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Sustaining an Afghan National Army Embedded Training Team

As embedded training teams (ETTs) in eastern Afghanistan roll out the gate of their assigned
Afghan National Army (ANA) base in Khost province, a small crew of unique logisticians seamlessly and proactively supports the combat advisory mission and ensures operational success on the battlefield.

The Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen assigned to the 1st Brigade, 203d Regional Corps Advisory Command-East (RCAC–E), are embedded with the ANA’s 1st Brigade, 203d Corps. With three infantry kandaks (battalions), a combat support kandak, a sustainment kandak, and a brigade headquarters company, the ANA brigade closely resembles the basic structure of a U.S. infantry brigade combat team.

ETTs, which have up to 16 personnel, work daily to refine the administrative, intelligence, operations, logistics, communications, and command and control aspects of their affiliated ANA organizations. While the brigade and battalion ETTs’ focus is to mentor the ANA to conduct independent counterinsurgency op­erations to defeat terrorism in Afghanistan, the internal sustainment of these teams requires just as much effort as the mentoring mission.

No Cookie Cutter Concept of Support

The diverse nature of Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix—the command and control element for army and police mentoring organizations in Afghanistan—causes significant challenges to developing a single, comprehensive concept of support across the 203d RCAC–E. The J–4 directorate of the Afghan Regional Security Integration Command-East bridges the gap to ensure overall sustainment in eastern Afghanistan. The J–4 oversees dozens of mentoring teams located in extremely austere and remote locations. The lack of coalition units creates an additional challenge because the type of support provided to advisory teams in Iraq is just not possible in Afghanistan.

Within the 203d RCAC–E, three brigades of men­tors are located at dozens of locations with varying levels of internal capabilities. All ETTs under the 1st Brigade, 203d RCAC–E, maintain their primary presence in Khost province at Camp Clark, a small forward operating base (FOB) built inside the walls of the ANA’s Camp Parsa, the home of 1st Brigade. Having all ETTs based out of this single location ensures synchronization of the operational and mentoring efforts and allows for the transparency of each team’s logistics requirements. This is not necessarily true of other brigades, as many of them have teams permanently scattered all over their respective provinces.

Although minimal doctrine or institutional knowledge exists to specifically support the ETT mission, the basic concepts of sustainment in Field Manual 4–0, Sustainment, and Command and General Staff College Student Text 101–6, Theater Sustainment Battle Book, provide adequate guidelines to ensure that those deep in the mentoring fight—brigade-level ETTs—are capable of developing, maintaining, and improving valid concepts of support for their organizations. Those guidelines can be applied to essentially every ETT sustainment scenario and result in mission-specific concepts of support with minimal external support requirements.

Joint Nature of ETT Sustainment

The four logisticians assigned to the brigade S–4 section of the 1st Brigade in 2008 dedicated their year-long tour to fulfilling the basics of taking care of Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen tasked with mentoring the ANA. The path to success was nothing more than answering these simple but often asked questions: If we need something, how do we get it? If we have something and it is broken, how do we get it fixed or replaced?

While a standard brigade S–4 section may include a few officers, a few senior noncommissioned officers (NCOs), a warrant officer, and a few enlisted Soldiers, the 1st Brigade leaders diversified the section with their limited personnel resources. The officer slotted as the officer-in-charge (an Army logistics captain) had the primary role as the ANA brigade S–4’s mentor and also had the specified task of ensuring that all aspects of internal U.S. sustainment were managed. The assistant brigade S–4 (an Air Force logistics readiness first lieutenant) oversaw the section in the S–4’s absence and also served as the brigade’s property book officer.

The brigade S–4 NCO-in-charge (a Navy chief petty officer) managed all aspects of supply acquisi­tion. The brigade maintenance management NCO (an Air Force staff sergeant) directed all combat vehicle maintenance operations with four civilian mechanics and served as the primary Standard Army Maintenance System-Enhanced (SAMS–E) operator and class IX (repair parts) manager.

