Over the past two decades of counterinsurgency operations, maneuver commanders have often executed operations that culminate with the return to a forward operating base. These bases have robust sustainment infrastructures, from dining facilities that serve four meals per day to laundry facilities with a 24-hour turn-around time. Sustainment commanders have been tasked with managing these robust and complex systems. This is not an easy task, but it is also not the task that we are now asking them to execute as we shift our focus to large scale combat operations (LSCO).
Today, we are asking our tactical warfighting headquarters to move into austere environments with only what they can carry. They are without the comforts of home or the support architecture they are accustomed to, and must rapidly build combat power to execute operations with the necessary tempo and lethality to defeat a motivated, near-peer enemy on their home turf.
Our ability to rapidly deploy, stage necessary supplies, develop internal and external resupply and support mechanisms, and maintain our equipment directly contributes to our ability to accomplish the wartime mission. Regardless of branch or military occupational specialty (MOS), even our best Soldiers become nothing more than bystanders without proper supply and well-maintained equipment. It does not matter if you are a scout operating further forward on the battlefield than anyone else in the brigade combat team (BCT) or an infantryman in the back of a Bradley. If you do not have what you need, or if your equipment is not operational, you cannot do your job. At the National Training Center, we see these challenges every month.
Often, we spend inordinate amounts of time debating the best tactics, techniques, and procedures for every branch, MOS, and warfighting function. We wrestle continuously with the best methods for combining arms to accomplish our missions. We work tirelessly to train formations to combat our nation’s threats. However, as an Army, if we cannot sustain ourselves in the envisioned operational environment against a near-peer threat, none of that will matter. We cannot defeat tomorrow’s enemy without the commander’s and staff’s ability to combine arms, synchronize operations, and levy lethal platoons, companies, and battalions against tactical objectives with overwhelming violence. We cannot do any of that without well-trained Soldiers, and well-trained Soldiers cannot do their jobs without outstanding tactical sustainment.
From the brigade support battalion (BSB) losing their situational awareness of the current operation to the BCT losing their situational understanding of the sustainment future operation… from forward support companies (FSCs) applying garrison procedures in a contested environment to battalion S-4s failing to report logistics statuses (LOGSTATs)… from operators failing to perform preventive maintenance checks and services (PMCS) to leaders omitting maintenance from the priorities of work… each small cut to our sustainment system results in a loss of available combat power for the fight. Moreover, each combat power loss places a heavier burden on the Soldiers moving forward into battle. What might have been a well-resourced plan can easily become a “mission impossible” task, all because of a unit’s inability to execute a consistent, well thought out concept of sustainment that resupplied the front line and maintained combat power at the required LSCO pace.
The chapters in this publication deep dive into these topics and more, and are based on observations of great successes and bitter shortfalls here at the National Training Center over the past several years. While many topics are conceptual in nature, great effort has been placed on providing ‘a way’ — a method, a technique, a template — for sustainers and maneuverists alike to find success as they plan, prepare, and train for LSCO.
Lead. Train. Win. Train the Force!
Michael J. Simmering
The National Training Center and Fort Irwin
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