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A Special Operations Model
for Forward Support Companies

With over 10 years of experience in providing multifunctional support, the Special Operations forward support company can serve as a model for conventional forward support companies that are learning to operate as multifunctional, modular units.

The Army’s functional logistics companies have transformed recently to multifunctional companies that are assigned directly to maneuver battalions. However, the Special Operations forward support company (FSC) has been conducting multifunctional operations since 1995. The responsibilities of the Special Operations FSC commander have expanded over the years from mainly training, resourcing, and deploying the company in support of Special Operations Forces to include planning for operations. Planning and developing the concept of support are now critical duties for the FSC commander. This article will focus on the Special Operations FSC commander’s expanded responsibilities and the organization of the FSC in today’s operating environment.

Planning FSC Operations

For an FSC commander, developing plans with the supported battalion’s logistics officer (S–4) is just as important as training or resourcing the company. Being aware of the supported battalion’s operations allows the FSC commander to develop support concepts that sustain current operations but are flexible enough to function in the contemporary operating environment. This is a change from the current doctrine for an FSC commander outlined in Field Manual-Interim (FMI) 4–90.1, Heavy Brigade Combat Team Logistics

    The commander is responsible for everything the FSC does or fails to do. He must be proficient in the tactical employment of the company and its assigned and attached logistics elements. The commander must also know the capabilities and limitations of the company’s personnel and equipment in performing the sustainment mission as well as those of the logistical elements attached to him. Additionally, his responsibilities include leadership, discipline, tactical employment, training, administration, personnel management, supply, maintenance, communications, and sustainment activities of the company.

    These duties require the commander to understand the capabilities of the company’s Soldiers and equipment and to know how to employ them to best tactical and logistics advantage. At the same time, the commander must be well versed in enemy organizations, doctrine, and equipment.

An analysis of the FSC commander’s responsibilities as outlined in FMI 4–90.1 suggests that he also would be the officer best suited to develop the support concept and perform the role of support operations officer (SPO). Yet the FMI tasks the company executive officer or a platoon leader with this responsibility. The officer who performs the role of SPO must understand multifunctional logistics and logistics planning. These tasks require experience and schooling in order to create executable plans. Thus, SPO is a role that the FSC commander should perform with assistance from his subordinates.

When a Special Operations FSC commander deploys, he may have a planner from his battalion support operations shop to assist in conducting operations. Yet, he is the officer most experienced in providing logistics support. He attends the supported unit’s meetings and updates to maintain situational awareness. He then can anticipate upcoming requirements and develop support plans to meet those requirements. He uses his personal experience and understanding of his company’s capabilities to provide support without exceeding its capabilities. He is not only a commander but also a planner.

As a planner, the Special Operations FSC commander coordinates with conventional logistics units to request support when his unit’s internal capabilities are exceeded. This requires him to understand conventional logistics units’ capabilities to provide that support while not detracting from their missions. While the Special Operations FSC commander plans and coordinates, his subordinate officers conduct parallel planning for execution of the same missions. This process mirrors what occurs at battalion or higher level, yet it is performed at company level. This trains the subordinate leaders and allows them to execute a plan they developed.

Coordinating With the S–4

A Special Operations FSC commander also coordinates with the supported unit’s S–4 and his battalion SPO on current situations. This coordination allows the S–4 to verify the battalion plan and the SPO to conduct parallel planning. Constant communication with all players ensures that the mission is deconflicted and that any constraints are identified early and corrected.

FSC Structure

Planning is crucial to execution, but organization is also a key to success. Although conventional FSCs are multifunctional in organization, they are still broken down into functional platoons. The Special Operations FSC is configured the same, except that it has medics in the headquarters section and it has a transportation platoon that comprises a movement control section and truck squads. The charts below show the standard composition of a conventional FSC and a Special Operations FSC.

Multifunctional Platoons

Multifunctional Special Operations FSCs have task-organized to better support their customers and allow for habitual support alignment. Developing multifunctional platoons from functional platoons has created flexibility and allows platoon leaders to train their personnel for upcoming missions and to create forward logistics elements more quickly. This process works for both contiguous and noncontiguous operations.

Reorganizing FSCs to create multifunctional platoons allows flexibility for the supported units as well as the FSC. It also trains the platoon leaders to perform not only troop-leading procedures but also mission analysis since they will execute what they develop. Multifunctional platoons also enhance support during mission sustainment operations at the maneuver company level.

Incorporating lessons learned and tactics, techniques, and procedures of Special Operations FSCs will give conventional FSC commanders more options. Examining the responsibilities of the FSC commander and the organization of the unit will help FSCs better perform current and future operations. Having platoon leaders conduct parallel mission planning trains future FSC commanders by allowing them to perform their duties and understand the duties of their leaders.

Major James W. Bogart is assigned to the 82d Sustainment Brigade, 82d Airborne Division, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He was the Commander of the 528th Special Operations Support Battalion (Airborne) Forward Support Company when he wrote this article. He has a master’s degree in military art and science from the Army Command and General Staff College and is a graduate of the Combined Logistics Officers Advanced Course and the Army Command and General Staff College.