A deploying unit preparing for deployment presents
many pitfalls. However,
with realistic expectations and proper planning by its property
it can avoid many of them.
Planning a unit’s deployable equipment list (DEL) can
be a challenging experience, even for seasoned commanders and
property book officers. The process definitely can be intimidating
when you consider factors such as an uncertain, constantly
changing mission and difficulty in obtaining visibility of
existing assets at your deployment site.
If you are involved in preparing your unit for deployment,
you will not find a single source of information that covers
every step of determining your DEL. The practices used in Iraq
and Afghanistan change with every rotation, and they are not
found in a field manual or Army regulation. This does not mean
that you are left to fend for yourself. Many resources are
available, including Department of the Army (DA) directives,
Web-based data tools, and informal information networks. The
key is to synthesize those bits and pieces of information into
a coherent plan that best supports your unit.
Deciding What to Take
According to doctrine, the equipment a unit takes when it deploys
is determined by its modification table of organization and
equipment (MTOE). An MTOE allocates specific amounts of equipment
based on a unit’s designated mission, and the unit theoretically
deploys with nearly everything in its motor pool and storage
rooms. However, the Global War on Terrorism has drastically
changed the way units are employed in battle, and most combat
units no longer are matched against a similar foe. Rapid changes
in enemy tactics require rapid changes in the way we fight,
which, in turn, affects the force structure of units in combat.
To permit quicker force structure changes for deployed units
based on immediate feedback from the field, the concept of
a DA-approved mission-essential equipment list (MEEL) was introduced.
Think of the MEEL as a mini-MTOE designed for a particular
type of unit performing a specific mission in a specific location.
As with an MTOE, the MEEL usually is developed for the battalion
level, although separate companies also should have MEELs.
Similar units in neighboring locations may have slightly different
MEELs, based on their unique mission requirements. For example,
an infantry brigade combat team will have a MEEL that is similar
to that of other infantry brigade combat teams, but with slight
variations depending on the unit’s mission, the enemy’s
disposition, and the terrain on which the unit is operating.
The equipment you will deploy with is determined by an analysis
of the approved MEEL.
Many unit planners assume that an MTOE plays a significant
role in developing a MEEL. Units often make this common mistake
in their planning. Actually, the MTOE plays little or no role
in the development of a MEEL. Support items linked to a specific
weapons platform likely will remain on the MEEL; however, the
deployment location and the centralization of the unit at one
site may eliminate the need for field support equipment to
support dispersed forces, such as field feeding, power generation,
Realigning your unit for deployment also will greatly affect
the amount of equipment it takes when it deploys. Although
it is obvious that an artillery battalion that has retrained
and is deploying as a military police unit will leave much
of its MTOE equipment behind, combat support and combat service
support units deploying in their traditional roles also may
not operate according to their doctrine and therefore will
leave a lot of their equipment behind. An aviation unit may
consolidate or disperse units based on the availability of
facilities and the needs of the ground tactical commander,
which, in turn, could change a transportation unit’s
focus from long-line distribution to immediate local support.
Such local, mission-focused adjustments play a more important
role in determining a specific unit’s MEEL than an MTOE
that is generally similar to those of other units of the same
The Coalition Forces Land Component Command approves MEELs
for incoming units at least 90 days before they deploy. For
deploying units conducting a relief in place (RIP) with a similar
counterpart, the MEEL is based on input from the outgoing unit at
the midpoint of its tour. Since the unit in theater has likely
stabilized its mission and equipment requirements at that point,
the midpoint data provide the best estimate of the incoming
unit’s needs. This information is sent to the incoming
unit for review and feedback, generally 5 to 6 months before
its deployment date.
Your incoming unit receives a worksheet containing a list of
the anticipated MEEL authorization levels for specific items,
including on-hand quantities of theater-provided equipment
(TPE) (specific line items designated by DA as permanent theater
assets). Your unit reviews the MEEL level for each item of
equipment and makes adjustments as necessary based on the commander’s
assessment. Expected mission changes after the RIP may increase
or decrease the need for certain items. Once the MEEL level
has been reviewed, your unit compares the listed quantities
of TPE and reviews any potential equipment shortfalls.
The operational experts who plan equipment requirements must
let the logistics planners know what the unit will need. If
your unit will not have a certain mission, it should not bring
gear that will only sit in a shipping container. Detailed communication
between your unit and the outgoing unit will help with planning.
However, remember that your unit’s mission may grow,
shrink, or change completely compared to that of the unit you
MEEL shortages may be filled several ways. Your unit may bring
its own organizational property, TPE assets may be redirected,
or the outgoing unit may be directed to leave organizational
property behind as a short-term loan (STL) or long-term transfer
(LTT) (formerly called stay-behind equipment). STL is considered
a loan—generally for 90 days or less—and is managed
with a temporary hand receipt between the two units. LTT
is for the duration of one deployment, and the property is
laterally transferred from the losing unit to the gaining
unit’s TPE property book account. STL and LTT will
be returned to the losing component (not necessarily the
losing unit) at the end of the designated period if it is
no longer needed for future operations.
Several sources are available for determining TPE and LTT in
theater. BattleWeb, a commercial asset visibility tool available
through Army Knowledge Online’s Logistics page, and the
Army Materiel Command Logistics Support Activity’s Logistics
Integrated Database (LIDB) are both great for planners who
do not have access to Property Book Unit Supply Enhanced (PBUSE).
