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Reorganizing a Sustainment Brigade Staff for the Fight

On 3 January 2005, the 4th Infantry Division transformed under modularity. The forward support battalions no longer fell under the division support command (DISCOM); they transformed to become modular brigade support battalions (BSBs). The rem-nant of the DISCOM became the brigade troops battalion, consisting of a headquarters company, battalion and brigade staffs, a motor pool section, medics, and a signal company. This is how the 4th Sustainment Brigade deployed to Iraq in September 2005. The brigade was responsible for overseeing logistics for Multi-National Division-Baghdad during Opera-tion Iraqi Freedom 4.

As I assessed the current situation and our future mission, I felt uncomfortable with the traditional logistics staff organization. I felt that the staff was too functional and not flexible enough to keep up with the demands on the battlefield. Thus, I made the decision to reorganize the current brigade staff structure, which at that time was organized using the 15 May 2005 modification table of organization and equipment (MTOE).

Our original transformation MTOE placed a clear emphasis on the support operations (SPO) cell, with 179 personnel allotted to it. I decided to realign Soldiers and sections to focus the staff on tactical operations and not on logistics operations; the brigade S–3, originally 12 people strong, became the new center of gravity instead of the SPO.

To accomplish this, I brought together the “Big 5”—the brigade sergeant major, the executive officer, the SPO, the S–3, and me. I provided my commander’s intent and asked for their recommendations. Based on their input and my final assessment, I decided to reorganize the staff into three parts: current operations, future operations, and administrative operations. The SPO headed future operations, the S–3, current operations, and the S–1 administrative operations. (See chart below.)

Rationale for the Reorganization

Basically, I focused on the maxim, “Know yourself, know your enemy, know your environment.”

First, I wanted to make sure we “knew ourselves” and had 100 percent of our Soldiers doing 100 percent of the work. Several staff sections under the transformed MTOE were not being used effectively. Several hard looks at who was working where and with whom were required to improve staff utilization. With an initial allocation of personnel into the three proposed sections before deployment, a reshuffling of personnel among sections 30 days into the deployment once needs were identified, and a series of final polishing changes 90 days after that, we refined our MTOE to staff a year-long, 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week deployment that was both integrated and effective.

Second, I had to make sure that everybody “knew their environment” and, most importantly, had a clear understanding of the battlefield common operating picture. All Soldiers on the staff had to know what their coworkers did and how they accomplished their missions, and they would need to fill in as those personnel were called away on missions or emergencies. This would ensure continual operations, despite the normal setbacks of any deployment. I also was concerned that the BSBs, which provided direct support to maneuver units, no longer had a direct link to my headquarters. I believed that our responsibility was to avoid logistics “speed bumps” by foreseeing future requirements and needs, then mobilizing our assets to meet those needs before they were felt. Knowing that these bumps would occur, given the new environment created by transformation, was a way our new staff could proactively mitigate potential shortfalls.

Third, to “know our enemy,” we took maximum advantage of command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities. This was accomplished by constructing a command information center (CIC), using equipment such as Command Post of the Future. The CIC was central to our tracking and managing of missions in our area of operations and provided unparalleled visibility for battlefield assets.

Intelligence completely drove our operations. We moved, slept, and operated by watching and predicting enemy patterns, all while altering our own operations to make ourselves less conspicuous. Every decision I made having to do with Soldiers supporting our customers came from data and intelligence collected and analyzed in the CIC.

The Staff Sections

Each section had command over a specific set of tasks, ensuring a level of detail not possible under larger, combined sections. (See the chart Below.)

The administrative operations section provided administrative support and oversight of human resources and finance operations to units within the brigade area of responsibility (AOR). The section’s personnel managed and mitigated any internal issues within the brigade. We folded organizational supply, organizational maintenance, legal, and reenlistment functions into administrative operations. Section personnel interfaced with the brigade’s subordinate battalions and kept the internal workings of the unit under control.

The challenge for the administrative operations section was dealing with an Adjutant General’s Corps and Finance Corps that were not yet transformed. That meant that the human resources and finance sections could not be fully evaluated and had to lend a hand with other personnel and supply sections. Although we were ready to facilitate the new doctrine concerning these sections, our environment in theater did not allow us to fully test these new resources. But by keeping house, the administrative operations section allowed the future operations and current operations sections the chance to perform their duties.

The future operations section planned, supervised, and directed logistics support within the brigade AOR. It determined the concept of support, set priorities, and coordinated and ensured that combat service support (CSS) was provided to units in the supported AOR. Future operations interfaced with the 4th Infantry Division, the largest customer in our area of operations, and the 3d Corps Support Command (COSCOM), our higher headquarters. Section personnel determined the issues and support requirements for the division and became the interface between the G–4 and G–3, determining future requirements.

This was the big departure from tradition. Obviously, the SPO is normally the center of gravity on the staff. He is dead in the middle of the fight. But being involved with every aspect of operations means he cannot step back from the forest to see the trees, so to speak. The realignment of the staff into the three sections allowed the SPO to move into the planning phase, to really see the unit and our environment. He had all the assets to interface with the subordinate battalions. Once he was free to plan and track requirements, we were able to see the future.

The future operations section’s focus became requirement capabilities, commodities tracking, and planning—all the things that lead up to and determine if a convoy needs to be executed. Section personnel determined what needed to go on a convoy and what the brigade needed from higher levels. They had time to plan varying convoy schedules so that combat logistics patrols (CLPs) were not forming patterns that the en-emy could recognize. They could alter routes. The section had the time to monitor upcoming fragmentary orders (FRAGOs) from the division and the COSCOM, allowing them to preempt and plan for imminent logistics requirements. Once a need was recognized, movement planned, and an analysis brief approved, the operation was handed over to current operations.

