The 3d Brigade Combat Team (BCT) of the 82d Airborne Division completed Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) Rotation 11–01 at Fort Polk, Louisiana, in October 2010. This was the first full-spectrum operations rotation at JRTC in approximately 8 years, and it was specifically designed to revalidate the brigade's ability to conduct a nighttime mass tactical airborne assault with approximately 1,700 paratroopers.
The mission of those Soldiers was to seize an airfield, clear and repair a flight landing strip, recover heavy-drop platforms of equipment and howitzers, and then, within 4 hours, begin to receive notional and actual air-land C–130 Hercules transports delivering key equipment and necessary sustainment.
As part of the rotation, the 3d BCT's 82d Brigade Support Battalion (BSB) was able to conduct an airborne assault, help to fight and secure a lodgment within the airhead line, and establish and secure an initial brigade support area (BSA). These actions shaped and maintained the logistics conditions that, in turn, allowed the brigade to conduct successful defensive and offensive force-on-force operations against a strong Geronimo opposing force for an 8-day JRTC rotation.
This article will not specifically discuss the sustainment training the 82d BSB conducted in preparation for this JRTC rotation. Those preparations included a tremendous amount of planning effort at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, the brigade's home station; numerous convoy live-fire training events; and a 10-day field training exercise focused on properly establishing a BSA. Instead, our purpose is to help answer the question, Is moving, or "jumping," a BSA something any BSB commander, command sergeant major, or executive officer should be prepared to do as part of a full-spectrum operations rotation at a combat training center like JRTC?
A Full-Spectrum Operations Rotation
The specific collective-level training executed before and at JRTC for this full-spectrum operations rotation caused the 82d BSB to revisit and rehone many basic skills: basic field craft, standards for stand-to and perimeter manning, adjacent unit coordination, fratricide prevention measures, fire control measures, the emplacement and digging of crew-served fighting positions, the emplacement of triple-strand concertina wire to standard around an area occupied by 1,000 paratroopers, camouflaging tactical operations centers and vehicles to standard, CBRNE (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive) preparation and MOPP (mission-oriented protective posture) level-4 execution, and many others.
The attention given to this rotation was highlighted by the presence of senior commanders. The 82d Airborne Division's assistant division commander for operations attended for most of the rotation; the division's commander was the number one jumper on the lead aircraft for the airborne assault; and both the commander of the Army Forces Command (FORSCOM), General James D. Thurman, and the Chief of Staff of the Army, General George W. Casey, Jr., visited JRTC during the rotation.
In our opinion, the Army's goal in the rotation was not only to demonstrate the 3d BCT's ability to become our Nation's designated global response force in 2011—able to exercise a worldwide, no-notice, forcible-entry capability. The rotation also demonstrated the Army's ability to move away from JRTC's counterinsurgency training focus and establish a benchmark for subsequent force-on-force full-spectrum operations unit rotations.
Impact of the Forward Support Company
The logistics organization many of us knew before the Army's transformation to modular BCTs was the forward support battalion (FSB). The current BSB, which began replacing the FSB in the Army's BCTs in 2004, features increases over the FSB's strength in the headquarters and headquarters company's support operations section and the distribution company's ammunition transfer holding point section; the BSB also has added four forward support companies (FSCs) supporting the BCT's two infantry battalions, fires battalion, and reconnaissance squadron. When the 82d FSB transitioned to become the 82d BSB, it gained 613 logistics paratroopers (an increase reflected in the change from the 2004 modified table of organization and equipment [MTOE] to the 2010 MTOE).
As the 82d BSB conducted initial convoy situa-tional-training-exercise lanes at JRTC in early October, we were asked by several key leaders at JRTC if we planned to jump the BSA during the force-on-force part of the rotation. While we recognized the need historically, and we have personally had the opportunity to "jump the BSA" during JRTC rotations in the 1990s, our gut reaction in 2010, with the creation and successful employment of FSCs, was that we were unsure what tactical condition would present itself that would ever cause the BSA jump. Our answer to all these queries was simple: "Sir, we will make that decision and recommendation to jump the BSA to the brigade commander if the tactical situation dictates."
In hindsight, we could have been asked a better question at JRTC: "Do the Army's current sustainment MTOEs in an airborne infantry BCT allow the brigade commander to maintain logistics momentum through most operations without jumping the BSA?"