The officer-in-charge was the only staff member with plenty of exposure to Army sustainment operations. Learning new logistics systems and policies presented challenges to the Air Force and Navy personnel, but their desire to ensure that the brigade was supported quickly resolved the problem. Continuity documents established by previous logistics ETTs fostered a reduced learning curve, but keeping the focus simple—finding the easiest path to get what was needed and getting what was broken fixed or replaced—remained the focal point in reducing the time it took to learn the complex systems.

Property Acquisition and Accountability

Property accountability is a task easily accomplished when ideal conditions are present. Without distracters or limiting factors, essential accountability tasks, like reconciling the property book monthly, performing cyclic inventories, processing change-documents in real time, and keeping sub-hand receipts current, are not difficult to perform. In 2008, more often than not, the ETTs suffered from less-than-ideal circumstances for maintaining real-time property accountability. Downrange missions, personnel turn-over, and constantly evolving tactics, techniques, and procedures did not allow for the “auto-pilot” accountability that many Army units with standard supply personnel enjoy.

Despite the challenges, accountability was maintained using a variety of tools and methods. Having a dedicated property book officer assigned to manage the brigade’s property and facilitate and simplify all property-related tasks for each ETT helped tremendously. Although each ETT assigned its own logistics representative to manage its property, the logistics adviser at the battalion level typically wore two hats—one as the team’s logistician and the other as an ANA mentor.

Other accountability challenges were met through the use of modern technology and communications platforms, such as Blue Force Tracker, secured radio communications, and email through the Unclassified but Sensitive Internet Protocol Router Network and broadband global area network in remote locations. In many cases, accountability was maintained through the basic manual procedures of Department of the Army Pamphlet 710–2–1, Using Unit Supply System (Manual Procedures).

Maintenance Management

Through the manning process, the brigade received an Air Force wheeled-vehicle mechanic staff sergeant. Typically, an Air Force staff sergeant does not manage maintenance at the brigade level, but this staff sergeant followed simple guidance, executed the maintenance management task, and ensured maximum combat power was employed. His efforts resulted in a 94-percent operational readiness rate.

The Air Force mechanic did not do this alone. With a fleet of over 40 combat vehicles—a combination of M1114 and M1151 up-armored high-mobility multi­purpose wheeled vehicles, RG–31 mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles, and a 5-ton cargo truck—the brigade had difficulties meeting even the basic requirements of The Army Maintenance Management System and higher-headquarters directives. Four civilian mechanics and one contractor supervisor also worked to ensure that all combat vehicles assigned to the brigade and FOB tenant units received scheduled and unscheduled field-level maintenance. They also completed modification work order actions to ensure modernization and safety on the battlefield.

Standard Army Management Information System (STAMIS) operators rarely wear “U.S. Air Force”
on their uniforms, but 1st Brigade’s maintenance NCO also served as the primary Unit Level Logistics System-Ground operator and, eventually, the SAMS–E operator. Quickly learning the basics of repair parts management, fault and work order management, and not mission capable reporting procedures, the Airman directly influenced every aspect of the maintenance management process. He ensured the basics of maintenance management were met. If a vehicle needed parts, he made sure that the required forms were filled out correctly and provided daily status reports through the very small aperture terminal.

Through regular visits to FOB Salerno, the brigade maintenance NCO and brigade S–4 NCO-in-charge coordinated with the class IX supply support activity (SSA) operated by KBR for responsive repair parts support, including class IX requests, receipts, and retrograde. While most customers requesting, receiving, and turning in parts were Army personnel, 1st Brigade’s representative was one of the only customers in the country wearing the Airman battle uniform.

Supply Management

Because of the unique organization of each ETT, ensuring that the teams received all needed supplies forced direct dialog between the team logistician and the brigade’s supply NCO. In 1st Brigade’s case, the supply NCO was also the brigade S–4 NCO-in-charge and a career Navy storekeeper. By implementing a basic process of demand analysis and mission analysis, the supply NCO identified requirements and em­ployed all resources to secure supplies. Regardless of the service branch, the section’s focus was on anticipating and aggressively meeting all identified requirements.

