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AMC Support to Reconstitution in Afghanistan

The Army Materiel Command (AMC) is evolving to meet the needs of today’s warfighter and the requirements of the Modular Force. AMC’s Army field support brigades and their battalions are embedded with our forces, so they are fully able to provide AMC reach-back and national- and strategic-level capabilities down to the Soldier as never before. The mission support and capabilities provided by Army Field Sup-port Battalion-Afghanistan (AFSBn-AF) during the Combined/Joint Task Force-76 (CJTF–76) reconstitution operation in Kandahar from 17 July to 21 August 2006 reflected this new, emerging doctrinal support.

AMC provides unique and comprehensive capabilities to support the warfighter in several aspects of the current fight and in meeting future requirements. AMC provides expertise in maintenance and life-cycle management of fielded vehicles and equipment (such as the heavy, expanded-mobility tactical truck and the family of medium tactical vehicles) and is a full-spectrum force maintainer for new production and fielding equipment. (This capability is especially important for new systems that are fielded primarily in Iraq and Afghanistan). AMC also provides an enormous depth of knowledge to the field through logistics assistance representatives (LARs), field service representatives (FSRs), and other contractor support.

This article describes how these capabilities were critical to the success of the CJTF–76 reconstitution operation and provides several lessons learned for future operations. Following reconstitution, CJTF–76’s Task Force (TF) Catamount and TF Warrior departed Kandahar on schedule and with renewed vigor and determination to conduct follow-on missions and combat operations, equipped with reconstituted vehicles and weapon systems and with all the newest available force protection enhancements and upgrades. (See the chart below for the equipment final roll-ups.)

This operation validated once again the need for national- and strategic-level assets forward on today’s battlefield to support modularly designed forces in transitioning from combat operations to reconstitution operations and then back to combat operations as quickly as possible. This capability increases the combatant commander’s flexibility and initiative by allowing him to employ a revitalized force, both materially and physically, that has the latest technology and safety enhancements. AMC Army field support battalions are well suited to meet this requirement.

Setting the Framework for Strategic Flexibility

Musa Qala, Sangin, Qalat, and Nahi Sirraj are remote, barren, dust-blown villages hamlets in the Baghran Valley and Zabul Province of southern Afghanistan. Their names are hardly the topic of discussion at Starbucks or even mentioned on the nightly network news broadcasts. Yet their names mark important steppingstones on the continued, unrelenting road to achieving the tactical, operational, and strategic campaign objectives of CJTF–76 and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.

Operation Mountain Thrust terminated in late July 2006, just before the transfer of authority for southern Afghanistan from U.S. Forces to the ISAF. Yet it played a decisive role in moving forward the campaign to attack and combat terrorists in Afghanistan. Mountain Thrust was conducted on terrain largely devoid of vegetation, except around the hamlets that dotted the region, and dominated by mountain ridges and wadis (dry riverbeds) that posed a mobility nightmare. The landscape offered little protection from the frequent 120-degree Fahrenheit temperatures, fierce winds, and talcum-powder dust. CJTF–76 combat forces in these regions were TF Catamount (organized around the 2–87 Infantry Battalion from Fort Drum, New York) and TF Warrior (organized around the 2–4 Infantry Battalion from Fort Polk, Louisiana). These forces were task-organized for their unique missions and were able to conduct full-spectrum operations, with decisive results, against terrorist and insurgent forces in their areas of operations.

The austere conditions challenged man and vehicle alike and required a disciplined force to complete the mission and maintain combat power. Realizing that the equipment of the two TFs had been worked to the limits of its capacity, CJTF–76 directed that they and key campaign-enabling forces be reconstituted at Kandahar Airfield before they refocused on new mission requirements in other regions of Afghanistan. In order to meet this requirement, timely planning and execution, especially to make required resources available, were critical to success. Meeting these imperatives for reconstitution would require ready access to numerous repair parts, synchronization of maintenance assets, and the flow of equipment through the process to create maintenance velocity.

The CJTF–76 mission analysis identified the first challenge in this operation—how to reconstitute a modular force during combat operations. It was not clear what reconstitution operations would be needed for modular units, and so it was necessary to leverage all available combat service support resources to achieve mission success.