The simple truth is that the presence of the approximately 613 additional logistics paratroopers, assigned mostly to the FSCs and colocated in the BSA during our JRTC rotation, allowed defensive and offensive operations to be executed across the brigade's area of operation for the entire rotation without many shortcomings but, of course, with many challenges.
To answer our own proposed question, we think that the sustainment MTOEs are just about right and that jumping the BSA may just be a remnant of the Army of Excellence past for most tactical situations.
During our rotation, lines of communication were never stretched to the point that FSCs could not support their maneuver battalions during both the defensive and offensive phases of the force-on-force rotation. Most FSCs conducted multiple sustainment missions daily as either planned or emergency pushes.
The 82d BSB's distribution company was able, without too much difficulty, to secure and produce 20,000 gallons of water per day at a water point outside the BSA, establish a water distribution site in the BSA, establish and protect an ammunition transfer holding point inside the BSA, operate a bulk fuel retail point, and issue multiple classes of supply from its supply support activity. The recovery of 14 C–130s with combat offloads of 463L pallets of meals ready-to-eat (MREs) and 150 container delivery system bundles of replicated class V (ammunition) and MREs during the rotation were completely supportable operations and were executed to standard without incident.
The field maintenance company manned the initial arrival/departure airfield control group at the field landing strip for the first few days of the rotation until the Air Force's contingency response element arrived. The field maintenance company also processed both real and notional air-land requirements and provided maintenance and recovery assistance as needed across the brigade. The BSB's medical company established level II care to standard and improved medevac and evacuation processes daily.
An Alternative to Jumping the BSA
It is our belief that the Army and FORSCOM got the modular design and manning effort just about right with the formation of the FSCs, and we are huge believers in the success of those units. We believe, more than ever, that FSCs have allowed the maneuver battalion commander to be able to sustain his unit at JRTC without too much assistance from the BSB on a regular basis. If you buy this argument, then maybe you will accept the proposition that there are not many reasons to jump the BSA during most combat training center rotations as long as the FSCs maintains their combat power and the BSB itself is able to augment the FSCs as needed.
Breaking down the BSA and jumping it takes considerable effort and time. The jump is often made at the expense of going without the digital communication backbones we all rely on, such as the Command Post of the Future and the Secure Internet Protocol Router Network. It also can lead to going without the medical company's level II care during the period of the jump.
We believe that the extra 613 logistics paratroopers assigned to the FSCs mean that the brigade commander now has little, if any, logistics need to jump the BSA during any training center rotation. There simply is no tactical reason to do so while the FSCs retain their combat power and are operating from the BSA.
Consistent with Field Manual 3–21.20, The Infantry Battalion, sustainment under modularity is a "shift from the supply-based sustainment system of the Army of Excellence . . . [to a] technically enhanced, distribution-based logistics sustainment system [that] combines information capabilities with streamlined delivery systems."
Before modular transformation, and thus before the creation of FSCs, the FSB was forced to form and use forward logistics elements (FLEs), which frankly were just parts of the BSA that moved to a location to allow for uninterrupted sustainment while the BSA jumped. The FLEs then collapsed back into the rest of the FSB at the new BSA location when able; the timing of that operation depended on the factors of METT–TC (mission, enemy, terrain and weather, troops and support available, time available, and civil considerations).
Our purpose in writing this article is not to imply that jumping the BSA is not a rock-solid training event or something that should be avoided by a BSB command team at a combat training center just because it is hard work. The 82d BSB jumped our BSA three times in August 2010 during a field training exercise, each time executing it more quickly and to a better standard. We were all reminded how challenging it is to jump a BSA. Battle drills, reconnaissance operations, quartering party operations, advanced echelon operations, and the marshalling of all serials in the field are all great training events, if for nothing else than to reidentify and hone the priorities of work for the defense of the BSA at its new location and to reestablish all tactical operations centers for command and control.
Lots of moving pieces must be synchronized when jumping a BSA, and we hope that anyone who has read this article has good fortune with their own full-spectrum operations rotation at any of the combat training centers. We will leave it to the reader to speculate if the 82d BSB jumped its BSA during its recent JRTC rotation. We could easily write a scenario that supported a decision to jump the BSA as well as one that did not support such a decision.
As always, the only thing that matters in the end is that the BSB and its FSCs maintain the ability to sustain the brigade during all phases of the operations so that the brigade commander's options and decisions are not limited for logistics reasons.