The Logistics of an Exercise

by Chief Warrant Officer (W-2) Dirk J. Saar

A lot has been said about readiness exercises. More often than not, these discussions focus almost exclusively on the tactical aspects of these events. The intent of this discussion is to analyze, identify, and describe the logistics of such exercises; in other words, the planning and preparation for an exercise. A readiness exercise does not occur simply because an operation order has been issued. Appropriate planning and preparation are necessary before the exercise can begin. Of course, the level of planning and amount of preparation required are proportionate to the magnitude of the exercise. In addition to magnitude, planning and preparation also depend upon the purpose of the exercise. In light of this, I'd like to discuss a recent deployment exercise, Firepower Deploy-Ex Phase I, that the 191st Ordnance Battalion, Miseau, Germany, conducted last December.

Firepower Deploy-Ex Phase I was the first in a series of exercises designed to test the battalion's ability to prepare, stage, and deploy its vehicles and equipment by rail, air, and road. For the purpose of this discussion, the exercise can be broken down into three major events: initial planning and preparation, support requirements determination and vehicle preparation, and after-action review. This was a phased deployment exercise, but because a company deployed and redeployed each day for a period of 5 days, some overlap in the phases occurred. However, whether deploying or redeploying, the required actions or tasks were essentially the same.

Initial Planning and Preparation

Early in the planning phase, the battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Paul R. Plemmons, formulated his intent for the exercise. Each company assigned to the battalion would plan, train for, and execute a deployment using ground and rail conveyances. Upon conclusion of the exercise, each unit would possess validated rail-load teams and updated movement folders that included load plans and convoy procedures. The exercise goal was to deploy 75 percent of the companies' rolling stock while maintaining a rear detachment capable of sustaining limited daily logistics support.

By defining the exercise goals, Lieutenant Colonel Plemmons provided the direction and purpose needed to guide the actions of the staff throughout the planning, execution, and completion of the exercise. Armed with the commander's intent, which equated to the "why and what" of the exercise, the battalion staff was able to start its work toward answering the remaining questions about the exercise: where, when, who, and how.

Although the exercise focused on developing and evaluating the ability of the battalion to deploy by rail and road convoy, the location to which the battalion was to deploy was also of some importance. The area selected had to be large enough to accommodate at least two company-size elements. Additionally, because of the self-imposed time limitations of the exercise, the site selected needed to be relatively near the home station but far enough to provide viable convoy training. The battalion staff considered several locations: Baumholder, Grafenwoehr, and Breitenwald Training Areas and a site located in Mannheim. Of those considered, Breitenwald Training Area was finally selected as the best choice for Firepower Deploy-Ex Phase I.

The preventive maintenance inspection team conducts vehicle inspections.
The preventive maintenance inspection team conducts vehicle inspections.

The exercise originally was slated to take place in conjunction with range density week and common task testing in October. Scheduling difficulties with the Baumholder range control office made this impossible. So, based on guidance from the battalion commander, the exercise was scheduled to take place in Breitenwald 30 November through 4 December. This timeframe was selected because it was after Thanksgiving and before any major holidays in December.

Although the 191st Ordnance Battalion consists of six modification table of organization and equipment (MTOE) company-size units and several table of distribution and allowances (TDA) activities, the decision was made early in the planning process that the TDA activities would not participate in the deployment exercise. Instead, these activities would continue to perform their daily missions and, whenever possible, the missions of the units participating in the exercise. Additionally, the TDA activities were charged with providing logistics support to the deploying companies.

Of the six MTOE companies assigned to the battalion only three are collocated with the headquarters. The others are scattered across Germany, with the farthest, the 702d Ordnance Company (Explosive Ordnance Disposal [EOD]), in Grafenwoehr. This dispersion made it impractical for all assigned companies to participate in the exercise. As a result, only those units located in the Kaiserslautern-Heidelberg area—Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment (HHD), 191st Ordnance Battalion; 23d Ordnance Company; 563d Ordnance Company; 5th Quartermaster Detachment (Airdrop); and 720th Ordnance Company (EOD)—participated in the exercise.

