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Managing ARFORGEN Operations in a Modular Sustainment Brigade

On 16 August 2008, the 3d Sustainment Brigade redeployed from Operation Iraqi Freedom
(OIF) 07–09 to its home station at Fort Stewart, Georgia, as the first totally modular sustainment brigade. The concept of modularity had proven successful in allowing the brigade to perform many functions while deployed. However, the redeployed brigade was quickly challenged by the complexities of the Army Force Generation (ARFORGEN) cycle as it began its reset phase.

Most sustainment brigades consist of about 32 deployable units. Each of these units has a separate or derivative unit identification code (UIC) and progresses through ARFORGEN individually. Having such a large number of UICs that are deployed and redeployed in a nonhomogenous manner creates many challenges for the sustainment brigade and combat sustainment support battalion (CSSB) headquarters. This article will examine the complexities of the ARFORGEN process experienced by the modular sustainment brigade and propose possible solutions to problems.

ARFORGEN and the Sustainment Brigade

Under the Army’s modular design, all combat battalions and the brigade support battalion within a brigade combat team (BCT) execute the ARFORGEN process together as an entire unit. A sustainment brigade executes ARFORGEN differently. Unlike a BCT, a sustainment brigade has only one organic subordinate unit: the special troops battalion (STB) headquarters. Under modularity, force sustainment units are attached to the sustainment brigade down to the team level and tasked for deployment or operational support directly by the Army Forces Command (FORSCOM). Each force sustainment unit, therefore, must go through the ARFORGEN process separately. It then will face challenges with reset operations, deployment validation training, and rear detachment composition.

Reset Operations

In April 2009, more than 33 individual units of the 3d Sustainment Brigade were in various phases of ARFORGEN, with 13 in the reset phase. For fiscal year 2010, the brigade will have 35 units in the ARFORGEN process, with 19 units scheduled for reset. Since a majority of these units have different latest arrival dates (LADs) and boots on ground dates, traditional ARFORGEN processes and activities, such as equipment sourcing conferences, tax the capacity of FORSCOM’s G–4 Equipment Integration Branch.

Under modularity, a BCT will normally undertake each phase of the ARFORGEN process as a whole with Department of the Army (DA) oversight. In most cases, sustainment brigades and BCTs do not compete for the same equipment, but they do compete for the staff attention of the Army Installation Management Command’s Directorate of Logistics and Stationing Management, FORSCOM, and DA. In an effort to facilitate the reset process at Fort Stewart, the 3d Sustainment Brigade put forth an exoteric concept to “bundle” redeploying units by fiscal-year quarter. This reset bundling plan ensures that force sustainment units attached to the brigade in garrison are afforded all the opportunities and functions available within ARFORGEN, especially those concerning reset operations.

A bundled package consists of multiple Active Army UICs. The size and composition of the units vary, with some as small as seven Soldiers. Nonetheless, each organization has to complete the reset process in some manner after redeployment. The degree and depth to which the organization will be involved is determined after it has conducted its property book scrub and loaded data into the Automated Reset Management Tool (ARMT) while still in theater. (The ARMT identifies automatic return items to be repaired at a sustainment-level facility. Other equipment entered into ARMT is repaired at the field level.)

Complementary approaches are available for managing how sustainment brigades transit through the ARFORGEN reset phase. The 3d Sustainment Brigade’s approach was to start reset management at R–180 (180 days before redeployment). At R–180, the redeploying unit began its property book evaluation and entered data into the ARMT. Theater staff then determined what equipment would enter reset and stay in theater by using Automatic Reset Induction (ARI). (The ARI list contains items that are automatically inducted into the national-level reset program.) Usually around R–120, the redeploying unit executed the ARMT plan, and by R–90 it processed ARI equipment as instructed. On the unit’s arrival in the continental United States (CONUS), the 3d Sustainment Brigade’s focus then turned to resetting the unit by R+180 (180 days after redeployment).