The brigade S–3 was underutilized under the original MTOE, with a section of only 12 Soldiers. As the head of current operations, his section grew to 54 Soldiers and he was catapulted to the forefront as the central focus in the CIC. The current operations section planned, supervised, and directed CLP operations. It executed CSS priorities and CLP operations and maintained our battlefield situational awareness.

By using the leeway created by the future operations section and our ability to foresee upcoming requirements, we knew what CLPs would be needed and what we were doing 72 to 96 hours out. This allowed us to use intelligence on the enemy and make decisions, such as whether to go on a mission or wait to go on the following night, when an analyzed pattern of enemy activity said the roads would be safer.

Because it was a separate section devoted to monitoring convoys and tracking capabilities, current operations could focus on keeping Soldiers safe. The section’s personnel knew what equipment was operational in each battalion. They could reroute convoys and respond to changes as the missions progressed. By having their focus on missions at hand and using the new tools in the CIC, like Command Post of the Future, they were able to paint an unprecedented, comprehensive picture of our mission as it was achieved, mission by mission, truck by truck, and road by road.

The current and future operations sections did come together on some issues. Even when an operation was “handed over,” the deputy SPO, permanently assigned to the CIC, was available to share his knowledge on requirements and FRAGOs. He also was able to give detailed information on the “whys and wherefores” when units or higher headquarters called to ask questions about missions. Current operations personnel also were able to give information to future operations on the capabilities of battalions and changes in the environment to help future operations plan more effectively.

Pros of the New System

When we redesigned the staff, it allowed us to create logistics flexibility and build a bridge into the current tactical situation so that we could manage the tactical risk. What spurred the changes was thinking about how to execute transformation. It was my opinion that too much emphasis was placed on logistics support and too little consideration was given to the tactical environment. We needed to change this mindset, and that would require a major paradigm shift.

When intelligence drives operations, you act instead of react. When we watched the increasing use of improvised explosive devices on one of our main supply routes traveling north and south, we not only took a day off to change our patterns and avoid the emplacements; we also moved the destination company completely, so the convoys were going east to west instead of north to south. We could not have done that if we were not seeing our future logistically and creating flexibilities.

Another example of intelligence and flexibility was the addition of fuel bags to forward operating bases (FOBs). This was not a doctrinal solution. But, by adding bags to FOBs, we gained a 3- or 4-day leeway in how often we had to flow fuel. We did not have to push every day, and we had a window of opportunity to wait if our intelligence showed something threatening. The whole point was that, to fight this enemy, we had to create flexibility within our formation.

By having the split in our staff, we were flexible, could adapt, had focus, and were not overwhelmed. Last-minute missions arose, but they were not the norm. Soldiers got their rest. Vehicles were maintained. Missions were planned thoroughly. Routes were familiar. Intelligence was current. Intelligence was available. Intelligence helped save our Soldiers’ lives.

Cons of the New System

Was our new system perfect? No, of course not. Within 30 days of our deployment, we realized that splitting assigned personnel half-and-half between the future operations and current operations sections was not working. We knew some changes were needed, but we looked and saw the need for ourselves and made the required adjustments.

I directed the S–1, S–3, and SPO to come up with a task and purpose for each of their sections. Doing so allowed me, and them, to see more precisely who was needed where. All planners moved from the S–3 to the SPO, and the transportation personnel helping in the SPO moved to the S–3 after we determined that they would be used more fully in current operations. We found that certain sections would be better placed in another area. We did not just make the changes and say we were done; we reevaluated the situation and executed accordingly. Ninety days later, we no-ticed that smaller changes were needed. Again, we adapted. We were never so set in our routine that we could not see ourselves clearly.

I also had to work with my higher headquarters to inform them on how I was doing things. Some issues with communications arose. For example, the COSCOM normally called on brigade SPOs for questions about duties that our S–3 was performing; with a few phone calls and some adjusting, all was worked out. But even those setbacks could have been prevented with a little more foresight.

When I saw what would be expected of my staff and me, I knew we had to change. The MTOE we had was the MTOE we had. I was not going to get any more Soldiers or fill any more slots. It was a reality that battalions and companies were going to come from all over the world to join our formation. Thus, we realigned our MTOE, adapted, and executed aggressively so we could support our number one priority—the maneuver Soldier.

With transformation, you can roll up your sleeves or you can wring your hands, but you cannot do both. Transformation is happening. It is my firm belief that we cannot just give up and say that we are not able to do something when we see a need in theater. We have to figure out how to do it. Our job should not be to make things easier for us but to make things easier for the warfighters.

Part of doing that comes from flexibility; part of it comes from discipline; most of it comes from a positive attitude and figuring out how to say “yes.” We think we are the greatest Army in the world— and we truly are—but we cannot rest on our laurels. So we must see the environment, see ourselves, see the enemy, and then make adjustments as required. By doing these things, we will always be the greatest Army in the world. Go out and be great.


Colonel Gustave F. Perna is the commander of the 4th Sustainment Brigade, which recently returned from participating in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He has an associate’s degree in business administration from Valley Forge Military Academy, a bachelor’s degree in business management from the University of Maryland, and a master’s degree in logistics management from the Florida Institute of Technology. He is a graduate of the Infantry Officer Basic Course, the Ordnance Offi-cer Advanced Course, the Logistics Executive Development Course, the Support Operations Course, the Army Command and General Staff College, and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.

Staff Sergeant Joshua Salmons is a journalism instructor at the Defense Information School at Fort Meade, Maryland. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications from Cedarville University in Ohio, and he is pursuing a master’s degree in business administration from Baker Business College in Michigan.