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The Logistics Support Team: SBCT Combat Multiplier

The Soldiers of the 25th Infantry Division’s Brigade Support Battalion
developed a way to maintain command and control
of 1–25 Stryker Brigade Combat Team assets on the battlefield.

During the development of the Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT) concept, the logistics community decided to streamline the SBCT’s overall logistics footprint, practices, and procedures to mirror the over-all transformation of the Army. To foster the agile, adaptive mindset needed in the SBCT, the Army logistics community promoted continuous adaptation and creative tailoring of the SBCT’s concept of support.

The most significant streamlining of logistics systems in the SBCT occurred in the centralization of all support assets under the organic command and control of the brigade support battalion (BSB). For example, there are no support platoons in the maneuver units of the SBCT. The organizational mechanics and food service specialists usually found in the support platoons are now organic assets of the BSB. The concept set forth in the Stryker Brigade Combat Team Organizational and Operational (O&O) Planning Document places food service specialists and mechanics in stan-dard configurations called field feeding teams and combat repair teams, respec-tively, which have habitual relationships with counterpart maneuver units.

The SBCT logistics systems were streamlined further when the organizational and direct support (DS) levels of maintenance were combined into one level called field maintenance. The tailorable aspect of SBCT logistics is achieved by forward-deploying additional support capabilities to accomplish the mission.

Development of the LST

When the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division (Light), Stryker Brigade Combat Team (1–25 SBCT), at Fort Lewis, Washington, deployed to Iraq in September 2004, it was organized under a mission-tailored, forward-deployed logistics support team (LST) concept. An accompanying command and control (C2) cell managed logistics on the battlefield.

The LST concept had been conceived in July 2003 when Soldiers of the 25th BSB realized that a C2 void would exist when the battalion’s logistics assets were forward-deployed in support of its brigade’s maneuver units. With a rotation to the National Training Center (NTC) at Fort Irwin, California, looming in October 2003, C2 of the brigade’s logistics assets, or the lack thereof, was a critical concern. The 25th BSB support operations (SPO) planning cell reviewed after-action reports from the first SBCT’s previous certification exercises and developed a C2 plan to help manage the field feeding teams, combat repair teams, and any other logistics assets deemed necessary as a result of the logistics estimation process.

The LST concept, supported by a decision briefing, was presented to the 25th BSB commander on 25 July 2003. The decision briefing focused on the merits of establishing C2 elements for the BSB assets that were forward-deployed with the supported units. The briefing helped to identify the C2 requirements and the logistics assets the LST needed. Leadership was, of course, an essential component of the battlefield operating system, so standing operating procedures or specific tactics, techniques, and procedures would be needed to augment the doctrinal guidance provided in the SBCT O&O concept.

Initially, it was thought that the warrant officer on the combat repair team might be able to provide C2 for the LST. However, it was determined that, although the warrant officer could manage the LST, the additional administrative support requirements of battalion planning and interface with the SPO could distract from his mission as the forward maintenance manager for the supported unit. Because the combat repair teams had only 20 mechanics, the warrant officer also was heavily involved in the team’s daily operations.

Analysis determined that the best candidate for the C2 position on the LST would be a lieutenant from a BSB unit. A lieutenant was chosen because he would bring an adequate level of experience to the C2 role and interact with the supported unit. The battalion also could better absorb the loss of a lieutenant than the loss of one of its few assigned captains. The 25th BSB commander approved the dispatch of a lieutenant and a noncommissioned officer in charge (NCOIC) with each task-organized support slice, and the LST concept was born.

In essence, the LST commander would serve three primary functions. He would provide C2 of all BSB assets, personnel, and equipment; conduct liaison with the supported battalion commander in order to plan and execute logistics; and serve as the SPO’s eyes forward. Some of the supported battalions chose to collocate their combat train command posts with their field train command posts, which in essence collocated the battalion’s internal logistics points with the BSB. In those instances, the LST commander still was deployed to serve primarily as a liaison officer.

Since there is an inevitable cost associated with taking a lieutenant from a full-time position in the BSB, the LST commander position exists only under the task-organized conditions of major deployments and operations. The BSB experimented with having the BSB permanently task-organized to account for the LST commander position, but that option was determined to be unnecessary. Besides, managing the LST while deployed would give the selected lieutenant a chance to train the Soldiers of his parent companies.

