Division Cavalry Squadron Maintenance Techniques

by Major Michael Senters and Captain Santiago G. Bueno III

The cavalry squadron is clearly the most diverse and flexible battalion-sized unit in a heavy division. The squadron's 41 M3 Bradley fighting vehicles, 27 M1A1 Abrams tanks, and 16 OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters provide the squadron commander with a lethal combination of weapon systems. However, they also present him with unique maintenance challenges not found in any other unit. First Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment (1-10th Cavalry), 4th Infantry Division (Mechanized), Fort Hood, Texas, has developed some maintenance techniques that can be useful in planning and executing scheduled and unscheduled maintenance despite the high operational tempo of today's Army.

Common-Sense Maintenance Checks

Junior leaders, who often lack a basic understanding of maintenance operations, are required to check maintenance work and supervise maintenance operations. For many years, the aviation community has taught these leaders a simple, common-sense approach to checking maintenance called the P4T2 method. This method was created by Brigadier General Richard A. Cody, now the Assistant Division Commander (Maneuver), 4th Infantry Division. P4T2 stands for "problem, people, parts, plan, tools, and time."

To better adapt the P4T2 method to ground maintenance, the 1-10th Cavalry added a third T, for "training," to make P4T3. Here's how P4T3 works.

Problem: Have we identified all of the problems and faults? Diagnosing the fault using established troubleshooting procedures is the first task the crew and maintenance personnel must complete to standard, particularly during unscheduled maintenance. Disciplined use of technical manuals (TM's) and adherence to trouble-shooting procedures are critical. Incorrect diagnosis at the start of maintenance can waste time and repair parts. If the maintainers cannot diagnose the problem, experts should be involved early. Direct support maintenance personnel or logistics assistance representatives can aid in the troubleshooting process.

People: Do we have the right people to do the job? To conduct maintenance properly, the right type and number of people are required. The platoon leaders, platoon sergeants, and section sergeants are responsible for ensuring that maintenance operations are supervised properly. This supervision includes personnel in technical military occupational specialties (MOS's) who are called in for specific jobs or repairs. Troop commanders (TCO's) and troop first sergeants (1SG's) must continually manage the use of low-density-MOS soldiers to ensure that they are performing jobs requiring their technical skills instead of working on non-job-related details or duties. The squadron executive officer (SXO), squadron maintenance officer (SMO), and squadron maintenance technician (SMT) must check daily to make sure that each function is being managed by the correct level of supervision.

Parts: Do we have all of the right parts to finish the job? Having the right parts on hand is important to completing any repair job or service. Junior leaders must ensure that the right parts are on order if they are not on hand in the troop's prescribed load list (PLL). Proper flow of Department of the Army (DA) Form 5988_E, Equipment Maintenance and Inspection Worksheet, is essential to this process and requires strict enforcement. Platoon sergeants must verify and report deadlined equipment to the troop maintenance team. This team must verify all faults, order the right parts by referring to up-to-date TM's, and deliver the 5988_E's to the Unit Level Logistics System (ULLS) clerks for action. After the ULLS clerks order and return the 5988_E's, the platoon leaders must check them for accuracy. Mechanics and crews must tag and store serviceable parts taken off a vehicle during maintenance to make sure the parts are on hand and serviceable when it is time to put them back on.

Plan: What is the plan for doing the job from start to finish? Commanders, junior leaders, and supervisors must enforce a rigorous, thorough maintenance plan. The maintenance plan for scheduled services must contain adequate details to ensure uniformity. The unit standing operating procedure (SOP) and troop maintenance plan are the first steps toward ensuring a solid basis for quality control. Planning for unscheduled maintenance takes place after the fault is identified. This planning is conducted like any other battle drill. Together, the platoon leaders and troop maintenance team must identify quickly the resources needed to do the job. Junior leaders can start the planning process by asking all of the P4T3 questions.

A 1-10th Cavalry soldier makes sure he has the right tools for replacing track pads on an M1A1 Abrams tank.
A 1-10th Cavalry soldier makes sure he has the right tools for replacing track pads on an M1A1 Abrams tank.

Tools: Do we have the right tools to do the job? Supervisors must identify the tools required to do the job and make sure they are on hand and serviceable. Using the wrong tools only wastes time and can result in injury to mechanics or additional damage to equipment. Junior leaders must educate themselves on the different tools and enforce TM standards.