Maintaining the required days of supply stockage and sufficient meals ready-to-eat, unitized group rations-express, and bottled water ensured that each team could deploy with their ANA counterpart with no class I (subsistence) shortfalls. Using simplified logistics status reporting, the brigade worked directly with the Joint Logistics Command class I manager for timely resupply based on average delivery times.

For general supplies, basic loads for both the brigade and battalion teams were maintained for daily use and for sustained operations away from the general brigade area. Specific requirements during operations were pushed to the brigade via Blue Force Tracker and addressed immediately.

Because it did not have an actual STAMIS to order class II (clothing and individual equipment) supplies, the brigade created a basic text file for class II orders that was readable by the Standard Army Retail Supply System (SARSS). The file contained the basic information required for each request— document type, document number, national stock number, quantity, and priority—and was formatted to be sent as an email attachment and loaded into SARSS. The same KBR SSA that processed class IX requests from SAMS–E also received and processed the class II requests. The brigade maintenance NCO and brigade S–4 NCO-in-charge worked together to coordinate transportation for the supplies each week.

The robust and centralized nature of Camps Parsa and Clark provided a strong balance of fuel capabilities. KBR was the primary provider of bulk class III (petroleum, oils, and lubricants), and all packaged class III products were requested through SAMS–E and managed under the maintenance umbrella.

During combat operations, ETTs within the brigade employed all available resources—internal capabilities, coalition forward support companies operating in the brigade area, and ANA supply companies—to ensure freedom of maneuver without fuel limitations. Coordinating the effort during operations helped foster the relationships between coalition support units and the ANA. However, to reduce the dependence on coalition resources, ETTs focused on internal sustainment and ANA support.

In conjunction with the class II and IX efforts, the brigade managed the class IV (construction and barrier materials) requirements through the same KBR SSA. Using a standardized bill of materials request, the brigade submitted requirements through the battlespace owner’s class IV manager. Once approved, the brigade picked up the supplies along with the classes II and IX supplies or formally requested delivery by host-nation support transportation. The brigade also maintained a moderate supply of construction materials to support time-sensitive contingency operations.

Through coordination with the Afghan Regional Security Integration Command J–4 ammunition manager, all valid class V (ammunition) requirements were fulfilled and ammunition basic load (ABL) stocks were maintained at the brigade and battalion ETT levels. As ammunition was expended, standard consumption reports were submitted through the J–4 and brigade-level ABL requirements were sustained.

The S–4 section in a standard infantry brigade combat team is staffed with a diverse crew that synchronizes each sustainment function to meet the commander’s intent and ensure operational success without logistics shortfalls. In the brigade ETT environment, the mission revolves around the combat advisory role, so a balance must be struck between providing sustainment for survival and comfort and coaching, teaching, and mentoring the ANA. While each staff adviser in the brigade ETT has some form of both U.S. and ANA responsibility, the lack of oversight from the S–4 on both sides could quickly result in Soldiers, Sailors, or Airmen going without food, fuel, water, ammunition, or repair parts.

The organizational sustainment structure in the 1st Brigade (limited in personnel and joint in nature) required balancing the efforts of the advisory mission with a complete understanding of specified and implied sustainment tasks. No action was taken unless a measurable return on investment was guaranteed to result in an improved readiness posture for the brigade or battalion ETTs.

Major David L. Thompson is the support opera­tions officer for the 296th Brigade Support Battalion, 3d Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2d Infantry Division, and previously served as the brigade S–4 and Afghan National Army logistics adviser for the 1st Brigade, 203d Regional Corps Advisory Command-East. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Western Illinois University and a master’s degree in organizational management from the University of Phoenix. He is a graduate of the Ordnance Officer Basic Course, Support Operations Course, Combined Logistics Captains Career Course, and Combined Arms and Services Staff School.

Captain Christine M. Rhyne, USAF, is a logistics readiness officer in the 43d Logistics Readiness Squadron at Pope Air Force Base, North Carolina, and previously served as the assistant brigade S–4 for the 1st Brigade, 203d Regional Corps Advisory Command-East. She has a bachelor’s degree in government from Angelo State University and is pursuing a master’s degree in transportation and logistics management from American Military University. She is a graduate of the Logistics Readiness Officer Course and Combat Skills Training.

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