I believe that management of the theater gateway is a problem. The overarching issue is that the sustainment community does not have a strong understanding of what a theater gateway is or does and is often unclear on the best method of integrating the theater gateway mission into the overall sustainment mission.
I saw this problem firsthand as the deputy director of the 9th Theater Gateway Team, which was deployed in Kuwait to run the theater gateway from the fall of 2008 through the fall of 2009. The three main problems I observed were mission command confusion, resourcing confusion, and an unsynchronized reception, staging, onward movement, and integration (RSOI) planning process. I believe that Army sustainment doctrine also lacks depth and clarity, which results in a gap between personnel and equipment RSOI.
Through my experience and study of doctrine, I have developed a solution that I think addresses these problems and will help future sustainment planners and commanders of theater-opening operations to improve theater gateway operations.
What Is a Theater Gateway?
You won't find the theater gateway (TG) adequately defined in Army doctrine. In fact, when those two words do appear in doctrine, it is almost always in reference to the TG personnel accountability team (PAT). However, Field Manual (FM) 1–0, Human Resources Support, and FM Interim (FMI) 4–93.2, The Sustainment Brigade, both mention the establishment of a personnel processing center (PPC) (the joint operations area TG PAT center in FM 1–0 and the TG R5 PPC in FMI 4–93.2) and indicate the basic tasks associated with conducting the PPC mission. ["R5" means reception, replacement, return to duty, rest and recuperation, and redeployment.]
TG PAT human resources (HR) tasks include es-tablishing and managing accountability of personnel transiting through the intertheater aerial port of debarkation (APOD) and providing limited essential personnel services, such as identification documents; DD Form 93, Record of Emergency Data; and SGLV Form 8286, Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance Election and Certificate.
However, the TG PAT also is responsible for coordinating many crucial non-HR tasks, such as transportation activities related to the APOD and life-support activities (billeting and feeding) for transients. The collective activity of PPC operations and the necessary support operations is colloquially known as the "theater gateway." When it comes to RSOI, the TG conducts and coordinates the R, S, and O for personnel.
So I see the theater gateway as a crossroads of HR and logistics support operations, where both functions occur simultaneously and in mutual support of each other.
Multiple Agencies and Mission Command Confusion
One of the significant problems I noticed during my tour at the TG in Kuwait was mission command confusion. If you asked the question, "Who owns the theater gateway?"—as in which single organization had mission command over the activities of the TG—you had to go all the way up to the Army service component command level and say "ARCENT" (Third Army and U.S. Army Central). This is because the TG was not so much an organization as it was an aggregate of multiple missions controlled by multiple agencies in disparate mission command channels. The only common umbrella of mission command was ARCENT.
The TG organization was a task force of the TG PAT and the HR company known as Task Force Gateway (TFG). TFG fell under the mission command of the 1st Theater Sustainment Command (TSC). Of course, the 1st TSC was directly subordinate to ARCENT. During my tour, the TFG initially fell directly under the 311th Expeditionary Sustainment Command (ESC), with the 4th Sustainment Brigade having administrative control. After the ESC redeployed, the TFG task-organized back to the sustainment brigade under the 332d Ordnance Battalion, which was designated to execute deployment and redeployment operations (D/ROPS). Yet the remaining agencies critical to TG operations fell outside the mission command of the 1st TSC.
The two contracted movement control teams (MCTs) that managed passenger movements for intertheater flights to the APOD and intratheater flights out of Ali Al Salem Air Base in Kuwait were controlled by the 53d Movement Control Battalion, which was task-organized directly under ARCENT. The intratheater MCT eventually moved under the control of the air expeditionary wing at the airfield.
For additional joint flavor, the customs inspection process for rest and recuperation and redeployment flights belonged to the Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Group. Then there was Area Support Group (ASG) Kuwait, also task-organized directly under ARCENT, which managed force protection operations and base camp facilities.
The 332d Ordnance Battalion, better known as the
D/ROPS battalion, owned the planning and synchronization process, but it did not control most of the assets that executed that process. When problems arose, the D/ROPS battalion's responsiveness was limited to intense coordination among all the supporting units involved in an attempt to work things out on behalf of the supported unit. This included units both within and outside of the TSC's chain of command.
So mission command of the TG did not cleanly align with mission support responsibility for the TG. This often confused and frustrated both the supporting and supported units. This mission command confusion led directly to resourcing confusion. Since no single commander was in charge of all of the critical pieces of the operation, it was not clear who was responsible for fixing emerging problems.
Task Force Gateway Challenges
At the TFG level, we experienced this confusion daily as we requested support resources from the sustainment brigade through the D/ROPS battalion and from ASG Kuwait through the logistics support area (LSA) camp command. The sustainment brigade managed theater-provided equipment and supply budgets for us. However, we had to go to the LSA camp command for facility maintenance, life support, medical support, and even photocopier service contract management. As the TFG deputy director, I was the primary coordinator for all of these external support requirements. Although I enjoyed the work and learning about these other agencies, I found the situation to be terribly inefficient and at times ineffective.