Time: How long is the job going to take? The estimated completion date of maintenance that will bring a vehicle to fully mission capable status is extremely important in forecasting combat power within a squadron. Time management is critical in maintenance operations. Leaders must allow adequate time for maintainers to work on the equipment. If additional problems are identified or shortages of resources occur and the estimated completion date is extended, platoon leaders must inform the TCO. Promptly making the SMO and SMT aware of unforeseen maintenance problems is critical.

Training: Who and what tasks can we train during this job? Using scheduled and unscheduled maintenance to conduct cross-training or on-the-job training maintains essential maintenance skills. Mechanics and crews must train to obtain and sustain the skills they need to maintain vehicle readiness.

Command Maintenance Program

A command maintenance program ensures that all vehicles and equipment receive thorough weekly inspections. Performing preventive maintenance checks and services (PMCS) to standard is the cornerstone to identifying and repairing faults and reducing the risk of equipment damage or personal injury due to failures. Units must set specific objectives to focus the efforts during command maintenance.

Unit and individual discipline is critical to a quality command maintenance program. Junior officers and noncommissioned officers (NCO's) must enforce adherence to maintenance standards prescribed in the squadron SOP, Army regulations, and TM's. Command maintenance in the 1-10th Cavalry consisted of four major actions: PMCS, PMCS reconciliation, adherence to squadron and troop command maintenance objectives, and radio checks.

PMCS. During the first command maintenance period of each month, operators and crews perform the monthly PMCS. During the remaining command maintenance days each month, the crews complete the weekly PMCS. Platoon sergeants must verify the 5988_E before the troop maintenance team acts.

Units must review how PMCS is conducted during field operations. An article written by Captain Steven V. Karl and Dr. Matthew Lewis, "Redesigning PMCS to Build Combat Power" (CTC [Combat Training Center] Quarterly Bulletin No. 97-18, September 1997), contains many good suggestions on streamlining the PMCS process. One recommendation is that units develop an abbreviated PMCS checklist that can be accomplished in 30 minutes to 2 hours. The items on this checklist will be determined by the field experience of the SMO's and SMT's, maintenance team chiefs, and master

PMCS reconciliation. Vehicle commanders must ensure that faults reported and parts ordered on a 5988-E are still valid. If the 5988_E is not current, the vehicle commander reports the changes to the platoon leader or sergeant. The platoon leader or sergeant then reports the deficiencies or changes to the troop maintenance team chief, who verifies faults, orders parts, and repairs or evacuates vehicles as necessary. PMCS reconciliation is not complete until all faults are identified and repaired or parts are ordered.

Maintenance objectives. Command maintenance is not complete until both the squadron and troop command maintenance objectives are met. These are general in nature and can focus on off-season tasks. For example, checking heaters during late summer or early fall allows crews and mechanics enough time to order parts and repair faults before cold weather. The SMO and SMT submit the squadron command maintenance objectives to the squadron commanding officer (SCO) for approval.

The TCO and TXO must set the troop-level maintenance objectives. These objectives focus on upcoming missions, such as weapon maintenance and turret checks before gunnery. TXO's provide comments on the status of all command maintenance objectives at the daily maintenance meeting.

Radio checks. The squadron signal officer (SIGO) is responsible for planning and executing the long- and short-range radio checks. The SIGO publishes a letter of instruction spelling out the requirements of the radio checks. The objective is to ensure that radios are working at optimal levels and in the most secure mode available. Radio checks also provide the opportunity for crews to learn to configure and operate radios in the cipher text and frequency hop modes. Squadron communications section personnel must be available to assist in troubleshooting any problems encountered during radio checks. The SIGO uses the log kept during radio checks to report the results to the SXO.

Command Maintenance Work Day

A schedule is fundamental to accomplishing all tasks and objectives during command maintenance. During an 0900 squadron formation on the first day of command maintenance in the 1-10th Cavalry, the SCO highlights his maintenance focus and reviews the squadron-level command maintenance objectives. The TCO and 1SG review and give direction on the troop-level objectives. After morning formation, crews perform -10 level and unscheduled maintenance. Repair parts for unscheduled maintenance are installed, and mechanics are on hand to check any deadline faults.

From 1300 to 1500 hours, the TXO and maintenance team chief review the 5988-E with vehicle commanders and operators. Each platoon review should last 20 to 30 minutes. Afterward, the maintenance team chief prioritizes work on the platoon's 5988E and directs his mechanics to start checking deficiencies. Troop mechanics have until 1700 hours on the third day to complete -20 level checks. On day four, the TXO and maintenance team chief review the 5988E to ensure that only needed parts are ordered. The 5988E is sent to the PLL clerks, who order the necessary parts.

