Planning for a Successful Theater Support Command

by Colonel George William Wells, Jr., USAR

The Army currently is changing from a structure largely based on the division to one that emphasizes quicker, lighter, power-projection forces. Joint Publication 4-0, Doctrine for Logistic Support of Joint Operations, states that, wherever feasible, chains of command and staffs should be organized in peacetime so that they do not have to be reorganized for war. Among the Army organizations in the forefront of meeting this requirement is the theater support command (TSC). The TSC is an echelons-above-corps organization combining active and reserve component units that will be tailored to manage focused logistics in an area of operations. To perform this mission, the multicomponent TSC must be aligned in garrison as it will deploy in the field.

The question is, how do we get from here to there? It is an internal organizational challenge to integrate the TSC's multicomponent structure and personnel with automated equipment to achieve an effective joint fighting force. In this follow-on article to "Theater Support Command: Multicomponent Logistics" (Army Logistician, May-June 2000 issue), I will discuss the internal operations, coordination, and communication processes needed to create a successful multicomponent organization from units that can be separated by thousands of miles.


Many hours have been devoted to developing Field Manual (FM) 63-4, Theater Support Command. TSC personnel are using the emerging doctrinal guidelines as the basis for field-testing functional operations in a number of military exercises. Soldiers participating in these exercises are formulating the results into detailed operational tools that can be inserted into internal command pamphlets and standing operating procedures. These documents in turn serve to delineate the unit mission, the command vision, and the mission-essential task list (METL) of the TSC.

TSC leaders have developed comprehensive training strategies for informing their personnel about the TSC's unfolding structure and operations. In this training, soldiers study logistics doctrine in FM's and read TSC-oriented articles from professional journals. In the reserve components, soldiers are given training classes during drill that include review of assigned reading material, open discussion, and participation in tabletop practical exercises. These classes cover the basics of logistics flow, detailed descriptions of command elements and their interaction, TSC responsibilities, and commonly used acronyms.


As a separate multicomponent organization, the TSC is made up of soldiers from both the active and reserve components. One of the first requirements in structuring the TSC was determining which component would fill which positions. A select task force carefully reviewed each paragraph and line number in the pending TSC table of organization and equipment, considering such elements as mobilization, operational needs, long-term planning, day-to-day functions, and soldier promotion opportunities. The task force also factored in the unique logistics requirements of different areas of operations.

The TSC active-duty element requires a certain mix of soldier skills to perform daily support operations. On the other hand, it was determined that long-term planning and simulated exercise experience are critical for the success of the reserve elements. As these issues were outlined, the TSC's logistics support demands were balanced against the active and reserve component training needs to avoid potential mission requirement shortfalls. Overall, the selection of personnel from the active and reserve components was based on meeting both individual and unit needs.

Recruiting and Retention

The recruiting of quality soldiers is vital to TSC stability. Active-duty positions are filled through direct assignments. TSC reserve component positions are filled by direct assignment through the recruiting structure or by self-generated unit initiatives. Soldiers enter the military looking for challenge, and, upon completing training, they expect to use their soldier skills. TSC leaders have recognized this and are committed to planning dynamic and purposeful field training opportunities for their troops. To enhance soldier skills, training will include force protection exercises, weapons fire, driver licensing, common skills testing, physical fitness activities, and employment in meaningful logistics activities.

High-quality logisticians must be sought methodically and placed in TSC organizations. The last 10 years have seen a dramatic drawdown in the size of our military forces, especially in young combat service support (CSS) officers and noncommissioned officers (NCO's) in leadership positions. Many active and reserve component mid-level management positions have been eliminated, and the number of units has been reduced (with an accompanying reduction in management positions).

Rather than just relying on the normal assignment process to provide the soldiers it needs, one TSC has taken an additional step: it has formed an in-house reserve component recruiting team whose sole purpose is to fill the ranks of the command with quality logistics officers, NCO's, and enlisted soldiers. The team will be structured with energetic officers and NCO's committed to recruiting quality soldiers. In order to achieve recruiting goals, these soldiers will schedule their drill periods in conjunction with their recruiting activities. The TSC anticipates that this internal recruiting task force will be engaged actively for a minimum of 1 year.

The responsibilities of mid-level and senior TSC leaders do not end with recruiting. Once a soldier is assigned, the command must provide him with the opportunity to do his job in an environment of satisfaction, recognition, and realistic work assignments. He should be given leadership opportunities, the chance to be promoted on time, the chance to demonstrate the skills he has learned, and opportunities to practice and contribute to the team. TSC leaders must provide their soldiers with challenging logistics support operations in a realistic training environment. The experiences gained in these efforts weigh heavily in soldier satisfaction and retention. The TSC must provide a fertile learning situation that links young logisticians with senior mentors.

