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Transforming the Theater Support Command

For a number of years, Reserve component soldiers integrated into theater support commands (TSCs) have been working to “get it right.” As I noted in my articles in the last two issues of Army Logistician, the professional energies of TSC soldiers sometimes have been diverted from accomplishing the mission by cultural differences between the Active and Reserve components, self-imposed barriers and fears, and miscommunications and misunderstandings. The success of an integrated, multicomponent organization like the TSC depends on efficient and effective use of all of its assigned personnel, whether they come from the Active or Reserve components. All TSC personnel must focus on the positives, not on the distractions, in their work. The TSC requires an operational view that is different from that of any other organizational structure the Army has developed to date. What follows are my thoughts about what such an operational view should include.

Transformation and the TSC

Like other organizations within the Army, the TSC must continue to transform itself. It must become more agile and transient in executing the mission at hand. Future scenarios in the Department of Defense envision further reductions in the duplication of support activities provided by each service to their personnel. In fact, the future will be directed toward joint logistics. Joint logistics may result in a logistics headquarters command that includes the current TSC structure in an expeditionary, multiservice organization that may or may not be commanded by an Army element. Ad hoc support and staff logistics arrangements of the past must become embedded realities of tomorrow. Jointness is the long-range solution to the military’s current distribution challenges and will be the hallmark of its future logistics architecture. Support will be consolidated and services outsourced as forces become more agile.

The future force will be lethal and able to survive, with a reduced logistics footprint, improved sustainability, and a streamlined, flattened echelons-above-corps (EAC) logistics force. As part of the One Army concept, the TSC must be ready to deploy in the first 15 days of an operation. In effect, the logisticians of the TSC cannot remain as a tail; instead, they must be embedded structurally with the combat warrior. Those of us who serve in TSCs must remain relevant.

The TSC must have a flexible structure that can expand and change, in much the same way that an amoeba adapts to its environment. The future logistics force must be able to respond with the combat warrior to a hotspot, complete the mission, and rotate out. As logisticians, we must be able to expand and contract to fit the warfighter’s need.

What is in store for the TSC? Based on the logistics transformation challenges of today, it is apparent that we need to change the paradigm of how the TSC is administered, supported, trained, and organized.

Problems With TSC Headquarters

Let’s look at the integrated TSC headquarters. Do we really need the number of Active and Reserve component slots currently in the headquarters element of the TSC? Maybe not! Does the day-to-day support environment really require the number of Active component soldiers currently assigned to the TSC? It might be more logical to have senior military managers oversee a civilian structure in normal headquarters operations. Under this scheme, brigades would launch forward with added support from a Reserve logistics augmentation to meet requirements for a split-based or forward headquarters. Without the reserve augmentation, the Active component TSC would become overwhelmed in a contingency scenario.

Without Reserve component personnel serving on a full-time basis, TSCs headquarters are thin in personnel. This is due in part to the integrated staff structure and low authorized level of organization ratings and because TSCs are not fully supported in their authorized Active component slots. [The authorized level of organization is the percentage of assets (personnel and equipment) in a unit’s table of organization and equipment (TOE) that the unit is authorized to maintain.] TSC Active component elements compensate for their lack of Active fills and activated Reserve component soldiers by increasing the number of table of distribution and allowances slots and hiring Department of the Army (DA) civilians and local nationals. This allows TSC headquarters to fulfill their assigned missions.

Currently, if the Reserve component element of a TSC headquarters is activated and is not employed in a split-based operation, its soldiers have no work to do and are redeployed to their home station. TSC leaders must carefully weigh how they will employ added Reserve component soldiers immediately following a contingency operation.

A Proposal for TSC Restructuring

The TSC restructure I envision would delete the Reserve component elements from the current modification TOEs (MTOEs) of the four TSCs and combine them into one, stand-alone MTOE document. [The four TSCs are the 19th TSC at Daegu, Korea, with continental United States augmentation (CONUS AUG) headquartered at Des Moines, Iowa; the 9th TSC at Camp Zama, Japan, with CONUS AUG based at Fort Belvoir, Virginia; the 21st TSC at Kaiserslautern, Germany, with CONUS AUG headquartered at Indianapolis, Indiana; and the 377th TSC at New Orleans, Louisiana.]

The TSCs would be left with their Active component spaces. Based on their daily mission support requirements, the deployed Active component TSCs likewise would modify their structures. The TSCs’ Reserve component CONUS AUG elements would be staffed in the event that split-based operations became a necessity. This means the Reserves would perform as a forward early entry module command post (EEMCP) anywhere in the world if called on by the Army.

Currently, the total number of Reserve component spaces in the combined TSCs is approximately 800. Of these spaces, 400 would be returned to the Army Reserve to use in restructuring the Reserve force. This would assist the Chief of the Army Reserve in his vision of support to the Army by providing personnel for standing up additional companies in civil affairs, military police, medical services, and transportation.

The remaining 400 spaces would be aligned under the separate CONUS AUG MTOE and divided into four independent elements aligned to two TSC cells. For simplicity’s sake, the 19th TSC and 9th TSC would be known as Cell West and the 21st TSC and 377th TSC would be aligned as Cell East. The Reserve CONUS AUG MTOE would be heavily staffed with logisticians. It would incorporate the EAC logistics field commander’s view and would be reviewed once a year at a senior leader logistics conference. The four elements would be equally qualified to respond to the field commander’s needs.

This separate CONUS AUG structure would be commanded by a trained logistics major general. The selection of the major general would be based on his linkage with the combat service support (CSS) community, his time spent in the TSC structure, and his knowledge of logistics imperatives. He would be responsible for training the Reserve component TSC logistics force.

