsive to any crisis or conflict that should arise," said U.S. Army Materiel Command Commanding General Gen. Edward Daly.
APS Afloat is one of five Army Prepositioned Stocks, but the only equipment set that is not land-based, giving it unique flexibility and agility to be employed anywhere in the world.
Similar to the land-based APS sets, the APS-3 equipment is consistently maintained to guarantee its operational readiness.
"Army Prepositioned Stocks throughout the world right now – whether it's Europe, the Pacific, Central Command or afloat – are ready. They're ready to be issued and they're ready to respond to crisis or conflict,” said Daly.
Maj. Gen. Chris Mohan, commanding general of ASC, explained the command’s global mission, and its role in the Pacific exercise, this way: “The sun never sets on the Army Sustainment Command. We are the global presence. If the Army is doing it on any scale, the Army Sustainment Command, the Army Materiel Command and our partners are there.”
Mohan explained that executing the APS-3 mission at a commercial port in the Philippines is a prime example of ASC capabilities, demonstrating ASC’s ability to any port. “We deployed Soldiers and Civilians from Charleston, to a commercial port in the Philippines, received and downloaded the vessel, issued that equipment to the 25th (Infantry Division) and then reversed the process,” said Mohan.
ASC’s focus, Mohan said, is on enabling landpower by providing the U.S. Army Pacific commander with more options.
“It was all synchronized here at the headquarters, but it required a ‘team of teams’. Our brigades, both the 402nd and 404th, our commercial partners and contractors, and the rest of the materiel enterprise – the Defense Logistics Agency, other AMC subordinate commands – you name it ... everyone had a piece of this, all in support of the [U.S. Army Pacific] commander and his exercise objectives.”
Landpower in the Indo-Pacific
According to U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, the theater stretches from the west coast of the United States all the way to the India-Pakistan border, and from the Arctic down to the Antarctic. This vast region covers 52% of the earth’s surface area and 14 of the globe’s 24 time zones.
The U.S. Department of Defense announced the Indo-Pacific as its priority theater in June 2019, affirming the country’s commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific and challenging military leaders to think differently on how best to compete, fight and win in the ever-changing environment.
As planning for Salaknib and Balikatan evolved throughout 2021, U.S. Army Pacific Commanding General Gen. Charles Flynn called for commanders to be innovative in approaching the Indo-Pacific problem set.
“At the 402nd, we are developing and experimenting with new approaches to how we leverage and employ our vast network of sustainers and logisticians for units operating in the Indo-Pacific Theater,” said Johnson. “Gen. Flynn and Gen. Daly charged us and our sister brigade, the 404th AFSB out of Joint Base Lewis-McCord, in coordination with 8th Theater Sustainment Command, with working through the logistics in order to exercise the APS Afloat capabilities during Salaknib and Balikatan in 2022.”
Over the course of six months, the 402nd AFSB, 404th AFSB, ASFBn-Charleston, ASC, 8th Theater Sustainment Command and 25th Infantry division worked through the problem set and developed their plan for executing the successful use of APS-3 based on the conditions set by U.S. Army Pacific.
“The employment of APS Afloat during Salaknib and Balikatan exercised the Army’s strategic readiness capabilities and demonstrates its ability to rapidly project power in the Indo-Pacific Theater during competition as well as during crisis and conflict,” said Johnson. “Maintaining and repairing equipment forward in theater increases flexibility and ensures APS Afloat is ready and postured to respond quickly in support of combatant commanders’ requirements.”
In the end, Johnson said, the successful execution of the APS-3 mission underscores the role the materiel enterprise plays in enabling Army landpower in the Indo-Pacific Theater.
From the Theater Army’s perspective, the dynamic employment of APS Afloat reinforces the unique, foundational sustainment capabilities it provides to the Joint Force.
“The successful download and use of APS-3 for the first time in exercises Salaknib and Balikatan is an expression of our readiness and commitment to our allies and partners in the region," said Flynn.
Planning is currently underway for how the Theater Army will expand off the success of the dynamic employment for APS-3 for exercises in 2023.