The Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC), 24th Brigade Support Battalion (BSB), 170th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, deployed to Regional Command North in Afghanistan in February 2010. Shortly after deploying, the company underwent a change of command while simultaneously assuming a new mission set. This article is focused on establishing and maintaining property accountability and should assist anyone preparing to manage property within a decentralized and widely dispersed environment akin to Afghanistan.
The Right Sub-Hand Receipt Holders
In his book Good to Great, business guru Jim Collins states that the right place to start building an organization is not “where” but rather “who.” Although we do not always have the option of choosing our personnel, the importance of selecting the right Soldiers to serve as sub-hand receipt holders cannot be overstated. The obvious requirements for sub-hand receipt holders are the ability to correctly identify end items and associated components using the appropriate technical manuals, an understanding of the hand receipt process and Department of the Army (DA) Form 2062 (Hand Receipt/Annex Number), and the means to properly secure equipment.
Additional requirements that are less obvious include time management skills (being available to assist with inventories) and the maturity to prioritize property accountability within mission requirements. Commanders must choose their sub-hand receipt holders carefully. Commanders must also be prepared for sub-hand receipt holders to conduct joint inventories for the outgoing and incoming sub-hand receipt holders as individuals arrive at the unit, redeploy, or change for any reason.
The Right Procedures
Our company conducted change-of-command inventories shortly after deploying. Because of travel times, distances, and the requirement to inventory both organizational property and theater-provided equipment (TPE), the change-of-command inventories took approximately 2 months. Keeping detailed notes on inventoried property and ensuring equipment was hand-receipted to end users were of the utmost importance.
TPE can be a problem area. TPE often includes equipment that Soldiers are unfamiliar with or for which the Army has not published a technical manual. It is important to remember that there is always someone within the formation with the expertise to identify equipment and components and assist with inventories. Field service representatives and logistics assistance representatives often can provide manuals and component listings from the manufacturers, which can be used to generate Property Book Unit Supply Enhanced user-created component listings in order to properly inventory and account for Army property. Seeking the right expertise can greatly reduce the number of property accountability problems.
Units in Afghanistan often operate while dispersed across multiple installations, which sometimes are several days of travel from the headquarters element. This presents obvious challenges for cyclic and sensitive item inventories. One technique we developed was to require inventory officers to travel to inventory all local items personally. For these purposes, we defined “local” to mean up to 1 day of travel.
For items located farther away, we required the inventory officer to confirm the validity of the DA Form 2062 and to contact the senior liaison on the installation in order to confirm the serial number. This is a less than ideal situation, but the dispersed nature of the mission and significant travel distances prevented an inventory officer from traveling to each item every month.
Of lesser concern from a property accountability perspective—but of significant concern for Soldiers and officers—is Army direct ordering. We allowed platoon sergeants to create orders for their Soldiers based on Soldier needs and mission requirements. We also identified one Soldier at each outlying location to order for his location. Allowing decentralized ordering permitted those Soldiers to fill requirements for their unique missions. However, when ordering in such a decentralized manner, it is important to communicate clearly to each location what the Soldiers are allowed to order and maintain contact if the order exceeds the maximum allowable amount for that location.
Following these simple procedures for correctly accounting for and maintaining accountability of equipment while deployed will significantly reduce the time spent on financial liability investigations to establish accountability for lost items. Property accountability can be a significant force multiplier. When it is done correctly, Soldiers will have the required equipment for their missions, which is the ultimate goal of property accountability.