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Lessons Learned From a Reception, Staging, Onward Movement, and Integration Site

Reception, staging, onward movement, and integration (RSOI) is the process that transitions personnel and equipment arriving in a theater into operationally viable forces. Units that move into and out of operational theaters will most often move through an RSOI site to properly posture themselves for their missions. From the perspective of the RSOI manager, also known as “the mayor,” there are considerations for successfully managing an RSOI site, and contingency plans need to include those considerations.

Elements of Combined Task Force Chamberlain, which deployed with the 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), built an RSOI site and conducted operations at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Sharana in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom VII. RSOI sites are designed to stage and integrate personnel for their missions, such as combat preparation, noncombatant evacuation, and humanitarian assistance. During this initial force projection stage, personnel services—including potable water distribution, dining facility (DFAC) operations, trash removal, and sewage removal—are the most vital part of an RSOI operation. The RSOI site at FOB Sharana faced challenges while establishing its initial operating capacity in late 2006 and early 2007. If you will be involved in RSOI management, you can learn many lessons from our experiences.

Potable Water and Sewage


The RSOI site in Sharana depended on potable water being trucked into the site to run its DFAC, showers, and latrines because the well drilled on site had failed to produce water. FOB Sharana had a Force Provider camp, which can consume 25,000 gallons of water per day to support 550 personnel, so potable water storage and distribution became a daily management task.

Liquid sewage disposal was a paramount issue as well. On several occasions, the FOB Sharana RSOI site needed to close the Force Provider latrines because they had reached their maximum sewage storage capacity. In FOB Sharana’s situation, no direct sewage line was available to dispose of the sewage easily, so the waste was held in holding tanks until it could be pumped. The local national vendor that was contracted to remove the sewage daily was not able to come everyday because his truck was often inoperable. To mitigate the problem, we positioned additional portable latrines to ensure that we could cover surge periods.

Luckily, the Force Provider equipment set for the 550-man camp contains blackwater trailers to dispose of waste water, so we implemented a backup plan for those times when the local national truck was inoperable. The RSOI mayor cell would still have the vendor come to fulfill its portion of the contract, but the vendor would use our equipment and be paid half of the contracted amount. Sewage disposal and potable water supply are critical to properly maintaining an RSOI site, and they should be made a priority.

Facilities Maintenance

Facilities maintenance at RSOI sites is also paramount. Spare parts needed to properly maintain equipment may not be readily available in theaters where RSOI sites are established, but a good maintenance crew, whether military or contracted, can keep your site in good working order. FOB Sharana had contracted maintenance personnel who were able to maintain the facilities to the minimum standards. However, many trades are needed to maintain an RSOI site completely; workers are needed for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning maintenance, plumbing problems, and general carpentry tasks.

General daily maintenance crews will also be needed for things like tent repairs and grounds maintenance. Civilian contractors and local nationals can be requested to increase capabilities and assist in site maintenance. If these options are not available, a broad team of Soldiers will be needed to perform specialized and general camp maintenance.

Storage

Most locations need clean, dry, and secure storage continuously. An RSOI mayor needs to plan for necessary storage, including dry and frozen food storage. Adequate dry storage usually is easy to obtain with a typical Force Provider set; you can use the emptied triple containers that previously held the base camp equipment. Additional frozen and refrigerated storage may be required to store frozen and refrigerated items properly. If refrigerated containers, called “reefers,” are hard to obtain, some types of food items should be ordered in reduced amounts to account for the limited storage. Materials-handling equipment will be needed initially to stage and relocate containers as needed. Because of mission requirements, the FOB Sharana RSOI site had an ongoing need to relocate containers and, thus, an ongoing need for equipment to move the containers.

Population Issues

At times, limited transportation will dramatically affect the size of your population and strain RSOI services. Weather and maintenance problems can affect both air and ground transportation going into and out of the camp, potentially resulting in overpopulation of the site. If they are available, cots can be added to expand the limited bed space. However, population surges will increase latrine, DFAC, and shower facility use. If possible, the RSOI mayor will need to contract for additional portable latrines or increased sewage removal services during these times.

To mitigate the impact on the DFAC, dedicated unit feeding times may be established and enforced to cycle personnel through the DFAC more efficiently. Shower times can be established that will allow all camp residents to shower roughly every other day. Doing so will keep greywater discharge and potable water consumption at an acceptable rate. Trash pickups also may need to be increased to prevent rodent problems.

The FOB Sharana RSOI site had the advantage of being located with a movement control team (MCT). The MCT provided visibility of incoming flights and the number of personnel expected to arrive and depart. If an MCT is not collocated with an RSOI site, adequate and responsive communication can help ensure proper population management.

Communications and Automation

To efficiently operate an RSOI site, you will need some dedicated communications and automation equipment. The communications equipment should include both the Unclassified but Sensitive Internet Protocol Router Network and the Secure Internet Protocol Router Network for daily business operations. Secure communication is important. For instance, if you are in a hostile environment and trying to obtain flight information, you obviously want to prevent the enemy from knowing the unit’s movement plans.

Morale, welfare, and recreation (MWR) phones and computers should also be available. The MWR center can allow communications for personnel transiting through your site. Having these available will keep personnel from coming to the RSOI mayor’s operations area requesting to use the mayor’s limited communications assets.

Computers are great resources; however, they require ongoing maintenance to keep them operating. Once computers are established at the MWR center, software should be regularly and properly updated. You may also have peripheral devices that need constant updates, and hardware maintenance issues may arise. If the RSOI site is not collocated with another installation, the RSOI mayor should request a dedicated signal support team to repair and troubleshoot problems as they arise with these systems. Remember that personnel channels (S–1, G–1, and J–1) are responsible for MWR facilities in combat theaters, not the operations or logistics channels.

Planning for the Unexpected

Mayoral cells may need other, unexpected services and items to operate an RSOI site effectively. For example, for proper preventative hygiene, hand-washing
stations may be added to your DFAC. Hand-washing stations do not come with the Force Provider set, so they should be ordered as soon as possible if you will be using them. Depending on how your service contracts are written, you may need to supply specific items to vendors or local nationals supporting your site. For example, some local nationals with service vehicles may receive fuel or oil for their vehicles as part of their contract. You may need to coordinate these commodities for them. Where the commodities are located and how long it takes to get them may affect your operations. Expect the unexpected.

You can equate operating an RSOI site with operating a hotel. Like running a hotel, to effectively and safely run an RSOI site, you must consider food and water issues, sewage and trash removal, maintenance, storage capabilities, and communications support while keeping in mind the number of people you expect to accommodate. The process of establishing the RSOI site at FOB Sharana provided many learning opportunities. The most important lesson is that proper planning and the ability to adapt are what make an RSOI site successful.
ALOG

Major Bryan K. Ouellette, MEARNG, is assigned to the 120th Regional Support Group in Augusta, Maine. He served in Combined Task Force Chamberlain, 240th Engineer Group. He has a B.S. degree in business administration from Saint Joseph’s College in Maine and an M.S. degree in technology in education from Thomas College in Maine. He is a graduate of the Quartermaster Officer Basic and Advanced Courses, the Combined Arms and Services Staff School, and the Army Command and General Staff College.