In July and August 2006, CJTF–76 tasked the Joint Logistics Command, with support from the AFSBn-AF, to conduct the unique and complex mission of preparing CJTF–76 forces for follow-on combat operations in support of coalition and ISAF goals and objectives after their extended combat operations in the rugged regions of southern Afghanistan.

Providing Strategic Assets Forward

AFSBn-AF provided a strategic reachback capability to the Afghanistan Combined/Joint Operations Area (CJOA) with unique mechanic, armament, and air-conditioning skill sets from FSRs and AMC Life Cycle Management Command LARs. The battalion can task-organize according to mission needs and the personnel and equipment that are available in Afghanistan or that can be pushed forward from Kuwait, Iraq, or the United States.

In support of this operation, the assembly of the required personnel, equipment, tools, and parts required a major effort by CJTF–76 and AFSBn-AF in a short time. Seventy-five personnel from several lo-cations within the CJOA and Kuwait were flexed from sustainment missions and quickly moved by military air assets to Kandahar. Meanwhile, five 20-foot contain-ers of tools, shop equipment, and forecasted repair parts were shipped by “jingle” trucks over 370 miles—it was a 3-day trek over a questionable network of roads that challenged both the drivers and their trucks.

These enablers provided the reconstitution team with the personnel, skill sets, and special equipment enhancements that were not available in the Modular Force structure but would be critical to the reconstitution effort. AFSBn-AF provided tailored push packages and teams to meet requirements for sustainment maintenance personnel, up-armored high-mobility, multipurpose, wheeled vehicle (HMMWV) enhancement specialists, weapon system specialists, and equipment FSRs, who were plugged into the reconstitution framework.

The reconstitution operation at Kandahar provided numerous lessons learned in how a reconstitution operation should be managed and how a reconstitution site should be organized. Here is a summary of those lessons.

Maintenance Velocity

Chapter 12, Combat Service Support, of Field Manual 3–0, Operations, emphasizes that commanders must be willing and able to take the initiative in “refitting” their units within the framework of the commander’s intent. The organization of a reconstitution site must foster the ability to reconstitute units and allow the commander to set the terms of battle and hold or seize the initiative. The commander can take these actions only if he can view the battlespace throughout its depth in time and resources. In order to meet this requirement, detailed planning and execu-tion, especially for required and available resources, is critical to mission success. Readily available repair parts, the synchronization of maintenance assets, and the flow of equipment through the process result in maintenance velocity.

To achieve the maintenance velocity needed to meet the mission timeline, two important decisions were made early to ensure that the reconstitution effort could maintain the necessary operating tempo. These decisions played a key role in determining the flow of vehicles and in getting required parts to the reconstitution site as fast as possible.

First, vehicle management would be critical to controlling flow and tracking parts. When the first 10 vehicles arrived at the reconstitution site, it quickly became apparent that a common identification system for all vehicles and equipment was needed because there were no common markings or vehicle identifications used across the incoming fleet of vehicles. There were bumper numbers and unit markings from current units and from units long redeployed, Army prepositioned stock numbers, and no markings at all on newly issued vehicles. So a simple red number on the vehicle grill was used to identify each vehicle; combined with the use of centralized tracking boards in the maintenance area, this number allowed Soldiers, leaders, and mechanics to get an immediate status on each vehicle.

Second, the quick sourcing of parts to repair the vehicles and weapons also became a critical requirement. The 5- to 8-day timeline for reconstituting incoming units restricted the sources of supply to those that could provide a part within that timeframe. AFSBn-AF sent a robust parts package from Bagram, Afghanistan, but assistance from the CJOA supply support activities and AMC also was critical.

Several actions were conducted simultaneously to enable the sourcing of parts from the assets at Kandahar; parts came from the 297th Base Support Battalion at Bagram and from reachback to the 401st, 402d, and 405th Army Field Support
Brigades in Kuwait and Iraq and in Europe. If the part was unavailable from these sources of supply, then the requisition for fill would be forwarded to the unit
after movement.

Command and Control and Leadership

A reconstituting unit’s self-assessment of its equipment and personnel status must be accurate in order to assist the planning and resource management of the reconstitution effort. The reconstituting unit sets the priorities for unit maintenance, but it must be aware of mission requirements that can cause shifts in available timelines or shop operations. Shifts in priorities must be kept to an absolute minimum to ensure on-time completion of the reconstitution.

