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Movement Control
in the Brigade Area of Operations

Suppose that you are on the staff of a combat brigade element with command and control over four subordinate battalions and many attached units. These units conduct myriad missions ranging from cordon-and-search patrols to reconnaissance gathering, vehicle recovery, and LOGPAC (logistics package) resupply in and out of your brigade’s forward operating bases (FOBs). The S–2 rushes in and announces that Alpha route just went black because an improvised explosive device (IED) has detonated and a secondary ambush has just occurred and that the brigade commander wants to know immediately how many convoys are on the road. Normally, the division transportation officer keeps you informed of all supplies incoming from corps and the movement control offi-cer lets you know when the large supply runs are en-tering your area of operations (AO), but how do you know where all the brigade troops are? Who is traveling on the main supply route that just went black? To whom do you go for this information, and did that person even know before 5 minutes ago that he was responsible for convoy tracking?

In today’s theaters of operations, the movement of supplies and equipment along supply routes is monitored according to strict division transportation and movement control procedures to ensure that timely and accurate data are provided to all customer units. However, the problem we see at the National Training Center (NTC) at Fort Irwin, California, and on the battlefields of Iraq is that internal convoys are not being tracked effectively at the brigade level and below. How does a brigade know when internal convoys are departing and arriving at the many FOBs in its AO, what they are carrying, or how many of the brigade’s troops are on the road at any given time? More important, who should be the keeper of that information?

Information Management

The S–2/3 section is best equipped and staffed to track internal convoys throughout the brigade. The S–2 is collocated with the S–3 so that he can provide valuable intelligence updates that are critical to convoy operations. A valuable addition to the S–2/3 section would be a movement control team (MCT) consisting of a Transportation Corps lieutenant and a sergeant with military occupational specialty 88M20, chauffeur, or 88M30, motor transport operator. This MCT could manage the increased convoy traffic within the brigade’s AO, regularly update the convoy tracking matrix, and coordinate or deconflict movements on the main and alternate supply routes in the AO on behalf of the brigade S–3. The MCT also could help the brigade S–3 maintain better situational awareness of convoy movements within the brigade’s AO and thereby ensure better coordination among the battalions. Through close coordination of convoys, the S–3 could track troops on the ground more effectively and thus have an up-to-date picture of supply routes and incidents that may occur along the way.

To ensure that all units in the brigade know what is expected of them and to make sure that convoy movement is rehearsed extensively, the S–3 section should use the MCT and a convoy tracking matrix as part of its daily battle rhythm before the brigade deploys to Iraq.

Convoy Tracking Matrix

A brigade-level convoy tracking matrix is a technique that has worked well at the NTC. This matrix is updated daily at times set by the brigade. It is broad enough in scope that the brigade and battalion commanders know what is on the road, but not so detailed that it bogs them down in the minutiae of personnel manifests and bumper numbers. This matrix seems to work not because the brigade staff is able to fill in the blocks easily but because the brigade has a battle drill in place that includes receiving accurate data from its subordinate units at prescribed times during the day and night. Some brigades have this battle drill in place before they arrive at the NTC; others refine this tool during their rotations.

The convoy tracking matrix can be placed on the SIPRNet (Secret Internet Protocol Router Network), and units can update it at set times or continuously throughout the day. Brigades that track their internal convoys and missions successfully use this matrix daily to identify not only where all convoys are at the moment but also where they have been in order to gather intelligence about the routes they have traveled. The end state is a finely honed battle drill that can be used by subordinate battalions to feed information to one consolidated brigade section.

Above is an example of a basic matrix that can be adjusted to fit a specific brigade structure. It is a starting point for practice during an NTC rotation or a home station exercise. It includes basic information needed to get, in one quick snapshot, an accurate picture of where forces are heading. Unit, destination, and route information is imperative. Vehicle, personnel, and cargo data are also useful because they allow tracking of the types of missions and number of miles driven over the course of a deployment. If a brigade has a Movement Tracking System (MTS), the mobile transceiver numbers can be placed on the matrix as well. Use of a matrix will ensure that the brigade base station operator knows which convoys to track and will facilitate communications checks before the convoys depart the FOBs. It is always easier to fix the MTS on the base rather than en route.

