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Advice to a New Sustainment Planner at the Brigade Command Post

The author provides a working list of questions that planners need to answer to ensure that they are meeting the needs of the unit. This list offers guidance for company-grade officers and noncommissioned officers coordinating the military decisionmaking process at the brigade command post.

On receipt of a mission, or at the hint of a new warning order, and periodically throughout the day, a sustainment planner at a brigade command post should coordinate with fellow staff officers in the warfighting functional cells to define the scope of the mission at hand. This article presents a list of questions and considerations that I have found useful when supporting conventional operations. The list represents the wisdom of many years of support operations experience. The questions are designed to keep you, as a sustainment planner, anticipating mission requirements so that you are forecasting sustainment needs and not reacting to maneuver planners.

These are questions that I would advise captains, lieutenants, noncommissioned officers, and Soldiers in the command post to answer. Remember: Soldiers are sergeants in training right now, so leaders should be educating them right now.

In addition to acting as the commander’s adjutant, the S–1 coordinates with the unit surgeon to pull together planning considerations affecting personnel- and strength-management plans. The S–1 must be cross-trained in the S–4’s functional areas in order to provide sound and timely advice and ensure that personnel support and logistics support are integrated.

1. What is the flow of unit personnel into the theater, including at the aerial ports and seaports of
embarkation and debarkation, and what is the flow capacity at each location?
2. What are the personnel reception, staging, onward movement, and integration requirements in theater, to include training and accountability?
3. What is the casualty estimate forecast by event and battlefield location?
4. What is the casualty evacuation management plan?
5. What are the current unit strengths and military occupational specialty (MOS) shortages?
6. What is the status of crew manning in pacing items?
7. What are the personnel replacement transportation requirements in the unit area of responsibility?
8. What are the postal transportation requirements within the unit?
9. Have we established coordination with the Army airspace command and control (A2C2) staff officer?

Medical Operations

Rehearse the planning process with the brigade combat team’s (BCT’s) entire medical support team—the BCT S–1, the surgeon, the support operations officer and his medical planning officer, and the brigade support medical company commander, who is the executor of the BCT plan. The medical company commander should have a close relationship with the medical platoons of the battalions in order to provide seamless and effective casualty evacuation. Nurture this relationship in garrison as well as the field.

1. What is the priority of support?
2. What is the availability of ground and air assets?
3. Is the command and control and support structure in place in the theater?
4. What is the local infrastructure like?
5. What are the rules of engagement for supporting non-U.S. patients?
6. What are the casualty estimates and the requirements for nonstandard evacuation?
7. What are the protocols for reacting to mass-casualty events?
8. What are the plans for ambulance exchange points, forward surgical teams, and aid stations throughout the area of operations?
9. What is the plan for clean and dirty routes?
10. Where will you position air assets and Army airspace command and control?


It is a good idea to identify a rear-battle subject-matter expert in the S–2 shop who can focus on threats to the brigade support area and lines of communication. You want an expert in the main command post focusing on special considerations for the rear area threat so that, as message traffic or spot reports come in, he can immediately be alerted to the impact on rear operations. The primary S–2 officer is probably too focused on the main battle area to satisfy this need. Have this S–2 rear area subject-matter expert present the threat briefing at the sustainment rehearsal and cultivate this relationship. Here are some specific questions to coordinate with him:

1. What are the threats to sustainment throughout the battlespace?
2. Does the threat prioritize attacks by phase against sustainment assets?
3. What is the status of the current threat capability portfolio, and how dynamic is the status?
4. When is the next S–2/G–2 rear area threat profile with overlays being published?
5. When is the next scheduled operations and intelligence information transfer to the administration and logistics radio network?


As the terrain manager, command prioritizer, and concept of maneuver designer, the S–3 is an important sustainment planner. Here are some questions and coordination points to engage him and his staff:

1. What are the possibilities and probabilities for exploitation, and what are the triggers and battlefield conditions that would cause us to make the decision to exploit?
2. What are the initial concepts for positioning battalion-sized elements, and has the space been allocated for the brigade support area, logistics elements, unit maintenance collection points, and ambulance collection points?
3. Do we have the latest list of working fragmentary orders (FRAGOs)?
4. What branches and sequels are anticipated?
5. What “be prepared” missions are anticipated?
6. Are there any emerging ideas for the concept of maneuver?
7. How dynamic is the mission profile of the next higher headquarters, and how quickly could the mission forecast change?
8. Where is the unit in its higher headquarters’ priority of support?
9. What task organization changes are anticipated, and are they absolutely essential for this mission? (Remember that each task organization change requires some changes to the support forces that must be cross-leveled as well. Anything other than the standing operating procedure is problematic.)
10. What are the criteria for transitioning to a new phase of the operation in terms of battlefield status?
11. What is the status for A2C2, and when was the unit’s last rehearsal?
12. What is the required rate of supply for ammunition?