The flow of vehicles in the reconstitution site is critical to ensuring mission success. The owning unit must provide access to the vehicles 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and it must not remove vehicles from the motor park until a call-forward message is received. Repaired equipment must be placed in a controlled, close-hold environment to avoid unnecessary movement.

The reconstitution site needs to track all vehicles and their systems (including enhancements, electronic countermeasure [ECM] devices, and Blue Force Tracker [BFT] systems) to ensure that all work is completed and the vehicles are ready to return to the unit. This tracking process must be actively controlled through daily in-process reviews, tracking charts, and close coordination with a unit representative (commander, executive officer, or first sergeant) responsible for the company’s fleet and weapons readiness reporting. A common, easily recognizable system to identify vehicles must be used to track vehicles. Use of traditional bumper numbers is too often undermined by multiple rotations and nonstandard markings.

A company representative (commander, executive officer, or first sergeant) must arrive with the unit’s lead elements so the reconstitution process can start with accurate information and with a single point of contact who is present from the beginning and during the entire process, thus ensuring command leadership involvement.

Transportation

The reconstitution site must have airfield access for the movement of critical personnel, equipment, and supplies. However, air movement is a finite asset and must be used wisely. Proper planning and forecasting at all staff levels will enable movements to be made by ground assets for resupply and by air for critical assets.

The establishment of a Combined Joint Distribution Cell at Kandahar enabled movement control personnel to provide timely information on available transportation assets and to prioritize loads. This was a major key to success. (See the related article Integrating Coalition Logistics at the Tactical Level: The Combined Joint Distribution Cell in Afghanistan.)

Maintenance

Maintenance priorities must be clear, simple, and at least sequential when priorities are shifted; the last set of vehicles into the reconstitution site cannot always be the first vehicles out of the site. “Bouncing” maintenance priorities causes delays in shop operations as vehicles move in and out of the maintenance bays and results in possible shortfalls of parts for the new priorities.

All systems and equipment must receive a technical inspection by sustainment maintenance personnel during a reconstitution operation. This ensures that all modification work orders, system upgrades, and enhancements are executed or at least identified for later action.

Maintenance operations must be a planned phase of all combat operations at all levels of command. Operator and field maintenance must continue to be the cornerstone of every commander’s and leader’s pre-, during-, and post-combat checks. Leaders must take the time to ensure that proper maintenance is being conducted in order to maximize the serviceability of equipment and thus ensure effective combat power.

Attention to detail must be standard practice across all aspects of an operation, whether combat or maintenance. Band-aid maintenance in many cases takes just as long as proper maintenance to perform, but it hurts combat power in the long run.

Mission Support and Life Support

Billeting at a reconstitution site makes it possible for personnel to conduct operations 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Lack of a quiet and somewhat comfortable, temperature-controlled sleeping area will affect the ability of those personnel on both day and night shifts to perform their jobs.

Separate billeting areas for the reconstituting unit and for reconstitution personnel will permit the conduct of continuous reconstitution operations. This is because the reconstituting unit will be on a different schedule than the reconstitution personnel, thereby eliminating disruption during each shift’s sleep cycle.

It is imperative that the unit’s vehicles be kept at the reconstitution site so that the technicians and mechanics can work on them as needed. The vehicles will become “FOB [forward operating base] taxis” unless an accessible, alternate means of transport is provided. Leaders must enforce this policy to increase operational readiness in a timely manner.

Reconstitution Site Layout

Adequate space must be provided to park all of the reconstituting unit’s vehicles in company sets. This will allow the unit to maintain the security of its vehicles while giving reconstitution personnel easy access to find a vehicle.

Providing empty containers to the unit will enable it to download equipment usually kept in its vehicles. This will eliminate the need, or the perceived need, to lock individual vehicle doors (which only prevents access to vehicles). It also will enable the reconstitution personnel to conduct enhancement or maintenance work without downloading equipment multiple times.

