ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. – The U.S. Army Sustainment Command has recently focused on providing the U.S. Army Materiel Command’s interface to support other commands during multi-domain operations.
The forward presence of ASC, a major subordinate command of AMC, is organized around Army Field Support Brigades – three of which are operationally aligned to active corps of the U.S. Army; Army Field Support Battalions - aligned with smaller divisions; and Logistics Readiness Centers.
“When we hear the term ‘Materiel Enterprise,’ that means that we have a lot of people working towards a common goal,” said Jon Jeckell, G3/5 Future Operations Branch chief, ASC.
“The challenge, at times, is to articulate clearly what we are doing as a command to support deploying units,” he said.
Corps-aligned AFSBs manage the Corps Logistics Support Elements, deployed to support contingency operations and, at times, corps-level Army warfighter exercises. The CLSEs provide the link between the generating force and the operational force to integrate and synchronize the delivery of strategic capabilities of AMC and ASC to supported units.
AFSBs also can provide support through their battalions’ Division Logistics Support Elements, which deploy with their supported divisions, coordinating and synchronizing AMC capabilities to support division priorities.
CLSEs and DLSEs were established to follow the corps whenever they deploy. Currently, the 404th AFSB supports I Corps, the 407th AFSB supports III Corps, and the 406th AFSB supports XVIII Airborne Corps. There is no brigade currently assigned to V Corps.
The 405th AFSB is assigned to support the U.S. Army Europe and Africa with missions like Army Prepositioned Stocks and the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program. For the first time ever, CLSEs were recently sent forward in support of deployment operations related to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“V Corps was also involved in this, but V Corps was created without any of the enablers that normally comes along with a corps, such as an expeditionary sustainment command, fires brigades, or an AFSB,” said Jeckell. “V Corps is assigned to U.S. Army Europe and Africa, so naturally it was involved in the ‘assure and deter’ deployment early, and elements of V Corps in Fort Knox deployed to Europe.
“However, since we do not have an AFSB assigned to V Corps like we do all the other corps, the 407th AFSB deployed a CLSE to support them while leaving behind adequate support at Fort Hood to continue ongoing materiel enterprise support – including readiness, Mobilization Force Generation Installation and power projection– across the III Corps installations.”
Jeckell said that both a CLSE and a DLSE went overseas with XVIII Airborne Corps to support the Ukraine mission with Col. Fredericka Harris, former 406th AFSB commander, spearheading the mission.
The first APS draw involved the 405th AFSB issuing equipment and the 406th AFSB receiving equipment with their units, and then helping the XVIII Airborne Corps with maintenance, readiness, and LOGCAP so they had base camps readily available.
“Then the Army deployed the 3rd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, by ship, and the 1st Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, who drew the tanks from APS,” Jeckell added.
Because V Corps doesn’t have an aligned brigade, the 407th deployed a CLSE to help V Corps with an APS draw and by moving equipment and supplies where they needed to go.
“If there was an Article 5 [which stipulates that an attack on one member of NATO is an attack on all of its members] in place, V Corps and 1st Infantry Division’s mission would have been to assure NATO allies and deter Russia in the event Russia carried out an attack to Lithuania or any other NATO ally.
“Basically, V Corp’s job was to get over there and get ready for combat, and Col. Carl Mason, former 407th AFSB commander, made up for a lot of logistics shortfalls,” Jeckell said.
Jeckell said that a lot of what the CLSEs/DLSEs brought to the table in the field was a pleasant surprise for other units.
“APS was a huge combat multiplier, as it enabled the V Corps units to move forward quickly, resulting in a lot of combat power getting there quickly enough to deter the Russians and reassure the Allies that we were there to support them.”
Both CLSEs/DLSEs helped enhance the readiness and the support available in-theater, while accelerating the pace of the deployment.
“The deputy commanding general from V Corps was singing the praises of the 407th commander, Col. Mason, because of all the help they provided,” Jeckell said, adding that a similar thing happened at the division level, with the DLSE helping immensely with getting other units ready.
“Some of the support started all the way back at home station, with the power projection and the readiness – units did not have to try to figure things out themselves while they were trying to get ready to deploy,” he said. “Their home station AFSBn was helping them with their deployment process.”
Jeckell went on to explain how prior to CLSEs/DLSEs, AMC would deploy Brigade Logistic Support Teams, also known as BLSTs, wherever brigade combat teams went.