If planned convoy start times are known and entered on the matrix up to 24 hours in advance, upcoming missions can be deconflicted and congestion reduced along the main supply route. Having another column that shows actual convoy start times triggers the battalions to contact the brigade before their convoys depart the FOBs. Destination arrival and departure times should be entered in separate columns to allow plenty of room to annotate remarks such as “RON” (remain overnight) or other useful information. The “MC” (mission complete) column shows when missions are closed and, more important, if they are still open. This is a helpful reminder to notify the battalion to check on the status of the convoy and ensure the convoy has not encountered problems. It also provides a check to ensure that battalions are providing the closing information required. The “Incident” and “Remarks” columns give the S–2 a data source to assess routes and named areas of interest and provide other staff sections with specific information they need.

The two “bottom lines” about the matrix are: Tailor it so that it works best for your brigade, and, most important, actually use it. The matrix can facilitate the flow of vital convoy data among brigade units. If you are on the battalion staff, know before deployment what the brigade’s S–3 standing operating procedures state about departing and arriving at the FOB, checkout and check-in procedures, convoy clearance and start times, and post-mission debriefings. If you are part of the brigade staff, you should know the primary and alternate points of contact in each battalion staff section and have their primary and alternate phone numbers readily available. Know the grid coordinates of the subordinate units and the main and alternate supply routes that will be used. Work seamlessly with the S–2, correlating named areas of interest and actual convoy routes.

Communicating Convoy Movements

By using a matrix managed by an MCT within the brigade S–3 shop, the brigade could ensure timely coordination of convoys within its AO. Posting the matrix on the SIPRNet allows battalions to anticipate the arrival of convoys in their AOs and gives them time to deconflict convoy arrivals with ongoing operations.

The movement of convoys across battalion task force boundaries must be treated as a friendly forward passage of lines. When a convoy departs its FOB, the battalion S–3 should notify the brigade S–3 of the convoy’s start time. When the convoy crosses bat-talion task force boundaries, the convoy should notify the gaining battalion task force of its anticipated arrival time in the new AO. When the convoy arrives at its destination, the gaining battalion S–3 should notify the brigade S–3 of the convoy’s arrival. At this point, the brigade MCT should update the matrix and post it to the SIPRNet to allow widest dissemination of the information. Battalion and brigade staffs must train in this key battle drill to ensure that units execute this vital function. Units must maintain proper control and coordination of convoys to ensure safe and secure travel on the main and alternate supply routes and efficient use of convoy resources.

Gate Control

One final stop can be an enabler for controlling convoy movements: the FOB front gate. A gate control team of Soldiers who have been trained to manage traffic flow in and out of the FOB is key to convoy management. Units should establish this team at home station and train its members on proper gate procedures before deployment.

Here is how the gate control team works. Before a convoy departs the FOB, the gate control team checks to see if the convoy has received clearance from the battalion tactical operations center. The gate control team logs convoy departure times and destinations. The team then calls the FOB headquarters to announce the departure and arrival of convoys. If the convoy does not have clearance to depart, it moves to a holding area until clearance is granted.

The gate control team’s most important function is preventing convoys that have not been cleared by their units from departing the FOB. Keeping undocumented convoys off the main and alternate supply routes greatly aids convoy tracking and ensures better use of limited resources and personnel. The team also monitors inbound traffic that is waiting to enter the FOB.

By following the procedures described and posting all actions to the convoy tracking matrix at all levels, you will have an up-to-date route intelligence picture that will keep your unit informed of when convoys are on the road and where they are at any given time. Find a standard that works for your unit and rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Then all units will know what is expected of them.

Major Martin E. Stokes is the Battalion Executive Officer Logistics Trainer in the Operations Group at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California. He has a master’s degree in history from Colorado State University. He is a graduate of the Field Artillery Officer Basic Course, the Combined Logistics Officers Advanced Course, and the Army Command and General Staff College.

Captain Christina A. Helferich is the Distribu-tion Company, Brigade Support Battalion, Trainer in the Operations Group at the National Training Center. She has bachelor’s degrees in history and political science and a master’s degree in teaching from Virginia Commonwealth University. She is a graduate of the Transportation Officer Basic Course, the Combined Logistics Captains Career Course, and the Combined Arms and Services Staff School.