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Modular Transformation and the 3d Sustainment Brigade

The transformation of the 3d Infantry Division Support Command (DISCOM) into the 3d Sustainment Brigade as part of the Army’s modular logistics transformation is complete, and our assessment is that the new modular design is a resounding success. The 3d Infantry DISCOM was the first logistics brigade in the Army to begin modular conversion (in conjunction with the modular conversion of the 3d Infantry Division’s headquarters and brigade combat teams [BCTs]) shortly after its return from Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. Nearly 4 years after its transformation began, the 3d Sustainment Brigade became the first completely modular sustainment brigade deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. The transformation was completed with the transfers of authority between the 125th Finance Battalion and the 82d Financial Management Company on 30 July 2007 and between the 22d Personnel Services Battalion and the 101st Human Resources Company on 28 November 2007.

The 3d Sustainment Brigade accepted the reins for sustainment of coalition forces within Multi-National Division-North (MND–N) in Iraq from the 45th Sustainment Brigade on 26 June 2007, and its tour ended in September 2008. This article discusses the brigade’s experience operating within this multicapable, extremely robust headquarters. We will also discuss areas of particular strength from our vantage point and adjustments we made to the structure to meet our specific mission and responsibilities.

Admittedly, our analysis of the 3d Sustainment Brigade’s experience is colored by the conduct of the brigade’s three distinct missions: sustaining coalition forces throughout MND–N and beyond as directed; providing mayoral and life support to 6,000 coalition forces personnel; and executing aggressive base defense and force protection operations on Contingency Operating Base (COB) Qayyarah West (Q-West) as the senior mission headquarters. The mayoral and base defense functions significantly increased our sustainment brigade headquarters’ responsibilities beyond the sustainment mission. Yet, we accomplished all three mission sets with zero degradation in support. Much of this is a tribute to the increased capability of the modular design within the brigade staff, the flexibility of combat sustainment support battalions, and the addition of a special troops battalion to the sustainment brigade structure.

Brigade Staff Changes

Within the brigade headquarters, several key enhancements allowed the brigade to successfully absorb complex, and in some cases nonstandard, mission sets. The increased capability in the support operations (SPO) section permitted greater oversight and execution of logistics operations, while the structure as a whole also allowed for better command and control of very diverse formations. The most significant adjustments were made in the S–3 section and the command group.

The S–3 was responsible for tracking the large number of relief-in-place and transfer-of-authority actions of subordinate units—an exceptionally critical task for deployed sustainment brigades. Tracking force rotations is, in fact, an S–3 task. However, it was the volume and fluidity of the unit transitions throughout our tenure that made this such an important requirement. Our S–3 transitions cell oversaw and synchronized the movement of 130 separate units into and out of the theater of operations over the brigade’s 15-month deployment, including 12 transitions between battalion headquarters.

Other missions for the S–3 included supporting the Iraqi Security Forces through the use of logistics transition teams and logistics training and advisory teams and incorporating nonlethal engagements into the operations. [See the article on page 28 for more information on the brigade’s conduct of nonlethal engagements.] The S–3 section was enhanced with several key junior officers to manage these functions, and communication between the S–3 and the SPO was increased to facilitate the information flow required for success.

In the command group, two new positions were created to assist with the command and control of the massive sustainment brigade footprint: the brigade executive officer (XO) and the adjutant. The deputy commanding officer (DCO) worked tirelessly to integrate the mayor cell and base defense operations center functions with brigade headquarters operations. He also exercised day-to-day supervision of the special staff, another extremely critical task. The XO, on the other hand, focused on overall staff coordination, acting as a discrete entity from the DCO. The brigade adjutant proved critical to synchronizing command group functions. With the sheer quantity of the command group’s work, and given the requirements for rest and relaxation leave, battlefield circulation, and other factors that removed the command group from the headquarters for periods of time, the XO and adjutant positions proved to be priceless additions.

In all cases, the sustainment brigade headquarters structure proved to be fully adept at providing oversight of diverse mission sets; this included the battalion headquarters, which fell under the brigade to conduct COB mayor and base defense operations. The expansion of military police, civil affairs, engineer (both assured mobility and project management functions), and other capabilities enhanced our ability to coordinate both laterally with supported BCTs and vertically with higher levels (the support command [expeditionary] and the MND–N task force).

