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The 1st Sustainment Brigade
Sustainment Operations Center: Meeting the Challenges of ARFORGEN

Several Commanders recommended the use of Sustainment Brigades as an operations nucleus for ARFORGEN RESET and the early stages of ARFORGEN TRAIN-READY, but this would be resource intensive. Consolidation of AFSB, DOM, DOSS, MSE G–4, and MSE G–4 players in a Unit Operations Center, commanded by a Division and run by a Brigade, would contribute and would also assist with regaining control of excess, concurrent with modernization efforts.1

—Division Commander Comments on Modularity Issues, 5 January 2010

Every sustainment brigade commander undeniably struggles with the Army Force Generation (ARFORGEN) model. ARFORGEN is a brigade combat team (BCT)-centric concept that was designed to provide a structured progression of increased unit readiness over time, resulting in recurring periods of availability of trained, ready, and cohesive units. Sustainment brigades have been rotating through this model since their inception. Though there are varying viewpoints, one would be hard pressed to argue that, unlike BCTs, sustainment brigades do not have multiple and unique challenges associated with each stage of ARFORGEN.

Although each sustainment brigade is unique, based on the installation to which it is assigned and exactly where it might fall within the ARFORGEN cycle, one challenge is common to all sustainment brigades: identifying the brigade's role in a garrison environment.

Since transforming from division support commands and corps support groups, sustainment brigades have struggled with support relationships within the division and on installations. In the 1st Sustainment Brigade, we believe that we have mapped the future of home station support with our Fort Riley Sustainment Operations Center (SOC). Among its benefits, the SOC concept provides the senior commander of the installation with visibility of deployable formations during the Reset and Train-Ready phases of ARFORGEN. The SOC also assists in gaining control of excess as described in the Division Commander's Modularity Report provided to the Chief of Staff of the Army in January 2010. And the SOC does much more.

Introspection

As an organization (at any level), we must constantly re-evaluate and inspect ourselves. In the process, we can then keep our organization relevant, properly trained, and on track with its required mission—or in the sustainer's case, relevant in providing efficient support to the warfighter. This is what I like to call a constant form of introspection.

So shortly after assuming command, I found myself asking the same question that other sustainment brigade commanders ask themselves that was alluded to above: What is the sustainment brigade's role here at Fort Riley in a garrison environment? The 1st Sustainment Brigade was somewhat unique because the brigade had just returned from a very successful 15-month deployment from Operation Iraqi Freedom in December 2008. I was taking command of the brigade and was looking at about a 15- to 16-month cycle before I was to deploy the brigade again in April 2010.

Spartan Field Kitchen

Several questions came to mind. Should I only focus on the Reset, Train-Ready, and Available phases of ARFORGEN for the special troops battalion (STB) and brigade staff? What about the other 15 unit identification codes (UICs) in my brigade that required mission command and certification but were in their own ARFORGEN cycles and all on different timelines than mine? And if I only focused on the STB and my brigade staff's road to war, who was controlling sustainment operations and support for the other 72 UICs, 4 brigades, and 3 brigade-sized training and readiness authority (TRA) units from other continental United States installations for which Fort Riley was responsible? As I grappled with all these questions, I determined that I needed to find out a way to do all three. Introspection was needed, and it was needed fast.

In February 2009, we formed a team to work with all the sustainment agencies across the installation to determine exactly what the concept of support was for Fort Riley tenant units as well as those units at other installations for which our senior commander had TRA responsibilities. The results of our analysis revealed that our sustainment network was disjointed. We had numerous agencies (the directorate of logistics, G–4, an Army field support battalion [AFSBn], brigade support battalions [BSBs], and a combat sustainment support battalion) conducting many working groups and meetings, but there was no collaborative effort or synchronization. We lacked unity of effort and a central point of entry for all sustainment functions.

Collectively, we determined a way ahead through the development of a purpose, key tasks, and an end state that would later be approved by the 1st Infantry Division and Fort Riley senior commander, Major General Vincent Brooks. (See chart below.)

