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Stryker Brigade Combat Teams
Need Forward Support Companies

Heavy and infantry brigade combat teams are organized with forward support companies. The authors believe the Stryker brigade should be no different.

The Army needs to build the sustainment capability of the Stryker brigade combat team (SBCT). The SBCT, which currently has equipment, personnel, and capability shortfalls, needs to be better equipped for future conflicts that will occur in immature theaters of varying levels of intensity. The Army is proposing to add Soldiers to the SBCT table of organization and equipment (TOE) to increase the capability of the brigade support battalion (BSB). As it currently stands, the BSB consists of a headquarters and headquarters company (HHC), a distribution company, a maintenance company, and a medical company. In this article, we propose how to slot BSB Soldiers most effectively and recommend TOE changes that would more adequately support the SBCT, namely by creating forward support companies (FSCs). (See chart below.)

While the SBCT has been overwhelmingly successful throughout Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), the brigade’s inherent capability gaps must be addressed if it is going to operate in more austere environments during future conflicts. The SBCT needs to be redesigned to bridge the gap between its modular organization and that of its counterparts, the heavy brigade combat team (HBCT) and the infantry brigade combat team (IBCT).

The Bottom Line

Using existing personnel and equipment in its inventory, the Army can increase the SBCT’s BSB sustainment capability with the addition of 238 personnel and associated equipment. This increase would expand the BSB’s sustainment capability from 4 companies to 10 and would add logistics capability to the SBCT by placing an FSC in each battalion. Even with this proposed change, SBCT units would retain a simple support structure.

To put the proposed increase in perspective, we can look at the modification TOE (MTOE) of our SBCT, the 2d Stryker Cavalry Regiment (2d SCR). According to its MTOE, dated 16 June 2007, the 2d SCR’s authorized strength is 4,039. The 2d SCR’s regimental support squadron (RSS), which is the equivalent of a BSB, is currently authorized 722 personnel. The Army can maximize the 2d SCR’s combat power while minimizing the overall footprint by realigning assets, such as field feeding teams and combat repair teams, under FSCs. The result of this realignment would be a total of 960 logistics Soldiers supporting the brigade in the RSS and FSCs.

History of the SBCT

The SBCT was originally developed to be a lethal, rapidly deployable, technologically advanced fighting force. The interim BCT, as the SBCT was known in its infancy, was envisioned by then Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki as a medium force that would essentially bridge the gap between the light and heavy divisions. This force would be quick to deploy, yet it would maintain adequate firepower to engage any enemy threat. Originally, the interim BCT was going to consist of 5 maneuver battalions, a support battalion, and 6 separate companies totaling approximately 3,900 personnel. Under the original organization, the support battalion consisted of only 318 Soldiers.

To increase the number of maneuver units in the brigade by one infantry battalion, all sustainment power was consolidated in the support battalion (borrowing from the Force XXI concept of aligning the support and maintenance platoons in the support battalion). This reduced the sustainment capability to a level lower than what was found in traditional heavy or light brigades. The absence of support platoons in the maneuver battalions placed the entire mission of supporting all SBCT sustainment operations on an undersized support battalion.

In October 2001, the interim BCT was tested in a series of exercises in Yakima, Washington. These exercises determined that the size of the support battalion was inadequate to provide sufficient sustainment to the brigade. To fill the shortfall, 300 personnel were added to the MTOE, bringing the total number of support personnel to 618. The increase included the formation of a separate combat service support company (CSSC) in an attempt to augment the brigade’s sustainment capability. The CSSC personnel were quickly absorbed into the BSB during training and garrison requirements, and the company was dropped from the SBCT TOE in fiscal year 2004. The interim BCT officially became the SBCT in its current form on 24 September 2002, and it has performed admirably during five rotations in support of OIF.

Doctrinal Mission of the SBCT

Field Manual 4–90.7, Stryker Brigade Combat Team Logistics, states—

The BSB is designed to perform centralized C2 [command and control] of all logistics operations, including Army Health System (AHS) support under the C2 of the BSB headquarters. The BSB staff executes logistics operations through a C2 system complemented with an array of digital information systems. In addition, the BSB has the capability to integrate into BSB operations the logistics assets required to support units or personnel augmenting the SBCT.