Combat Sustainment Support Battalions

Another area that has benefited from the modular transformation is the combat sustainment support battalion (CSSB). CSSBs were the true lifeblood of general support (GS) logistics operations in MND–N. The CSSBs were extremely adaptable organizations that could deploy Soldiers to provide support away from their parent headquarters throughout the breadth of northern Iraq and often beyond. The 927th CSSB was located at COB Speicher, the 17th CSSB at COB Q-West, and the 87th CSSB at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Marez.

The CSSBs’ operation of the GS hubs, along with their distribution support throughout MND–N and MND-Northeast (the Korean sector), was indispensible to the sustainment of coalition forces. They routinely conducted distribution operations across an area the size of Pennsylvania and on some of the most dangerous, improvised explosive device-riddled roads in Iraq. Unquestionably, the distribution of key commodities and supplies was the sustainment brigade’s center of gravity, but these units also conducted nontraditional missions, such as logistics training for Iraqi Army units in coordination with the BCTs and nonlethal engagements with Iraqi citizens in coordination with Iraqi Security Forces and coalition forces. The enhancements to the brigade staff described above allowed for coordination and communication over huge geographic areas. In truth, all of the 3d Sustainment Brigade’s units conducted these missions and worked to promote Iraqi self-reliance.

Special Troops Battalion

The most dynamic change as a result of modular transformation by far has been the inclusion of a special troops battalion (STB) in the sustainment brigade structure. The STB is the only unit organic to the sustainment brigade; all others were task-organized based on mission requirements. Before its deployment, the 3d STB comprised a headquarters and headquarters company (HHC), a financial management company (FMCO), a signal company, a chemical company, and a movement control team; its total troop strength was 633 personnel. The STB evolved significantly in theater to include an HHC, a signal company, an FMCO, a human resources company, and a logistics task force providing life support at the strategic border crossing between Iraq and Turkey (the Harbur Gate).

The 3d STB was spread out over 23 different FOBs and COBs throughout MND–N and MND-West and comprised over 800 Soldiers and Airmen. Command and control of these diverse mission sets presented a challenge, but through aggressive circulation across the battlefield by leaders, use of detailed personnel accountability procedures, and integration with liaison officers at each key location, the STB was able to conduct its mission very successfully. Make no mistake about it: the STB evolved into a direct support organization with area support responsibilities equally as complex as those of the three CSSBs.

Perhaps the most significant difference in the sustainment brigade structure was the modular transformation of the finance and human resources organization from battalions to companies under the command and control of the STB. (See the articles beginning on pages 23 and 26 for more discussion on these transformations.) The SPO section absorbed the technical oversight roles, while several critical functions from the personnel services battalion were moved to the brigade S–1.

Our assessment after 15 months in the field in Iraq is that the new sustainment brigade structure is extremely flexible and capable of providing full-spectrum logistics, human resources, and finance support. Although there were some challenges to the modular transformation, the new sustainment structure truly works.
ALOG

Colonel Darrell K. Williams was the commander of the 3d Sustainment Brigade during its deployment to Operation Iraqi Freedom 07–09. He is currently serving as the executive officer in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G–4, Department of the Army. He was previously the Deputy C–4, Coalition Forces Land Component Command, at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. He holds an M.S. degree in logistics management from Pennsylvania State University. He is a graduate of the Army Command and General Staff College and the School of Advanced Military Studies and is a distinguished graduate of the National War College.

Lieutenant Colonel Lillard D. Evans is the brigade executive officer of the 3d Sustainment Brigade. He was previously the division transportation officer, 3d Infantry Division, at Fort Stewart, Georgia. He holds an M.S. degree in civil engineering from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He is a graduate of the Transportation Officer Basic and Advanced Courses and the Army Command and General Staff College.

Captain Brittany R. Warren is the brigade adjutant for the 3d Sustainment Brigade. She served as a chemical platoon leader during Operation Iraqi Freedom 04–06 in 2005. She holds a B.S. degree in biological anthropology and anatomy from Duke University and is a graduate of the Chemical Officer Basic Course.