Units around the Army have used configured loads
for years. Standard packages for barrier materials can be found
in the tactical standing operating procedures in just about
every division and brigade across the Army. What has not been
done until now is to create tailored packages for all applicable
classes of supply and making them accessible to all units through
the standard supply system.
Institutionalizing a configured-load concept across the Army is vital to achieving
a more reactive, rapidly deployable, and sustainable force. With standardized
configured loads, units will need to carry less in their basic loads. They will
be able to depart from their home stations while logistics planners program numerous
days of supply through alternate, even multiple, ports of debarkation. The most
important aspect of this initial push is that continental United States (CONUS)
depots can build sustainment loads for the smallest unit in the battle space.
With little or no need to reconfigure supplies when they reach the theater of
operations, the Army can reduce the number of soldiers needed to perform supply
activities. The bare essentials required to provide supplies using configured
loads would be equipment for intermodal transfer and adequate transportation
assets to conduct battlefield distribution.
|Configured loads on
the ready line at Travis Air Force Base, California,
Imagine a unit ordering 3 days of supply for all of its basic needs through its
Standard Army Management Information Systems computers using at most 20, as
opposed to 60 to 80, national stock numbers. Furthermore, imagine these supplies
being delivered to the unit’s location from a CONUS depot with little
or no reconfiguration required. A team made up of members from the Department
of the Army G–4, the Logistics Transformation Agency, the Army Forces
Command, the Army Combined Arms Support Command, the Army Materiel Command,
I Corps, and the Army Training and Doctrine Command has been working on this
concept for the past 3 years. The team’s objective is to make the “factory
to foxhole” concept a reality. Configured loads can be used by all Army
units and eventually may be used by all of the services.
A unit may receive slightly more supplies in a module than it needs. Compromises
may have to be made to increase efficiency. Items within the supply system have
a set unit of issue, such as each, box, case, pallet, or roll. It may be necessary
at times to break into a unit of issue to make a module that will satisfy the
requirement of the requesting unit. Cost effectiveness will influence this decision.
As planners gain experience and have more demand history, they can make better-educated
decisions about how to refine the loads.
The basic building block for any configured load is a module. The two primary
types of modules are commodity and capability. A commodity module contains items
from the same supply class and can be used in multiples or mixed with other commodity
modules to build a mission- or unit-configured load. A capability module may
contain items from different supply classes designed to support a specific mission
or function and can be used in multiples or mixed with other modules to build
a mission- or unit-configured load.
The team found that constructing configured loads would be much easier using
standard dimensions. They decided to use a common 40-by-48-inch warehouse pallet
as the building block. Because four warehouse pallets fit onto a 463L air pallet
and two 463L pallets fit onto an M1 flatrack or M3 container roll-in-roll-out
platform (CROP) flatrack, it is easier to plan for multiple transportation platforms
with minimal reconfiguration. For example, if a CROP is the platform for transportation,
simple addition determines that 8 to 16 warehouse pallets will fit on it, depending
on whether or not a second level will be used.
A height restriction for modules would be beneficial, but none has been set at
this time. Published air-load planner manuals indicate that the maximum height
for a 463L pallet is 96 inches. Therefore, it would make sense to set a height
restriction for a module at no more than 48 inches so that, if weight allowed,
modules could be stacked two high.
As the configured-load concept matures, all log-istics planners will need to
be intimately familiar with the restrictions imposed by various modes of transportation.
As air load planner manuals state, each aircraft has height and weight restrictions.
The mode of transportation used to transport a configured load will greatly affect
the load’s final design and dimensions.
To meet the requirements of all units, the basic modules for subsistence
items must be adaptable and applicable across the entire Army. Flexibility
built into the modules by either finding a common denominator of supplies
or making a “break point.” A break point is simply a quantity
of items that meets the basic dimensional requirements for a module and
in meeting the supply requirements of a unit.
For example, a pallet of 48 cases of meals, ready to eat (MREs), is a wholesale
shipment; it is also one of the modules. It is built on a 40-by-48-inch warehouse
pallet and, depending on the ration cycle and days of supply, will meet the needs
of a unit with a set number of soldiers. A break point was made by removing one
layer (12 cases) of MREs, thus creating a second module of 36 cases. This process
was continued until the last module had one layer of 12 MREs on a warehouse pallet.
The result was four building blocks, with varying quantities of meals, that could
be combined to meet the specific needs of a given unit. MRE modules can be combined
with water modules to create a shipment of food and water for a unit for the
length of time they need it. For example, combining a module of 48 cases of MREs
(576 meals) with a module containing 52 cases of water (624 one-liter bottles)
would provide 50 soldiers with food and water for 3 days, with soldiers consuming
three MREs and 4 liters of water per day.