The BSB maintains all SBCT sustainment assets except for the medical platoons. Sustainment assets are managed by the battalion’s support operations officer (SPO), who, along with the brigade S–4, develops and uses the concept of support to commit assets and ensure that mission failure is never the result of insufficient sustainment support.

SBCT doctrine states that the support battalion will rely on echelons above brigade (EAB) to provide support and to fill the gaps of the organic support battalion. In theaters like OIF with very large sustainment bases and contractor support readily available, the SBCT does not have to rely solely on the support battalion. Contractors, such as KBR, provide contracted food, laundry, and shower services in forward operating bases throughout Iraq and Afghanistan. Unlike Soldiers, logistics contractors do not perform guard duty or participate in patrols or convoy security; their sole responsibility is to provide logistics services.

The challenge begins in austere environments, where hardened operating bases are unavailable and the enemy situation is deemed too dangerous to allow contracted support. The SBCT by design may be employed during the initial phases of an operation, and the mission’s logistics requirements could exceed the brigade’s current sustainment capability of approximately 96 hours. Battalions also routinely conduct decentralized operations in which platoons and companies are spread out across the operating environment. Under these conditions, dedicated contract support, such as that provided by KBR, would not be feasible and the EAB support would not be available until the operating environment was secured.

The Reality of Logistics in an SBCT Today

To ensure the concept of support is successful, SBCT support battalions rely on the formation of logistics support teams (LSTs). An LST is essentially a team of logistics Soldiers and equipment formed from BSB assets and typically attached to a maneuver battalion in the brigade. If it is not fully attached, it has a relationship with the maneuver brigade resembling a direct support relationship with operational control or tactical control. (Some would say it is an ad hoc version of “attached.”) Stryker units have various names for LSTs, such as “forward area support team,” “forward support element,” or the traditional “forward logistics element.” The bottom line is that they all have the same task and purpose: to provide dedicated sustainment support to an assigned maneuver battalion.

Although LSTs do begin to address an overall capability shortfall, the concept is merely a “band-aid” to ensure mission success. LSTs have few sustainment and manpower resources, and they lack leadership from the support battalion. Because the resources that an LST has are informally dedicated to its maneuver battalion, using the LST concept makes it harder for the BSB to reroute redundant resources to other efforts.

During combat operations, the 2d SCR RSS attaches the LSTs directly to the maneuver squadrons, which use the assets to replicate the functions of a support platoon. The LSTs work and live with the units they support and provide sustainment support within the maneuver battalions’ operating environments. The integration of support assets into the maneuver battalions does, however, come with a cost. The LST does not have the capability to meet most contingencies; to resource it to that extent would strip the BSB of key sustainment assets and personnel and reduce the BSB’s ability to support the overall brigade mission.

The BSB has to task-organize its assets to fulfill the support platoon mission while simultaneously fulfilling its requirement to support the brigade as a whole. The goal is to meet the maneuver units’ requirements and have enough sustainment capability to support most unforeseen missions. But the BSB can only meet both requirements if changes are made to its organization.

Capability Shortfalls in the BSB

Discussions about the SBCT BSB’s capability shortfalls have occurred since the inception of the SBCT; however, those shortfalls should be looked at with renewed interest in light of the “Grow the Army” initiative. The SBCT force design update and the Army Infantry Center have recognized that the SBCT has several capability gaps. Currently, the upgrade of the SBCT BSB to the modular BCT standard is in the works and will likely occur in fiscal year 2010. In the proposed changes, some prioritization issues exist and some capability shortfalls remain unaddressed.

Historically, the bill payer for the increased combat capability in SBCT force design has been sustainment forces. To meet deployment timelines and personnel limits, assets had to be cut from the SBCT force structure, and the majority of the reductions in personnel strength and equipment were from the BSB. Experience proved that, even though the organization has enormous combat capability, the SBCT will always be hindered if it does not have sufficient sustainment. Correcting critical shortfalls in the BSB must be made a priority for changes in sustainment shortcomings to have greater operational significance.

Modifying the SBCT’s Organization

Ideally, all of the SBCT’s maneuver battalions should have on their MTOEs the organic logistics personnel needed to man FSCs sufficiently. Then the BSB, which should be equally well-equipped, could focus on reinforcing sustainment support. Unfortunately, this scenario is currently not possible because of the direct combat probably coding (DCPC) classification, which prevents female Soldiers from being assigned in forward combat arms units. Many female Soldiers are assigned to FSCs, so an FSC cannot fall under the MTOE of the maneuver battalion that it supports. Because of the DCPC, each FSC is required to fall under the MTOE of the support battalion; the BSB owns the FSCs and attaches them to the maneuver battalions.

