What Do You Know About APS-3?

by Dr. Derek Povah

Using the DTLOMS model, the author analyzes how well the Army trains its soldiers to use Army Pre-positioned Stocks Afloat in a deployment. His conclusion: More needs to be done.

A Brief History of APS

The Army Pre-positioned Stocks (APS) Program originated after the Persian Gulf War, when the National Military Strategy changed from forward deployment to force projection. The APS-3 (Army Pre-positioned Afloat, or APA) was the initial element of this program. APA called for pre-positioning aboard ships a 2 x 2 heavy brigade with support (two armored and two mechanized battalions, plus support units, theater-opening combat support and combat service support units, and sustainment stocks for an area of operations) that could be operational by 15 days after a deployment operation begins (C+15).
Since its inception in the early 1990's, APS has expanded to six additional brigades with support pre-positioned at land-based sites in Southwest Asia, Northeast Asia, and Central Europe. By December 2001, the Army plans to have an additional brigade with support pre-positioned afloat, thus creating a total of eight pre-positioned brigade sets.
The Army Field Support Command (Provisional), headquartered at Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois, has the monumental task of managing the APS program. To accomplish this, the command employs personnel in 12 countries to perform the day-to-day management of APS stocks, both land-based and afloat. These personnel include soldiers and Department of the Army civilians, as well as U.S. and foreign contractors.

Most of the Army's warfighters need to know more about the Army's Pre-positioned Stocks Afloat (APS-3) program; the associated processes of logistics over-the-shore (LOTS) and reception, staging, onward movement, and integration (RSOI); and the deployment planning tool called the Automated Battlebook System (ABS). To correct this deficiency, training on APS-3, LOTS, and RSOI should be institutionalized in the Army School System along with the ABS. I believe that the need for training in these areas can be illustrated by using the Army's doctrine, training, leadership, organization, materiel, and soldiers (DTLOMS) model.

APS-3 and Deploying Soldiers

Today's APS-3 fleet of ships has been designed and equipped to provide a power-projection capability of one heavy combat brigade ready to fight no later than 15 days after a deployment begins (C+15). This APS-3 force is a 2 x 2 heavy force, meaning two armored and two mechanized battalions plus support. The APS-3 fleet also provides theater-opening ships, combat support and combat service support units, and sustainment stocks capable of supplying a contingency force for 30 days. This massive cargo load will require quick offloading.

The scenarios for using APS-3, LOTS, and RSOI involve many players, and they will have to be able to perform in all kinds of weather conditions and sea states and under the threat of enemy attack. An APS-3 ship's crew will man cranes, assist and direct the offloading of cargo to watercraft, and direct drivers to the ship's causeway piers. Drivers inside wheeled and tracked vehicles will move toward the shore in convoys along piers. Soldiers manning watercraft will convey their cargo between ship and shore continually. Army civilians and contractors will unload the ships and watercraft in the reception and staging area as quickly as possible.

Before the troops match up with their vehicles and equipment, each piece will move through the offloading areas (reception and staging) to the onward movement area, where all maintenance and weapon checks will be conducted. Meanwhile, fresh reinforcements in the integration area will be in a state of high stress as they try to match up with their individual equipment, fighting vehicles, trucks, and guns (perhaps while under fire). Add to this confusion the facts that not one soldier will have seen the vehicles or equipment in the APS-3 inventory before arriving at the port or beach; troops previously engaged in hard fighting might be resting or recuperating in the RSOI area; and other troops will be awaiting medical evacuation to the very ships from which all the equipment is being discharged.

With all this in mind, consider the position of a newly commissioned second lieutenant, a slightly more mature first lieutenant, or a somewhat seasoned captain. These officers probably are 22 to 30 years old and have served anywhere from 1 to 8 years. They are assigned to a designated warfighting brigade that has been given orders to deploy within 72 hours. This includes falling in on vehicles, supplies, inventory, and equipment as it is offloaded from a ship in the APS-3 fleet. The officers and their subordinate enlisted personnel belong to every military occupational specialty (MOS) series in the Army's inventory. The officers' APS-3, LOTS, ABS, and RSOI training before this assignment probably equals less than 4 hours of mobilization and deployment instruction. (From this point on, for convenience, I will refer to APS-3, LOTS, and RSOI collectively as APS.)