As we analyzed our sustainment network and concept of support for Fort Riley, there were a few other goals that I felt were prudent to achieve in this process. First, I wanted to be able to use the SOC as a training venue for my staff as we traveled through our Road to War up until deployment. I directed that it be designed so that we could adopt a “train as we fight” mentality. Most specifically, I wanted the same mission command networks and systems, Army Battle Command System (ABCS), and Standard Army Management Information Systems (STAMISs) incorporated in the SOC as would be used in both our expeditionary command post and the brigade's SOC down range.

The guidance I provided my staff was that our people should have the exact same workstation and common operating picture (COP) tools at Fort Riley that they would see in the certification exercise (CERTEX) and our Kuwait deployment in April 2010.

Second, Major General Brooks' intent was crystal clear to me. He wanted constant visibility on the status of his forces in terms of sustainment functions during the Reset and Train-Ready phases of ARFORGEN. I felt the best way to do this was to attack in terms of the Army Core Enterprise outputs and the Chief of Staff of the Army (CSA) imperatives. If we could take this approach, we would succeed in assisting Fort Riley ARFORGEN units in obtaining a trained and ready status.

Spartan Field Kitchen

Using the Army Enterprise Governance Model

Three years ago, the Secretary of the Army and the CSA put the Army on a path to restore balance—a point where we could meet the demands on our force at a tempo that was sustainable for our all-volunteer Army. In 2009, the Army continued to make progress toward this goal and the CSA's imperatives, sustain our Soldiers and families, continue to prepare our Soldiers for success in the current conflict, reset them effectively when they returned, and continue to transform for an uncertain future.

Our Army was also directed to continue to improve how we acquire equipment, modernize our force, and conduct our business so that we remain good stewards of our Nation's resources. In response, the Army adopted what was called an “enterprise approach”—developing civilian and military leaders to take a collaborative, holistic view of Army objectives and resources to make better decisions for the Army. The Army Enterprise Governance Model demonstrates the CSA directive to empower a four-star headquarters oversight on the Army's four core enterprises:

  • Human capital, led by the Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC).
  • Materiel, led by the Army Materiel Command (AMC).
  • Readiness, led by the Army Forces Command (FORSCOM).
  • Services and infrastructure, led by the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army and the Army Installation Management Command (IMCOM).

Each agency's objective is to provide efficient delivery of outputs from its core enterprise. The end state is that across the ARFORGEN spectrum, the combatant commander will receive trained and ready forces. (See chart below.)

At Fort Riley, we looked very closely at the Enterprise Governance Model as we developed our concept of the SOC. In essence, it shaped our battle rhythm and design because our senior commander had the same desire as the supported combatant commander. The senior commander was responsible for providing those trained and ready forces and needed visibility on each of the enterprises as it applied to his formations as they cycled through ARFORGEN.

Thus, the overall SOC concept was born. As we conducted numerous in-process reviews and working groups with our Fort Riley sustainment partners to go over the senior commander's intent and task and the purpose of the Fort Riley SOC, we gained an appreciation for many other aspects that needed attention before we proceeded. For example, the rapid technological advances of our systems in recent years allow us to collect data and send it to anyone in minutes. Yet as logisticians, we are still making phone calls and sending emails while plugging numbers in spreadsheets to send our supported commanders outdated information.

We agreed that although our equipment has ad-vanced, we remain stagnant in a time of spreadsheets and slide shows. Our systems could provide a consolidated snapshot of any piece of equipment, class of supply, or other area of interest within seconds. The technology was there; we just needed to capitalize on its use. Our ability to depict and access real-time data would be essential to improved sustainment readiness. Avoiding latency in our data would improve decisions related to each of the sustainment imperatives, which, as we all know, are essential to maintaining combat power. Much as the warfighter needs to shoot, move, and communicate, we needed to be able to coordinate, communicate, and respond. Working with near-real-time data offers any logistician a significant advantage. In the development of our SOC, we wanted to ensure that we took all of this into consideration.

Spartan Field Kitchen

Building the SOC

In February 2009, the brigade relocated to a new, modular $6.9-million brigade headquarters facility. Although the contract had considered office furniture and conference tables and chairs, it did not cover video teleconferencing (VTC), automation, or operations center connectivity requirements. Though we had a brigade operations center (BOC) room, it was “gutted” and empty when the brigade moved in.

