The Mission and Maintenance: What Logistics Assistance Representatives Mean to You

By Sgt. Maj. Shane K. ShortApril 23, 2024

(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

The world is learning the importance of sustainment and maintenance as it watches Russia attempt to occupy and annex Ukraine. Beleaguered Russian formations struggle to maintain their equipment across long lines of communication with seemingly little to no maintenance or sustainment support. The U.S.’s race to employ and maintain a technological edge in the war on terrorism created an accelerated proliferation of technology in the operational force. The entire spectrum of warfighting equipment received attention, not just command, control, computers, communications, cyber intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance updates. In this push of modernization to control the desired centers of gravity, the Army also saw an influx of field support representatives (FSRs) and a reduction of logistics assistance representatives (LARs). Soldiers began to lose their maintenance and sustainment fidelity as the Army continued to field Non-Program of Record equipment under contract for maintenance and sustainment. Combat training center after-action reviews on sustainment show the U.S. military is in danger of looking like the Russians. The Army is now at a turning point, and the time of the LAR has returned.

FSR versus LAR

As far back as 2016, the Army looked to reduce FSR reliance and place ownership of maintenance and sustainment back into the hands of Soldiers, who must return to being able to maintain their equipment forward of the line and at the speed of maneuver. However, the pervasive nature of rapidly fielding equipment through program executive officers prior to Program of Record adoption led to a large FSR maintenance tail. While FSR personnel are great technicians and close a maintenance and sustainment gap, they are contractors and come with a different set of constraints and restraints based on their performance work statement, host nation agreements, and equipment supported. Sometimes, the funding for FSR support comes from unit funds.

LARs are different. Although they are still civilians, they are Department of the Army Civilians. Per Army Regulation (AR) 700-4, Logistics Assistance Program, LARs are part of the Logistics Assistance Program (LAP) and fall under the Army Material Command’s umbrella of sustainment and maintenance tasks: “The LAP delivers materiel enterprise capabilities that enable Army readiness at the tactical point of need in order to provide commanders with freedom of action, extended operational reach, and prolonged endurance.” This means LAR personnel can be with you at the speed of maneuver to solve the sustainment and maintenance issues that occur during combat operations. Your unit’s LAR team is the subject matter expert pool for issues the unit cannot solve on its own. Every Program of Record underneath the four life cycle management commands (LCMCs) of Army Material Command has LARs assigned to it. If you have an issue with your track, Tank-automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM) has a LAR for that. If you have an issue with something on the aircraft, Aviation and Missile Command has a LAR for that.

Each LCMC complement of LARs is dependent on what Programs of Record are underneath that LCMC. So, the LAR team complement from TACOM may be larger than the LAR team complement from Communications-Electronic Command. Therefore, it is important to understand your LARs, what LCMC they represent, and what they do specifically for the assemblage. Many of the LARs have a broad scope of expertise but are best suited when used for their specialty. However, LARs are not simply a magic wand to wave at your sustainment and maintenance issues.

As AR 700-4 says, the LAR does not absolve the commander of logistic readiness but is an asset to aid the commander in recognizing trends and providing hands-on training to close logistics gaps related to Programs of Record. The hands-on training portion of that statement is crucial in receiving the best support from your LAR and the LAP in general. Hands-on training means whenever a LAR is providing assistance to your formation, the operator or maintainer for that equipment must also be there. The LAR’s goal is to teach Soldiers how to do it on their own. To borrow a popular analogy, they teach the Soldiers to fish.

How to Use the LAR Team

To get the most out of the LAP and the LAR team assigned to your formation, there are a few things you must do. The first and most important thing you must do is setting the conditions and culture within the unit. Does your unit have a good maintenance plan and focus on maintenance? Often, units focus on the attractive pieces of their inventory and ignore the enabling tools that help maintain those attractive pieces. When was the last time Soldiers turned on the Joint Battle Command-Platform (JBC-P)? Do Soldiers know the JBC-P must be turned on regularly to keep it from being removed from the network? Standard operating procedures go a long way to address issues like this. Commanders and leaders at all levels need to understand these nuances to maintenance because Soldiers know that what is important to the commander gets checked.

