Every 4 to 6 weeks, a forward support company
(FSC) attached to a reconnaissance or cavalry
squadron goes to the National Training Center
(NTC) at Fort Irwin, California, to validate its past 12 to
16 months of training in preparation for a deployment.
Unfortunately, the FSC arrives with the mindset that
sustainment operations should be centered on the forward
operating base (FOB). Because of that mindset, the Soldiers
miss opportunities to learn what requirements are
needed for the Army's "next" mission.
That next mission is about to come to fruition. We combat
trainers at NTC are currently focusing on how we migrate
to hybrid threat rotations. The scenario will not only
incorporate the traditional force-on-force scenario similar
to pre-2003 training events, but it will also blend in the
elements from counterinsurgency (COIN) operations.
The return to the force-on-force portion of the scenario
is the main concern. Are logisticians prepared for this?
Have we been too focused on contracting, FOB to FOB
logistics, and other "current fight," COIN-centric logistics
operations? Have we missed the core competencies
that have sustained our Soldiers for over 100 years? Why
do many of the logisticians who rotate through NTC not
fully understand the doctrinal missions of the reconnaissance
and cavalry squadrons? Should we change our
curriculum to match this transition?
Logistics Command Relationships
We logisticians must first understand exactly who we
support. One of the greatest challenges to this understanding
is the problem of doctrinal task organization between
the FSC and the brigade support battalion (BSB). According
to Field Manual (FM) 4–90, The Brigade Support
Battalion, the FSC is organic to the BSB and may be attached
to or operationally controlled by one of the maneuver
battalions for direct support. Each command relationship
has inherent challenges that must be addressed
through mission analysis. That relationship is a seam that
can be exploited, just as the enemy likes to exploit seams
between units on the ground.
The relationship between the FSC and the BSB is tenuous
at times. The FSC commander should be considered
similar to a liaison officer from the BSB. He is the eyes
and ears of the support operations officer (SPO) and the
maneuver battalion commander. His ability to tie the
SPO's concept of support into the squadron's scheme of maneuver is critical. The FSC commander, however, must
absolutely know how his supported unit maneuvers and
how the brigade sustainment plan ties into it. This understanding
allows for a plan that is tied to the principles of
The squadron S–4 should work hand in hand with the
FSC commander to plan sustainment for the squadron.
The S–4 is charged with developing the plan, but the FSC
commander should be heavily involved to ensure adherence
to the principles of sustainment.
Supporting Reconnaissance Squadrons
A reconnaissance or cavalry squadron is an evolving
entity. [Reconnaissance squadrons are found in brigade
combat teams and battlefield surveillance brigades, and
cavalry squadrons are found in armored cavalry regiments,
but they serve similar functions.] It has a very crucial
doctrinal mission. FM 3–20.96, Reconnaissance and
Cavalry Squadron, describes the squadron in this way:
Within the complex, dynamic conditions and threat
profiles of future OEs [operational environments],
the squadron is essential to successful Army and joint
operations in several ways:
- It provides a significant dismounted or mounted
- It enables the higher commander to decisively
employ his maneuver battalions and joint fires and
to choose times and places for engagement to his
- It maximizes security of the higher headquarters
by providing timely, accurate, and relevant combat
information. It helps the higher commander
achieve advantages over an enemy or adversary
in terms of the ability to collect, process, and disseminate
So how do we logisticians frame our mission analysis
and support planning into these broad operational brush
strokes? How do we plan for class III (petroleum, oils,
and lubricants) and class V (ammunition) to move forward
with the potentially rapid advance of the brigade's
The answer is simple. We are directly tied into the military
decisionmaking process (MDMP) at the squadron
level and essentially become the cavalrymen we support.
We do not focus solely on getting the supplies to the unit.
We accept that resupply operations are a no-fail mission,
but we need to understand and feel the operational environment throughout our planning process.
Looking at the doctrinal fundamentals of reconnaissance
paints a very clear picture of why understanding
what the reconnaissance and cavalry squadron does is so
critical. FM 3–90, Tactics, states—
The seven fundamentals of successful reconnaissance
operations are as follows:
- Ensure continuous reconnaissance.
- Do not keep reconnaissance assets in reserve.
