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Reaffirming Your Command Maintenance Program

It is 0900 on the first duty day of the week—command maintenance time. The battalion standing operating procedure (SOP) calls this time “motor stables” or “assembly area operations.” When Soldiers and junior leaders are asked what the focus of the day’s command maintenance is, many stare blankly or reply, “A walk-around inspection of our vehicles as usual.” A look around the motor pool confirms that noncommissioned officers (NCOs) are not on the line supervising, the personnel conducting preventive maintenance checks and services (PMCS) do not have manuals, and the battalion’s senior leaders are nowhere to be seen.

If your unit’s command maintenance program does not resemble this scenario, consider yourself fortunate. Most units have maintenance SOPs that comply with Department of the Army and higher headquarters standards, but many unit personnel have difficulty translating these SOPs into viable documents and battle plans for command maintenance.

A decisively executed command maintenance program is a multiechelon training event that focuses on various battlefield operating systems, provides feedback to the commander on the combat readiness of unit equipment, and, most importantly, gives Soldiers confidence in their vehicles, weapons, and personal equipment through successful PMCS. Using the Eight-Step Training Model that is found in several Army doctrinal references and usually included in unit mission training plans, your unit can develop a comprehensive command maintenance program and avoid the above scenario.

Preexecution Phase

Precombat checks (PCCs) and precombat inspections (PCIs) are critical for all combat operations; command maintenance is no different. The following PCCs and PCIs will help ensure the successful execution of your unit’s command maintenance.

Publish a plan. Develop an operation order, fragmentary order, or SOP for executing command maintenance, and publish it early enough to allow subordinate units time to conduct their own troop-leading procedures. Brief the plan at your unit training meeting and incorporate it into unit training schedules to ensure that all personnel are aware of the upcoming operation and that other training events do not conflict with it.

Establish priorities and focus. Will the command maintenance focus on high-mobility, multipurpose, wheeled vehicles (humvees) or light medium tactical vehicles? On weapons or nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) equipment? On tentage or generators? Defining maintenance priorities and focus areas can pay dividends by allowing you to consolidate maintenance efforts.

Have all Soldiers present for duty. Command maintenance is a prime-time training event. All other distracters, such as meetings, appointments, and classes, should be postponed to allow time for maximum participation. Charge the NCO support channel with ensuring that all Soldiers are present for command maintenance. (The NCO support channel is the channel of communication and supervision that exists from the command sergeants major to the first sergeants and then to other NCOs and enlisted personnel)

Establish communications. A good technique to use during command maintenance is to establish unit tactical operations centers (TOCs) and command posts (CPs). Develop tracking charts for command maintenance operations and post them in your TOCs and CPs. Use command maintenance times to train your battle staffs on TOC and CP operations and battle tracking by having them pass information to higher and subordinate units, track personnel and equipment status for the unit, and record results from PMCS focus areas.

Certify and license leaders. PMCS certification should be part of unit leader-development programs and incorporated into command maintenance operations. It is impossible to ensure that subordinates are performing PMCS to standard if you, their leader, have never done it yourself.

Coordinate with external agencies. Contact your direct support maintenance facility to obtain low-density items not used often for training purposes, such as electronic test equipment, materials-handling equipment (MHE), and night-vision devices. Also ask for assistance from various agencies, such as the International Trade Administration for CONEX (container express) inspections and the local environmental compliance office for shop safety advice, so that you can address other critical maintenance areas.

Explain standards and performance measures. Have subordinates conduct a backbrief to ensure that they understand the standards and performance measures for command maintenance. This complements unity of effort and can help resolve any con-flicts with command guidance before execution.

Have applicable technical manuals, training circulars, and supply catalogs on hand. Contact the Army Materiel Command Logistics Support Activity (www.logsa.army.mil) and the Army Publications Directorate (www.usapa.army.mil) to make sure you have the correct manuals for each piece of equipment on your modification table of organization and equipment (MTOE). Charge the unit publications NCO and the subordinate commanders with maintaining adequate stocks of manuals for each item.

Identify safety-of-use, maintenance-advisory, and general-purpose messages.
Have your unit motor officer or safety officer check frequently with the Army Combat Readiness Center to ensure that the unit has all current combat safety messages on hand. Check equipment for compliance with new messages during the command maintenance period.

Have tracking systems in place and checklists on hand. Subordinate leaders should have a copy of the motor stable order; a breakdown, by section, of the critical equipment they are responsible for checking and servicing; and a battle roster of Soldiers and their equipment and weapons. This reduces idle time and gives senior leaders an opportunity to spot-check progress effortlessly during the operation.

Identify quality assurance inspectors. First-line supervisors and platoon sergeants are responsible for ensuring that the PMCS process is completed correctly and to standard. If necessary, recruit technical inspectors from the organizational motor pool and the direct support facility if PMCS must be conducted on low-density equipment or equipment unfamiliar to the unit.