Rating Schemes

Rating schemes must correspond as nearly as possible to the chain of command and supervision within an organization, regardless of component or location. The integrated TSC rating scheme will have active-duty soldiers rating reserve component soldiers and vice versa at different duty locations, which will present unusual challenges. As with all rater-ratee relationships, scheduled face-to-face counseling sessions are required. However, all parties have some concerns about the fairness of periodic evaluations written by members of another component. A soldier's opportunity to be observed by a rater from another component may occur only once a year, when the soldier travels overseas. Likewise, when a rater visits a reserve organization, the soldier he is assigned to rate may be absent from drill because of military schooling, a required physical, or personal matters.

To institute positive rating schemes, TSC's are developing an internal system of checks and balances. A fully integrated rating scheme requires leaders in each location to establish an effective means of ensuring that regulatory guides and soldier concerns are being met. To assist in this endeavor, active-duty soldiers will make extended visits to assigned reserve elements during drill periods. This will allow for more hands-on training, observation, and vital personal linkage between the rater and the ratee.

A number of communication mechanisms will be put into place, such as e-mail and video teleconferencing, to provide continuous links between soldiers and their raters. These mechanisms must be monitored by each soldier and by leaders in the TSC to ensure that the soldier is satisfied and achieves a satisfactory career progression.

Career Progression

The development of the TSC integrated manning roster, which combines soldiers of the two components, makes promotion a key soldier concern. However, the integrated manning document affects soldiers differently, by increasing the number of some positions, reducing others, and eliminating still others. Thus it may well enhance the promotion potential of some soldiers and hinder others.

Career progression is particularly critical for reserve component TSC soldiers. While most active-duty soldiers rotate in and out of the TSC, reserve soldiers spend a majority of their careers in the same reserve element. Such homesteading is discouraged, but it is in fact a reality for many reserve soldiers today because of unit scarcity and limited military occupational specialty (MOS)-specific positions. In the present restructuring of the TSC, leaders have realized that position downgrades and the resulting evaluations could reflect negatively on soldiers approaching command selection and promotion boards. To preclude potential negative actions, such soldiers will be protected until they leave the TSC. This process will ensure that TSC soldiers' careers are not damaged unfairly because of reorganization factors beyond their control.


The training needs of the TSC and its soldiers remain demanding and dynamic. The standards for reserve component soldiers are no different from those for active-duty soldiers. Reserve soldiers are required to pass the Army Physical Fitness Test twice a year, record their marksmanship performance, and maintain their MOS qualifications. Military specialty training must be conducted before soldiers can train fully with the unit. Likewise, active-duty and reserve soldiers must be afforded the opportunity to continue their professional schooling. Collective logistics training is a key element in the mission success of a TSC. MOS-qualified soldiers must be team-oriented to contribute to the organizational mission.

The opportunity to put doctrinal theory into practice is accomplished through realistic training exercises. Such exercises will provide METL training opportunities for soldiers to learn, make smart decisions, and gain invaluable logistics experience. Active-duty soldiers have many opportunities to participate in such exercises. However, reserve soldiers' training opportunities generally are limited to inactive duty training (IDT) or to one annual training period.

TSC reserve soldiers will focus on operating tempo and training exercise opportunities during overseas deployment training (ODT). It is envisioned that the reserve TSC element will be surrogate trainers for subordinate traced personnel. Together, these exercise scenarios will enhance individual soldier and unit team-building logistics knowledge.

Automated Technology

Joint Vision 2010 focuses on how technology will shape conflicts by providing commanders with faster and more accurate information. Information technology will improve the ability to see, prioritize, and assess information, resulting in dominant battlespace awareness. TSC logistics networks are geared to manage and leverage information in a very fluid and dynamic environment. Tomorrow's digital battlefield will be more integrated and modular and driven by interactive CSS information management and operations systems. TSC soldiers must be proficient in using specific digital interfaces so they can rapidly anticipate, allocate, and synchronize the flow of logistics resources. The efficient use of systems, such as the Global Combat Support System-Army (GCSS-Army), Transportation Coor-dinators' Automated Information for Movement System II (TC AIMS II), automatic identification technology (AIT), and the future Multi-Technology Automated Reader Card (MARC), will be critical to ensuring information dominance in future logistics operations.

As the TSC upgrades its flow of digital information, operational tasks will be accomplished at a faster rate. Upon mobilization, a network of subordinate logistics commands, such as area support groups, corps support commands, and augmented command elements like the medical command and engineer command, will be linked to the TSC. The TSC headquarters will recognize that subordinate organizations may not have the same technical capability as the TSC. Close coordination and communication among logistics organizations must ensure the effective fielding of digital systems.

Training is critical to using technology in the TSC. Regardless of whether they are active or reserve component, soldiers assigned to operate Standard Army Management Information Systems (STAMIS) or internally developed software packages must be trained and ready. There is no time during mobilization to wait while soldiers are trained. Historically, reserve soldiers have not had the same opportunities as their active-duty counterparts to train on the latest STAMIS technology. The integrated TSC structure requires that systems be distributed to all locations with TSC units so soldiers can maintain their skills on those systems. Fielding of TSC logistics data systems must be planned and executed carefully.