- Orient on the reconnaissance objective.
- Report all information rapidly and accurately.
- Retain freedom of maneuver.
- Gain and maintain enemy contact with the smallest element possible.
- Develop the situation.
How do we maintain our supply lines as they perform
operations to apply these fundamentals? Are logisticians
used as the enabler that we are, or are FSCs not given the
priority as that enabler? Too often during NTC rotations,
an FSC is given the base defense operations center mission
and mayoral responsibilities that cripple its ability
to perform its wartime mission. Because of that, the FSC
is rarely in a position to be proactive in resupply and
struggles with reactive sustainment. These are a few of
the considerations that the FSC commander and squadron
S–4 need to address before the MDMP begins.
The squadron commander and S–3 are concerned with
the scheme of maneuver. Terms such as reconnaissance
push, reconnaissance pull, zone recon, area recon, and
route recon are ingrained into their psyche. Security
operations are critical as well. Likewise, screen, guard,
cover, and area security are significant to the squadron
and, more importantly, the adjacent units and any maneuver
attachments to the squadron. Typically, these operations
are the main effort or the decisive operation for the
brigade mission. How are FSC capabilities affected by
each one of these operations? Are we planning for them?
Do we even know how they are tactically performed?
When the training at NTC goes into the hybrid rotational
scenario, numerous challenges face the squadron
and its sustainment assets. Keep in mind that as NTC
ramps up the hybrid rotations, the combat power shortages
inherent in the reconnaissance squadron's table of
organization and equipment will become painfully apparent.
At that point, brigade commanders will compensate
by task-organizing tanks and other assets to the squadron
so that its mission set will expand. How will we plan for
these changes to ensure that the sustainment needs are
met? This is where the FSC commander's understanding
of the squadron's mission set is critical.
Reconnaissance Squadron FSCs
The reconnaissance and cavalry squadron FSCs are the
tip of the sustainment spear. FM 4–0, Sustainment, lays
out the following principles of logistics:
- "Integration is the most critical principle. Integration is joining all the elements of sustainment (tasks, functions,
systems, processes, and organizations) to operations assuring unity of purpose and effort."
- "Anticipation is the ability to foresee events and requirements and initiate necessary actions that most appropriately satisfy a response."
- "Responsiveness is the ability to meet changing requirements on short notice and to rapidly sustain efforts to meet changing circumstances over time."
- “Simplicity fosters efficiency throughout the operations process and allows for more effective control of sustainment. Clarity of tasks, standardized and interoperable procedures, and clearly defined command relationships contribute to simplicity.”
- “Improvisation is the ability to adapt sustainment operations to unexpected situations or circumstances affecting a mission.”
- “Economy means providing sustainment resources in an efficient manner to enable a commander to employ all assets to generate the greatest effect possible.”
- “Survivability is the ability to protect personnel, information, infrastructure, and assets from destruction or degradation.”
- “Continuity is the uninterrupted provision of sustainment across all levels of war.”
- “Improvisation is the ability to adapt sustainment operations to unexpected situations or circumstances affecting a mission.”
They are all priorities. So which one has priority over the other? How are they applied? The FSC commander and squadron S–4, in synchronization with the SPO, have to tailor their support plan to each of these principles, but the scheme of maneuver ultimately dictates the way forward.
During the Combined Logistics Captains Career
Course, company commanders learn the art, not the science, of contiguous battlefield sustainment. The course curriculum, culminating with the tactical logistics exercise, touches on exactly the things that most sustainers do
not remember about contiguous battlefield sustainment. One of the benefits of the tactical logistics exercise is the
ability to understand each of the missions of the reconnaissance squadron and how we conceptualize sustainment as it fights.
It is imperative that logisticians understand how reconnaissance assets move across the battlefield in order to fully support them. How long is a screen, and what distances does it involve? How are the sustainment assets moving to support it? These questions can and should be asked during the MDMP.
Observations and Lessons Learned at NTC
One of the unique opportunities of a combat trainer at NTC is the ability to watch, and sometimes learn from,
each unit that crosses the light line on Main Supply Route
Bull Run. Higher echelons than the operations groupcombat trainer have dictated the operating tempo of each
unit in the Army. However, the Army Force Generation
process and other constraints placed on unit commanders
have not taken away the inherent responsibility of
commanders to train their troops. Commanders must train
their formations to be not only technically proficient but also tactically proficient.