However, from a property book officer’s (PBO’s)
perspective, I believe shared asset visibility in PBUSE is
the most effective tool. The outgoing PBO should already have
asset visibility of the TPE and installation property book
section unit identification codes (UICs) he supports and should
be able to request the same for the incoming PBO. This saves
the hassle of emailing hand receipts and consolidated
property listings weekly and allows the incoming PBO to run
queries for specific items as often as his command requires.
If your unit needs equipment that is not on its property book
and is not available for transfer from the outgoing unit, you
must submit an operational needs statement though theater command,
control, and communications channels to the DA G–3. If
approved, DA will either procure or relocate the equipment
to fill your unit’s needs.
If the redeploying unit has organizational property in theater
that will fill a MEEL shortage for your unit, either unit can
submit an LTT nomination request through theater command, control,
and communications channels for DA G–3 approval. This
should be done with the agreement of both your unit and the
redeploying unit. DA will review available TPE assets and the
actual need. If the transfer is approved, DA will direct the
transfer of the equipment to theater property books.
Good communication between you and your counterpart in the
redeploying unit also will save you when problems arise. I
developed a professional and personal relationship with the
redeploying unit’s PBO about 6 months before I arrived
in country, which really helped smooth negotiations between
units. Remember that the redeploying unit knows the theater,
knows the mission, and knows what it takes to fight and win.
Conversely, your unit may have other priorities from its higher
headquarters, the opportunity to study the situation from an
external perspective, and its own internal methods of operating.
If your unit commanders are communicating effectively with
their counterparts, all parties should have a good idea of
the equipment available and potential shortfalls.
If everything works perfectly (and it won’t), once the
MEEL is approved, you should be able to match your equipment
on hand against MEEL authorizations, subtract available TPE
or approved LTT, and have a complete list of equipment to deploy
as well as a listing of left-behind equipment (LBE) to remain
at home station. LBE will be transferred to the rear-detachment
derivative UIC under property book identification code (PBIC) “X” and
type authorization code (TAC) “G.” The PBIC “X” and
TAC “G” combination alerts DA asset managers of
the presence of LBE, which can be redirected to fill operational
needs elsewhere in the Army or turned in for maintenance, rebuild,
or overhaul while the unit is deployed.
MEEL approval often comes too late for the first units that
deploy. It is timed for the arrival of most of the division,
but the advance units may end up making assumptions and best
guesses while the MEEL is being finalized. When my brigade
deployed, we received the approved MEEL during railhead operations
and had to leave at the port more than 100 wheeled vehicles
that did not make the cut. The process has improved since then;
it moved much faster as we prepared for redeployment and transition
with the unit that would be replacing us.
pallets await shipment.
Accounting for Property
Once you have developed the list of organization property to deploy and commanders
submit their DEL to the transportation planners, you must conduct the 100-percent
predeployment inventory required by the November 2005 interim changes to Army
Regulation 710–2, Supply Policy Below the National Level. The PBO also
must begin splitting the property book hand receipts into deploying equipment
Your PBO should be one of the first people on the ground to confirm and assess
possible new shortages of TPE and LTT. He also should work with his redeploying
counterpart to start setting up the transfer of property between incoming and
outgoing units. Serious accountability problems will occur unless competent personnel
handle the property split and ensure that the process is properly synchronized.
unload an HH–60L Black Hawk medical evacuation
helicopter from a ship at the Port of Shuaiba,
Splitting the Hand Receipt
A major pitfall in maintaining asset accountability during
a deployment is the timing of container stuffing and hand
receipt splits. In retrospect, I feel I set my deadline too
soon, since I was in the advance party and left a month earlier
than most of the units. In several instances, property was
on the forward hand receipt and scheduled to deploy, but
there was not enough space for it. Some company sub-hand
receipt holders also changed their loadouts without informing
the commander or primary hand receipt holder. The result
was a series of lateral transfers from rear to forward hand
receipts to correct imbalances caused by property that was
left in the rear but retained on deployed hand receipts or
items that were packed at the last minute without the rear-detachment
hand receipt holder’s knowledge.
Ultimately, it is the commander’s responsibility to ensure
that everything he signs for on the forward hand receipt is
actually there, but the hand receipt split also must be synchronized
to coincide with packing containers. I was fortunate enough
to have a retired chief warrant officer (W–3) as my civilian
property technician to conduct the hand receipt split and allow
my noncommissioned officer in charge and me to deploy early.
When planning the PBO shop’s personnel deployment sequence,
the PBO must carefully weigh the capabilities of personnel,
the benefits of early arrival in theater, and the possibility
of problems with splitting the property book hand receipts.
Most of the difficulties that my unit experienced resulted
from deploying equipment changes made after the hand receipt
split, not from the actual process of splitting the hand receipt.
On our next deployment, I plan to schedule the split late enough
to have the units complete a Department of Defense Form 1750,
Packing List, for each MILVAN (military-owned, demountable
containers), which should be completed with line item number,
national stock number, nomenclature, serial number, and quantity
for all property book items. This will help ensure that the
commander’s hand receipt is based on the equipment that
is in the containers and not on the commander’s planned
list of deploying equipment. Additional training at the unit
level should also reduce the likelihood of personnel making
last-minute equipment changes without informing the hand receipt
Even if you have deployed to the same theater before, the learning
curve will still be steep. Policies and procedures change often;
what worked last time may no longer be effective. Communicate
constantly with your counterparts in theater, but also make
sure you are aware of changes in your organization’s
plans. With an open mind, extensive research, and a little
foresight, you will have a smooth transition on your next deployment.
Chief Warrant Officer (W–2) Gregory W.
Besaw is the Brigade Property Book Officer for the 101st Combat
101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
He is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in transportation
and logistics management from American Military University.