Another problem I saw was that the planning processes for RSOI of the personnel and equipment of supported units were disconnected at the operational level. Although the D/ROPS battalion owned both the personnel and equipment processes, we never integrated them for the supported units. The equipment RSOI process was very complicated and labor intensive and required multiple, closely coordinated planning team meetings with the enabling agencies and the unit. However, the personnel process was also complicated and supported equipment RSOI.
Despite its ownership of both the personnel and equipment processes, the D/ROPS battalion left it up to each supported unit's staff to synthesize the two. It was mandatory for deploying units to learn the equipment process, but these units had to make an extra effort if they wanted to learn about the personnel process, which was optional. The theater RSOI program highlighted the equipment process, while the personnel process became peripheral and perfunctory.
The hard work of liaisons and staffs ensured that the personnel process went as smoothly as possible. Command emphasis by the supported commander, the
D/ROPS battalion, or the sustainment brigade occurred mainly when something went wrong.
Problems With Doctrine
The problems that I observed in the field resulted from what I believe is a lack of clear sustainment doctrine on the TG. Our current sustainment doctrine is not complete and does not have the desired depth to guide sustainment commanders in conducting TG operations.
At the time of this writing, sustainment doctrine was still under development. FM 4–93, The Sustainment Brigade, was still in draft. I did not see any changes in the draft from what FMI 4–93.2 says on TG operations. The draft also did not incorporate some of the changes covered in FM 1–0.
R5 Versus PA
The most significant change in FM 1–0 affecting the TG that is not reflected in FM 4–93 is the replacement of the term "R5" with "personnel accountability" (PA). This is something that I expect will be addressed before FM 4–93 is finalized. The significance of this mismatch is that it creates confusion and inhibits full understanding of HR doctrine by sustainment professionals. It also points to a lack of depth in our doctrine.
I do not disagree with changing the term since "R5" does not accurately reflect the HR task. However, "PA" does not adequately capture all of the logistics coordination associated with the mission. The consolidation of FMI 1–0.01, S–1 Operations, and FMI 1–0.02, Theater-Level Human Resources Support, into FM 1–0 resulted in the loss of the detail FMI 1–0.02 provided for understanding the R5 mission. The term "R5" may have been confusing, but I do not think that "PA" is any less confusing when it comes to the TG. The force is familiar with "PA" in the term "personnel accounting and strength reporting" (PASR). Although FM 1–0 separates PA from SR, it does not carry over the level of detail found in FMI 1–0.02.
Sustainment Versus Logistics
Although sustainment is more than logistics, FMI 4–92.3 and the draft FM 4–93 do not give much consideration to HR or financial management (FM) in combat sustainment support battalion (CSSB) operations. They contain a few sentences indicating that the HR or FM companies can be assigned to the sustainment brigade's special troops battalion or a CSSB and a couple of diagrams that depict such arrangements. But these FMs do not help the sustainment commander or planner visualize a reason to do so.
Furthermore, at the TSC, ESC, and sustainment brigade levels, we have staff structures that incorporate HR and FM planning and operations to advise the commander. However, these staff structures end at the brigade level. This creates a gap that I think unintentionally biases the sustainment commander against consideration of HR unit task organization under the CSSB.
Equipment Versus Personnel RSOI
When it comes to theater-opening operations, current sustainment doctrine addresses the RSOI of equipment and personnel separately. This is possibly a symptom of the lack of depth on theater opening in sustainment doctrine. I find that the recent FM 3–35, Army Deployment and Redeployment, does a good job of capturing the integrated nature of RSOI. Though I think it is moderately lacking in HR support concepts, it addresses the synchronization of personnel and equipment RSOI.
Sustainment doctrine must be clear on this synchronization, but I find that it is not. FM 1–0 lightly covers the TG concept and does not connect it with FM 3–35. FMI 4–93.2 is well connected to the equipment RSOI concepts in FM 3–35. However, except for mentioning the sustainment commander's responsibility to provide logistics support requirements for the R5/PA mission and the PPC, it does little to promote the integration and synchronization of RSOI support below the sustainment brigade.
Based on my experience and my analysis of doctrine, task-organizing a CSSB for the RSOI mission (including the TG mission), with all the elements that support and execute RSOI, is a solution that appropriately and adequately addresses the TG problem. The D/ROPS
battalion showed promise in illustrating this task organization concept since it was essentially a battalion headquarters responsible for coordinating the execution of RSOI. However, because it was not a CSSB, it did not have the functionality to control additional assets.
Task-organizing a CSSB for the RSOI mission is valid when analyzed against the criteria of suitability, feasibility, and acceptability. Suitability means that it meets the requirements and solves the problem. Feasibility means that it accomplishes the mission with the resources available. And acceptability means that it will satisfy all of the stakeholders involved.
Having the CSSB responsible for the TG mission would eliminate mission command and resourcing confusion by assigning the TG mission to a commander who is resourced to accomplish it. This would also better support the units deploying into the theater by placing RSOI coordination at one point under one mission commander.