The single most important sustainment observation
witnessed at NTC is the overall lack of knowledge of
contiguous sustainment operations and supply chains
ending at the FSC level. This knowledge is critical as we
transition from the COIN-centric fight and prepare for the
hybrid environment. During each rotation, the reconnaissance
or cavalry squadron participates in a named
operation and the brigade-level "attack/defend during
full-spectrum operations." This mission dictates some
type of sustainment planning concerning combat trains,
field trains, and logistics release points.
What combat trainers are seeing, however, is an inability
to know or understand that methodology when
planning. Most logisticians at the FSC level have either
not experienced or do not remember what a contiguous
battlefield looks like and how sustainment operations
are conducted on it. Who is responsible for the combat
trains? Who is responsible for the security of those trains?
What are the major criteria for site selection? Where is
the FSC commander located during all of this?
As the Army transitions to hybrid operations, that tactical
knowledge becomes the single most important factor
for logisticians. If we logisticians cannot secure or understand
our place in the lines of the operation, how can
we get the right stuff to the right places at the right time?
Numerous questions—besides anything having to do with
classes of supply—need to be asked and integrated into
The next observation concerns logistics synchronization
among the brigade S–4, BSB SPO, FSC commander,
and squadron executive officer and S–4. The ability to
synchronize the sustainment mission to the current operation
plan alleviates many of the hurdles that the FSC
commander would face. That ability hinges on whether
or not he understands what exactly the squadron is doing.
What are the triggers for our logistics packages (LOGPACs)
to move? When, exactly, is the line troop going to
need to be topped off with fuel? How and where do we
set logistics release points? What is the squadron's operational
reach, and where and when is the culminating point
during the operation?
The Army Training and Doctrine Command needs to
consider updating the Soldier training publication tasks
for sustainers. Most of them have not been updated in
several years. This new hybrid focus may require sustainers
to switch from outdated training that is based on
Army Training Evaluation Program publications and
Soldier training publications to training based on Army-or theater-mandated mission essential task lists.
To prepare for the Army's next mission, FSC commanders'
first step is to read doctrine relating to the unit
they support. FM 4–90 reintroduces the sustainment principles
for supporting maneuver units through contiguous
scenarios and COIN-centric theaters. Training Circular
7–100, Hybrid Threat, also offers a guide for many hybrid
scenarios. Only when we understand the operational missions,
constraints, and limitations of each will we understand
where the "beans and bullets" considerations fit.
We must fully feel like we are that troop, company, or
battery commander, or troop platoon leader, or even that
fire team leader and understand the decision points and
triggers that they consider in their mission planning. We
must plan for and adjust our external support from higher
units. Our planning is only as good as our operational
reach. If we are not fully synchronized with our higher
support echelons, we will not be able to maintain our
We must train our Soldiers in their craft but, more
importantly, train them in the critical areas that they
need to survive on tomorrow's battlefield. We need to
be creative in our training at home station. Resupply
operations at home station can be conducted under any
conditions that the command can create or replicate. For
example, "Maintenance Monday" may be the main task,
but it can be executed under simulated combat conditions.
LOGPAC and recovery battle drills can be rehearsed by
tasking a patrol to recover a vehicle somewhere on post.
We can maximize range time by making Soldiers
shoot under stressful conditions. How will they react to
a complex attack with an improvised explosive device or
vehicle-borne improvised explosive device, followed by a
rocket-propelled grenade attack and small-arms fire? We
should replicate at the ranges as best we can. The situational
training exercise lanes at NTC can be replicated at
any home-station field training exercise. Role players can
be identified and integrated, and most battlefield effects
simulators used at NTC are in the Army supply system.
We should not wait until the NTC rotation to start from
scratch on tactical standard operating procedures and
LOGPAC battle drills.
Effective sustainment operations are a no-fail mission
in the Army. Efficient sustainment operations are our
goal. We can achieve our goal by truly knowing and understanding
who we support, taking care of the Soldiers
who execute that support, and accomplishing our mission
to provide support.