By focusing on resetting by R+180, the brigade is able to parallel the process that FORSCOM uses to manage the BCTs. The brigade also can provide solidarity for units that are designated with a LAD shortly after redeployment and better prepare units that do not have a LAD. Even for those units that do not have a designated LAD, beginning reset operations at R–180 will allow the brigade to prepare for short-suspense LADs.

This is not a perfect model. For example, the 260th Quartermaster Battalion headquarters will redeploy during the third quarter of fiscal year 2010 and will be the only redeploying unit under the brigade for that quarter. Under the bundling concept, and considering the unit’s relatively small size for reset, the battalion will be at approximately R+120 before its equipment sourcing conference. In itself, this is not bad, but if the battalion is tasked for a subsequent deployment during or shortly after redeployment, the remainder of its reset operations would be very time sensitive.

However, starting the reset process while a unit is still in theater does pose a challenge. The deployed unit most likely will not fall under the command and control of its CONUS higher headquarters in theater. This could possibly reduce the emphasis placed on reset while in theater. The 3d Sustainment Brigade has initiated a dialog with the CSSB and sustainment brigade headquarters under which its deployed units fall in theater to ensure that reset is emphasized. This challenge can be easily overcome once sustainment brigades and CSSBs begin to experience the entire ARFORGEN process and conduct reset operations at their home stations.

Other sustainment brigade commanders have approached resetting units once they have an established LAD or LAD minus (L–Day). This approach allows the sustainment brigade headquarters to concentrate its efforts on a smaller number of units.

Training

The train/ready phase of ARFORGEN presents other challenges. Under the modular design, the sustainment brigade trains deploying elements down to the team level. Units are required to conduct validation training within the confines of their skill sets before they deploy. BCTs are normally scheduled for a mission readiness exercise at one of the combat training centers. The BCT commander can train his entire deploying force during one culminating exercise.

The culminating training event (CTE) is vital for the commander to gauge the competence and capability of his unit before it deploys. In order for units within the sustainment brigade to receive training with the organizational elements they will support in theater, a CTE must be scheduled for each unit separately. For example, casualty liaison teams, R5 (reception, replacement, return-to-duty, rest and recuperation, and redeployment) teams, and human resources platoons are manned with 5 to 12 Soldiers. These smaller units are required to receive deployment training in the form of a CTE just like other, larger deploying elements.

The training challenge lies in scheduling and allocating resources to train multiple team-, platoon-, company-, and battalion-sized elements, none of which have the same LAD for deployment. The brigade remains in a constant state of training support and preparation for its attached units. During fiscal year 2010, the 3d Sustainment Brigade will have as many as 14 CTEs, with a peak of 6 company-sized or larger CTEs in the second quarter. The brigade headquarters itself will also be preparing for its own deployment. And the ARFORGEN training cycle does not stop for the sustainment brigade once its headquarters deploys; it continues while additional attachments prepare to deploy.

A key contribution to assisting with the complex training requirements came from the Combat Service Support (CSS) Stakeholders’ Conference hosted by the FORSCOM G–4 in January 2009. FORSCOM G–3 and G–4 representatives agreed to establish a sourcing conference in which expeditionary sustainment command and sustainment brigade commanders and staff planners can share their analyses of requirements and available units and recommend sourcing solutions.

The intent behind this conference is that all parties will be able to better align units for deployment within the sustainment brigade and facilitate continuity of operations. For example, a quartermaster company selected from Fort Stewart will be better suited to fill a requirement that will be synchronized with the deployment of its higher headquarters. In essence, when possible, we can actually build a deployment package with organic or technical review authority command and control that, in turn, will allow the unit to train as a whole, thus reducing the number of CTEs the sustainment brigade headquarters must schedule. Shaping the configuration of sustainment deployments will also assist in configuring rear detachments and maintaining command and control.