One of the first tasks that had to be accomplished was to identify the vehicles that would be rail-loaded and used to convoy to the selected field site. For this, the S4 section relied almost exclusively on input from the companies. Each unit submitted an equipment density listing. Equipment lists were transcribed to an Excel spreadsheet, where the data were supplemented with vehicle dimensions extracted from Technical Bulletin 55-46-1 on CD ROM. Once complete, a draft copy of the spreadsheet was submitted to the branch movement control team (BMCT) in Kaiserslautern for their initial review. The BMCT faxed a copy to the movement control team (MCT) in Karlsruhe that handles the actual coordination of the required trains. Concurrently, copies were sent to the participating units for last-minute changes and approval. Later that day, the MCT contacted the battalion movement officer to discuss vehicle configuration requirements for rail-loading. During this review, they discovered that several oversized vehicles would have to be reduced in size before rail-loading so they could pass through tunnels and underpasses on the movement route.

Before the vehicle density lists were submitted, the battalion contacted the BMCT to discuss the feasibility of conducting a rail-load exercise. To meet the commander's stated intent for the exercise, units needed to be able to load vehicles and selected equipment onto railcars and have the loads certified by a German Federal Railway System wagon meister. Once certified, the trains were to travel to a turn-around point and return the same day for offloading and onward movement by road. At one point, the question arose whether there was a need for the train to move. It would be cheaper to have 20 railcars pre-positioned at the railhead in Miesau and have units practice loading and offloading without moving the cars. Notwithstanding cost concerns, it was decided that the sense of urgency soldiers experience during an actual deployment could not be replicated by loading equipment onto static railcars. Consequently, the BMCT was told that the railcars, once loaded, would need to be picked up, taken to a turn-around point, and returned to Miesau the same day for offloading. The BMCT was very responsive to our requirements and assured us that they could support most any type of training event as long as they were given adequate time to plan and prepare.

Unfortunately, all the planning in the world is wasted unless adequate funds are available to implement the planned actions. During the early part of 1998, when the battalion submitted its budget request for fiscal year 1999, the cost requirements for Firepower Deploy-Ex Phase I were not considered. Hence, no funds were identified to conduct the exercise. The S4 contacted the resource management office to inquire into how the planned exercise could be funded. The resource manager and the property book officer researched the situation and found funds earmarked for the purchase of MTOE authorized equipment that no longer was needed because of lateral transfers, planned unit inactivations, and changes in authorization documents. Approximately $10,000 was needed to conduct the exercise; cost savings realized through the decrease in the funds required to support equipment shortages freed up more than $30,000.

Once changes requested by the units and the BMCT had been made to the equipment lists and a fund cite added, the approved lists were resubmitted to the BMCT to coordinate and schedule the trains. It was not long, though, before the MCT contacted the battalion movement officer to report that, because of the variations in train size required to support each participating unit, the German Railway Company could not support daily departures. Instead, it was suggested that a train depart every 2 days, thus giving the railway company adequate time to reconfigure the trains during the off day to prepare for loading and departure the next day. This suggestion was adopted, and rail-loading schedules were changed accordingly. More specifically, rather than train departures occurring daily, starting with the loading of the HHD on 30 November, units were rescheduled to load trains in accordance with the times listed in the table below. However inconvenient this change may have been, it was not a showstopper and had very little effect on the convoy schedule.

The 5th Quartermaster Detachment loads their vehicles onto railcars. The 5th Quartermaster Detachment loads their vehicles onto railcars.

While coordination of rail support was underway, arrangements were being made for the convoy movement called for in the exercise operation order. U.S. Army, Europe (USAREUR), Regulation 55-1, United States Army Motor Vehicle Operations on Public Roads, governs the movement of vehicles on German highways (autobahns). This document and USAREUR Regulation 55-26, Unit Movement Planning, were indispensable in planning the convoy movement that occurred during Firepower Deploy-Ex Phase I. These regulations set forth the actions required of the battalion movement officer to carry out the convoy portion of the exercise. For example, when traveling on the autobahn in a convoy formation, movement authorization (convoy credit) is not necessary unless the convoy includes either oversized vehicles or more than 30 vehicles. The largest convoy that the battalion was going to move at any given time during the exercise consisted of 18 vehicles. So, from that perspective, convoy credits were not needed. But because the convoys included oversized vehicles, the battalion had to submit requests for convoy credits. These requests were sent to the highway movement control team in Mainz, where they were approved and faxed to the battalion S4 within 4 working days.