Standardization Techniques

Scheduled maintenance services are a team effort in a division cavalry squadron and the foundation of a solid maintenance program. Leaders at all levels must ensure that platoons are given full support to perform this mission. Squadron and troop leaders must supervise and analyze maintenance services to improve the program.

In the 1-10th Cavalry, leaders and maintainers designed a service packet for every vehicle in the squadron. The packet contains a copy of the service SOP, preprinted DA Forms 2404, Equipment Inspection and Maintenance Worksheet, and service checklists. The DA Forms 2404 are preprinted with all -20 level checks. These include communications checks, checks on equipment belonging to the crews and vehicles located in the troop nuclear, biological, chemical (NBC) room and arms room, and a personal assets inventory.

During long-range planning, the SMO gives the squadron S3 a scheduled service window to include on the long-range training schedule. Eight weeks out, troop commanders place services on the troop training schedule and confirm with the squadron S3 that the dates are on the squadron training schedule. The TXO is the point of contact for services at the troop level. The TXO must make sure that all required service packets and -10 and -20 manuals are on hand and that service kits are available or ordered.

Soldiers prepare to conduct a progressive phased maintenance inspection in the field. Soldiers prepare to conduct a progressive phased maintenance inspection in the field.

Three weeks out, the goal is to have service packets completed and identified by bumper number. Troop motor sergeants and the TXO review the service SOP and service tasks with crews and mechanics.

Two weeks out, the TXO coordinates with the troop NBC NCO, the arms room, and the squadron communications section for support. He also coordinates with the SMO, the SMT, and the Headquarters and Headquarters Troop (HHT) XO to identify conflicts and problems. One of the most important steps at this point is coordinating for additional lift if required. The HHT XO and the TXO must coordinate HHT recovery section assets in advance if the troop does not have adequate lift available. A not-mission-capable M88 recovery vehicle is no excuse for delaying the start or completion of a scheduled service.

One week out, platoon leaders issue an operation order (OPORD) for the platoon maintenance service. Present at this OPORD issue are a squadron communications section representative, the troop NBC NCO, the armorer, the supply sergeant, and the training NCO. The OPORD covers all aspects of service from day 0 to completion. During the OPORD issue, the platoon leader assigns wash racks and bay spaces and answers all questions about the service.

During execution week, everyone involved with scheduled services starts work at 0900 and stops work at 1700. Crews will have the service packet and checklist with them to reference and record the tasks completed each day. During a service, a platoon is broken down into two sections, one for hull maintenance and the other for turret maintenance. Weapons, basic issue items, and individual records are checked during this week. Personnel will update their training records and may even take a physical fitness test if needed. Daily situation reports on services are submitted by the TXO through the SMO to the SXO. The SXO tracks and updates the SCO on the status. Coordination meetings are held daily at 1500 by the SMO or SMT with the TXO to discuss progress. At this meeting, resources may be redirected to overcome problems that have occurred.

Three weeks after the platoon service is complete, the platoon leader submits a written after-action review (AAR) to his troop commander and the SXO. This AAR focuses on lessons learned and recommendations for improving the next service. The SXO consolidates and analyzes every troop AAR in an effort to identify trends and significant issues. The SXO brings to the SCO's attention any area that may need command focus.

The SMO or SMT coordinates with the squadron S3 to make sure scheduled services do not conflict with long-range training events. As the primary adviser to the SCO, the SMO must make sure maintenance activities are coordinated with training on the squadron long-range training calendar. During services, the SMO and SMT spot-check service packets. The SMO and SMT are the SCO's representatives during services and must focus on areas that require particular attention. During spot-checks, the SMO and SMT must make sure crews and mechanics are performing services using all required TM's and the lube order and service packets. They also must ensure that mechanics are using checklists with the corresponding manual.

Progressive Phased Maintenance

The progressive phased maintenance (PPM) program for the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior provides the most scheduling flexibility to commanders and maintenance officers during any type of contingency. PPM contains 15 inspections conducted at intervals of 40 flight hours. Inspections can begin 4 hours early, but must be completed before the next inspection can begin. During PPM inspections, mechanics and supervisors use a PPM checklist. PPM inspections 8 and 15 require general maintenance test flights and can be maintenance-intensive. Other maintenance test flights are completed as needed during the PPM cycle.

More time is required to complete the PPM if a fault is found during an inspection. One of the advantages of PPM is that it usually allows units to complete individual inspections without grounding the aircraft. The crew can fly for the entire 40 hours, complete one inspection, and immediately complete the next one. This allows the commander to use the aircraft for almost 80 hours between PPM inspections.