With this streamlining of mission command, the CSSB would be set up to integrate the detailed, dy-namic, and continuous coordination required by RSOI. A single commander could coordinate the sustainment of personnel equipment reception and distribution operations within the brigade for the supported units.
With the right mix of assets, the CSSB would not only own the planning and synchronization but also more of the direct execution of RSOI and thus could be more responsive to the needs of supported units.
In a new theater of operations, a CSSB could be task-organized with all of the assets needed to accomplish the support mission. Mission command here is important because it has a direct impact on the priority and delivery of resources. Along with the aforementioned TG PAT and HR company, the CSSB could command several logistics support organizations as part of the TG mission.
The CSSB would need at least two Force Provider companies to provide lodging, messing, bath, and laundry support. This arrangement would provide support similar to the LSA at Ali Al Salem. An inland cargo transfer company (ICTC) would operate as the arrival/departure airfield control group.
Ideally, the CSSB would have its own transportation assets to control personnel movements to and from the flight line and the PPC. At a minimum, this would require a light truck platoon with three squads to move personnel and baggage between the flight line and the PPC. An MCT for the APOD and one for the seaport of debarkation would also be ideal. The HR company's PA platoons would work closely with the MCT and the ICTC on personnel receiving, processing, and manifesting.
Depending on the RSOI operation's footprint, more of these units might be required to support the operation. Some of this support might be provided through contracted services under the CSSB rather than through a line unit. Nonetheless, the CSSB could be tailored with the right mix of assets to execute RSOI for both personnel and equipment. This tailoring not only would bring the right mix of units and services available to support the mission, but it also would put it under one commander to control the execution.
The CSSB has the available mission command and staff structure to support the equipment RSOI processes for the TG mission, but it would need augmentation to manage the HR support mission. The CSSB support operations office (SPO) is designed primarily for logistics support, so the addition of the TG PAT and the HR company's plans and operations section would provide the needed augmentation to manage the HR operations of the joint operations area TG PAT center. The combination of the CSSB SPO and the TG PAT would tightly integrate the whole RSOI process with and for the supported units. This would mirror the staff structures at higher echelons of sustainment commands without requiring a change in the CSSB's headquarters organization.
I believe there are three reasons why sustainment commanders would find this task organization course of action acceptable. The first is that this TG task organization is supported by doctrine. FM 1–0 indicates that the TG PAT normally will operate under the control of a CSSB. FMI 4–93.2 also presents the option of task-organizing the HR company under the CSSB, although it does not provide a possible scenario for doing so. Part of my intent in this article is to provide sustainment commanders with a practical scenario to consider the possibilities I suggest.
The second reason is that this concept would give sustainment commanders below brigade level the opportunity to gain experience with commanding and integrating logistics and HR support missions before they assume brigade command. The CSSB commander would work with the TG PAT like sustainment brigade and ESC commanders work with the human resources operations branch (HROB) and the TSC commander works with the human resources sustainment center (HRSC).
The third reason is that giving a CSSB the TG mission does not infringe on the initiative to put HR and FM officers in command of special troops battalions. I do not suggest this option as a standard for all sustainment brigades. The TG would typically appear only once in a theater of war, and this task organization concept would only apply to the sustainment brigade with the theater-opening mission.
This course of action also would benefit the HRSC, the HROB, and the TG PAT. It should improve logistics support coordination for the TG by establishing a continuous and stable means of delivery and oversight. This would allow the HRSC and the HROB the freedom to focus their energies and efforts on other aspects of PA or on more demanding and dynamic responsibilities, such as resourcing support for casualty and postal operations. This streamlining of the mission command for the TG would support the HR en-during principles of integration, anticipation, responsiveness, and synchronization.
The primary implications for doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel, and facilities (DOTMLPF) fall squarely in the realm of doctrine. During my time as deputy director of the 9th Theater Gateway Team, I heard from senior leaders, mostly at echelons above corps, about how significant the TG mission is. Yet I do not see this significance adequately reflected in doctrine; rather, it is marginalized to a few paragraphs that are not well meshed with other, related doctrine.
Current trends in emerging doctrine do not appear to fix this problem of the lack of clarity and depth with TG doctrine. A synchronization of RSOI concepts among FMs 1–0, 4–93, and 3–35 would alleviate this problem. I also recommend that FM 1–0 provide more detail on establishing the PPC in order to describe the full logistics implications of such a task. Currently, the sustainment community does not have much depth of experience when it comes to TG operations for full-spectrum operations. Doctrine can help fill that gap in experience.
I believe the theater gateway is a problem, but it does not have to be. The mission command confusion, resourcing confusion, and synchronization problems I observed were unintended consequences of implementing changes in doctrine while in the midst of real-world execution. Nonetheless, I believe that these same results are bound to be repeated unless we acknowledge the problem and address it.
Fixing doctrine will ultimately prevent this from becoming a pattern. Assigning the TG mission to the CSSB and resourcing it accordingly is suitable, feasible, and acceptable and is the solution for the field. My hope is that enough sustainment leaders will agree with me so that we can test this task organization in training and be better prepared for the next theater of battle that awaits us.