Regardless of the current coding, the belief that this coding is a deciding factor in the employment of logistics assets in the current operating environment is a fallacy. The argument about employing female Soldiers “forward” should be revisited based on the fact that the linear battlefield no longer exists.

The SBCT will experience increased success and efficiency in sustainment operations if the sustainment structure is modified to include an FSC for each maneuver battalion. FSCs will allow the support battalion to push logistics support effectively to units. The FSCs would be MTOE-structured organizations, which would work, train, and live with the units they support during garrison and tactical operations. The FSCs would be fully integrated into the daily operations and training plans of their supported battalions, leading to stronger customer relationships through routine interaction.

Proposed FSC Design

Personnel, fuel support, sustainment, movement, armament, and maintenance changes are all required for the SBCT to accommodate FSCs. By employing FSCs, the support battalion can provide the necessary support to the maneuver battalions and still have enough assets and capabilities remaining to support the SBCT as a whole.

Personnel. The FSC command and operations element, like any company, will have a designated commander, who will be a logistics branch captain or a senior first lieutenant. So, the number of command slots will increase by six. Logistics officers must be familiar with the key differences in supporting HBCTs, IBCTs, and SBCTs. The Combined Logistics Captains Career Course is the ideal venue to provide this program of instruction. Each FSC will also have a first sergeant, who will manage enlisted functions, and an executive officer to serve as the operations officer. The executive officer will work with the maneuver battalion S–4 and operate according to the battalion commander’s intent.

The FSC will include a headquarters and three platoons: a food service platoon (FSP), a maintenance support platoon, and a fuel, transportation, and ammunition platoon. Each platoon will have a platoon leader and a platoon sergeant to perform the required leadership functions. Each FSC will require the same fuel, transportation, food service support, armament, and maintenance military occupational specialties (MOSs) that the LSTs currently have, but the additional personnel will augment the LST’s current capabilities.

Fuel. The FSC will require two M978 heavy expanded mobility tactical truck fuelers, six 500-gallon collapsible fuel blivets, and two forward area refueling equipment (FARE) systems to support class IIIB (bulk petroleum, oils, and lubricants) storage and distribution requirements. The additional fuel blivets and FARE systems will provide the unit with the ability to configure flatracks of class IIIB and drop them at specific locations for rapid refuel operations.

Water. Bulk water will be required for hygiene, medical operations, food preparation, and maintenance operations. Bulk water is essential in locations where bottled water is not available. Each FSC will require one “Hippo” water tank rack system for rapidly refilling 900-gallon “Camel” water trailers and 5-gallon water jugs for resupplying company and platoon locations.

Field feeding. Each FSC will require an FSP to replace the current field feeding team. The FSP will use the containerized kitchen and the kitchen company level field feeding (KCLFF) system to provide centralized and decentralized food service support for the battalion. The KCLFF system can be used for preparing all standard rations in the Army supply system.

Movement. To improve transportation capability, each FSC will require two M1120 load-handling systems (LHSs) with M1076 palletized load system (PLS) trailers. This equipment will provide each maneuver battalion with the capability to move all bottled water and classes I (subsistence), II (clothing and individual equipment), IIIP (packaged petroleum, oils, and lubricants), IV (construction and barrier materials), V (ammunition), and IX (repair parts) in support of battalion operations. To carry supplies and equipment, each LHS trailer system requires two container roll-in/roll-out platforms (CROPs), for a total of four.

Ammunition. The FSC requires a five-Soldier team of MOS 89B ammunition specialists to request, receive, draw, and store class V for the battalion. The ammunition section requires one LHS and PLS trailer (with two CROPs). Additional transportation requirements will be coordinated through the FSC operations officer, who is the FSC executive officer. The section also requires one 6,000-pound rough-terrain, variable-reach forklift for materials-handling requirements. The ammunition section of the FSC will manage class V throughout all training and tactical operations.

Maintenance. The current maintenance company’s combat repair team (CRT) and some additional personnel will form the maintenance support platoon (MSP), which will provide the field-level maintenance required for battalion operations. The MSP will perform component and major assembly replacement for supported equipment. The MSP will use Standard Army Management Information Systems (STAMISs) and the very small aperture terminal system to perform the principal tasks of assessing and reporting maintenance requirements according to Army regulations.

