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The Role of UMOs and TC–AIMS
Operators in Deployments

The authors offer some advice, based on their unit’s experience in deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan, on how to use unit movement officers and TC–AIMS operators to improve the unit deployment process.

The 16th Corps Support Group (CSG) and its subordinate battalions have deployed several companies to Iraq and Afghanistan. As these deployments have progressed, we at the CSG have learned a few lessons that may be helpful to others. While many of our thoughts are blinding flashes of the obvious, some specifically pertain to the use of unit movement officers (UMOs) and the operation of the Transportation Coordinators’ Automated Information for Management System (TC–AIMS) and were learned through painful experience.

UMOs and TC–AIMS Operators

The selection and training of UMOs is one of the most critical factors affecting a unit’s deployment process. However, the additional duty of UMO most often is assigned to the lieutenant with the most time left to serve in the company; that usually means the one with the least amount of experience. This is a recipe for disaster because of the lieutenant’s lack of knowledge and background. Another problem with giving the UMO job to the “new lieutenant” is that he probably will leave the company after a year. A better alternative would be to select a smart staff sergeant or sergeant first class to be the UMO. That noncommissioned officer (NCO) will have the knowledge and experience to understand the deployment process and will be in the company for 2 or 3 years, which means that the commander will not be fighting constantly to keep a trained person in the UMO position.

Whoever is chosen to be the UMO must be detail-oriented and willing to dedicate the time needed to do the job right. The person selected to be the TC–AIMS operator needs to be computer literate and, like the UMO, detail oriented. It is possible for the UMO to also serve as the TC–AIMS operator, but we do not recommend this because the UMO will be busy enough coordinating transportation, performing crisis management, and executing many other tasks. Adding the chore of updating TC–AIMS data could be too much for a UMO.

Possibly the biggest challenge we encountered in the 16th CSG was a lack of operators with experience in using TC–AIMS. Most of our operators had been to TC–AIMS training, but their skills were perishable because they lacked post-training experience. The “help” function in TC–AIMS also was less than helpful. It is imperative that Soldiers get some sort of refresher training after their initial TC–AIMS training.

One way the 16th CSG is attempting to do this is by incorporating some UMO and TC–AIMS tasks into major training events or conducting UMO and TC–AIMS tasks at least once a quarter. Part of the unit’s preparation to deploy to a training area will be to create a unit deployment list (UDL), burn a radio frequency identification (RFID) tag with level 6 data for a container, and print a transportation control movement document for a squad’s equipment. [Level 6 data include descriptions and serial numbers for all items in a container or vehicle.] The group’s unit movement coordinator will evaluate the tasks on a go/no-go basis. Tasks that are a “no go” will be redone with heavy coaching by the unit movement coordinator. This training also provides a good opportunity to inventory the TC–AIMS hardware suite.

Building Organizational Equipment Lists

The deployment planning process begins long before a unit receives a warning order. One of the first steps is building an organizational equipment list (OEL). Unfortunately, OELs often are poorly built. But if an OEL is developed properly, it can help the UMO and TC–AIMS operator avoid a great deal of pain when their unit is alerted to deploy and the pace of unit operations quickens.

Here are some key things to look at when a unit is building an OEL. All equipment on the unit’s modification table of organization and equipment should be loaded with correct line item numbers, national stock numbers, serial numbers, equipment dimensions, and so forth. For equipment dimensions, each item should be measured physically (with mirrors folded in on vehicles). If measuring equipment is impossible, the unit can use information from Technical Bulletin 55–46–1, Standard Characteristics (Dimensions, Weight, and Cube) for Transportability of Military Vehicles and Other Outsize/Overweight Equipment, or go to https://www.tea.army.mil/pubs/default.asp and click on TB 55–46–2, Standard Characteristics (Dimensions, Weight, and Cube) for Military Vehicles and Equipment. All assigned personnel should be loaded into the OEL with correct information.

