by Colonel Jerome Johnson
Today's Army must be prepared to deploy worldwide at a moment's notice. Our National Military Strategy calls for an Army quick-response force capable of deploying from U.S. bases to support contingencies anywhere in the world in a very short time. The success of such rapid deployments depends on the availability of pre-positioned equipment, materiel, and ammunition. The Army activity responsible for managing the vital mission of global pre-positioning is the Army Field Support Command (Provisional).
Deployments that depend on drawing pre-positioned equipment to support their assigned missions are a complex business. They require detailed planning in advance to ensure that deploying forces are trained and equipped properly to meet the requirements of the situation. Many sources of information exist to support the deployment mission. Accessing this information quickly and efficiently requires technological solutionsautomated repositories of information and software tools to access and manipulate the information. The key is leveraging technology to provide cutting-edge software that the deployment planner can master quickly with minimal training. Chief among this software is the Automated Battlebook System.
Automated Battlebook System
The Automated Battlebook System (ABS) is a portable deployment-planning tool that provides real-time visibility of land-based and afloat Army pre-positioned stocks (APS) items and applicable "battlebook" reference information. In its current form, the ABS is released on CD-ROM approximately every quarter with updated data, battlebook text, and new program changes.
To leverage technology in the management of APS, the Army contracted with Stanley Associates, Inc., in 1995 to develop, implement, maintain, and support a Windows-based client-server software application called the Army War Reserve Deployment System (AWRDS). Each of the Field Support Command's pre-positioned sites uses the AWRDS to manage the APS at its location. Information on the APS is transmitted in real time via the Internet to the master data servers in Alexandria, Virginia, and Rock Island, Illinois. It is through a full-time connection with the AWRDS master data servers that the ABS maintains real-time visibility of APS data. This full-time connectivity allows ABS users to update their ABS data base at any time through the Internet. The AWRDS not only interfaces with the ABS but also with a variety of other Standard Army Management Information Systems (STAMIS).
ABS and the Deployment Planner
The ABS provides the deployment planner with many tools for rapid APS deployment planning. Here is a typical APS deployment scenario. The commander of a mechanized infantry battalion in the 3d Infantry Division (Mechanized) at Fort Stewart, Georgia, has just received an order to prepare the battalion to deploy to Southwest Asia. He calls the battalion S3 to pass on the order and issue his initial commander's guidance. After receiving the order, the S3 calls the S4 and then clicks on the "ABS" icon on his laptop computer. He knows that he is going to deploy and fall in on APS located in the theater. He needs to develop the deployment equipment list (DEL) to support this mission, and he needs answers to the following questions
· When the battalion arrives in country, what equipment will it draw?
· Where is this equipment located?
· What is the condition of this equipment?
· What are the procedures for drawing this equipment?
· What "To Accompany Troops/Not Authorized for Pre-positioning" (TAT/NAP) equipment must the battalion deploy with in order to be fully mission capable when it arrives in country?
· What equipment shortages are there in theater?
Fortunately, the ABS can provide answers to these vital questions.
The battlebook text, provided by APS subject-matter experts, provides a wealth of information on deployment planning and the procedures for drawing equipment from a particular site or ship. A "doctrine" tool provides direct access to the FM 100-17 series of manuals, which contain APS doctrine. This reference material is presented in a straightforward, simple-to-use, browser-based format that provides the tools for quick access to information.
Users gain access to APS equipment data through a "unit sets" interface that provides visibility of equipment by unit type or location down to the serial number (or local item number or national stock number) level. Robust reporting and querying tools allow deployment planners to customize the ABS output to suit their particular needs.
A "prepo status" spreadsheet tool provides detailed information about on-hand and required equipment quantities as well as TAT/NAP information. An interface with the Standard Property Book System-Redesign (SPBS-R), coupled with the "prepo status" spreadsheet, provides the user with the tools he needs to develop an accurate DEL.
Recently, the Field Support Command began deploying the ABS suite of tools on the Internet as a prototype called the BattleWeb. The BattleWeb will be available later this year as an icon under the Army Electronic Products Support (AEPS) website. (AEPS is the standard Army Materiel Command web architecture.) The website address for AEPS is http://aeps.ria.army.mil.
ABS and BattleWeb Training
Although generally simple to use, the ABS and the BattleWeb do require some training. The need for training can be attributed to the complexity of APS deployment planning as much as to the ABS and the BattleWeb themselves. At present, the Field Support Command, in cooperation with the Army Forces Command, depends on a Stanley Associates mobile training team (MTT) to take the required training to users. Forces Command provides the funding for ABS MTT's and manages the schedule.
However, the Field Support Command's recent development of computer-based training (CBT) for the ABS will enable users to learn how to use the ABS without an MTT. The CBT includes three separate tools that together support a learning continuum, from quick reference to comprehensive, in situations from crisis response to sustainment training. Two components of this CBTCheckpoint and Pathfinderare integrated directly into the ABS to provide the user with instant assistance and training. Checkpoint provides quick reference information based on "hot spots" located on the user's screen. Pathfinder is a "wizard" that leads the user to real output, based on the user's interaction with the system. The third componentthe Battlebooks Advanced Training Lab (BATL)provides self-paced, scenario-driven training in a virtual ABS.
Once integrated into a future release of ABS, this CBT should eliminate most of the need for ABS training by MTT's. The next logical step is to provide similar web-based training (WBT) on the BattleWeb.
So let's return to our typical APS deployment scenario. How do the battalion S3 and S4 accomplish their planning? The answer, of course, is by using the ABS or the BattleWeb after a quick, self-paced CBT or WBT lesson.
The ABS, via the BattleWeb, offers the Army's soldiers and civilians a strategic tool to meet the needs of the 21st century. This tool neatly fits into the Chief of Staff of the Army's vision of providing a direct link to the information needed for a lighter, faster deployment of troops.
For more information on the ABS and the BattleWeb, visit our website at www.battlebooks.com; send e-mail to email@example.com; or telephone the Army Field Support Command (Provisional) at (309) 782-0462. Our mailing address is Commander, U.S. Army Field Support Command (Provisional), ATTN: SOSFS-COC, Rock Island, IL 61299-6500. ALOG
Colonel Jerome Johnson is commander of the Army Field Support Command (Provisional) at Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois. He is a graduate of the Ordnance Officer Basic and Advanced Courses and the Army Command and General Staff College and holds a B.A. degree in business administration from Fort Valley State University in Georgia and an M.B.A. degree from Syracuse University.