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Nonstandard Logistics Sustainment Support in the Stryker Brigade Combat Teams

The development of Stryker brigade combat teams has led to several innovations in supporting nonstandard equipment.

In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson won congressional approval for a mission of epic proportions. Two former Infantry captains, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, would lead a group of soldiers, called the “Corps of Discovery,” on what became a 2–year adventure to find navigable river routes to the Pacific. Two hundred years later, the same glacial prairies of the Pacific Northwest that Lewis and Clark crossed to reach the ocean would again challenge men, and now women, of the U.S. Army—this time with technology so advanced it would change the face of the modern battlefield.

Under the daunting shadow of Mount Rainer came the final word: Fort Lewis, Washington (named after Meriwether Lewis), would host the initial fielding phase of the Army’s first Stryker brigade combat teams (SBCTs): the 3d Brigade, 2d Infantry Division, and the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division (Light). [The Army plans to establish six SBCTs. The other four units planned for conversion to SBCTs are the 172d Infantry Brigade at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, the 2d Cavalry Regiment at Fort Lewis, the 2d Brigade, 25th Infantry Division (Light), at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, and the 56th Brigade, 28th Infantry Division (Mechanized), Pennsylvania Army National Guard.]

Ironically, it had been almost 20 years since the Chief of Staff of the Army at that time, General Edward C. Meyer, selected the “Old Reliables” of the 9th Infantry Division (Motorized) to host a high-technology test bed project. The project was known affectionately as “Boys with Toys,” and its goal was to develop a high-technology, rapidly deployable light division that could engage heavy threat forces. A new fielding process was developed to effectively integrate available commercial technology. This task required new methods of testing doctrinal concepts and equipment. Many emerging concepts tested by the division, such as palletized loading procedures, survived the project and were adopted by the Army, but the high-technology light division itself did not.

The skeptical ghosts of this experience shadowed Chief of Staff General Eric K. Shinseki’s transformation effort announced in October 1999, including his plan to create two medium-weight initial brigade combat teams at Fort Lewis. However, after a triumphant year of combat success in Iraq, the 3d Brigade, 2d Infantry Division—the first SBCT—has forever laid to rest those demons of past innovation efforts. According to the current Chief of Staff, General Peter J. Schoomaker, “Stryker comes with more infantry in it than any other formation—1,160 per brigade. . . . The Stryker’s speed and agility gives us the best operating radius and abilities we have ever had.”

The SBCT concept is built on a lethal, rapidly deploying modular force, tailored to operational requirements, that can arrive anywhere in the world within 96 hours after liftoff. The introduction of the new eight-wheeled, 19-ton, $2-million Stryker armored vehicle—named after two posthumous Army Medal of Honor recipients, Private First Class Stuart Stryker of World War II and Specialist Robert Stryker of Vietnam War—has received significant publicity. The structure of the SBCT has become the touchstone for the brigade-based modular Army of the future.

AMC Forward Stryker

Transformation requires a combination of revolutionary, evolutionary, and emerging doctrine. To accomplish the SBCT transformation, new heights of innovation and staff coordination were required. The Commanding General of the Army Materiel Command (AMC) and the Program Executive Officer (PEO) for Ground Combat Systems agreed to provide Fort Lewis with a single point of contact for all materiel fielding issues associated with the SBCTs. The I Corps Transformation Support Office was created in March 2001 to serve as that single point of contact for the materiel development community. The Chief of the Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) Special Projects Office—a temporary field office of the PEO for Command, Control and Communications Tactical located at Fort Lewis—was dual-hatted as the Director of the Transformation Support Office.


In the fall of 2002, AMC’s Operations Support Command (now the Field Support Command [FSC]) established AMC Forward Stryker, a colonel-level command, to assume the materiel fielding and command and control mission for all six SBCT AMC
logistics support elements forward (LSE–Fs). (The Army is already discussing adding Stryker brigades. “By the time we get to five or six,” General Schoomaker has stated, “we may want to go for even more.” AMC Forward Stryker would continue to support additional Stryker requirements.)

Historically, AMC has deployed LSEs based on the operational needs of the supported unit or theater. The LSEs are task-organized with logistics assistance representatives (LARs) assigned to logistics assistance offices worldwide. During contingencies, command and control of LSEs transfers to the theater AMC forward commander. Unlike the traditional LSE, an SBCT LSE–F maintains a habitual, direct support relationship with its SBCT during both peacetime and contingency operations. This ingrained familiarity has proven to be a combat multiplier as operational proficiency is routinely rehearsed and reinforced. An inherent mission under this concept of support is the mobilization and operational control of approximately 115 to 150 SBCT contractors and Department of the Army civilians.

