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Establishing Command Supply Discipline After Deployment

After it redeployed to Germany from Iraq, the 440th Signal Battalion spent 9 arduous months reestablishing proper command supply discipline.

During a recent 12-month deployment to support Operation Iraqi Freedom, the command supply discipline of the 440th Signal Battalion, an element of the 22d Signal Brigade in Darmstadt, Germany, was challenged many times. For example, equipment was lost en route to Iraq, and several key logistics positions were unfilled, including the battalion property book officer (PBO) and several company supply sergeant positions. To make property accountability even more difficult, the battalion had to conduct a change-of-command inventory while its equipment was spread across Iraq, and it had to migrate from the Army’s legacy property book system, known as the Standard Property Book System-Redesign, to the new Property Book Unit Supply Enhanced (PBUSE) system.

The battalion cleared these hurdles, but command supply discipline suffered. After returning to Germany, it took the battalion 9 months to reestablish proper command supply discipline. Budgetary constraints impeded the battalion’s ability to replace damaged, missing, or obsolete equipment. Battalion leaders learned that replenishing a unit after a year-long deployment was difficult without adequate financial resources and proper prioritization. Missions cannot be accomplished if equipment is inoperable, incomplete, unavailable, or obsolete. To help mitigate the equipment shortfalls, leaders must provide time on unit training calendars to teach Soldiers proper command supply discipline. Just as “maintenance is training” for the Soldiers performing it, “logistics is training” for the Soldiers who participate in logistics activities, such as monitoring the unit’s property and managing equipment transactions.

Lessons Learned

Since returning from Iraq, battalion, company, platoon, and team leaders in the 440th Signal Battalion have learned the value of proper command supply discipline. Although none of the leaders would be anxious to go through the process of reestablishing proper command supply discipline again, all probably would agree that the experience made them more effective leaders and better custodians of Army property. After months of relentless supply emphasis, Soldiers and leaders alike know what it means to have an effective command supply discipline program. Lessons they learned include—

• If possible, ensure that the company commander is assigned before deployment so that a change-of-command inventory will not be necessary during that deployment. Inventorying in the field generally leads to poor change-of-responsibility inventories that ultimately result in violations of Army Regulation (AR) 735–5, Policies and Procedures for Property Accountability, and possible relief actions.
• Assign a logistics liaison team to the sea port of debarkation to ensure that all equipment shipped is actually received. If equipment is not received on time, the team should investigate and possibly initiate a financial liability investigation. Do not wait until the deployment is completed and the unit has returned to home station to take action. This is a big mistake!
• Take necessary measures to ensure that your unit has a PBO assigned to monitor unit property and a supply sergeant to manage all logistics transactions, including those in the rear detachment.
• If possible, do not migrate to a new property accountability system until all rear and forward property accountability records have been reconciled.
• Make sure that unit supply sergeants keep up with logistics administrative actions and documentation. Historical records are essential when reconciling property issues.

Supply Responsibilities

The Army standard for maintaining and tracking supplies is to treat the property as if it were your own. The Army Command Supply Discipline Program (CSDP), which is implemented by AR 710–2, Supply Policy Below the National Level, is the embodiment of that standard. The CSDP provides Soldiers and leaders alike a common set of rules for safeguarding scarce resources.

Many Soldiers and leaders believe that they have no responsibility or culpability for Army property unless they have accepted it on a hand receipt. This is a myth. Every Soldier has some level of responsibility for property in his unit.

The commander has command responsibility as soon as he takes command. A platoon leader or section chief has supervisory responsibility once he assumes his position. Squad leaders, team chiefs, and staff officers in charge and noncommissioned officers in charge incur this same supervisory responsibility. Soldiers have direct responsibility if they have physical control of property or if they have signed for it on a hand receipt. Soldiers who sign a hand receipt are accountable for all components of items listed on the hand receipt unless they receive a valid shortage annex that lists components that are not available for issue. Without a valid shortage annex, an item is assumed to be complete. The final type of responsibility, personal responsibility, should be inherent in all members of the Armed Forces.

These four types of responsibility are linked to one common goal: the proper care, use, and safeguarding of Army property. These responsibilities are a cornerstone of sound leadership; they cannot be delegated, withdrawn, or ignored. These responsibilities are assumed with or without a written hand receipt. The CSDP allows commanders to set a climate in which supply policies are enforced. It establishes an environment in which Soldiers and leaders can manage property proactively and requisition supplies and equipment. Soldiers and leaders who are responsible for equipment must know their equipment, its whereabouts, and its status. When one person deviates from the standard of maintaining, caring, and safeguarding Army property, the CSDP is compromised.

The bottom line is that the Army has a proven, time-tested process for managing property. By following the CSDP and providing proper command emphasis to its enforcement, your unit will have the lethal resources needed to fight and win wars.

Chief Warrant Officer (W–3) Anthony L. Rawlings is the Property Book Officer for the 440th Signal Battalion, 22d Signal Brigade, in Darmstadt, Germany. He has an associate’s degree in business administration from Central Texas College and is a graduate of the Warrant Officer Basic Course, the Property Book Unit Supply-Enhanced Administrator Course, the Standard Property Book System-Redesign Course, the Unit Level Logistics System-S4 Course, and the Total Army Instructor Training Course.