The MSP platoon leader and maintenance technician (an MOS 915-series warrant officer) will provide the updated maintenance status and make recommendations to battalion leaders regarding maintenance management. The platoon leader and maintenance technician will assess the MSP’s ability to restore combat power and decide if any equipment is beyond the unit’s ability to repair. They will coordinate with the FSC executive officer to request back-up maintenance support from the BSB (allocated through the SPO). Delivery of class IX to the platoon is required to facilitate continuous forward maintenance operations.

A significant modification to maintenance operations is the pending initiative to transfer maintenance tasks from General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) contractors to Soldiers. This initiative, called “GDLS to Green,” requires the addition of Stryker-specific class IX and special tools to the Army supply system. Currently, Stryker parts and tools are owned and managed by GDLS, but the Army will order and manage them through the Standard Army Maintenance System-Enhanced.

Required Modifications in the HHC

In the HHC, three changes in the SPO section must be addressed. The staff design of the SPO section is one of the best templates for successful sustainment management and has been adopted into the development of other modular brigades. However, shortfalls exist in the manning of the mortuary affairs and combat service support automation management office (CSSAMO) sections and in contracting capability.

Additional mortuary affairs personnel. The 2d SCR’s current MTOE authorizes one MOS 92M, mortuary affairs specialist, who is the sole proponent in the brigade for all actions involving the processing of remains and personal effects. The mortuary affairs noncommissioned officer provides technical advice on mortuary affairs issues, including establishing a hasty collection point. In the mature theater of Iraq, that process averages 16 hours from the time of the incident to the time the remains depart the theater. When multiple losses occur, the time is cumulatively longer. This significant shortfall could be addressed with an MTOE change, specifically by increasing the grade of the mortuary affairs noncommissioned officer from sergeant to staff sergeant and by adding another sergeant.

Organic CSSAMO capability. The SBCT is peculiar in that it is an organization on the cutting edge of technology, yet it lacks organic CSSAMO capability. The SBCT maintains many STAMISs that provide the situational understanding needed to make sustainment support decisions. Currently, units pay millions of dollars for this ability in the form of contracted support. Those funds could be better spent by establishing organic CSSAMO capability.

Contracting. The last recommendation for change in the HHC is to reinstate the contracting officer positions in the SPO section. The original TOE called for a contracting officer at the rank of major, but the requirement was dropped in fiscal year 2004. Over the last few years, it was determined that the contracting officer team requirement is valid.

The SBCT has a requirement to manage over 70 contractors who deploy with the brigade, but the capability to do so is either absent or dispersed throughout the organization. To address the problem, the Army has created contingency contracting teams (CCTs). Doctrine calls for each deployed BCT to have a CCT, but these new formations have yet to be fielded to prove their effectiveness. SBCTs must maintain a contracting team on their MTOEs.

Heavy Recovery Capability

When the SBCT was in its infancy, it was widely understood that many SBCT concepts were based on technology that had not yet been developed. Keeping the Nation’s Army the most powerful in the world requires this type of visionary force structure development. However, early plans for advanced equipment cannot be used to excuse current shortfalls. The Army’s inventory now has systems available to cover shortfalls in the BSB’s recovery capability. The BSB needs two M88 recovery vehicles and five heavy equipment transporters. With the vehicles’ associated crews and trailers, this equipment meets the recovery requirements of an SBCT in OIF. Equipment capability deficiencies were addressed with theater-provided equipment, and Soldiers received additional driver and recovery training to operate the equipment; the same could be accomplished in future MTOE changes.

Product managers have mentioned the importance of developing and fielding a vehicle that can recover a Stryker that has been catastrophically damaged or has rolled over. While waiting on the fielding of a new system, the lack of recovery capability is no more acceptable than choosing to leave a Stryker on the battlefield. Doctrinally, the SBCT is supposed to be able to deploy within 96 hours. This is unrealistic when you consider the requirement for organizational heavy recovery assets on the battlefield mentioned above. Adding Stryker recovery assets will make the SBCT heavier than it was designed to be, but this capability is needed now.