Through the stellar work of SOC chief Major Charlie Fisher, deputy commander Lieutenant Colonel J.P. Silverstein, and S–6 communications officer Major Jason Coster, a concept was envisioned, developed, and created in just 3 months after gaining the senior commander's approval of our SOC concept. The contract cost was $850,000 and required tireless hours of planning and coordination with the contractor in order to get the center fully operational in such a short period of time.

The final SOC design produced a 1,200-square-foot facility with a 800-square-foot raised floor, 4 levels of tiered seating (12 power outlets per tier), and 40 rollaway chairs and 40 stationery chairs (for a seating capacity of 80). It offers a total of 72 laptop computers, 3 LCD (liquid crystal display) projectors, 3 wall-mounted cameras, 4 60-inch plasma TV monitors, 1 Christie new shallow-depth video 8-cube display, 2 matrix switches (1 Non-Secure Internet Protocol Router Network [NIPR] and 1 Secure Internet Protocol Router Network [SIPR]), cable and satellite TV service, and a year-to-year renewable maintenance service contract. It also provides 32 commercial telephones (8 per tier), 40 NIPR drops, 40 SIPR drops, 1 Tactical Operations Center Network (TOCNET), and 4 crew access units.

In terms of ABCS and STAMISs, we incorporated two Command Post of the Future systems, two Battle Command Sustainment Support Systems (BCS3s), one Blue Force Tracker (BFT), one Standard Army Maintenance System-Enhanced, one Standard Army Ammunition System-Modernization, and one Standard Army Retail Supply System (SARSS) 2A.

We manned the SOC with a staff of 20 Soldiers from my support operations section, 1 SOC chief (a major), 1 S–6 noncommissioned officer (NCO), 1 battle captain, and 1 battle NCO. We also had stakeholders represented from the other sustainment agencies on post: the Mission Support Element (MSE) G–1, MSE G–3, MSE G–4, MSE G–8, directorate of logistics, AFSBn, and garrison. Other agencies, such as the installation transportation office (ITO), were virtually connected.

Spartan Field Kitchen

Establishing SOC Procedures

In the end, we applied the logistics imperatives of unity of effort, visibility, and rapid and precise response, incorporating them into a single cell—the SOC—managed by the SOC chief, with overall command and control provided by the sustainment brigade commander.

Several subfunctions of the sustainment warfighting function are represented in the SOC, including maintenance, supply (including ammunition), transportation, distribution, personnel services (human resources and financial management), field services, and health service support.

We also felt it was essential to include all of our sustainment stakeholders from garrison within the SOC, including the division of maintenance, division of supply and services, ITO, and department of public works. Having all of the sustainment operations colocated allows any supported unit to make a single phone call or send an email to the SOC group account to request a sustainment update. Information requested can range from the status of a part on order, the operational readiness rate of a unit, messages for help sent by Blue Force Tracker by units in a situational training exercise or field training exercise, the status of reset of a unit within ARFORGEN, issues with central issue facility menus or shortages, or authorized stockage list quantities of a particular brigade or aviation support battalion supply support activity.

Standing operating procedures (SOP) were developed by the SOC chief to clearly define roles and responsibilities, integrate priorities throughout the installation, and provide a common understanding of how the sustainment network should work at Fort Riley. The SOC SOP also established knowledge management rules of engagement so that our higher headquarters in the senior commander's joint operations center could see the same COP and data files we had established in the SOC. Supported ARFORGEN units also have complete access. The result was a unity of effort in sustainment that has enabled us to consolidate multiple meetings, establish sustainment and readiness priorities, and reduce redundancies.

There were two keys to the SOP. First, the SOC was the responsible agent and central repository that consolidated all information for all to access. Second, representation from all commands as well as our supporting agencies would now come together once a week and have “buy in” with the overall process. Having the supporting commands and sustainment agencies present in a single session (both in the SOC and virtually via secure VTC) focused resources in the right areas of need and reduced hours of parallel and duplicate work on common issues.

SOC Operations

The goal of ARFORGEN is to deliver trained and ready forces for the combatant commander. As discussed previously, the Army Enterprise Governance Model dictates that TRADOC, AMC, FORSCOM, and IMCOM all focus on their respective core enterprise outputs as units cycle through ARFORGEN. We took those same roles and addressed them in terms that were consistent with division-level enterprise outputs and responsible agents.

We added a fifth output, the Program Budget Advisory Committee (PBAC), because we needed visibility on budgetary status and constraints to make effective decisions. (See chart above.)