Capability modules, so far, have been composed primarily of class IV barrier
materials. Three class IV modules have been developed. The class IV modules can
be ordered in multiple quantities and combinations to give a unit the ability
to perform a specific mission or function.
The class IV modules available are the two-man fighting position module, the
100-meter triple-strand concertina wire obstacle module, and the traffic
control point module. Each of these is built on a 96-by-40-inch warehouse pallet,
which is equivalent to two 48-by-40-inch pallets set side by side. The longer
pallet is necessary because of the size of the lumber
in the two-man fighting position module and the 6-foot pickets in the other two
modules. Pictorial instructions are provided to ensure that the modules are built
the same way, no matter who builds them.
Planning for Operations
A Stryker brigade combat team deploys with only its unit basic load, which includes
3 days of supply. Depending on the mission and the theater of operations, supplies
could be programmed and pushed to the brigade every 10 days or until no longer
needed. This would allow the unit to concentrate on the mission at hand and to
get into a battle rhythm.
Once the unit switches to a pull requisition system, there are multiple courses
of action (COAs) for supplying it with configured loads. The COAs depend primarily
on what actions the combatant commander has directed. Some of the possible COAs
and their advantages and disadvantages are shown in the chart at left.
A crucial cog in the sustainment wheel is the beginning of the entire process.
To make planning and ordering configured loads simpler, quick-reference matrixes
for subsistence items have been developed. The next step is to develop enablers
or tools that simplify planning for transportation and distribution of the loads.
Refrigeration. The only food modules designed
so far are for MREs and unitized group rations, heat and serve (UGR H&S)
because perishables needed to make complete A and B ration meals must be
refrigerated. Modules could be made for
the dry-pack portion of meals, and the perishables could be integrated
into the load to the using unit at the brigade support area or earlier,
situation and available assets. The most likely option is to continue to
have the perishables delivered as they currently are instead of integrating
into configured loads.
Commercial standards. The Army, like the other services, uses commercial products
that are packaged in containers of varying dimensions. For example, 1-liter bottles
of water are packaged in many shapes and sizes. This variability can cause problems
in planning shipments. The problem is not insurmountable, but it is one that
needs to be addressed, monitored, and taken into consideration when planning
for an operation.
One size may not fit all. Units throughout
the Army have different compositions, equipment, and needs. The equipment
key factor in this instance. Because
some units use equipment that is unique to them, supplies for that equipment
will not be needed by other units. For example, a heavy unit’s M1 Abrams
tank requires a mysterious liquid known as “turbo-shaft,” which
is a unique lubricant for tanks to keep their turbine engines operating,
so it is
not needed by other types of units. The underlying problem here is in developing
unique modules or even configured loads for each unit. This practice needs
to be controlled and limited as much as possible.
Load Tracking and Delivery
The configured-load concept is an efficient way to expedite throughput from factory
to foxhole while maximizing efficient use of transportation assets. New distribution
platforms promise to increase the efficiency of battlefield distribution. Imagine
the benefit of a configured load built at a CONUS depot being shipped to an infantry
company anywhere in the world on a single intermodal transportation platform,
with little or no reconfiguration. To take it a step further, imagine that the
same configured load is outfitted with a radio frequency identification (RFID)
tag and the gaining unit can track it from CONUS to their location.
The future of distribution and accountability looks even brighter with
the advent of RFID. RFID allows information on all items in a load, regardless
class, to be “written” on a tag. RFID helps make accountability
and tracking easier and more accurate. Industry standards still have to
upon, and a Department of Defense (DOD) infrastructure must be developed
and fielded to capitalize on this enabler.
Configured loads and modules could eventually be delivered to units using
the Integrated Logistics Aerial Resupply (ILAR) system. This capability
the number of trucks and troops traveling on the roads in all theaters
of operations. The combination of configured loads and ILAR will expedite
supplies to soldiers and significantly reduce soldiers’ exposure
to the enemy.
Configured loads will remain relevant even as the Army and DOD continue to transform.
In fact, a more modular capability-based force may make sustainment planning
simpler. Most of the existing configured-load modules were developed for use
across DOD, regardless of unit strength or configuration. Class III packaged
petroleum products are the only modules that will be tailored to vehicle or equipment
density. We owe it to the soldiers to provide them the very best and most timely
support possible. ALOG
Major K. Eric Drummond, USAR, is an associate with Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc.,
where he works with the I Corps G–4 Transformation Office at Fort Lewis,
Washington. He is a graduate of the Infantry Officer Basic Course, the Combined
Logistics Officers Advanced Course, and the Combined Arms and Services Staff