In June 2003, AMC published the SBCT Fielding and Support Concept. This concept provided an overarching approach to coordinating and synchronizing the fielding of the SBCTs, including AMC’s sustainment responsibilities after fielding is completed. In November 2003, the Army Deputy Chief of Staff, G–8, assumed materiel fielding responsibility for SBCTs and AMC Forward Stryker’s focus was redirected to standing up the LSE–Fs through certification of their initial operating capability.

Unit Set Fielding

People are the key component to transformation. Unit set fielding (USF) is the key process, packaged not just to field isolated systems but a system of systems. USF synchronizes individual system fielding plans into highly structured, battalion-sized fielding schedules. The first iteration of the multiphased USF process for the first SBCT was challenging and closely managed. The systematic installation of multiple digital platforms required the efforts of several hundred military personnel, Department of the Army civilians, and contractors—all joining together to choreograph the critical events. New equipment soon began arriving, and the “digital-install” warehouses came to life with system contractors readily preparing their workspaces and stocking shelves.

 


The many digital communications systems and subsystems under the umbrella of the Army Battle Command System (ABCS) require individual and collective training of SBCT personnel to progressively integrate unprecedented situational awareness capabilities into the SBCT. The new Fort Lewis Mission Support Training Facility, a cavernous, 48,000-square foot building, provided an ideal controlled environment of 400 networked computers for training on ABCS.

The culminating milestone in 2003 was the SBCT certification exercise at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana. The first SBCT—the 3d Brigade, 2d Infantry Division—was certified as having the initial operating capability for global deployment.

Army Doctrine

Field Manual (FM) 63–11, Logistics Support Element: Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures, resulted from lessons learned during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in 1990 and 1991. The Army required a single AMC logistics command and control element to centrally manage strategic logistics personnel, call forward elements as required, and integrate those elements into the theater. The theater AMC LSE satisfied this need then, and it continues to do so today in Southwest Asia.

Clearly, contractor logistics support was required for the foreseeable future. FM 63–11 provided call-forward guidance requiring the AMC LSEs to control all contractors in their areas of operations. During early SBCT field training exercises, a limited contractor control cell was established under the Fort Lewis LSE for reception, staging, onward movement, and integration of systems contractors. The SBCT needed a simple reliable combat support solution to gain better control of SBCT systems contractors. AMC Forward Stryker’s objective was simple—to train as it would sustain.

The Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology and the AMC Commanding General agreed to continue with current Army doctrine mandating that the AMC LSEs act as the “single face” to the warfighter. AMC Forward Stryker began to explore the details of how to effectively integrate and embed standard and nonstandard contract logistics support under a single umbrella.

LSE–F

For the SBCT, the “single face” of materiel support is the commander of the LSE–F. The SBCT LSE–F is a task-organized team consisting of a chief warrant officer and Department of the Army civilian technicians from AMC’s major subordinate commands. Each LSE–F is provided with a multimedia communication system (MMCS) and contract operators for training exercises and deployments. The LSE–F MMCS consists of 48 secure and nonsecure voice data lines and fax, nonsecure video, cellular transmissions, terrestrial lines, and satellite bands and is interoperable with the Defense Switched Network and commercial telephone service.

Goldwater-Nichols Act

The congressionally mandated separation between acquisition and sustainment required AMC Forward Stryker to dust off governing Department of Defense (DOD) acquisition directives. Under the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986, Congress directed that control of all DOD acquisition functions be assigned to civilian leaders in each of the military departments (Army, Navy, and Air Force). PEOs and their subordinate program managers (PMs) under the Army Acquisition Executive (who is the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology) are directly responsible for fielding and sustaining individual systems through full materiel release. Army fielding was not a process unique to the SBCT. However, “Team Lewis” experienced growing pains in bringing multiple Army organizations, Government agencies, and civilian contractors together for the first time
.
Contractor Support

Approximately 120 specialized contractors are an integral part of the SBCTs’ highly complex systems maintenance, sustainment, and technical support. The Army now must ensure that contractors are planned for and integrated into all SBCT operations and risk assessments. Considering the factors of mission, enemy, terrain, troops, time, and civilians, many contractors are actually operating in the forward areas of the SBCT. However, supporting the SBCT requires the convergence of standard Army and nonstandard contractor support. For example, 57 of the 79 C4ISR systems are supported by systems contractors exclusively. As Phillip Sibley, senior LAR at the Army Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM) at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, accurately stated, “This isn’t your father’s Army anymore.”

