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
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
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)
|Table 5–1, Deployment Documentation Requirements,
in Army Forces Command (FORSCOM) Regulation 55–1,
Unit Movement Planning, shows the documents a unit
needs to ship sensitive items, hazardous materials,
and general cargo.
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
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
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.