  • Are there any DODICs (Department of Defense identification codes) that are or need to be command regulated?
  • Who is the release authority for command-regulated ammunition?

13. How complex is this mission?

  • How many moving pieces are there?
  • Where are the key spots on the ground for leaders?

14. Are there any chokepoints that are crucial to the mission?
15. Are forces allocated to the tactical combat force, and what is the plan for the military police?
16. What is being considered for the reconnaissance and counter-reconnaissance fights, and how will we use the reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition battalion?


You may be the S–4 or the SPO planner asking all of these questions of others. You should be mindful of the following:

1. How many and what type of current missions currently are being supported or planned?
2. What is the combat power now, and what is the combat power forecast for the next 6, 12, and 24 hours?
3. What is the current status for class III (fuel), class V (ammunition), class VIII (medical materiel) and class IX (repair parts), and what is their forecasted status for the next 6, 12, or 24 hours?
4. Is the unit doing anything unusual with sustainment right now? In the next 24 hours?
5. To what degree are unit capabilities currently engaged?
6. Where are the current and future support area locations?
7. What command and support relationship changes have taken place?
8. What task organization changes have taken place in and out of the brigade?
9. What are route management and allocation plans within the corps and division?
10. Where are the movement control teams, and can the unit support them?
11. What is the status of routes (including division and corps main supply routes)?
12. What is our priority of support in division and corps orders?
13. What is the 5-day look forward to mission profile?
14. Will the brigade support activity have to move?

  • Is it moving?
  • Where can it go?
  • How fast can it get there?
  • When will it get there and be ready to provide support?

15. Where is the forward logistics element?

  • What is in it?
  • What is its mission and purpose?
  • Who is in charge of it?

16. What ambulance exchange points are active?
17. When did we last give an operations and intelligence update over the administration and logistics network for all sustainers?
18. What convoys are on the road, and where are they going and with what support?
19. Where are the military police and tactical combat force?
20. What is the current battle rhythm for logistics packages?
21. What is the battle rhythm of sustainment brigade convoys?
22. What air assets are available, and are any dedicated ? (A2C2)
23. How are our reporting systems doing ? (complete? timely? accurate?)
24. How good is our forecasting, and what method(s) are we using?
25. What are the brigade support battalion commander’s top three concerns and his commander’s critical information requirements?
26. What is our full array of capabilities?
27. Do the graphics provide the ability to quickly issue a FRAGO for anything within the area of operations and area of interest?
28. Does everyone (including the sustainment brigade supporting us) have the current graphics and daily execution FRAGO?
29. Have I talked to the SPO and brigade executive officer in the last 4 hours?
30. How can I make the plan more adaptable and provide more capabilities and choices for the commander, and how can I create opportunities to support the commander’s efforts to seize the initiative?
31. Where is the next threat to sustainment coming from?
32. Where is the alternate command post right now, and could they take over the battle in a moment’s notice?
33. When was the last time I slept for 4 continuous hours?
34. Who else in the brigade command post needs to know what I know?
35. When was the last time I checked in with everyone?


In an operational environment with hybrid threats, we can be sure that there will be some element of fear among the people involved. The S–5 will be pulling together many staff capability multipliers that will be available to the BCT. The S–5 is an ideal staff officer for coordinating different assets, such as civil affairs, linguists, liaisons, teams from a whole of government approach, and nongovernmental organizations that provide or receive support in the operation. The S–5 has a natural alliance with the judge advocate general officer. Creating a one-stop shop for these capabilities is an excellent idea.

1. What is the status of civilians and their effect on lines of communication?
2. What civilian lines of effort will affect our mission?
3. How can we make use of the local population and infrastructure?
4. What is the status of law, order, and discipline in the civilian population?
5. What sources of information and informal leadership can we use?
6. What are the cultural and religious symbols of importance that we must be able to recognize?