Software Initiatives

Several logistics software initiatives are under development to standardize formatting and responsibilities and improve the process of achieving the logistics common operating picture.

The Battle Command Sustainment Support System (BCS3) is the Army Combined Arms Support Command’s scheduled replacement for the Combat Service Support Control System (CSSCS). The predictive combat functions of BCS3 are in-transit visibility, sustaining base stock and requisition status visibility, and course-of-action analysis.

The PEO for Command, Control and Communications Tactical is the Army’s organization to ensure digitization and battle command interoperability throughout the force. The SPO [Special Projects Office] Tracker system provides detailed personnel data and deployment status information on contractors, Department of the Army civilians, and military personnel.

The Operational Tracking System (OPTRAKS) is a local software management tool that effectively triages problems with contractor-supported systems and accounts for contractor missions within an SBCT’s area of operations. Full development of OPTRAKS began during the summer of 2004 after the system was approved by the second SBCT (the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division). One year of spiral-type development during field assessments verified its reliability and interoperability with minimal risk. [Spiral development is a methodology initially developed to reduce risks on large software projects by using a cyclical approach that allows users to evaluate early results and system developers to identify problems early in the process.]

This relationally structured database is now the operational epicenter for the LSE–F. Its functional areas include trouble reports and personnel, equipment, and stockage levels of nonstandard parts (provided by the contractors). In support of total information dominance, the goal is to eventually include these capabilities in systems being managed by the PEO for Enterprise Information Systems. OPTRAKS currently is employed in support of ongoing combat operations for the Army’s second SBCT, the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, in Iraq.

The LSE–F must rapidly assess systems failures with contractor field service representatives and securely send forward the correct mix of AMC LARs and field service representatives from the PEOs and PMs under the Army Acquisition Executive. The OPTRAKS file of “Frequently Asked Questions,” updated by the owning contractor for each system, triages maintenance issues and provides quick solutions. Amazingly, the data reports from field testing of OPTRAKS implementation in the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, SBCT confirmed that 18 percent of all trouble reports were resolved at the LSE–F without follow-up action; no contractors or Army civilians were required to move forward to assess the problem. OPTRAKS inherently reduced risk and force protection requirements by minimizing the forward logistics footprint of unnecessary personnel. Trouble reports were not closed until the customer was satisfied.

 

The soldiers and systems engineers of the SBCT have developed a sense of trust that OPTRAKS performs as designed. Database management does not remove the human factor; it increases the capability of humans to analyze data before decisions are made or conclusions reached.

Life-Cycle Management Commands

The Army acquisition process has functioned along two separate chains of command since implementation of the Goldwater-Nichols Act. Once a developed item is released to the Army, sustainment responsibility has transferred to one of AMC’s commodity-oriented major subordinate commands (MSCs). That is about to change.

On 2 August 2004, the commanding general of AMC and the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology agreed to formalize a Life-Cycle Management Initiative by aligning selected PEOs with the appropriate AMC MSCs to create life-cycle management commands (LCMCs). The new LCMCs are Aviation/Missile, Soldier/Ground Systems, Communications/Electronics, and Joint Ammunition. PEOs will continue to report directly to the Army Acquisition Executive. The idea is that PEOs and AMC logisticians together will enhance the acquisition processes influencing future sustainment and readiness. The Military Deputy to the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology will serve as the AMC Deputy Commanding General for Acquisition and Technology. The new position of AMC Deputy Commanding General for Operations and Readiness will serve as the command focal point for shaping AMC’s future. This synergistic initiative will profoundly impact efforts to enhance “cradle to grave” modular sustainment.

The rapidly configured, brigade-based modular Army of the future will enhance our Nation’s ability to project combat power. Many dedicated professionals throughout DOD and the corporate world have contributed immensely to the success of SBCT transformation. The Army is operating under a fast-moving climate of change driven by technology and corporate enterprise. This is opening the door for logisticians to break existing paradigms and explore creative concepts and solutions. Logisticians will continue to play vital roles in presenting innovative, flexible solutions that keep pace with transformational combat concepts.  ALOG

Gregory L. Alderete is the Chief of Operations at AMC Forward Stryker at Fort Lewis, Washington. He served 24 years in the Army and is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point, the Army Command and General Staff College, and the Defense Language Institute.