When called on, the four independent elements would provide full-strength support. Members who may not be able to go on the first lift would be replaced by other members holding their positions. The cells would deploy forward to contingencies, bypassing the mobilization stations. Support would be based nearly 100 percent on the four separate EEMCP-type organizations. They also would be tailored to support specific requirements, such as performing as a corps support group. The senior commanders of the TSCs would field test and validate Reserve component elements to project forward.

The major general, through consultations with the Active component TSC commanding generals, would direct the training of these separate CSS packages. The actual training would be conducted by a brigadier general deputy commanding general, assisted by four trained senior logistics colonels supported by a number of lieutenant colonels and junior mid-level managers. For example, each colonel would have support from, at a minimum, operators who have experience and skills gained in previous senior logistics assignments. These soldiers would be handpicked and assigned to this logistics MTOE structure by the CONUS AUG senior leaders.
The Reserve component elements would continue to be based at their present locations. These locations have served well for recruiting and retaining soldiers. Maintaining them would eliminate possible economic harm to an area that could result from losing military units, perpetuate unit identities and traditions, strengthen the identification of current soldiers with the transformed organization, and continue the alignment of the Reserve base structure with the supporting Regional Readiness Commands.

Having a separate structure would allow the Reserve and Active components to manage their internally controlled spaces without undue outside influence. Each component would be responsible for its own resources. One-year active-duty tours in a TSC would increase the role of Reserve structures in a theater. By assigning a number of Active Guard/ Reserve and Active component soldiers to each TSC’s CONUS Reserve element headquarters, the TSCs would fully meet the intent of the force. Follow-on Troop Program Unit members would supplement the forward element during their annual training and individual duty training weekends.

Training would change to allow for a full-up element to deploy on overseas deployment training (ODT). Normal ODT rotations would still be employed. The cells would be trained as a total element to develop the perception among all soldiers of one, integrated unit. When a cell went on ODT, it would require a soldier readiness program (SRP). The SRP would be conducted semiannually. Those soldiers falling out during these SRPs would be replaced immediately by members of other independent elements within the CONUS AUG. The CONUS AUG element would be a Tier 1 DA Master Priority List entity, and the Army Reserve Command would be required to have it fully filled with a readiness factor of 90 percent.

Annual training would be focused on a different area of operations for each of the four independent elements. This would allow soldiers to be well rounded and able to supplant those soldiers unable to respond so the TSC on the receiving end would not be shortchanged. This method would relieve the Regional Readiness Commands from having to cross-level personnel into the TSCs.

If a contingency should grow and the mission call for a split-based operation, the Reserve CONUS AUG would respond to formal request channels to alert and call forward the appropriate Reserve component slice.

Meeting Logistics Imperatives

The Army Reserve complements the Army’s core competencies to train and equip soldiers and develop future leaders. It helps fill the support role of providing a relevant and ready land power capability to the regional combatant commander as part of the joint team. My proposed TSC restructure would fulfill the Army Reserve imperative to provide a predictable and sustainable rotation based on depth of capability. The mobilization of the TSCs’ Reserve component elements would relieve Active component rotational forces in theaters around the world. CSS and combat support Reserve units will help to even out the workload across the Army by providing a base of experienced individuals with real-world operational backgrounds. The TSC mirrors the empowerment of the Army Reserve by adding operational depth to the Army, relieving some of Army logisticians’ operating tempo, meeting the demands of continuous contingency operations, and assisting in achieving unit readiness.

The TSC serves as a surrogate EAC logistics trainer in CONUS. Reserve soldiers bring skilled logistics military occupational specialties to the table; in many cases, they also add civilian skills critical to the operational and administrative needs of the total TSC. Their skills create a win-win situation for all TSC logisticians. This is especially true for junior leaders, whose roles will be critical in the future.

Reserve soldiers are valued assets in developing internal procedures for the expansible TSC structure, while day-to-day operations are handled by the Active component. The Reserve component is key to mobilization and technical operations in the field. Reserve soldiers offer a stable, mature workforce that is positioned for the long haul. For the most part, they are committed team members devoted to their units. They have learned their skill sets through years of dedicated service. Unlike Active component soldiers, who continually change locations and CSS positions, Reserve component soldiers remain in their units.

The augmented Reserve element structure I have described would allow the Army to supplement the needs of the forward TSCs. The CONUS AUG cells, or portions of them, would be called forward by the Army. There would be no need to cross-level soldiers because the teams would deploy at full strength. There would be few, if any, administrative challenges during and after the deployment because Active and Reserve component systems would remain separate; Reserve component personnel would remain in the Army Reserve’s Regional Level Application Software. Training and Standard Army Management Information Systems requirements would be conducted in a parallel fashion. Integration would be visible when the Active and Reserve component soldiers found themselves working for one another in various scenarios. There would be no need for memoranda of agreement. Ratings of the senior Reserve leaders would be directed from the highest echelons of the Reserve community. In the end, the relevance of the Reserve component personnel would increase.

There are a number of multicomponent councils and committees at various levels of the Army Forces Command and DA. Unfortunately, as a community, TSC leaders have not exercised their strength to sit at the table and lay out their needs and concerns. One of the persistent challenges for TSCs is bringing together commanders and appropriate staff to work on making TSC integration smoother and easier for all.
The TSC must continue to transform into an amoeba-like organization that effectively supports the needs of the combatant warriors of the 21st century. At the same time, we must acknowledge that changing in a hasty manner may overshadow the success of TSCs as a military force. As a professional logistician, I am confident that the TSC transformation will be successful. ALOG

Major General George William (Bill) Wells, Jr., USAR, is the former Chief of Staff of the 21st Theater Support Command. He currently is an individual mobilization augmentee assigned as the Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Mobilization and Training, Army G–4.