Implementation of the LST Conept

Before forming the LST, the 25th BSB provided the supported battalion with a field feeding team and a combat repair team. The LST concept simply merged—under the C2 of a lieutenant and an NCOIC—these two elements and other required support assets, such as transportation and materials-handling equipment with operators and medical evacuation platforms.

A typical LST consists of—
• One lieutenant.
• One combat repair team of 20 personnel, including a warrant officer (CW2) and 5 embedded contractors, with an M977 heavy, expanded-mobility, tactical truck (HEMTT) load-handling system (LHS), 2 forward repair systems, and 2 M984 HEMTT wreckers.
• One field feeding team of 10 personnel with 1 containerized kitchen and 1 refrigerated van.
• One distribution section of 10 personnel with 3 LHSs, 2 Atlas forklifts, and 1 M978 HEMTT tanker.

For rotations to the NTC and the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) at Fort Polk, Louisiana, and deployment to support Operation Iraqi Freedom, the task organization of the LST is tailored to accommodate the supported unit’s missions. In addition to the habitual field feeding team and combat repair team, the LST’s assets include LHSs with trailers, fuel trucks, medical personnel, Department of the Army logistics assistance representatives, and civilian Stryker mechanics.

LST Advantages

A major benefit of the LST concept is its flexibility. By forward-deploying distribution company transportation and fueling assets with maneuver battalions, the LST commander can move the forward-deployed BSB assets to the brigade support area (BSA) to pick up and deliver DS stocks. Force protection is provided by the maneuver unit.

Some people might say that having customers pick up their own DS stocks violates the provisions of the O&O concept, but they would be mistaken. A BSB C2 element uses the BSB’s DS assets to travel back to the BSA and conduct resupply missions. Having assets forward with the LST commander enables the forward support elements to react to the needs of their sup-ported battalion instead of waiting for the BSB (-) to react, which reduces the need for emergency LOG-PACs (logistics packages). The LST commander maneuvers this combat logistics patrol with force protection provided by the supported unit, usually in the form of Stryker escorts.

The LST has sometimes been referred to as a replacement for the support platoons, which the SBCT O&O concept removes from the maneuver battalions. Actually, the LST functions as both a support platoon and a forward logistics element. With the removal of the support platoon, the maneuver unit no longer has unit-level maintenance, food service, or support capabilities. All of this capability now resides in the BSB, thereby centralizing the C2 of all logistics in the brigade’s area of operations.

The O&O concept prescribes a mixture of other full-time logistics management jobs in the maneuver battalion, with the principal job being that of the support unit battalion S–4. In most maneuver battalions, the battalion S–4 is sometimes a pre-advanced course captain or lieutenant who has been given the full responsibilities of a primary staff officer. This busy officer also is expected to provide C2 for approximately 50 to 60 BSB logisticians of various military occupational specialties while running a battalion distribution point, monitoring DS logistics status reports, and performing many other related duties. The LST commander serves as a logistics expert in the supported battalion’s area of operations and also helps manage BSB resources and missions.

One of the greatest strengths of the LST concept is its “plug-and-play” nature. The LST is designed to be a mission-tailored package that can augment units and deliver robust area support, such as when a 1–25 SBCT LST provided mechanics for the Directorate of Logistics at the NTC, or mission specific, such as when it provided mobile gun support for the 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized), at the JRTC.

For increased C2, the lieutenant on the LST can be replaced with a captain, as was the case during the 1–25’s rotation to the NTC and Operation Iraqi Freedom III. In Iraq, the 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment (Mechanized), was task-organized under the 1st Cavalry Division in a totally different area of operations more than 300 miles from the 1–25.

The LST concept was fully employed during the 1–25’s rotation to the JRTC in the spring of 2004, and it received praise from the observer-controllers. During that rotation, the LSTs were task-organized to the specific mission of the supported units. Other factors that determined LST task organization were the proximity of the supported forward operating base to the BSA and the number of additional units operating within the maneuver unit’s battlespace (area support). Logistics support of the brigade during that JRTC rotation was a success, largely because of the LST concept. The concept worked so well on the JRTC battlefields that some participants questioned the “toughness” of the exercises, not realizing that it was the LST’s agility and adaptability that made the exercises go smoothly.