“Under Gen. Ed Daly, previous commanding general of the ASC and now AMC commanding general, the Army was trying to shift the focus to divisions and corps and not brigades anymore, so Gen. Daly initiated the process of getting away from those BLSTs.”
At the time, Jeckell explained, “AMC had brigades and battalions who were TDA [Table of distribution and allowances] – they were created to sit there and not go anywhere, they just kind of managed installations, and that was the extent of it.
“If the corps deployed somewhere, the brigades didn’t go with them, they just kind of managed all the downstream LRCs and AFSBns in their footprint. The battalions didn’t go anywhere either,” Jeckell said. “Under Gen. Daly, they started the process of boosting up the amount of people and standardizing the structure for AFSBs/AFSBns to make them support divisions, corps and large scale combat.”
Out of that grew the DLSE at the battalion level. “AFSBn-Hood suddenly would deploy in support of 1st Cavalry Division; AFSBn-Bliss would deploy in support of 1st Armored Division, and so on.”
Jeckell explained the role of the time-phased force deployment data, known as TPFDD.
When a unit is ordered to deploy, the commander receives a list of the units in the organization that come with that and the sequence that they flow in so they all arrive in the right order, able to have the effect on the theater that the commander wants.
“So for example, if you send a whole lot of tanks forward, but no logistics assets, those tanks are going to run out of fuel. Likewise if you send all logistics assets and no tanks, those Soldiers would get slaughtered by the enemy across the border,” he said. “That’s why it is fundamental to balance the capabilities – you have to phase stuff to get out in theater so it’s effective when it arrives.”
Jeckell said that CLSEs and DLSEs do a lot of the things that BLSTs used to do but they do it at the division and at the corps level. They also do a lot more that the BLSTs used to do.
“Having AMC capabilities synchronized at the division level, at the corps level, and at the theater level allows us to keep on top of things, since 90% of the problems get fixed at those levels versus having to rely on the headquarters for every little thing,” Jeckell said. “It also allows the supporting unit commanders to prioritize things, such as what type of support is needed or what they want to focus on.”
Instead of using Army logistics units, LOGCAP can be used to set up base camps, feed the Soldiers, house them, or provide laundry support.
Likewise, the Logistics Assistance Program takes care of many maintenance needs, thanks to the logistics assistance representatives’ technical expertise to fix equipment right away and train operators as necessary.
So, who determines if a CLSE or a DLSE goes forward?
“If the corps goes, a CLSE should go. If a division goes, a DLSE should go,” Jeckell said.
To identify how many personnel should be on CLSE/DLSE, brigades and battalions, respectively, would be doing collaborative planning with their supporting unit and identifying what the requirement is.
Ultimately, the units’ G4 divisions and the ASC commanding general determine the composition of the team and when they deploy, so they really need to understand their units’ needs.
“They would look at the units’ capabilities, and if they have enough people to support both home station and forward, all they need to do is to brief our CG telling him what they need and are going to deploy.”
In the event of a critical shortfall, AFSB leaders would notify the ASC commanding general that more resources are needed, and he would give recommendations on how to mitigate the risk and how to best support each unit with what is available.
Jeckell said that part of the idea with CLSEs/DLSEs is to maintain a good relationship to simplify the interface with the supporting unit, who should be seeing the same people and have an opportunity to develop a relationship with them throughout the entire process.
Same thing with the home station – brigade commanders should be completely involved with their supporting units and know their needs, providing services such as LAP, LOGCAP, and the full range of materiel enterprise support to the forward station and to the people that were left behind in the home-based footprint.
“It is important that brigade/battalion commanders let the supporting units know all the services the CLSE/DLSE can provide for them, because sometimes the units would go and get a contract for services DLSE already provides.”
During the planning process, commanders can reduce complexity, offering things that may not have been considered before.
“For example, our LARs not only can identify sustainment readiness trends and help troubleshoot things, but can also provide over-the-shoulder training,” said Jeckell. LARs can coach machine operators through what is missing and solve the problem on the spot. “There’s no repair or part that’s going to fix the training piece,” he said.
The range of the materiel enterprise capabilities is really vast and complex.
Jeckell said that it’s hard at times to articulate clearly everything that ASC is doing in ways the rest of the Army can understand, but it is crucial that they continue to get the word out.
“I know we are doing great things for the Army. We have this range of capabilities from the installation support, we have the home station, we have a lot of involvement with the power projection helping them get deployed, plus a lot more,” he said.