Rear Detachment Command and Control

As any commander can attest, a knowledgeable and solid rear detachment is crucial for a deployed force. The primary duties of the “typical” BCT rear detachment include receiving new Soldiers, preparing new Soldiers for deployment, providing family readiness group support, performing administrative actions on redeployed Soldiers, monitoring the status of medical evacuations, and maintaining unit areas. The rear detachment commander is the deployed commander’s conduit for information and support from the CONUS element of his command. As a modular BCT moves through the ARFORGEN process, the entire brigade of Soldiers and civilians trains, deploys, and redeploys as a unit, leaving a rear detachment commander and staff of approximately 35 permanent cadre responsible for anywhere from 150 to 450 Soldiers and civilians within the BCT.

In comparison, the sustainment brigade’s rear detachment commander is responsible for nearly six times the number of Soldiers and civilians as the BCT’s. For example, in OIF the 3d Sustainment Brigade and STB rear detachment headquarters consisted of approximately 90 permanent cadre to support nearly 2,600 people in garrison. In addition to the typical BCT rear detachment, the sustainment brigade must also receive entire units that are redeploying, begin the reset process for those units, plan unit-level training events for units in the train/ready phase, and continue to provide habitual logistics support to the installation and other customers. So, for all intents and purposes, when the sustainment brigade headquarters and STB deploy, the rear detachment still can have command and control of a brigade’s worth of nonorganic organizations and provide logistics support to the installation.

Currently, force structure and manning constraints will not permit the positioning of senior (field-grade) officers and noncommissioned officers as backfills for a rear detachment, so having adequate numbers and grades of personnel can become problematic. This issue was addressed during the recent CSS Stakeholders’ Conference with the understanding that FORSCOM would get involved as needed to fill key command and control logistics positions within sustainment brigades.

Other options for configuring rear detachments could include some version of a mission support element, similar to a division headquarters backfill during a division’s deployment. Another possibility the 3d Sustainment Brigade is researching is the use of mobilized Reserve units to backfill the brigade headquarters. However, a more permanent possibility would be the use of a table of distribution and allowances (TDA) organization created specifically as a backfill. The TDA personnel could act as installation assets, assigned to the sustainment brigade, that would be nondeployable.

Reset, training, and rear detachment command and control are three of the top challenges the 3d Sustainment Brigade is working through, but they only touch the surface of the complex relationships and structure of modular sustainment brigades. Yes, modularity has always existed to some extent in the sustainment community. However, with the pace of the current deployment cycle, the challenge lies in our ability to provide needed attention to each unit within the sustainment community during the ARFORGEN process.

By implementing the bundling concept for resetting units, we can easily capture the requirements of subordinate units and posture them properly for future deployments. By managing reset operations using the R+180 model, we feel confident that units will be given the attention needed to maneuver through the ARFORGEN process and move quickly into the train/ready phase. A quick and smooth transition to the train/ready phase is essential to a viable, realistic CTE. Shooting for total reset at R+180 will ensure that the unit has adequate training time and resources.

Participating in the FORSCOM sourcing conference, while not an immediate fix, will afford the expeditionary sustainment command and sustainment brigade commanders an opportunity to posture their units for deployment with the same CONUS command and control. This participation will have a tertiary effect on reset operations as well, specifically at the CSSB level. As the CSSB headquarters deploys as a packaged set with its subordinate companies, the reset process can be facilitated more easily.

This is not an impossible endeavor, but it will require emphasis from leaders at all levels. Lateral coordination among sustainment brigades, local coordination with the host installation, and assistance from the expeditionary sustainment command and FORSCOM are all key components for shaping the ARFORGEN process for the force sustainment community.

Major Charlie Ward is the executive officer for the Special Troops Battalion, 3d Sustainment Brigade, at Fort Stewart, Georgia. He was the chief of plans for the 3d Sustainment Brigade when he wrote this article. He holds a B.A. degree from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and an M.S. degree in logistics management from the Air Force Institute of Technology.

 
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