The Battle Command Sustainment Support System (BCS3) has evolved considerably over the past few years. Increased command emphasis and system improvements have made it the system of record for logistics tracking.
Brigade combat teams (BCTs) rotating through the National Training Center (NTC) at Fort Irwin, California, use BCS3 to track their logistics statuses (LOGSTATs). While commands consciously decide to use BCS3, planners overlook certain aspects when preparing for NTC. They often do not fully appreciate the complexity of the system, the time required to properly train BCS3 operators, and the numerous technical issues that can occur if the boxes are not configured properly. This article provides suggestions for units that want to use BCS3 to its full potential.
Focus on BCS3 before going to NTC. Many units virtually ignore BCS3 until they arrive at NTC. Operators are hastily trained during the reception, staging, onward movement, and integration (RSOI) week and, even with assistance from the field service representatives (FSRs), barely understand how to execute simple tasks by the end of the rotation.
Often, units have not previously networked BCS3 boxes together and properly tested them. Valuable training days are wasted while operators and FSRs try to make BCS3 boxes operational.
Train BCS3 operators before NTC rotations. Most major installations have a BCS3 team that can provide collective training, initial individual training, and refresher classes. If training is unavailable at the installation, contact the FSRs at NTC and inquire about having operators trained during the Leader's Training Program week. Focus BCS3 training on capabilities your BCT needs for its operations.
Ensure that BCS3 systems are networked and tested during command post exercises and field training exercises in garrison, and repeat the BCS3 gunnery during the RSOI week at NTC. This will help minimize issues with the BCS3 systems once the rotation begins. Units should consider continuously operating the system on their garrison local area network (LANs). While connecting to the LAN can be tedious, it allows units to track readiness and in-transit visibility while maintaining operators' perishable skills.
Maintain continuity for operators. BCS3 has many capabilities; however, it is also very complicated. Operators need to work with the system for a significant period before they become proficient. Every time a BCS3 operator is replaced, the efficiency of BCS3 suffers. Units, especially at the battalion level, should designate capable operators who will remain in the position throughout most of an upcoming deployment.
Train the managers. Support operations officers (SPOs) and BCT and battalion S–4s often know little about BCS3. Most battalion S–4s are not logisticians, and while logisticians receive some BCS3 training at the Combined Logistics Captains Career Course, their proficiency is perishable. Logistics managers also fail to take advantage of additional training opportunities in garrison or at NTC. Those who do not understand how BCS3 works cannot properly supervise BCS3 operators or ensure that the system's capabilities are fully used. Schedule key logistics managers to receive BCS3 training. If a manager is unavailable for formal training, then informal BCS3 instruction from trained personnel is needed.
Facilitate accurate reporting. Inaccurate LOGSTAT reporting at the battalion level is the number one logistics issue BCTs face. Headcounts are frequently incorrect; battalions report almost no meals ready-to-eat on hand when they have hundreds of cases distributed among their line companies; battalion S–4s do not use ammunition expenditure reports, which makes ammunition on-hand estimates inaccurate; and future ammunition projections do not account for upcoming operations.
Battalion S–4s and the BCT S–4 and SPO need to perform their BCS3 data roles. Battalion S–4s need to send accurate reports in a standardized format to maintain situational awareness of LOGSTAT throughout the BCT and allow the BCT S–4 and SPO to conduct logistics forecasting. The SPO needs to relate reporting requirements clearly to battalions and work with the battalion and BCT executive officers to ensure that standards are enforced.
Units that arrive at NTC with trained BCS3 operators and managers and that emphasize accurate logistics reporting generally have fewer logistics shortfalls and emergency resupplies during their rotations. A command that emphasizes these areas will experience smoother logistics operations, both at NTC and when deployed.