Medical Capability

Because of the shortfall of the Stryker medical evacuation vehicle (MEV), the SBCTs’ brigade support medical companies were fielded the M997 field litter ambulance (FLA) to be used as a MEV. Initially, the FLA was acceptable to meet deployment timelines and medical evacuation standards, which were based on the linear battlefield. But the current medical company requires an armored ground evacuation platform to meet the demands of the current operating environment. This operational need was approved at the Department of the Army level on at least two separate occasions through the equipment common operating picture, but it still has not been resourced. In order to man the MEVs, an additional 15 healthcare specialists (MOS 68W) are needed to fill the requirement for a third crewmember in each MEV. The three Soldiers that are required in the vehicle are a driver, a vehicle commander, and a medical attendant for patient care on site and during movement.

The SBCT’s medical capability can be strengthened in other ways as well. The brigade medical warehouse must be authorized a school-trained medical logistics officer (area of concentration 70K) in the grade of first lieutenant. The brigade medical supply office mission requires pharmaceuticals and narcotics management, so an additional pharmacy specialist (MOS 68Q) also must be added to the MTOE.

Meeting the Most Unforeseen Circumstances

A strong comparison can be made between the FSC’s relationship to a battalion and the old forward support battalion’s relationship to a brigade. One capability that should be considered for the BSB is the ability to replace the personnel and equipment in an FSC, just as the main support battalion was able to do in the old division support command. In the future, the U.S. military’s undisputed dominance of a theater of operations may not be as certain as it has been in recent times. The ability to reconstitute an FSC that is rendered ineffective by an enemy would enable the SBCT to be a strategically responsive force.

In order to supply a replacement FSC, the BSB MTOE would have to contain redundant personnel and equipment. For example, the HHC would maintain a field feeding team that is manned with enough cooks and equipment to be able to push personnel and equipment to a maneuver FSC in the event that the FSP is rendered incapable of performing its mission. The distribution company would retain enough personnel and equipment to replace the FSC’s loss of fuel and transportation assets. The maintenance company would have a CRT embedded in the wheeled vehicle repair platoon that could quickly detach and fill the requirements of the FSC’s maintenance support platoon, if needed. This design would allow commanders to pull individual sections or resource an entire FSC. The BSB, as a customer, would normally use the brigade special troops battalion’s FSC for food service, distribution, and maintenance support.

The use of FSCs will allow maneuver battalions to conduct autonomous operations across a spectrum of conflict. Fundamentally, an SBCT must see first, understand first, act first, and finish decisively; it does this by incorporating digital capability into the combined
arms fight and by relying on intelligence that is available within the brigade. The FSC is nested in the concept that “intelligence drives maneuver.” FSCs allow maneuver battalions to plan and execute operations without relying on additional support. An LST could never support a maneuver battalion without significant augmentation. Combat operations in OIF 04–06 and OIF 07–09 demonstrated the importance of battlefield agility; future operations will be no different.

As the Army continues to transform and redesign its fighting forces, changes needed for the support battalion to meet the brigade’s sustainment requirements become more apparent. The current capabilities of an SBCT BSB are not adequate to support seven battalions and maintain the flexibility needed to push sustainment assets where and when they are needed. The BSB’s capability gaps will only continue to expand when the SBCT has to perform tactical operations in a logistically undeveloped theater. A determined enemy that can operate in land combat operations and pose an increased threat will take advantage of these gaps. We believe that the resources proposed in this article will provide the BSB with the capability to meet the sustainment requirements of current and future SBCT missions. Now is the time to address these requirements and develop a TOE that will allow this premier fighting organization to meet the warfighting challenges presented now and in the future.

Lieutenant Colonel Danny F. Tilzey is the commander of the Regimental Support Squadron, 2d Stryker Cavalry Regiment, which is currently supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom 07–09. He has served in various assignments as a scout, logistician, educator, trainer, joint planner, and commander. He is a graduate of Salford College, Florida Institute of Technology, and Southern Connecticut State University.

Major Gary Kasavicha is the executive officer of the Regimental Support Squadron and is currently deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom 07–09. He has been previously assigned in SBCT units as a support operations officer, support operations plans officer, and forward maintenance company commander. He is a graduate of Siena College.

Major Charles X. Rote is the regimental support operations officer for the 2d Stryker Cavalry Regiment. In other SBCT assignments, he commanded a maintenance company and was the regimental S–4. He received a master’s degree in defence studies from King's College London while attending the United Kingdom's Joint Services Command and Staff College.