Lessons from the Modern Battlefield: Deliver Ready Combat Formations

By Lt. Gen. Heidi J. HoyleApril 23, 2024

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Conflicts around the world demonstrate the need to refine policies and strategies to prepare for the future fight in a contested environment. With a collective effort from the Army sustainment enterprise, part of the joint sustainment enterprise, the Army is rising to the challenges presented by its adversaries. Along with allies and partners around the world, the Army is already employing new techniques to gain an advantage on the battlefield. One such area is tele-maintenance, which is a practice that has long existed but has recently seen a resurgence in popularity since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022. It is an effective method of ensuring the Ukrainian military can operate and maintain American equipment without sending American troops directly to the conflict. One of the units supporting the fight is the 405th Army Field Support Brigade’s Remote Maintenance and Distribution Center-Ukraine, which is posted outside of Ukraine, in NATO territory, and connected with Ukrainian maintainers, providing insight and instruction on a wide array of American platforms, from Javelin missile launchers to Bradley Fighting Vehicles. In addition to providing necessary assistance to a partner nation, this also serves as effective testing of the Army’s systems in a contested environment.

Another example of emerging technology on the battlefield is the effective utilization of drones. Like tele-maintenance, drones are not a new concept in warfare. The Ukrainian military has seen great success in destroying vast numbers of Russian vehicles and equipment. In the early stages, the drones were no different from those purchased at local electronics stores, albeit with grenades duct taped to the bodies. Despite the rudimentary origins of the conflict, the conversation around autonomous vehicle platforms has expanded to include use in reconnaissance and resupply. Autonomous resupply enables commanders at echelon to mitigate risk by conducting resupply operations from the joint strategic support area to the point of need without putting personnel in danger.

As the Army moves to integrate unmanned platforms into formations to fight alongside humans, it must update policies to reflect the influx of new equipment. Additionally, it is incumbent on the defense industrial base to incorporate service and maintenance requirements for these platforms up front to ensure they can be kept in the fight. While new systems present new opportunities for industry, parts for existing equipment are equally necessary for delivering combat-ready formations. Older platforms cannot and should not be ignored, as they will remain in formations as the Army transforms in contact.

As the Army prepares for large-scale combat operations, the last thing it wants is for its formations to be overburdened. As the Army continues to deliver combat-ready formations, those formations must not be burdened by unnecessary or unfeasible equipment, requirements, and timelines. We have all heard horror stories about commanders with 100-page hand receipts. One way the Army seeks to avoid those situations is the Rapid Removal of Excess (R2E) program. Before R2E, the Army divested thousands of pieces of equipment, and over 3,000 national stock numbers were subsequently retired. The R2E program allows units to turn in their excess property without bringing it to -10/-20 standards. This effort saves valuable time and helps reduce the maintenance workload for agile units. R2E has already shown to be effective at several installations across the Army, with significant pull by the team at Army Materiel Command. The Army will continue to leverage this great tool to reduce the burden in its formations.

It is an exciting time to be a sustainer in the Army. Sustainers are the linchpin for the joint force and need to be prepared to operate in any environment. The actions of U.S. adversaries around the world have exposed new capabilities. Army sustainers must train to standard to meet these new capabilities. It is also important that programs and policies adapt to meet new needs. I look forward to continuing to sustain our Army alongside you!


Lt. Gen. Heidi J. Hoyle currently serves as Headquarters, Department of the Army, Deputy Chief of Staff, G-4, and oversees policies and procedures used by Army logisticians. A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, she has a Master of Science in systems engineering from the University of Virginia and a Master of Science in national resource strategy from the National Defense University. She is a graduate of the Chemical Officer Basic Course, Combined Logistics Officer Advanced Course, United States Army Command and General Staff College, Kansas, and the Eisenhower School of National Security and Resource Strategy, Washington, D.C.


This article was published in the Spring 2024 issue of Army Sustainment.


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