The theater support command integrates Active
component soldiers. How did this multicomponent organization
perform in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, and
what changes may be needed to ensure its continued relevance?
Lessons learned in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm
and later in the Balkans have fostered significant changes
in Army logistics. One of the most important was the conversion
of the old theater Army area command (TAACOM) to a multicomponent
theater support command (TSC). What have been the results of
this change so far? We can find an answer in Operation Enduring
Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, which have served as a
logistics laboratory for evaluating the integrated, multicomponent
During these operations, TSCs have been instrumental in sustaining
the warfighter. TSCs have moved huge volumes of materiel at
a faster pace to their customers, improved their real-time
information and tracking capabilities, and increased their
responsiveness to their customers’ special needs. From
the outset of the operations, TSCs effectively executed split-based
operations and coordinated joint logistics with the other services
and coalition partners (though there is room for improvement).
The logistics warriors of the TSCs have risen to every challenge.
No mission has gone unsupported; no combat objectives have
been missed because of logistics constraints. In terms of moving
critical items from the manufacturer to the foxhole, TSCs have
validated themselves as the single point of contact for echelons-above-corps
In this and two future articles, I will look briefly at how
the TSCs functioned during Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom,
from the alert and mobilization phase through the redeployment
and reconstitution phase. I will review some of the factors
I discussed in previous Army Logistician articles and their
effects on Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom as we in the
21st Theater Support Command viewed them from the ground. [See
the May–June 2000, July–August 2000, September–October
2000, and January–February 2003 issues for General Wells’ previous
articles on the TSC.] My intent is not to get into the details
of all the challenges facing TSCs but rather to concentrate
on the overall operation and structural makeup of the TSC and
the integration and relationships of the Active and Reserve
During the mobilization of any Army organization, all personnel
are required to muster at a designated site. The Active and
Reserve component elements of a TSC headquarters are separated
by thousands of miles, so meeting this mobilization requirement
was not practical for Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi
Freedom. Validation of soldier training was in question, so
qualified unit soldiers ended up certifying their fellow soldiers.
Real dilemmas challenged lines of authority; leaders at many
levels crossed component lines to make deals and decisions
that were not always in accord with prescribed processes. Legal
control of soldiers left behind for medical and legal reasons
remained unresolved in many cases.
These issues created frustration and tension among the various
commands trying to deploy the TSCs’ Reserve component
soldiers. A number of decisions later led to administrative
challenges in areas such as credit for being a mobilized soldier,
failure to follow mobilization regulatory guidance on individual
soldiers’ responsibilities, and the validity of certification
by others that a unit met the prescribed standard to deploy.
The challenges of the mobilization process have been well documented,
and the Army has recognized the need for changes.
Thomas F. Hall, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve
Affairs, has stated that the Nation’s heavy reliance
on its Reserve components is actually a good thing—proof
that the “total force” concept is working and that
the Reserve components are full partners in the Nation’s
defense. Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom demonstrated
the ability of TSC soldiers to blend together and work as a
team, regardless of their component affiliations. Deployed
logistics units fit in with the TSC headquarters and responded
with outstanding support and leadership.The multicomponent,
integrated approach to support by TSC logisticians was on target.
There was no time to worry about turf, Active-versus-Reserve
culture concerns, or the ability to employ every able-bodied
soldier and civilian. However, following the conflict, relationships
and working conditions changed. When the Reserve component
soldiers returned from their split-based operations, they found
there was no need for their skill sets on a daily basis; a
majority of the soldiers had little or no work to do. Why?
Two issues were apparent.
First, earlier Army Force Design Updates and Total Army Analysis
processes attempted to account for varied missions, sizes of
areas of responsibility, and existing operating tempo within
the TSCs. The TSCs then identified a formal breakout of authorized
Active and Reserve positions. However, in Enduring Freedom
and Iraqi Freedom, the Army discovered that the original identification
of these positions was not applicable in nonconflict environments
(though the identification worked well during the two operations).
Second, as the initial identification of component slots in
the TSCs was being made, decisions were made at higher command
levels not to fill many of the authorized Active component
slots in the TSCs. Over the ensuing years, the TSCs were forced
to adapt to this shortfall by using soldiers from table of
distribution and allowances units, local nationals, and Department
of the Army civilians to meet their daily workloads. These
individuals fill in the gaps when Reserve soldiers are deployed.
However, this creates problems as civilians fill in and assume
the reservists’ roles; when the reservists return, there
is no work for them to do in their assigned missions.
We need to think about how this will work in the future. Civilians
were afraid to allow the reservists to do their assigned missions.
We recognized the dilemma too late to ease tensions and misunderstandings
among the affected organizational personnel. At my TSC, we
did not think through the challenge of post-conflict integration.
While we met the mark on the integration of our headquarters
on the battlefield, we failed to look far enough down the road
and view how integration would work in peacetime.
The foundation of knowledge for the multicomponent unit is
in its Reserve element. Reservists bring intangible skill sets
that an Active component soldier must acquire over a 1- to
3-year assignment. Once that Active component soldier moves
on, the education cycle begins again in the unit with a newly
assigned Active component soldier. This means that, in a multicomponent
unit like the TSC, the reservists retain the bulk of the unit’s
knowledge and experience. Typically, the reservist is there
before the assignment of the Active component soldier and remains
long after he has left.
As an integrated multicomponent organization, the TSC must
capitalize on reservists’ capabilities. We cannot afford
to train these soldiers, treat them poorly, and then expect
to retain their time and services in the Army. These personnel
are precious commodities vital to future organizational operations.