In building an OEL, the 16th CSG had trouble in assigning items to the correct categories (equipment, supplies, or sustainment), getting the passenger count correct, inputting level 6 data correctly, building shipment unit numbers (SUNs), and burning RFID tags. Here are some rules of thumb to help TC–AIMS

• Equipment defined as vehicles and other items too big to go inside a container should get their own RFID tags.
• Supplies are everything that can go inside a 20-foot container, such as generators, tents, and computers.
• Sustainment includes items that will be left behind at the unit and items that will accompany troops, such as weapons and night vision devices.
• When entering the names of personnel on the OEL, everybody on the unit roster should be included, regardless of their deployability status. If there are confirmed due-in personnel, include them also. If names or Social Security Numbers are lacking, enter the due-ins as “Joe1, Joe2” and so on and use “111–11–1111” as a Social Security Number (each must be different).
• SUNs should be checked with the installation transportation office. If the unit is in U.S. Army Europe (USAREUR), SUNs should be built exactly to the standard prescribed in the USAREUR TC–AIMS standing operating procedure.

One final note concerning OELs: They must be updated and reviewed quarterly. Often, this is a “check the block” procedure. Units can save themselves a great deal of time during deployment if they make sure their data are correct. If they fail to do so at the quarterly update, they will do it as they prepare to deploy. One thing that helped the 16th CSG a great deal was conducting a “UMO conference,” at which all company UMOs were assembled in one room for 5 days and assisted by knowledgeable NCOs in updating their OELs. This eliminated quite a few problems.

Preparing a Unit Deployment List

Once a unit receives a prepare-to-deploy order, the UMO must begin building the UDL. This is the list of what the unit is taking with it to war. In order to do this, the UMO must answer the following questions—

• How is the unit going to ship its equipment—by air, sea, rail, or road? The answer will determine the number of unit line numbers (ULNs) the unit will need. [A ULN is seven-character, alphanumeric field that describes a unit entry in time-phased force and deployment data.]
• Is the unit going to send an advanced party? If so, how big will that party be? Current U.S. Central Command regulations require that 1 Soldier be sent for every 10 vehicles.
• How will the unit ship its sensitive items? What are the escort and security requirements for shipping those items? Will they need additional containers?
• What equipment will deploy with the unit? Will the unit be falling in on stay-behind equipment in the theater?
• How many Soldiers will be deploying with the main body?
• When must the movement control team and the installation transportation office receive the UDL in order to request lift assets?
• What documentation will be required to ship sensitive items, hazardous materials (HAZMAT), and general cargo? USAREUR Regulation 525–1, Deployment Regulation, and Table 5–1 in Army Forces Command (FORSCOM) Regulation 55–1, Unit Movement Planning, lay out the requirements. (See chart below)

After the UMO answers all of these questions and builds the UDL, he must check it thoroughly to make sure that—

• Equipment, supplies, and sustainment items are categorized correctly.
• Serial numbers are included for all equipment.
• Weights listed match in all document fields.
• ULNs are assigned only to items with level 4 data, such as prime movers, trailers, containers, and 463L pallets (basically any items that require space on a conveyance). [Level 4 data include the nomenclature of vehicles and their SUNs and bumper numbers on trucks and equipment.] Do not assign ULNs to items with level 6 data, such as tents.
• Passenger counts are accurate.
• One ULN is assigned for each passenger move. (One passenger deploying three times—in the advance echelon, the main body, and the trail party—equals three ULNs.)
• One ULN is assigned for each move by mode (such as truck, rail, or air) and one for each point of origin, date, or destination.

Managing an Installation Staging Activity

Once the UDL is complete, the next significant event for the deploying unit is the installation staging activity (ISA) process. Preparation is critical to a unit’s success during an ISA. A unit should have all of the following items to use in marking, tagging, or labeling all containers and rolling stock on hand—

• RFID tags (NSN 6350–01–495–3040), with level 6 data for containers and secondary loads.
• RFID tag batteries (NSN 6135–01–301–8776).
• Military shipment labels (DD Forms 1387).
• Packing lists (DD Forms 1760).
• Transportation control movement documents (DD Forms 1384).
• Shipper’s declarations of hazardous goods (SDDGs).
• Materiel Safety Data Sheets and, for units in Europe, USAREUR 55–355, Joint Transportation and Traffic Management Regulation.
• Container seals.
• Keys for the containers.

These items require data input 9 days before the ISA. They will be needed again when the unit redeploys.