Unit rail-loading schedule.
Unit rail-loading schedule.

Briefings and "rock drills" are integral parts of the planning process. These events are used to review progress, answer questions, and discuss possible problems and opportunities. This exercise was no different and included its share of briefings and a rock drill. During the rock drill, the battalion S4 officer laid out the staging area, convoy route, and vehicle inspection, rail-load, and field sites. In addition, specific movement information was discussed, such as when unit vehicles would be inspected, when vehicles would be rail-loaded, and when convoy movements would begin. The rock drill was a forum in which the battalion commander was kept up-to-date on the progress of exercise planning, unit commanders and unit movement officers could ask questions, and concerns could be addressed. As such, the rock drill could be considered one of the most important tools in the planning process.

Support Requirements Determination

With these "irons in the fire," the battalion S4 moved on to the task of identifying the equipment and tools that might be needed for the rail-loading operations and road movements. Of particular concern were the requirements for blocking, bracing, and tie-down (BB&T) materials. Because the exercise was scheduled with very little advance notice, it was not certain that the battalion would have enough BB&T on hand or would be able to acquire it to support the number of vehicles to be rail-loaded. The intent was to load more than 70 pieces of rolling stock. To secure this number of vehicles on the railcars required a substantial amount of BB&T.

USAREUR Regulation 55-26 and USAREUR Regulation 55-8, Loading and Securing of Military Wheeled and Tracked Vehicles on European Railcars, were used as references to identify the type and quantity of BB&T needed to support our requirements. For example, to load and secure one high-mobility, multipurpose, wheeled vehicle properly, the battalion had to have 8 wooden chock blocks, 4 turnbuckles, 4 15-foot pieces of wire rope, 4 metal clamps, 4 shackles to attach the turnbuckles to, and between 32 and 48 nails, depending on the wagon meister present during the rail-load operations. Multiply these items by 70 (the number of vehicles the battalion was loading), and that is a lot of material.

During the rock drill, the battalion S4 officer laid out the staging area, convoy route, and vehicle inspection, rail-load, and field sites.
During the rock drill, the battalion S4 officer laid out the staging area, convoy route, and vehicle inspection, rail-load, and field sites.

Fortunately, as a result of previous deployments, the battalion had most of the needed materials on hand. Only chock blocks and shackles had to be acquired. For the chock blocks, the movement officer coordinated with the support operations officer and the carpenter shop at Miesau Army Depot. The carpenter shop is one of the TDA activities that support the depot's ammunition operations. This very busy section went out of its way to make the chock blocks on short notice. As for the shackles, a couple of hard-charging noncommissioned officers coordinated with the Kaiserslautern Industrial Center (KIC) for their issue, and, as always, KIC came through despite the last-minute request.

Once all of the necessary materials were available, they were placed inside a warehouse where participating units picked up the materials they needed to rail-load their equipment. At the last in-process review, the 23d Ordnance Company's first sergeant pointed out that trestles would be needed to secure some of the trailers that were being rail-loaded. The carpenter shop was contacted again and asked to manufacture five trailer trestles.

USAREUR Regulation 55-1 made determining the type of equipment needed to conduct convoy operations easy. Each convoy needed two rotating amber warning lights (RAWL's), two convoy signs indicating a convoy in English and German, and three convoy flags (green for the lead vehicle, blue for the last vehicle, and black and white for the convoy commander). The battalion had enough of everything except for the RAWL's. Attempts to acquire the needed warning lights through local purchase before the exercise started were unsuccessful. So the battalion used existing RAWL's for convoy operations.

Vehicle Preparation

The equipment to be deployed rates second in importance only to the soldiers who operate it. Just as soldiers must undergo various inspections or processes to ensure that they are fit and prepared for deployment, the vehicles identified for movement also must pass

In the 191st Ordnance Battalion, the maintenance section is charged with ensuring that battalion equipment is ready for movement. To meet this obligation, the battalion maintenance officer and battalion maintenance sergeant established a preventive maintenance inspection team (PMIT). The mission of a PMIT is to ensure that all equipment either destined for the field, used for daily missions, or being deployed by air, ship, or ground has received required preventive maintenance checks and services; has been properly dispatched; is safe to operate; and is in a high state of readiness. The PMIT accomplishes this by conducting maintenance inspections during emergency deployment readiness exercises, unannounced roll-outs, roadside spot inspections, pre-rail and air-load inspections, and at the request of the battalion commander. Because the PMIT inspects vehicles and equipment regardless of which unit owns them, the composition of the PMIT reflects this battalion-wide mission. Hence, the PMIT consists of the battalion maintenance officer, the battalion maintenance sergeant, and the company motor sergeants.