The chart below depicts the SOC operations concept. All of our brigades at Fort Riley (as denoted by the unit crests) are in various stages of ARFORGEN or are deployed. The idea behind the SOC is to have one central repository that monitors the status of each ARFORGEN unit based on the output of the five division-level enterprise outputs. The sustainment agencies are all represented in the SOC (shown in the interior of the green sprocket) and focus on the five enterprises (shown as the spokes of the green sprocket). They are also in constant communication and coordination with Department of the Army (DA) core enterprise leads through each phase of ARFORGEN (as depicted around the outside of the model arrow).

The SOC, in turn, feeds the information to the division headquarters joint operations center in order to give the senior commander constant situational awareness and visibility of his ARFORGEN units. This is done in several ways, such as through the weekly commander's update assessment (CUA), weekly sustainment synchronization meeting, SOC Microsoft SharePoint software, Command Post of the Future, and BCS3. The joint operations center has the ability to see our COP and access our products 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The battle rhythm established in the SOC consolidated about 11 weekly meetings into 1 meeting a week, with all key players focused on a specific division-level enterprise of ARFORGEN. Subject-matter experts address issues immediately during a combined meeting, the sustainment synchronization meeting, focusing on one of the five enterprises weekly. Each session is chaired by the deputy commanding general-support (DCG–S), with the exception of the PBAC, which is chaired by the chief of staff. The sustainment brigade commander co-chairs all meetings and fills in for the DCG–S in his absence. (See second chart below.)

The meetings address any problems with staffing, equipping, budget resources, supply readiness, maintenance readiness, or facilities. This reduces time spent on followup phone calls and bringing supporting agencies up to speed on the situation. We found that we were able to consolidate numerous separate meetings, working groups, and boards into a specific meeting (sustainment synch) once a week. In turn, the SOC became the central repository of sustainment activities in support of ARFORGEN across post and was able to unite many different units and agencies.

While monitoring day-to-day activities, the SOC can pull information on each unit's process through ARFORGEN cycles to avoid any potential issues and to bring systematic problems to the attention of a higher authority. The systems working in the SOC will tie together supporting agencies, units within the garrison of Fort Riley, and commercial partners. Garrison-wide visibility enables us to collectively work toward a common solution.

Spartan Field Kitchen

Using BCS3

The SOC is also using BCS3 to track daily status of manning, equipping, and maintenance activity. For example, the SOC can see a unit's personnel strength and track shortages that affect a unit's ARFORGEN HQDA-mandated goals per cycle (80 percent at R+180 [180 days after redeployment], more than 90 percent at mission rehearsal exercise–45 days, etc.). All units property book (Property Book Unit Supply Enhanced) data are also readily available in BCS3 with established green, amber, and red color codes. Amber and red color codes denote R–3/R–4 LINS, indicating an effect on readiness that requires immediate attention due to impacts on a unit's Train-Ready cycle preparation and execution.

With the unit task organization (UTO) feature es-tablished, the SOC can also track the daily maintenance status of pacing items or mission-critical equipment, regardless of its location or area of operations. Using the asset visibility option in BCS allows the operator to quickly find maintenance parts status beyond the status found in SARRS. Through collaboration with the BCS3 field representative and program manager, we are even working on a way to track the status of buildings on Fort Riley and the equipment within them using the Logistics Reporting Tool feature; that feature can be accessed from any standard workstation once it is installed.

Pulling from different systems and tying into a COP through the use of BCS3 has great potential to reduce man-hours. Consolidating all data into one COP (to which all have access and visibility) is powerful. Supported units coming together in a single meeting or session, with all the key sustainment players represented, eliminates redundant efforts to solve similar issues facing multiple units. Having this standard repository with a shared foundation, the SOC is able to allow for rapid data analysis and transfer. A common data transfer point delivers a rapid and precise response, enhancing the efficiency of sustainment support to units traversing ARFORGEN.

Benefits of the SOC in Garrison

By consolidating sustainment operations in one location, end users are able to call a single number or go to the SOC portal or BCS3 and receive reliable information on all sustainment operations. This increases the efficiency of a unit. Commanders will have a clearer picture of when their unit is ready for training, certification, and deployment by having situational awareness of critical manning and equipping issues.