Another advantage of having the LST embedded with the maneuver units is that its “reach back” capability enables it to conduct reverse LOGPACs. Maneuver units can program interim resupply missions to match their operating tempos. Force protection provided by the supported units allows the BSB to concentrate its own limited force-protection platforms on scheduled LOGPACs from the BSA to outlying forward operating bases. For example, in Iraq, one of the supported units is located at least an hour’s drive from the BSA. It receives regularly scheduled LOG-PACs every 3 or 4 days. With embedded LST assets and force protection provided by the maneuver unit, the supported unit also can receive interim logistics support. This is especially important when dealing with critical repair parts because the BSB’s distribution capabilities limit resupply to one push every 48 hours on average.

The LST concept has been the backbone of the 1–25 SBCT logistics effort during the brigade task force’s deployment to Operation Iraqi Freedom. As at the NTC and JRTC, the LST commander is the liaison between the supported unit and the SPO. The LST commander also assisted with a variety of logistics planning functions, such as helping the supported unit S–4s synchronize their logistics plans with the BSB; establishing the C2 node and managing the supported task force’s DS stocks and personnel within the LST; planning and executing recovery operations; and, as a logistics mission commander, ensuring that logistics resupply convoys were coordinated and that they reached remote operating bases.

Employment Considerations

Although the LST concept has proven to be an invaluable tool in supporting the 1–25 SBCT, it does come with some warning labels. First, the LST commander should not be expected to perform as the S–4 or assistant S–4 of the supported unit and should not be used as a replacement for a weak battalion S–4. The LST commander serves as a vital link between the sup-ported unit S–4 and the BSB’s DS element.

Second, collocating the LST commander with the supported unit is critical to maintaining C2 of the LST’s assets. Although the LST commander assists the supported unit S–4 in planning logistics support for the unit’s maneuver operations, locating him near the supported unit’s combat train command post or field train command post is paramount to the LST’s success. As the eyes forward for the SPO, the LST commander can enhance the situational awareness of the SPO element and help orchestrate logistics support for the entire brigade.

The LST concept is a combat multiplier that should be considered when planning logistics support operations. The LST is not a replacement for the support platoons of old; rather, it should be thought of as a DS logistics element that is embedded in the supported unit. It is a C2-centric concept that places leadership forward in the battlespace to better manage the assets of the BSB and interface with the support unit. The LST concept is founded in, and supported by, clear and concise logistics, which affords both the supported unit and the LST commander the flexibility to conduct operations and planning in any battlespace. Since the 1–25 SBCT’s deployment to northern Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the LST concept has proven to be invaluable in providing forecasted and responsive logistics support to the brigade’s assets in the area of operations as well as to coalition forces and civilian contractors on the battlefield. ALOG

Major Dwayne M. Butler is the speech writer for the Chief of Staff of the Army at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. When this article was written, he was the Executive Officer of the 25th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Brigade (SBCT), 25th Infantry Division (Light), at Fort Lewis, Washington. He was the principal designer of the logistics support team concept. He has bachelor’s degrees in Spanish and economics from Rutgers University in New Jersey, a master’s degree in administration from Central Michigan University, a doctorate of philosophy in organization and management from Capella University in Mi-nesota, and a doctorate in education from Rutgers University. He is a graduate of the Combined Logistics Officers Advanced Course and the Army Command and General Staff College.

Captain Eric J. Van De Hey is the commander of B Company (Forward Maintenance), 25th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Brigade (SBCT), 25th Infantry Division (Light), at Fort Lewis, Washington. He served previously as the Deputy Support Operations Officer and Support Operations Plans Officer, during which time he was the lead planner and co-creator of the logistics support team concept. He has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and business from the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay.

The authors wish to thank Lieutenant Colonel Cheri A. Provancha and Major Michele M. McCassey for their assistance with the preparation of this article. Lieutenant Colonel Provancha is the commander of the 25th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Brigade (SBCT), 25th Infantry Division (Light), and Major McCassey is currently deployed to Mosul, Iraq, where she is overseeing the implementation of the logistics support team concept.