Communication is the key to organizational success when all parties are working as one. TSC leaders, staff members, and soldiers must communicate with one another on a constant basis. Communication is the fiber connecting the TSC soldier to those he supports and those who support him. However, communication is especially challenging for the TSC, which must link soldiers of different components and ranks at different locations. Effective means of communication can ensure that the organization prospers and meets its mission goals. Failure to communicate effectively in the TSC will result in failed missions and harm to soldiers.

Contingency Operations

Doctrine and planning both envision forward deployment of the TSC's early entry module (EEM). The exact makeup of the EEM will depend on the individual TSC. The critical element is timing: when will reserve component soldiers be called forward? Currently, the reserve components are restricted to a formal Presidential Special Reserve Call-up (PSRC). A delay in call-up under this authorization could affect TSC logistics operations critically.

To reduce reliance on a PSRC, the TSC could initiate temporary tours of active duty to fill the early call-up voids with volunteers. The EEM could be staffed partially with active-duty personnel. To evaluate the EEM's capabilities, individual TSC's are developing training scenarios for exercising EEM's. TSC's actually must deploy the EEM to the field to analyze the logistics personnel and equipment required to support missions.

Component-Unique Requirements

The Army Reserve Personnel Command (AR-PERSCOM) will continue to maintain officer evaluation reports (OER's) and NCO evaluation reports (NCOER's) for reserve soldiers. Reservists will continue to rely on AR-PERSCOM for promotion and command selection boards. The formal selection of the special troops battalion commander and command sergeant major for the TSC will be conducted at the Army Reserve regional support command or AR-PERSCOM.

To process OER's and NCOER's efficiently, there must be a carefully framed, timely process linking the active and reserve component personnel staffs. Tracking personal information and written comments, as well as required counseling statements and input from others, will challenge the administrative process. The authority for final processing and external distribution of the reports likely will fall along component lines. It makes sense to have all OER's and NCOER's sent to component-specific reviewers for final review and then on to the appropriate personnel command. The final decision will be based on what benefits the individual soldier.

Many mandatory taskers must be completed during reserve soldier IDT weekends. These taskers include birth month audits, the Soldier Readiness Program, individual board packet preparation, and directed training by higher headquarters. Mandatory requirements cause a loss of approximately 8 hours during each drill, which puts a severe strain on maintaining the mission capability of reserve units.

Another administrative concern is the issuance of awards. The TSC's currently are looking at how to process component-unique individual awards. Timely recognition of soldiers' outstanding achievements through awards brings about positive results. Awards given months after the fact lose their luster, and the recipient himself is less than pleased. But issuing awards can be a time-consuming process, and paperwork must be funneled to the primary repository to ensure a timely response.

Another personnel concern is that there are data in the reserve component Standard Installation and Division Personnel System (SIDPERS) data base that cannot be transferred to the active component upon mobilization. The current reserve component SIDPERS 2.75 is not applicable to the active component version, SIDPERS 3. This problem has been recognized by the Army's Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel, and attempts to standardize the process are underway. Recent linkage of reserve component elements to the Regional-Level Application Software, which issues pay, cuts orders, and is responsible for personnel actions, will have a major impact during mobilizations.

TSC organizations have limited equipment, which reduces concerns about what equipment to store and where. The separate locations of TSC units make it logical to keep individual weapons, masks, chemical protection suits, and fly-away computer packages with individual soldiers. TSC's are beginning to visualize and field test EEM and full-up TSC headquarters operations. Critical timing factors require TSC soldiers to mobilize from their assigned locations straight to the area of operations. TSC equipment may be owned by the separate components, but it is integrated at physically separate locations.

Through a number of memoranda of agreement and understanding, many of the multicomponent integration issues facing the TSC are being studied and solutions negotiated. Senior Army headquarters have supported operating agreements achieved through collective concurrence. Future regulatory guidelines ultimately will formalize many of these agreements.

Physical separation provides a unique challenge. It forces a close and continuous working relationship between the TSC headquarters and its reserve elements. It forces leaders to determine if training such as the Army Physical Fitness Test, weapons fire, and common task testing should be done by reserve soldiers during ODT or IDT. It challenges the planners and operators in TSC headquarters to conduct integrated operations. It requires that extra attention be paid to soldier concerns that normally are taken for granted. It continually will challenge senior leaders and staff in supporting the logistics community. The key to success is to closely monitor, coordinate, and communicate training and operational requirements.

In order to be successful, the TSC must be organized for success. Decisions on TSC organization must be a combined effort, from the commander on down to each and every member in the structure. During peacetime, the challenge of tasking and completing requirements will be complicated. It will take the collective leadership of the staff in each headquarters element to closely coordinate the results. Upon mobilization of the TSC, these training efforts will pay untold dividends. Indeed, careful training of soldiers will yield huge benefits to those requesting logistics support in future operations. ALOG

Colonel George William (Bill) Wells, Jr., USAR, is the commander of the 21st Theater Army Area Command (CONUS) at Indianapolis, Indiana. He is a management support specialist with the Defense Finance and Accounting Service in Indianapolis.