Fires is the first stop in coordinating requirements from other warfighting functional areas. The fires battalion’s ammunition requirements can represent as much as 80 percent of the supply tonnage being transported through the area of operations. Their firing battery position areas compete for space on the battlefield with many of the support teams. Special coordination and planning is required to receive fires support for the lines of communication and support areas. Consider the following:

1. How much supply tonnage is forecast?
2. Who and where is the source of supply for class V?
3. Will we be firing in support of other brigades while we are preparing?
4. Will other battalions be assigned in our area for supporting fires, and if so, what is our command and support relationship with them?
5. What positioning areas do we need to support the fire mission?
6. Are there any Army airspace command and control issues that will affect our aerial resupply and medical evacuation?
7. What are the plans for out-of-sector support, if any?
8. In a defense, are there plans for stockpiling ammunition in alternate firing positions and position areas, and what is the plan for richer grade ammunition?
9. Where will counterfire radar be positioned, and what if the coverage does not include the brigade support area?
10. What is the fires threat doctrine for targeting sustainment areas?
11. Will any assets be employed in the reconnaissance and counter-reconnaissance phase?


Engineers provide unique maintenance and support essential to the BCT’s mission accomplishment. Engineer capabilities can dramatically improve the sustainment operations and survivability of the support areas and units. Keep the following in mind when planning for engineer support:

1. Will engineers be task organized to support this mission as direct support to battalions or as an independent engineer task force?
2. What is the forecast for tonnage of classes IV (construction and barrier materials) and V for this mission?
3. What is the status of preconfigured push packages in logistics support areas?
4. What are the section’s special maintenance issues?
5. What is the status of materials-handling equipment (MHE)?
6. Do we have to do any repackaging of classes IV and V for this mission?

  • Where will it be conducted?
  • How many people and what MHE will be required?

7. Where will class V be kept in your obstacle packages, and how will that ammunition be secured and transported?
8. What assets do we have in the brigade support activity that can be used to provide sustainment protection?
9. What is the plan for improving road networks?

  • What equipment is available for road work?
  • What are the priorities for road improvement?

10. How will infrastructure be used to support the engineer work effort?
11. When was the combined obstacle overlay last updated and distributed?

Reconnaissance, Surveillance, and Target Acquisition Battalion

The reconnaissance and counter-reconnaissance fight is a combat operation that requires complete planning and support. In many cases, the reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition battalion’s concept of operation will severely challenge its ability to conduct routine resupply. Answer these questions while planning for reconnaissance and counter-reconnaissance:

1. What is the concept for reconnaissance and surveillance?
2. What is the concept for sustainment?
3. What is the plan for recovery and medical evacuation operations forward of the forward line of own troops?
4. Do we need to constitute a forward logistics element to support sustainment operations?
5. After the reconnaissance and counter-reconnaissance mission, was the follow-on mission reserve, screen, or following support?
6. What is the plan for maintenance recovery to the unit maintenance collection point in the brigade support area?
7. Will the battalion be screening or protecting in depth or along a perimeter?
8. What is the enemy’s doctrine for conducting reconnaissance in waves against sustainment assets?

Financial Management

Financial management is generally an additional duty for the S–4 section. Particularly in stability operations, this staff section’s concept of support will be crucial to overall success.

1. Who will be responsible for managing the brigade budget and spending plans and reporting to the division G–8?
2. Who consolidates and reviews funding requirements, and what is the process for validating the funding requirements?
3. Who will recommend spending or funding priorities to the brigade commander?
4. How many paying agents will we have in the brigade?

  • How many do we actually need?
  • Have they been trained and put on orders by the supporting financial management company?

5. Do the paying agents have a place to secure their cash (a safe)?
6. How many project purchasing officers (Commander’s Emergency Response Program) and field ordering officers (local purchases) will we have in the brigade?

  • How many do we actually need?
  • Have they been trained and put on orders by the supporting contracting officer?

Take these questions and use them as a basis for obtaining the information you need to make effective decisions in the military decisionmaking process. If you have comments or improvements to this list, contact the author at long-kenneth@conus.army.mil.

Kenneth Long is an assistant professor and curriculum designer in the Department of Logistics and Resource Operations at the Army Command and General Staff College. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Asian history and political science from Michigan State University and a master’s degree in systems management from the University of Southern California. He is completing a doctorate of management from Colorado Technical University. He is a graduate of the Army Infantry Officer Basic and Advanced Courses, the Army Combined Arms and Services Staff School, and the Army Command and General Staff College.

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