Adequate lighting in the reconstitution area is needed to find vehicles, parts, and other commodities during nighttime operations. Conducting night rehearsals before actual operations to identify poorly lit areas and requirements for additional lighting is a big help. Adequate lighting in the unit parking area also will reduce the desire of unit personnel to lock their vehicles or park them closer to their living accommodations for security.

Units returning from a long-term mission will have accumulated considerable trash. The reconstitution site must have several trash containers that are close to the parking area and are dumped frequently.

A reefer container with water and other drinks can provide everyone at the reconstitution site with cool drinks. Setting up solar shades over areas where Soldiers congregate (such as the weapons turn-in location or trans-load areas) makes waiting easier.

Equipment Maintenance Trends

Up-armored HMMWVs. Air-conditioners need to be checked and recharged to keep up-armored HMMWVs operating efficiently. Otherwise, personnel will open windows because the air-conditioning is not working, and that defeats the force protection capabilities of the vehicle. Vehicle services must be planned, scheduled, and performed, especially on the suspension, brakes, and calipers. Excessive overloading of the M1151P1 storage area led to several condensers being destroyed during maneuvers over rough terrain.

Weapons and weapon maintenance. Weapons maintenance starts with the first-line supervisors—junior noncommissioned officers (NCOs). There is a direct correlation between an effective weapons maintenance program and an NCO checking his Soldiers’ weapons daily. NCOs must have their Soldiers conduct a weapons function check at least daily to confirm the operational status of both the weapon and its ammunition. Improper headspace for the M2 heavy machinegun and incorrect usage of MK93 and M197 weapon mounts are the two major factors contributing to unserviceable weapons. Weapons must be lubricated as specified in their technical manuals with approved “wet” lubricants to prevent malfunctions and reduce wear and tear on parts.

Communications and electronics and night-vision device maintenance. BFT operators need to be trained on BFT maintenance. In particular, the routing of power and antenna cables must be a part of daily preventive maintenance checks and services.

The older model up-armored HMMWV mounts need to be retrofitted with the front-window Defense Advanced Global Positioning System Receiver antenna mount. The old mount is on the rear of the vehicle, which causes compatibility problems in using ECM devices.

Numerous night-vision devices were damaged by improper use or storage. In particular, PVS–14 retainer battery caps had to be replaced because of damage, and PVS–7B intensifier tubes burnt out because of frequent exposure to direct light sources such as vehicle headlights. Hard-case PVS containers are not being used for storage, which could be an indicator that a less-bulky storage container should be designed.

Life cycle management commands need to synchronize employment locations of new and current ECM systems and correct problems caused by the location of wiring in vehicles. (Routing of ECM wiring along the doorframe and exterior of the vehicle can cause severe damage to wiring.) Units must conduct and maintain Soldier and leader training in ECM use and operation. A major lesson learned was that the Army needs electronic warfare officers down to the battalion level.

The basic enabling requirements for an operational Army have changed little. However, the paradigm of where operations like reconstitution now occur in relation to combat operations should be reconsidered. Applying the lessons learned in Afghanistan will allow combatant commanders to deploy smaller, highly skilled, specialized workforces, consisting of military and civilian personnel and contractors, almost anywhere in a theater to reconstitute forces; this capability, in turn, will permit commanders to redeploy forces with improved fighting capabilities to execute follow-on missions. The new AMC field units are a perfect source for these reconstitution efforts because they have the required personnel skill sets and, when necessary, can react to requirements with their unique reachback capabilities.

The Army is in a period of transition in its organization and doctrine. AMC is changing and evolving to meet these new requirements, pushing enabling capabilities forward in support of the warfighter as never before. The CJTF–76 reconstitution of forces in Kandahar shows what an AMC Army field support battalion can achieve. In this case, the truth is really in the numbers.
ALOG

Wayne T. Seidler works for Lockheed Martin as a strategic planner and operations officer in Army Field Support Battalion-Afghanistan. He is a retired Infantry officer.

Lieutenant Colonel Richard B. Dix is Com-mander of Army Field Support Battalion-Afghanistan. He has a bachelor’s degree from South Carolina State University and an M.A. degree in procurement and acquisition management from Webster University and is a graduate of the Armor Officer Basic Course, Quartermaster Ad-vanced Course, and the Army Command and General Staff College.