Quality assurance and quality control also are important during the ISA process. The 16th CSG experienced many occasions when data that were input correctly on the OEL or UDL were not printed on documents or were printed in the wrong places. The UMO needs to check each item. This is why USAREUR requires that everything be printed 9 days before the ISA.

Another critical factor is coordination with the installation or the base support battalion that is running the ISA. The unit should coordinate early and often. During initial in-progress reviews (IPRs), the unit needs to provide an estimate of the numbers and types of equipment to be processed (including all containers), the dates on which it will need an ISA, point-of-contact information for key unit personnel, and any unique support requirements. The unit should leave the IPRs with a clear understanding of the ISA process, the type of inspection stations used and the standards for each, frustrated cargo procedures, and available maintenance support capabilities (if provided during the ISA). From there, the unit can plan for maintenance support (if it is not provided during the ISA) and plan on how they will fix frustrated cargo and other problems. The 16th CSG had a maintenance support team on site to fix direct support-level faults and designated a single point of contact whose sole mission was to track, coordinate for correction, and release frustrated cargo.

Even if a unit expends a great deal of effort before the ISA, it is bound to be faced with equipment and documentation issues. So it needs to have a plan to fix problems on site. Having the right people and equipment on site is critical. Obviously, the UMO and TC–AIMS operator will need to be at the ISA, but the unit’s HAZMAT certifier also should be on hand to correct any problems. If the unit has more than one HAZMAT certifier, the ones who signed the SDDGs should be on site; if they are not present, and there is a problem with an SDDG, the new HAZMAT certifier will have to unpack everything and recertify the container. The TC–AIMS hardware suite also must be present, specifically the computer, printers, and interrogator. TC–AIMS problems also should be anticipated. The 16th CSG had hardware problems at every ISA, and having a backup suite helped keep things moving. The most current UDL should be kept on a disk or memory stick.

Onward Movement and Port Operations

After the ISA is complete, the equipment is staged for onward movement. For most units, onward movement will be accomplished by train or truck to the sea port of embarkation. It is critical that a UMO get with his movement control team or installation transportation office as soon as he receives the prepare-to-deploy order to discuss the deployment. Some things will probably change, but it helps to have a foundation from which to start. Movement control team and installation transportation office personnel are the subject-matter experts in onward movement and will be a great help.

A couple of points about port operations, found in FM 4–01.011, Unit Movement Operations, should be noted. First, even if it is not required, a unit should send the UMO, the TC–AIMS operator, and the original HAZMAT certifier to the port. This will help ensure that small problems, such as damaged RFID tags and lost documentation, can be fixed quickly and easily. Second, units at and above the battalion level should send at least one liaison officer to the port, especially when multiple units are deploying at the same time. (Since ports typically work 24 hours a day, it is better to have two liaison officers to share the workload.) The liaison officer’s mission is threefold. First, the liaison officer is the sole point of contact for the agencies at the port, such as the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command and the marshaling area control group, for issues concerning the unit’s equipment. The presence of a unit liaison officer makes it easier for port agencies to know who to talk to when many units are moving through the port. Second, the liaison officer is the conduit for information going to higher headquarters. Third, the liaison officer can serve as a shield from “information hounds” who try to skip several layers of the chain of command to contact the company UMO directly. Having the liaison officer act as a shield allows the UMO and his team to execute their mission without distractions. Selection of a liaison officer must be given careful thought so that the duty is assigned to someone with a basic understanding of what the operation is about, what information needs to be passed to whom, and how that information can be obtained.

Deployment to a theater of operations is a very complex process that can try the patience and test the expertise of even the best prepared unit. Using trained and skilled unit movement officers and TC–AIMS operators can improve the process and make an inherently challenging process less frustrating.

Major Michael E. Scarlett, Jr., is the S–4, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 16th Corps Support Group, 3d Corps Support Command, in Hanau, Germany. He holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Montana State University.

Sergeant First Class Chester W. Montgomery is the Transportation Noncommissioned Officer in Charge of the 16th Corps Support Group in Hanau, Germany.

Bobby L. Roberson is a traffic management specialist in the Transportation Division, Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff, G–4, V Corps, in Heidelberg, Germany. He served 22 years in the Army.