The 1st Sustainment Brigade has been successful in using the SOC to communicate and participate in battle update briefs with organic units deployed to forward theaters, allowing us to develop relationships with the relief in place/transfer of authority (RIP/TOA) unit several months before arriving.

The bottom line is that the 1st Sustainment Brigade fulfills all the logistics imperatives. The room is equipped to communicate through all the major ABCS and STAMISs that a deployable sustainment brigade must maintain and in which it must be proficient. This sustainment hub is a single point of contact for anyone to call for a logistics status. It is an operation center that mirrors facilities the unit uses in theater and mimics the area support mission while being in garrison.

The SOC can reach out to any unit's data anywhere in the world and provide the commander an update. We can communicate through the Command Post of the Future or VTC with anyone to monitor issues that our current RIP/TOA unit is experiencing. All of this allows the 1st Sustainment Brigade to quickly and efficiently anticipate the conceptual mission and sustainment operations while supporting the senior commander's mission of ensuring optimum output of ARFORGEN: trained and ready forces.

Spartan Field Kitchen

The Challenge: Enduring the SOC

Throughout the development of the SOC, we all knew that our major challenge would be to determine a way to “endure” the operation as the 1st Sustainment Brigade deployed on its own ARFORGEN cycle. As long as the brigade was at home station, there was no doubt that the support operations office and STB modified table of organization and equipment (MTOE) was more than adequate to cover down on our center's design. So, how would we address the problem of allowing our SOC to endure and continue to operate at Fort Riley while the brigade deployed?

The 1st Sustainment Brigade was scheduled to deploy in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom 10–11 in April 2010 for a year-long rotation. During this time, the SOC would still need to continue to operate and monitor sustainment for all of Fort Riley and supported TRA units going through the ARFORGEN cycle.

In the past, a rear detachment would be established to command and control units on different deployment cycles and nondeployable Soldiers. However, in order to continue to use the SOC as planned, it had to be staffed by officers and NCOs with specific skill sets and expertise. The brigade could not afford to take these leaders and Soldiers “out of hide” based on the complexity of the mission for our April 2010 deployment. The brigade would need every MTOE position down range.

After looking at several courses of action (COAs), including tasking BSBs on post (which were on their own ARFORGEN cycles) to fill the gaps, we decided to go after a contingency operations–active duty operational support (CO–ADOS) solution. Based on an analysis of the Fort Riley garrison table of distribution and allowances (TDA), we were able to find a majority of the mission command and sustainment military occupational specialties we needed that were vacant. Using reservists under the CO–ADOS request process would allow us to provide the required mission command for the subordinate 1st Sustainment Brigade units at Fort Riley that were on ARFORGEN cycles of their own as well as for SOC sustainment operations for ARFORGEN Fort Riley tenant and TRA units.

We pursued the CO–ADOS option for both a mission command element of a 1st Sustainment Brigade provisional headquarters (8 slots) and to fill the minimum number positions to continue the SOC (14 slots).

Before the brigade deployed in April 2010, we had gained approval and filled 20 of the 22 positions we went after for the CO–ADOS solution. We called the package “TF [Task Force] DURABLE.” Its composition is shown in the chart below.

The key to gaining approval for the CO–ADOS COA at the DA level is ensuring that the following criteria are met:

  • Justification must be an overseas contingency operation.
  • The requesting unit must do its own recruiting to fill positions. (No unit mobilizations can be used to meet this requirement.)
  • The requesting unit must find mobilization TDA slots, such as garrison mobilization TDA slots.
  • A new structure cannot be created to meet this requirement.
  • The Department of the Army Mobilization Processing System-Army (DAMPS–A) must be used to accomplish this support.2

In our case, if we had not been able to use TDA slots from our garrison here at Fort Riley, we would not have been able to pursue the CO–ADOS option. This proved invaluable in allowing us to create TF DURABLE because HQDA would not have supported any initiative that requires new force structure under its current policy.

TF DURABLE provided a stop-gap solution in view of our deployment. But it is important to note that we encountered many problems associated with this process and that it was not an easy task to accomplish. For example, once we gained approval to move forward with the CO–ADOS option, which took months of coordination with FORSCOM and HQDA, we initiated advertisements through the Human Resources Command-St. Louis for recruitment. Applicants were reviewed and screened by the brigade command group, and those making the cut were interviewed either in person or telephonically. The applicants chosen were then processed through FORSCOM G–3 and sent to HQDA for final approval.

