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An Automated Log for Managing FRAGOs

The author describes a database developed by the 4th Sustainment Brigade that allowed staff officers to track fragmentary orders and other mission-related information while deployed to Iraq.

During combat operations, the production of orders requires efficient management of large volumes of information that can overwhelm even the most experienced staff. A staff’s ability to produce timely and accurate orders allows effective communication of the commander’s intent, establishes and maintains priorities, and facilitates the successful execution of missions. Maintaining a functional and effective information tracker is vital during the planning, preparation, and execution phases of an operation.

While it was deployed in Iraq, the 4th Sustainment Brigade operations team tracked and provided technical oversight of the staff work for over 4,500 fragmentary orders (FRAGOs) issued by the brigade, the 3d Corps Support Command, Multi-National Corps-Iraq, and Multi-National Division-Baghdad. To handle this workload, the brigade staff developed a Microsoft Access database to track FRAGOs, command directives, and other mission-related information. One of the best features of this “FRAGO log” was its ability to efficiently consolidate information published by higher command elements or internal staff sections, then import information defining a specific mission, its suspense, the units tasked for the mission, and the responsible staff section.

The FRAGO log provided a quick and effective tool for managing large volumes of information and multiple suspenses with easy-to-use search features. The system allowed staff members to track all suspense dates for FRAGOs and command directives simultaneously, including the current suspense, suspenses due within the next 48 hours, and overdue suspenses. This innovative tool was used to provide essential information so the brigade commander could exercise logistics command and control. Information listed in the FRAGO log was user friendly and accessible on shared folders, which allowed all staff members quick assess to the same information.

FRAGO Log Capabilities

A degree of overlap is inherent between the timing of information availability and the timing of an operation’s execution. It is critical during this period of overlap that an accurate determination of both the commander’s intent and the concept of the operation be captured. The FRAGO log proved to be very effective during such times. The log’s capabilities provided the brigade commander with timely, accurate, and up-to-the-moment snapshots of the status of all open FRAGO’s. The brigade’s FRAGO manager ensured that the appropriate information was incorporated into the FRAGO log and disseminated to the proper staff sections for review. From the log, the commander could quickly identify critical suspenses in one view. The FRAGO log provided staff officers an effective and efficient means of displaying critical suspenses so they could establish their planning timelines.

The chart at left shows a typical FRAGO log page. The information displayed in the FRAGO log provided many options for users in the 4th Sustainment Brigade, including—

  • Secure access to multiple desktop computers, as long as the database was used only over the Secure Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNet).
  • Visibility of information added to the log, which ensured that suspenses were not missed.
  • The ability for staff sections to look at future event dates listed in the log, thus creating a working “rolodex” for information management.
  • The ability for the battle captain to quickly research current suspenses due from the brigade staff sections or subordinate battalion staff sections, which allowed him to contact those sections to verify compliance or actions pending.

The FRAGO log’s keyword search capability made it easy to quickly find the right document or FRAGO, simply by using the “Find” option provided by the Access program in the toolbar at the top of each FRAGO sheet. It provided search options, such as subject, staff section, FRAGO number, and current suspense, by using key search words or phrases. This function was what made the log the most valuable and time-efficient tool the brigade had for setting priorities and tracking information provided from higher headquarters. The FRAGO log also contained hyperlinks that allowed instant access to FRAGOs stored on the shared server system (see chart below). These two, simple capabilities allowed the quickest references available when accessing the tracking system, which proved invaluable from a time-management standpoint.

Use of Macros

Macros located on the entry screen of the Access spreadsheet allowed the user to search by current suspense date, suspenses due in the next 48 hours, and suspenses overdue. This permitted instant updates to the brigade commander, as well as the ability to brief the commander on suspenses within a matter of seconds (see the first image below). The log also employed quick search links located throughout the FRAGO “Forms” section. The addition of links to the FRAGO log allowed instant access to all related folders shared on the server, providing yet another way to easily search for FRAGOs, pending draft FRAGOs, and recently published FRAGOs from higher headquarters.

An example of a macro report is shown above. This is an example of a briefing slide that would bring to the commander’s attention the suspenses due within the next 24 to 48 hours. The information on this slide provided the commander enhanced visibility of the staff’s upcoming work and the number of reports and executable suspenses due from subordinate units to the brigade and from the brigade to higher commands.

Logistics units typically do not get early notification of operational requirements. The FRAGO log gave the 4th Sustainment Brigade an innovative tool to enhance operational visibility up and down the combat orders communication channel. This “in the loop” visibility was highly valued by all commands because it improved their insight and facilitated a proactive posture for future operational requirements. By tracking directives from two command levels higher, the 4th Sustainment Brigade gained the ability to anticipate and forecast upcoming suspenses, which improved the timing of operational execution and even the use of assets.

The creation of this FRAGO management tool greatly enhanced the operational success of the 4th Sustainment Brigade by making the combat orders communication channel more dynamic. It was a reliable database that required little maintenance to work properly, was very user friendly, and was highly flexible in meeting the needs of any military operations cell. I strongly recommend that this tool be reviewed for broader application to more military units because of its relative simplicity and adaptability, which proved to be immensely beneficial to the user, the staff, and, most importantly, the command.

Captain Daniel A. Holland is the Commander of C Company, 704th Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, at Fort Hood, Texas. He was the Medical Logistics Officer and FRAGO Manager of the 4th Sustainment Brigade during its deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom 05–07. He holds a B.A. degree from West Virginia State University and is a gradu-ate of the Medical Service Officer Corps Officer Basic Course. For comments or questions about this article, he can be reached at daniel.holland1@us.army.mil.