|Combat Escort Team Validation
|by Staff Sergeant Joshua Salmons
A worn placard posted in the Command Information
Center (CIC) of the 4th Sustainment Brigade headquarters in
Iraq read, “What have you done to improve our CLPs today?” The
message drove home the brigade commander’s one unrelenting
purpose for his staff while deployed: Everyone should give
their utmost effort to figure out how to mitigate tactical
risk and implement the safest, most effective combat logistics
patrols (CLPs) possible. More than a year, millions of miles
driven, and thousands of CLPs later, that placard and its
message remains the central focus of the brigade back at Fort
keep watch from an armored security vehicle
and HMMWV during a mission to Abu
Ghraib, Iraq, in 2006. The personnel from
B Battery, 1st Battalion, 377th Field Artillery
Regiment, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina,
provided security to civilian trucks assisting
with moving cargo from the prison.
Combat Escort Team Exercise Concept
What have the Soldiers and leaders of the 4th Sustainment
Brigade done to improve their CLPs today? The brigade answered
that question during a recent visit from Major General Mitchell
Stevenson, the Commanding General of the Army Combined Arms
Support Command, as they presented their new 5-day combat
escort team (CET) validation exercise. CETs are the fighting
elements of every CLP, tasked with protecting the logistics
vehicles while en route from one forward operating base (FOB)
Older, traditional convoy-protection doctrine focused on ambushes,
dismounting vehicles, and engaging the enemy with as much
firepower as possible. However, that approach is not relevant
on the current battlefields in Iraq. In Iraq, armor protects
Soldiers from small-arms attacks, which means that improvised
explosive devices (IEDs) and vehicle-born IEDs (VBIEDs) are
the larger dangers.
||At left: One
of the static displays at the Phantomdome training site
at Fort Hood, Texas, exhibits examples of improvised
explosive devices. The static displays are one of many
training aids to help Soldiers prepare for upcoming
Below: Static displays like this one highlight the equipment
available to deploying Soldiers and the procedures required
for proper use.
Although the typical live-fire exercises provided
in combat service support (CSS) Soldier training give troops “trigger
time,” they do nothing to train Soldiers on how
to serve on a CET effectively. The purpose of the new
is to allow leaders recently returned from Iraq to validate
CSS units’ CET tactics, techniques, and procedures
The 5-day exercise spans multiple phases to ensure that the
participating units go through a crawl-walk-run structure
in practicing their drills. The current CET validation facilities
can accommodate three five-vehicle
CETs at a time.
CETs begin their Fort Hood validation by meeting at the Phantomdome, a rehearsal
site constructed and manned by the brigade’s 180th Transportation Battalion.
The Phantomdome also serves as the meeting hub for the CETs throughout the week.
The site includes projectors for intelligence briefings, IED identification displays,
room to display a convoy protection platform (a high-mobility multipurpose wheeled
vehicle [HMMWV]) and a 20-foot by 40-foot sand table depicting the routes and
terrain of the gunnery tables of the live-fire portion of the exercise. Here
the Soldiers familiarize themselves with their roles and the layout of the exercise
Activities on the first day focus on teaching the units how to rehearse properly.
The units are given the opportunity to conduct proper weapons checks, precombat
checks, and precombat inspections. And each CET receives its training set of
five HMMWVs equipped with the most current training enablers—all assembled
and maintained by the brigade’s 553d Combat Service Support Battalion.
From gunner shields to redundant communications, sirens, spotlights, stretchers,
towbars, and even simulated counter remote control improvised explosive device
electronic warfare (CREW) devices, each HMMWV has all the equipment needed to
allow units to conduct correct and current escalation-of-force, IED reporting,
and casualty-evacuation procedures.
The second day involves simulated scenarios at either the Fort Hood Warrior Skills
Trainer or the Virtual Combat Convoy Trainer. These facilities allow Soldiers
from the brigade troops battalion to put the CETs through the paces of an actual
mission and observe them as they go through their rehearsed TTP with the added
pressures of a simulated battlefield.
The scenarios revolve around engaging targets while on the move. However, more
than just target practice is taking place. The simulations serve as the CETs “walk” portion
of the validation, where the rehearsed TTP can be implemented and then tweaked
during the brigade-led after-action reviews. The unit can identify and address
any vulnerability before it enters the range portion of the CET validation.
Days 3 and 4
Days three and four begin the “run” portion of
the exercise, where CETs make use of everything they have
practiced up to this point.
CETs first arrive at the Phantomdome, where they receive their
mission. The CETs conduct troop-leading procedures and use
the rehearsal site to prepare for their gunnery tables. After
the participating personnel complete their rehearsals, precombat
checks, and precombat inspections, they move out to the gunnery
The brigade’s 2d Chemical Battalion uses multiple ranges
on Fort Hood to provide CETs the opportunity to fire in five
gunnery tables spread over these 2 days, followed by a sixth
capstone table on day 5. These tables expose the CETs to firing
at both stationary and moving targets while stationary or
moving themselves, along with a night mission.
Although the ranges were designed for use with M2/3 Bradley
fighting vehicles, the 2d Chemical Battalion was able to adapt
target arrays and add elements to the range to closely simulate
battlefield conditions that a CET may face in Iraq. Enough
targets are built into the ranges so that, although the CETs
might travel down the same routes during their multiple gunnery
tables, they will never see the same target twice.
The units also practice executing basic CET drills, such as
entering and exiting a FOB, reacting to unexploded ordnance
and IEDs, and evacuating casualties. Elements such as IEDs,
battlefield debris, friendly forces, and civilians on the
battlefield are present to enhance realism and instill positive
threat identification and proper rules of engagement. Although
the first table uses blanks, the remaining gunnery tables
incorporate live rounds.
sits in the Phantomdome as a part of the display
of equipment available for training.
Participants use these vehicles, equipped with
training aids to reflect the
current equipment available to Soldiers
in Iraq, during their
The final day and night of the CET validation involves a capstone
gunnery table, where the CET escorts additional logistics
vehicles to those used on days 3 and 4. The CET commander
must successfully navigate his convoy through a 15-kilometer
road march, with the added uncertainty of escorting the additional
Upon completion of the final table, the CET then moves back
to the Phantomdome, where brigade Soldiers lead an after-action
review of the CET’s performance. If the CET successfully
performed its proposed TTP, the team is validated. If not,
areas for retraining are identified and further validations
can be scheduled.
The focus of the CET validation exercise is to allow units
to form their TTP according to their unique missions and assets
and then to validate those TTP using the knowledge of experienced
This exercise shows that pushing logistics is more than just
delivering supplies. It shows that CSS troops must be Soldiers
first—able to correctly respond to battlefield conditions
through correct execution of unit TTP—and logisticians
Focusing skills and training time to equip logisticians with
the decisionmaking abilities and equipment to effectively
serve on a CET is exactly how the 4th Sustainment Brigade
hopes to improve its CLPs. What have you done for your CLPs
Staff Sergeant Joshua Salmons is a journalism instructor at
the Defense Information School at Fort Meade, Maryland. He
has a bachelor’s degree in communications
from Cedarville University and is pursuing a master’s degree in business
administration from Baker Business College.