To assist the officers in preparing for the deployment, a senior noncommissioned officer (SNCO) warfighter with the rank of sergeant first class is part of the planning team. The age of this SNCO can range from 30 to 45 and his length of service from 12 to more than 20 years. Today's SNCO has deployment experience gained from numerous contingency operations over the last 5 years and from rotational training exercises at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California. Like the officers, however, he probably has less than 4 hours of APS-3 training. (It should be noted that the APS-3 fleet has not been involved in any contingency operations.) The young soldiers the officers and SNCO will take into battle also have not received any significant deployment or APS-3 training.

This lack of training can make all the soldiers, civilians, and equipment within the entire RSOI area extremely vulnerable even before they meet up at some hostile port or beach. This vulnerability is something the enemy may be well aware of and will be willing to use to his advantage to inflict losses on both soldiers and civilians. To avoid such losses, soldiers must learn to move quickly through RSOI. We must ensure that, before the soldiers reach the vulnerable RSOI phases, they are proficient not only in RSOI but also in how to plan their deployments. The DTLOMS model currently implemented by the Army is the foundation for achieving this.


The Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) has developed force projection doctrine that attempts to amplify this statement in the current FM 100-5, Operations: "The purpose of force projection is mission accomplishment and not merely entry into area of operations." The following is a list of this doctrine and its status—

FM 100-17, Mobilization, Deployments, Redeployment, and Demobilization, was published in October 1992.

FM 100-17-1, Army Pre-Positioned Afloat Operations, was published in July 1996.

FM 100-17-2, Army Pre-Positioned Land, was published in February 1999.

FM 100-17-3, Reception, Staging, Onward Movement, and Integration, was published in March 1999.

FM 100-17-4, Deployment: Fort to Port, and FM 100-17-5, Redeployment, currently are in draft.

Training and Soldiers

Although this doctrine is refreshingly recent, APS-3 training curricula, as of this writing, cannot be found within the Army School System.

FM 100-17-1 requires TRADOC, the Army Forces Command (FORSCOM), and the Army Materiel Command (AMC) to provide training to warfighters. A few years ago, Headquarters, Department of the Army (HQDA), provided funding to establish a mobile training team to teach APS and ABS to the warfighters until TRADOC, FORSCOM, and AMC developed and funded their own APS and ABS training. However, they did not do so, and HQDA discontinued funding for the mobile training team in fiscal year 1998.

During Operations Desert Fox and Desert Thunder, units of a FORSCOM division ready brigade (DRB) designated to fall in on APS-3 had to use their own funds to obtain training from a contractor APS and ABS mobile training team under an Army Field Support Command [FSC (Provisional)] contract. (FSC was formerly the Army War Reserve Support Command.) This was achieved only through careful coordination among the units, FORSCOM, the FSC, and the contractor. By October 1999, FORSCOM had made funding available and signed a contract to provide its units with APS and ABS training. Some visionary leaders are beginning to place APS on their unit training calendars.

Large, medium-speed, roll-on-roll-off ships like this are key components of APS-3.
Large, medium-speed, roll-on-roll-off ships like this are key components of APS-3.

Since Operations Desert Fox and Desert Thunder, training surveys have been administrated to second lieutenants, first lieutenants, captains, majors, and SNCO's attending APS and ABS training. When answering the question, "Do you see a need to incorporate APS and ABS into the Army School System?" their overall response was affirmative. When asked, "Into what courses would you incorporate APS and ABS and where?" the most frequent responses included officer basic courses, captains career courses, the Combined Arms and Services Staff School, basic enlisted individual training, advanced initial training for all MOS's, basic and advanced NCO courses, first sergeant courses, sergeant major courses, warrant officer basic and advanced courses, mobility warrant officer basic courses, and the Command and General Staff Officers Course.

Generals have received mobile training team instruction and, with their subordinates, have admitted their lack of APS knowledge. Many high-ranking officers involved in APS-3 matters have suggested that Army National Guard and Army Reserve schools also incorporate APS in their training areas, as should schools with pre-command courses, the School for Advanced Military Studies, and the Army War College.

Army civilians also need APS education. I believe that the Sustaining Base Leadership and Management Program, taught at the Army Management Staff College at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, could best accommodate such training.


The most essential dynamic of combat power is competent and confident officer and NCO leadership (see FM 100-5). So consider this bold statement made by a senior-level general officer: "Even though doctrine, equipment, other agencies, etc., are in place for deployments, it is the warfighters that are not confident when confronted with deployment matters relating to all aspects of APS."