To believe that the force as aligned today will become a full-up
TSC in the future is not realistic. Combat service support
units have long been, and will continue to be, the bill payer
of the combat warrior. We have to recruit, train, and build
new logistics leaders; this could take 3 to 4 years, but we
do not have the luxury of that much time.
Demobilization and Reconstitution
As the need for logisticians fluctuated in the theater, it
became a challenge for TSC leaders to determine when and how
to redeploy their mobilized soldiers. This was not a simple
process. The general movement of the TSCs back from the theater
to home station occurred in increments instead of a traditional
unit movement. Determining these movements was accomplished
using a team-oriented approach. TSC leaders had to carefully
review ongoing missions, future possibilities, and directed
guidance from higher headquarters.
In the process of returning home, TSC leaders had a twofold
requirement: continue to support the combat soldiers in Iraq
and simultaneously collapse the TSC workforce in theater. When
the process involved the Reserve soldiers, they had to rotate
back to their mobilization sites and on to their home stations
with their leaders. Once at home, these reservists, while receiving
time off, went through a reconstitution process in which they
were reorganized and trained in preparation for a potential
The process of reconstitution is sometimes overlooked, but
it remains a critical element in getting soldiers retooled.
This period also represents a vital time for soldiers to reconnect
with their families and jobs. We hope they will maintain a
positive outlook and ultimately will decide to remain in the
Reserve force. If soldiers perceive that they are being mistreated
and that their leaders have less regard for their personal
needs than they expect, those leaders eventually will suffer
the loss of quality personnel and the accumulated experience
The Army is reducing its reliance on divisional sets and, instead,
is turning to tailored, interchangeable combat sets as the
norm. Logisticians will have to transform accordingly. Based
on our current battlefield experiences, the push to restructure
the Army means a continued, changing alignment of leaner logistics
elements. By flattening hierarchical logistics headquarters
up and down the Army, we can be even more time sensitive to
the combat commander’s needs.
The baseline structure of the TSC has not changed dramatically
since its inception. However, within each TSC, some military
positions have been converted from one component to the other.
These conversions have been made to respond to theater-specific
needs and to enhance the effectiveness of split-based forward
logistics. When done with a team approach, these changes have
However, when one component makes changes without a full understanding
of the consequences to the other component, problems with the
overall operation of the TSC can result. For example, it is
critical that each component of the TSC has a command and control
capability. A TSC has a troop support battalion (TSB) and a
headquarters and headquarters company (HHC). It is logical
to have one or the other of these command and control elements
in each component. A lack of command-selected leaders in either
component creates command and control issues. If the TSC leaders
determine that an Active component presence is needed within
the TSB to launch the early-entry module command post forward,
then the HHC must be positioned in the Reserve element to provide
command and control for its required administrative and operational
needs. An unbalanced command and control structure will create
future problems individually and collectively.
Continuity must be maintained in the command and control elements.
Slots assigned to one component must not be filled arbitrarily
with soldiers of the other. This can create needless leadership
challenges when soldiers in leadership positions arrive during
mobilization or for normal overseas deployment training. Attempting
to fill one component slot with a soldier from the other component
sends the wrong message. The offended soldier may react negatively
and eventually develop an undesirable “we versus they” attitude.
Memorandum of Agreement
An integrated multicomponent organization must have a detailed memorandum of
agreement (MOA) in place. The MOA outlines how all parties within the TSC are
to function in such areas as supply, accountability, personnel ratings (in relation
to regulatory guides), and procedural working agreements with other headquarters.
The MOA needs to address those unique command requirements that fall outside
of DA-level multicomponent procedures and policies. This will tell leaders and
their headquarters how administrative processes are to work in the Active and
Reserve component environments.
The MOA must be in place, and the leaders must follow it. At times, some TSC
personnel may violate the agreements intentionally or unintentionally. It is
apparent that, if leaders do not take a role in enforcing the MOA, TSC personnel
will be forever confused about their administrative relationships. As senior
leaders are assigned, they must be fully educated on MOA processes. All assigned
personnel then must adhere to the MOA processes. The alternative will lead to
confusion, with individuals making policy decisions not outlined in the MOA.
Reserve Structure Relationships
The TSC Reserve element is situated in a regional readiness command (RRC). However,
it is somewhat isolated from the RRC since it is neither a direct reporting organization
nor a major subordinate command. It uses and depends on the RRC for base operations
support. Administratively, it is linked to both Active and Reserve components
for soldier support. The senior Reserve leaders find themselves in a precarious
position in their relations to their supporting headquarters and WARTRACE units.
They must constantly define the TSC Reserve element’s structure and its
operational scope and then request funding and educate those unfamiliar with
We have observed some tremendous progress on the part of those involved in making
the integrated, multicomponent concept work. We must remember that each TSC is
a unique organization structured from a base table of organization and equipment.
While we have improved our ability to develop new logistics conceptual doctrine
and plan for and execute joint logistics support and sustainment operations,
we have not made the same progress in crafting coordination between our own Army
The force structure of the Reserves is constantly in flux. Many experts view
an organization that is reducing elements of its workforce as signaling that
those elements are no longer relevant. It appears that the TSC Reserve elements
are headed in that direction. Failure to deploy our TSC Reserve soldiers to do
their mission will inhibit the activities of the combat warrior. The bottom line
is that you can never grow stronger and more relevant from a position of weakness.
Continuing in such a direction ultimately will eliminate what we know today as
Major General George William (Bill) Wells, Jr., USAR, is the Assistant Deputy
Chief of Staff for Mobilization and Training, Army G–4. He previously served
as Chief of Staff of the 21st Theater Support Command in Indianapolis, Indiana.