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The Chief of Staff’s Imperatives and the Army Field Support Brigade

Army field support brigades like the 405th in Europe help tactical units sustain, prepare, reset, and transform.

General George W. Casey, Jr., the Chief of Staff of the Army (CSA), outlined the Army’s path to success during his speech at the annual Association of the U.S. Army Eisenhower Luncheon in October 2007. He stated, “Four imperatives will frame what we need to do,” and identified those imperatives as sustain, prepare, reset, and transform.

The CSA’s imperatives form a theme that is echoed by many of the Army’s leaders. In the “Enhance Logistics Readiness” portion of the Army Posture Statement 2007, Lieutenant General Ann Dunwoody, the Army G–4 at the time, asserted, “Building and sustaining combat power is paramount to the Army’s success.” She went on to say—

While the Global War on Terrorism remains our top priority, we must also prepare for the Army’s next challenge . . . Over five years of combat operations have taken a toll on Army equipment.  The Army Force Generation (ARFORGEN) process identifies equipment requirements and permits a complete corporate view of equipment readiness.  The Reset program enables us to meet those requirements and quickly restore unit capability.

Lieutenant General Dunwoody recognized the importance of the strength of the Army’s personnel and equipment. The Army’s senior leaders carry this message out to the field, and tactical commanders understand it and are embracing it fully.

If you had to summarize the roles of the Army Materiel Command (AMC), the Army Sustainment Command (ASC), and especially AMC’s “face to the field” organizations, such as the 405th Army Field Support Brigade (AFSB) and its subordinate battalions, you could not come up with a better description than the CSA’s four imperatives.

The Role of the AFSBs

Field Manual Interim 4–93.41, Army Field Support Brigade Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures, says that AFSBs “serve as the ASC’s bridge between the generating force and the operational force” and “provide the first stop for coordinating Army ALT [acquisition, logistics, and technology] capabilities in support of Army Forces.” AFSBs also command and control AMC sustainment maintenance, command and coordinate Army acquisition and materiel fielding support from the life-cycle management commands, and manage ALT-related sustainment, redeployment, retrograde, and reset operations in theater. AFSBs serve as AMC’s link to the tactical Army for all relevant logistics and operational support.

These are incredibly important roles that support our Army at war. During the past several years of combat operations, many Army units have been deployed and have required extensive equipment reset to ensure that they are returned to a fully mission capable state. While equipment is being reset or upgraded, new and improved systems are issued to the unit and new personnel are assigned. Units receive new equipment training for newly fielded items so that they are prepared to operate efficiently.

Executing the CSA’s Imperatives

The 2d Battalion, 405th AFSB, effectively executes the CSA’s imperatives in the field. The 2d Battalion is headquartered in Vilseck, Germany, but the majority of the unit is scattered over about 200 miles of the eastern portion of Germany. The battalion provides a combination of direct support and area support to Army and joint forces operating in the U.S. Army Europe area of responsibility. The battalion focuses on supporting units like the 2d Stryker Cavalry Regiment; the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade; the 2d Brigade, 1st Infantry Division (which has since been reflagged as the 172d Infantry Brigade [Separate]); the 16th Sustainment Brigade; and tenant and transient units that occupy the 7th Joint Multinational Training Command areas of Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels. During the past year, the 2d Battalion, 405th AFSB, has assisted its supported units with aspects of all four of the CSA’s imperatives.

Sustain. Like all logistics units, the 2d Battalion’s daily operations are focused on sustainment. The battalion supports units in a variety of ways, including providing support from logistics assistance representatives, locating hard-to-find parts, and troubleshooting extremely difficult maintenance procedures for low-density systems, such as the 2d Stryker Cavalry Regiment’s interim high-mobility engineering excavator.

The 2d Battalion has supported the 2d Stryker Cavalry Regiment by working with the unit and the garrison to develop a central issue facility menu that supports the unit-specific individual equipment. The 2d Battalion also worked hard to acquire tire chains for Stryker vehicles and managed a series of major upgrades that dramatically improved the survivability and operability of the unit’s 314 Stryker vehicles and their weapons and communications systems.

Prepare. As units prepare to deploy, they conduct a series of training and tactical exercises. When a task force from the 35th Infantry Division (Mechanized) arrived in Europe before assuming the Kosovo Force 9 mission, it participated in a series of predeployment exercises and training tasks located mainly at the Hohenfels training area. The 2d Battalion assisted the task force with training on weapon and communications systems, integrating Army battle command systems, filling equipment-on-hand shortages, and repairing aircraft that the task force shipped from the continental United States. The 2d Battalion’s efforts were focused on ensuring that the unit was operationally and logistically ready to assume its vital mission in Kosovo.

Reset. After the 2d Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, returned to Germany following a 15-month deployment, most of the unit’s equipment required extensive reset. Several months before its departure from Southwest Asia, the unit conducted reset planning through videoteleconferences and by using the logistics support activity’s Army reset management tool. The brigade shipped many pieces of equipment directly from ports in Kuwait to designated reset sites in the continental United States. Other equipment, such as weapon systems and night vision devices, were brought back with the troops, and the 2d Battalion facilitated the reset of those systems at the unit’s home station. Through AMC-sponsored reset initiatives, such as the small arms readiness and evaluation team with repair and the communications electronics evaluation repair team, groups of experts arrived at the unit’s location to conduct depot-level repairs so that on-hand systems met the –10/20 standard.

The 2d Battalion also worked hand-in-hand with a large number of project mangers and program executive offices from the sustainment base to facilitate the reset of the systems sent to the continental United States. The goal was to get those systems back into the unit’s hands as quickly, effectively, and efficiently as possible. With many units experiencing dwell times as short as 12 months, the timely return of reset equipment is critical to support the tactical commander’s training and deployment plans.

Transform. Changes to tactical units are commonplace in today’s Army. Recently, many units (like the 16th Sustainment Brigade) have moved locations, transformed, deactivated, or stood up, all while preparing for deployment and on very compressed timelines. AMC is a key supporter of transformation. Units like the 2d Battalion work with supported units to ensure that they are fielded new equipment from the sustainment base. They also correct errors that are revealed after fieldings, test newly issued items (such as tactical operations center systems) to ensure that they are fully functional and the unit understands how to operate them, provide new equipment training and over-the-shoulder training on new systems, and assist with rapid fielding initiative and rapid equipment fielding issues. The AFSB is a tangible link between the tactical unit and the sustainment base and focuses on these issues so that supported unit personnel can look to the future.

The CSA’s imperatives are critical to the current and future success of our Army. AMC organizations like ASC and the 405th AFSB stand ready to be the advocate for tactical commanders. These organizations ensure that tactical units are sustained adequately, have the tools necessary to prepare for their next combat mission, have their equipment reset to the current Army standard in a timely manner, and have the assistance they need to transform in support of the Army of the future.

Lieutenant Colonel Jordan S. Chroman works in the Office, Chief of Legislative Liaison. He was the commander of the 2d Battalion, 405th Army Field Support Brigade, from June 2006 to June 2008. He has a master’s degree in logistics management from the Florida Institute of Technology and is a graduate of the Army Command and General Staff College.