A good rule of thumb for the timeframe required for the CO–ADOS process is that it will take about 8 months from the time that a sustainment brigade wants the Soldier on the ground; 2 months for COA development and command approval, 3 months for selections, and 3 months for the production of orders. This is a very long and time-intensive process while you are trying to go through ARFORGEN and accomplish the many tasks associated with Reset, Train-Ready, and Certification. My lead planner, Major Ty Bentinck, and one of his staff officers, Captain Jostin Boyd, spent countless hours seeing this process through to completion.

Another drawback to this process is that a range of Soldiers show up who have no understanding of your SOC concept or battle rhythm and who have never met any of the other sustainment agencies or supported units across the organization. A RIP/TOA was planned between my SPO and the incoming TF DURABLE team, but it was not beneficial because of the long timeline associated with getting the TF DURABLE team to Fort Riley. (Many arrived within 2 weeks of our deployment.)

We were able to get a former BSB commander, Lieutenant Colonel Brian Tempest, to come on board and serve as our SOC chief several months before TF DURABLE arrived. This helped tremendously in providing some level of continuity as TF DURABLE arrived and got settled.

Spartan Field Kitchen

The Future

In the new modular Army, warfighters rely on supporting agencies and outside units to continue to run sustainment operations while deployed. Although the CO–ADOS solution (using TF DURABLE) worked to some degree for the 1st Sustainment Brigade while it deployed to Kuwait, CO–ADOS is not the answer. This is because all installations do not have the force structure to support it, as was the case at Fort Riley.

The sustainment brigade MTOEs of the future need to incorporate force structure to continue sustainment operations on the installations at which they are stationed. Much like the early-entry and main-entry element division of the sustainment brigade MTOE is now, an additional section should be incorporated to build force structure to support rear operations when the sustainment brigade deploys. This would support the mission command of sustainment brigade battalions, companies, platoons, and detachments in various stages of ARFORGEN and endure SOC operations for the installation.

The way ahead for the 1st Sustainment Brigade SOC is constantly maturing. Our concept is challenging systems such as BCS3 to provide additional capabilities. Currently, the Army Combined Arms Support Command (CASCOM) does not have a program of instruction or method of instruction on how a sustainment brigade provides area support in garrison.

We believe that the 1st Sustainment Brigade has taken steps to develop a template for how area support can work in garrison. By working with all local sustainment agencies and providing a central location and repository for commanders to receive sustainment support, the 1st Sustainment Brigade SOC concept has made the sustainment brigade relevant in a garrison environment. We have moved in the right direction and made great progress in answering the question, “What is the sustainment brigade's role in a garrison environment?”

Supporting agencies are sharing with units, units are sharing ideas, and commanders are able to come to a single point for sustainment updates. In a mere 5 months, the SOC went from an idea to a fully functioning operations center ingrained within the garrison. Clearly, a requirement was there. By designing the SOC, the 1st Sustainment Brigade's Soldiers are able to train as they fight while providing a real-world service to the installation where they reside.

Colonel Flem B. “Donnie” Walker, Jr., is the commander of the 1st Sustainment Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, at Fort Riley, Kansas. He holds an M.S. degree with a concentration in logistics management from the Florida Institute of Technology and is a graduate of the Army War College. The 1st Sustainment Brigade recently returned from deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom 10–11 and Operation New Dawn at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, under the 1st Sustainment Command (Theater).

 

1. Division Commander Comments on Modularity, 5 January 2010. This was a memorandum provided to the Chief of Staff of the Army signed by Lieutenant General Mark P. Hertling, Deputy Commanding General for Initial Military Training. The recommendations provided to the Chief of Staff were based on comments on modularity from 14 serving and former division commanders.

2. DAMPS–A is the Army portal application for requesting and processing active-duty tours for Reserve component Soldiers. It supports Reserve component Soldiers by enabling individuals to create, review, sign, and monitor their voluntary active-duty tour requests. The system also supports force requesters and Reserve component organizations by establishing a single process to electronically generate, process, and approve active-duty tour requests from the Soldier up to HQDA.

 


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