Leadership for APS begins at the National Command Authorities (NCA) level. It is only through this leadership authority that APS assets can be used in a major theater of war. The result of this requirement is that APS management has been split into peacetime and wartime leadership roles and responsibilities.

In peacetime, APS management is the responsibility of AMC's Executive Agent for APS, the FSC, which is headquartered at Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois. However, in wartime, APS leadership transfers to a specific commander in chief (CINC), but only after APS has been activated by the NCA. That the CINC's are not responsible for APS in peacetime is perhaps one reason why the warfighting CINC's lack interest in APS matters and funding for peacetime training. This lack of interest by the very top leadership has a tendency to trickle down to other levels of command. The results of this are evident, with APS training partially forgotten until the deployment warning order is received. When that occurs, it is too late to begin training.

In a force-projection army, every commander, every soldier, and every unit must be trained and ready to deploy. Leaders have the responsibility to train their subordinates. This may be their most solemn responsibility (see FM 100-5).

Organization and Materiel

Below the NCA level, two distinct organizational roles and responsibilities have been structured for peacetime and wartime. In peacetime, the role of the CINC's and warfighters is to train troops continually to win wars. In wartime, their role is to win wars; on the day of battle, soldiers and units will fight as well or as poorly as they are trained (see FM 100-5). In peacetime, the FSC work force is responsible for acquisition, inventory control, and maintenance of all APS end items, equipment, and supplies to achieve a continuing high state of readiness.

In order for the FSC to provide APS to any CINC in the world, all APS-3 assets are classified as "swing stocks" and maintained in a combat-ready condition. A CINC will receive added force-projection assets from seven large, medium-speed, roll-on-roll-off (LMSR) ships carrying cargo equal to a 2 x 2 heavy brigade, including combat support and combat service support equipment and supplies. To assist in offloading where port facilities are insufficient, APS-3 maintains port-opening equipment aboard two heavy-lift pre-positioning ships and one tactical auxiliary crane ship. In addition to the LMSR ships and port-opening ships, five containerships carry sustainment supplies and ammunition. The materiel associated with APS is estimated be worth approximately $1.4 billion. The inventory list consists of wheeled and tracked fighting vehicles; trucks, engineering, medical, and military police vehicles; artillery pieces; aviation, quartermaster, and mortuary affairs assets; and many containers with vast amounts of equipment, tools, spare parts, and medical and food supplies.

All of this materiel is stowed aboard and between the many decks of each ship. The ABS provides the FSC with a tool to capture total asset visibility of all of this materiel. The ABS contains the entire APS inventory, stow locations, all APS-associated doctrine, maps, and much more, and all of this information is available on a CD-ROM. The ABS allows retrieval of real-time information and displays the worldwide status and availability of APS equipment.

Having total asset visibility makes the ABS a valuable pre-deployment planning tool. Through the ABS, unit movement officers and others can identify quickly the ships and the types and quantities of equipment they will fall in on and their locations. The ABS provides them with a tool to assist in quickly calculating their own "To Accompany Troops/Not Authorized for Pre-positioning" equipment requirements before they meet up with a ship; in turn, it allows them to reduce their airlift requirements. Through the use of ABS, valuable time is saved in the pre-deployment phases—time that soldiers need to perform other demanding pre-deployment requirements.

So how does the Army's effort at preparing soldiers for using APS measure up using the DTLOMS model? I believe like this—

Doctrine: Yes.

Training: None.

Leadership: Low interest.

Organization: Questionable.

Materiel: Yes.

Soldiers: High interest.

Today, a soldier's point of reference when associated with APS ranges from very narrow to none. This narrow point of reference will place him in harm's way. A lot remains to be done to expand the APS proficiency of our soldiers. Soldiers involved in deployment planning, who are exposed to the Army's minimally provided APS training, have recommended that APS training be institutionalized within the Army School System. They have even gone so far as to recommended appropriate courses. Soldiers are our number one priority. They are challenging their leaders to provide them with better training. We need to listen to them. ALOG

Dr. Derek Povah is a logistics management specialist in the Power Projection Logistics Division, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, Army Forces Command, at Fort McPherson, Georgia. He is responsible for managerial oversight of APS on behalf of the warfighting CINC's. He is a graduate of the Army Management Staff College Sustaining Base Leadership and Management Program.