During Firepower Deploy-Ex Phase I, the PMIT traveled to the inspection sites identified in the operation order and inspected every vehicle that participated in the exercise. Those vehicles that did not pass initial inspections were sent back to the owning unit for repairs and were reinspected after repairs were completed.

After-Action Review

Overall, the exercise was considered a success. The commander's intent was met. Units involved were able to validate their rail-load teams by participating in a realistic operation, and movement folders, including load plans, were updated. All of the soldiers who participated in the exercise were excited and enjoyed the training. Nevertheless, some minor problems that needed to be corrected were identified during the operation.

First, let us consider the way the vehicle density lists were created. Units manually prepared the density lists, some of which were submitted on scrap paper. The best approach to this task would have been for unit movement officers to update their automated unit equipment lists (AUEL's) using the Transportation Coordinator-Automated Command and Control Information System (TC-ACCIS) and to create deployment equipment lists (DEL's).

TC-ACCIS is a transportation information management system used to create AUEL's and DEL's for Army units. These lists include a wealth of information that is essential for scheduling road and rail deployments. For example, the AUEL and DEL identify the length, width, height, and weight of the equipment to be moved. The primary difference between an AUEL and DEL is that an AUEL lists all of a given unit's deployable equipment and a DEL lists only those assets that actually will be deployed. Once a unit has been notified of an impending deployment and the commander has decided what force package to send, unit movement officers should travel to their nearest TC-ACCIS site and create a DEL for the operation. This procedure requires that the unit have an updated AUEL (a quarterly requirement in USAREUR). Using TC-ACCIS during exercises streamlines the movement planning process and ensures that the units have correct movement data in the form of an updated AUEL should a real-world deployment be looming around the corner.

A German Federal Railway System wagon meister inspects loaded train. A German Federal Railway System wagon meister inspects loaded train.

The second problem identified during the after action review was site preparation. During initial planning and coordination, the need for warming tents, hot soup, coffee, and floodlights was established, and responsibilities for them were assigned. However, on the first day of the exercise, the stoves in the warming tents were not lit until over 2 hours after the operation started; coffee and soup were not immediately available; and the floodlights were not turned on until daybreak, when they were no longer needed. Fortunately, these problems were corrected by the time the next unit had to load trains. In addition to these problems, the first unit to load underestimated the amount of time it would take to clear snow and debris off the railcars, resulting in an hour delay in loading. Luckily, the train schedule provided some flexibility, which kept the operation on track and allowed units to meet their convoy times.

Finally, once actual loading started, it became apparent that some units were not prepared. For example, one unit did not have the right tools, such as hammers and crowbars, to do the job; one unit did not bring nails; and another brought the wrong type of chock blocks. The plan called for the use of metal chock blocks for vehicles weighing 2 tons or more. Because of time constraints, the unit concerned was permitted to use wooden chock blocks.

Aside from the lack of an adequate number of RAWL's and convoy flags, the convoy portion of the exercise exceeded everyone's expectations.

As a result of the problems identified in the after-action review, the battalion decided to create standard rail-load and convoy kits. Despite the problems, however, Firepower Deploy-Ex Phase I was a success and confirmed the battalion's ability to prepare, stage, and deploy itself in times of crisis.

A training exercise does not begin or end with the planned activity. An extensive amount of coordination, planning, and preparation goes into executing a deployment or readiness exercise. Even on a small scale, the preparations required are extensive. Lessons learned during an exercise serve as a basis for improving future endeavors. ALOG

Chief Warrant Officer (W-2) Dirk J. Saar is currently the property book officer for the 191st Ordnance Battalion, Miesau, Germany, where he also serves as the battalion movement officer. He is a graduate of the Warrant Officer Basic Course and has an M.S. in business from the University of Central Texas.

The author would like to thank Master Sergeant Mark Galvin, Chief Warrant Officer (W-4) Richard Brooks, and Captain Derell Bibbs for their help in writing this article.