An NCO monitors preventive maintenance checks and services.  

An NCO monitors preventive maintenance checks and services.


In addition to PPM inspections, the OH-58D requires DA Form 2408-18 (Equipment Inspection List) inspections and services. Due to the ever-changing nature and modernization of aircraft, the DA Form 2408-18 inspections sometimes can be more involved than the normal PPM system. The SXO must have a working knowledge of these inspections. The squadron production control officer is the best source of information on PPM and DA Form 2408-18 requirements.

Making It Work

The SXO is responsible for the overall planning and evaluation of the squadron maintenance programs for both ground vehicles and aircraft. The squadron maintenance program must have a common standard for both ground combat vehicle and helicopter maintenance. Whether the SXO is an aviator or an armor officer, he must know and help manage both ground vehicle and helicopter maintenance. Here are some techniques the 1-10th Cavalry SXO uses to monitor and direct maintenance actions within the squadron.

Squadron stand-up staff meeting. The SXO holds stand-up staff meetings every morning. The squadron staff, minus the S3, attends this meeting. The SMO and SMT attend every meeting and update the SXO on the status report. Daily and weekly maintenance goals and objectives are updated and reviewed in detail by the SMO and SMT. On Wednesday, all TXO's attend the stand-up staff meeting. Maintenance status and goals are the primary topics of discussion, but any other maintenance-related topic needing emphasis can be reviewed.

Daily SMO/SMT maintenance meeting. The SXO periodically attends the SMO/SMT's daily maintenance meeting. This allows the SXO to observe the SMO, SMT, and troop maintenance team chiefs in action and learn what their objectives are. The SXO also can learn what problems are being encountered at troop level and may be able to provide additional resources. If the troop maintenance team is having trouble obtaining parts or specific tools, the SXO sometimes can help by directing the S4 to purchase the items locally using the International Merchant Purchase Authorization Card (IMPAC). After the meeting, the SXO reviews the results of the meeting with the SMO and SMT and discusses the focus for the next meeting.

Aviation production control officer. The 1-10th Cavalry SXO talks to the aviation production control (PC) officer daily to stay abreast of aviation maintenance. They review aircraft status and maintenance goals and objectives. During production control and quality control meetings, the PC officer reviews and directs maintenance actions for helicopter maintenance.

Adequate lift support is critical to successful completion of a scheduled maintenance service.
Adequate lift support is critical to successful completion of a scheduled maintenance service.

Walking the line. The SXO "walks the line" daily in the motor pool and hangar to check maintenance. He sees firsthand what is going on and asks questions. He checks the service line and aircraft progressive phase maintenance to determine the real status of maintenance, using the P4T3 method and referring to daily status reports. If the paper status reports do not match the actual status of equipment, he talks with the SMO or PC officer to find disconnects. At the end of the day, he makes pen-and-ink changes to the status report and ensures that the SCO has the most current information. The SCO requires daily status updates on readiness, so walking the line is a good method of cross-checking the reliability of the information the SCO receives.

Relationship with the direct support unit (DSU). A strong working relationship between a cavalry squadron and the maintenance DSU is critical to timely and reliable support. In the 1-10th Cavalry, the SMO and SMT have an excellent working relationship with the DSU and can depend on the DSU to have someone on call to handle walk-through requisitions for parts when needed.

Each unit must establish its own approach to maintaining equipment. The methods used by the 1-10th Cavalry are offered as one successful approach to maintaining operational readiness of armored vehicles and aircraft. The division cavalry squadron is the most flexible and powerful unit in a heavy division, but only if the equipment is fully mission capable and operational readiness can be maintained during the fight. ALOG

Major Michael Senters is assigned to the Strategy and Policy Division, Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff (J5), U.S. Forces Korea, Seoul, Korea. He is a graduate of the Field Artillery Officer Basic, Armor Officer Advanced, and Cavalry Leader Courses. When this article was written, he was the Executive Officer of the 1st Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division (Mechanized), Fort Hood, Texas.

Captain Santiago G. Bueno III is assigned to the 1st Infantry Division (Mechanized), Fort Riley, Kansas. He is a graduate of the Armor Officer Basic and Advanced Courses and the Cavalry Leader Course. When this article was written, he was the Squadron Motor Officer, 1st Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division (Mechanized), Fort Hood, Texas.

The authors wish to thank First Sergeant Jeffery M. Davis, F Troop First Sergeant, 1st Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division (Mechanized), Fort Hood, Texas, for his assistance in writing this article.