The next thing leaders must do for good LAR relationships is talk to them regularly. Do not only call them prior to a combat training center rotation as your formation is preparing to railhead equipment. Invite them to your maintenance meetings and have them come to your motor pools. Commanders and staff leaders need to ensure there is LAR integration and welcome the LARs as enablers in your formation. After all, these are the same personnel that will deploy with you when the time comes. AR 700-4 explicitly says LARs must be deployable, mandatory mobile, and emergency essential.

Lastly, and one of the most important parts of getting the most out of the LAP and LAR team, make sure your operators and maintainers are present. As mentioned before, the LAR wants to train themselves out of a job. That’s not to say they will stop helping you; they are enablers. This is one of the primary distinctions between the FSR and the LAR. The FSR is a doer. They maintain the equipment in the absence of Soldiers. The LAR teaches the Soldier how to do it, creating spheres of maintenance influence in the formation. So, if the LAR is off somewhere else, that Soldier is now capable of performing the maintenance task on their own.

How to Find Your LAR Team

While each LCMC has a LAR population, the LAP is geographically dispersed and managed directly by the Army field support brigades (AFSBs) of Army Sustainment Command. Each Army service component command has an AFSB, managing the LAP for Army Sustainment Command. AR 700-4 has a very detailed explanation of where each AFSB is and the area the AFSB commander is responsible for. The AFSB and its subordinate battalions help deconflict and allocate these assets to best enable the operations in their respective areas. Each Army division in the continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, and Korea have a lead-system technical representative (L-STR) assigned to it to help communicate maintenance trends and operations to the AFSB and LCMC. Japan and Europe have these personnel also but are assigned differently because there’s no division headquarters. The AFSB, the L-STR, and the LCMC senior command representative determine priorities of work and coverage in terms of mission risk and need. For instance, many LARs from various AFSBs were called to support Defender Pacific in 2021 because critical aspects of that exercise needed to have success.

Each unit has, or should have, a process for requesting the LAR team for support. After all, the Army runs on documentation, and AR 700-4 has a section specifically for documenting LAR support. In many units, the request is through staff and technical channels from battalion, through brigade, to the L-STR at division. However, if there is good integration of LAR support in the unit, chances are the LAR already helped the commander identify the problem and is helping resolve it, and the documentation for support is a formality.

What This Means to You, the Leader

First and foremost, it means leaders must take all maintenance seriously. Prior to the war on terrorism, many units had two days set aside for maintenance. Monday was for rolling stock, and Tuesday was for electronics maintenance. That is not the only way to do it, but it is a way. Secondly, look past any scar tissue that may have grown from war on terrorism FSR support and embrace the LAR team as part of your formation. Your LAR team is just as important as the enablers in the brigade support battalion. Third, make sure your maintenance personnel are correctly inputting the data into the equipment status report. Each L-STR has visibility of this report. Faults placed against rolling stock as opposed to the equipment end item (such as recording a fault on the JBC-P against the tank instead of inputting it as a fault against the individual JBC-P system) are not visible. This gives the commander, unit maintenance officer, and L-STR a false sense of where certain maintenance levels are.

Take the lessons learned from watching the Russians fail at sustainment and maintenance and do not repeat them. The Army has many enabling capabilities that make it the greatest fighting force on the planet. However, if you do not use these enablers, which are already funded, it makes your formation susceptible to the very same issues the Russians are facing.


Sgt. Maj. Shane K. Short serves as a Department of Force Management instructor of the Sergeant Major Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas. He previously served as the G-3 Sergeant Major for Communications and Electronics Command and as a troop sergeant major, Able Squadron, Asymmetric Warfare Group. His training includes SGM-A Class 69, Operator and Advisor Training Course Class 29, Sensitive Site Exploitation, and Army Red Team. He has a Master of Science in instructional design, development, and evaluation from Syracuse University, New York.


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


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