Have Department of the Army Forms 5988–E, Equipment Maintenance and Inspection Worksheet, on hand. Time is often wasted during command maintenance when Soldiers have to wait for these forms to be printed. The forms should be printed and distributed down to platoon-sergeant level the working day before command maintenance, giving Soldiers maximum time to perform PMCS of their equipment to standard.

Locate reports required for after-action reviews (AARs). An AAR must be conducted after every training event, including command maintenance. Including an AAR in your unit maintenance meeting provides a vehicle for recording feedback to the command maintenance plan and informs the commander of progress made and deficiencies discovered. To prepare for the AAR, the following reports should be readily available—

• From the Unit Level Logistics System (ULLS)-Ground: the Commander Not-Mission-Capable Report, Service Schedule, and Parts Received/Not Installed Report.
• From the Standard Army Maintenance System (SAMS)–1: the Shop Section Summary and Shop Backlog Report.
• From SAMS–2: the Brigade Combat Team/Task Force Critical Items Deadlined Report.
• From your supply support activity: the Overage Recoverable Item Listing Report and Authorized Stockage List.

Execution Phase

Once the PCCs and PCIs are completed to standard, your unit is ready to conduct command maintenance effectively. It is essential to focus PMCS efforts so that each piece of equipment assigned to the unit is thoroughly checked and serviced within a specified time period. The schedule below allows for PMCS of all assigned unit MTOE equipment over a 6-week period.

Week 1: Direct support capabilities. This refers to maintenance of equipment that is essential to the conduct of the unit’s wartime mission. In a support battalion, equipment to be serviced during this week could include reverse osmosis water purification units, water blivets, and slings; fuel sys-tem supply points; direct support transportation assets (light medium tactical vehicles, stake-and-platform trailers, and heavy equipment transporters); ambulances; medical equipment sets; laboratory, x-ray, and dental shop vans; and electronic repair semitrailers (housing Integrated Family of Test Equipment and Direct Support Electronic Test Sets).

Week 2: Prime movers not checked and serviced during week 1.
This includes vehicles such as humvees, family of medium tactical vehicles trucks, and expansible vans.

Week 3: Soldier personal equipment.
Included are night vision devices, weapon systems with mounts and tripods, and all NBC protective equipment.

Week 4: Soldier deployment apparatus. In this category are all communications devices (telephones, radios, and cryptographic devices) and containerization equipment, such as CONEXs and MILVANs (military-owned demountable containers).

Week 5: Trailers and MHE. This refers to semi-trailers and vans, air-conditioning systems, generators, lowboys, forklifts, and cranes.

Week 6: Unit common table of allowances equipment.
Systems to be checked and serviced in-clude steam cleaners, tentage, camouflage netting and supports, and heaters. Unit commanders also should use this time to conduct cyclic inventories in accordance with Command Supply Discipline Program guidelines.

An additional area of focus throughout the execution of command maintenance operations is safety. Unit safety officers should select a focus area and conduct joint informal inspections with the chain of command to provide additional insight into unit risk management and safety procedures. Inspection areas include hazardous materials storage; shop operations; shop safety boards; individual protective equipment; spill kits; steam cleaners; battery shop operations; tire machines; and current safety-of-use messages, ground precautionary messages, and maintenance advisory messages. Personnel from the installation headquarters or higher can provide assistance with these inspections.

An AAR at the conclusion of command maintenance is essential. This provides commanders at all levels with immediate feedback on the combat readiness of their equipment. If your unit is experiencing difficulty with troubleshooting or completing PMCS on its equipment, contact support agencies immediately so that they can positively influence the situation. Having representation from your supply support activity also allows support agencies to be brought in early. Requested ULLS reports, such as the Service Schedule and Parts Received/Not Installed Report also should be brought to the AAR and discussed so that potential problems can be identified and resolved.

Conducting preexecution command maintenance to the proper level of detail is a time-consuming task. However, every Soldier must learn to conduct PMCS to standard—by the book, by the numbers. His life may one day depend on it.

The operation order for today’s command maintenance was briefed by the battalion S–3 at the battalion training meeting 3 weeks ago. It is now 0900 on the first duty day of the week—command maintenance time. When Soldiers and junior leaders are asked what is the focus of the day’s command maintenance, leaders refer to the company order that their commander gave them at the company training meeting: Week 1 will be devoted to PMCS of direct support assets as prescribed in the battalion SOP. All unit NCOs are on the line supervising PMCS, each vehicle operator has an equipment manual, and the officers are tracking unit readiness from the TOC and spot-checking the unit motor pools as directed by the commander. A platoon sergeant tells his new lieutenant, “Our unit knows how to conduct PMCS the right way.”
ALOG

Captain Eric A. McCoy is the Brigade Combat Team Maintenance Trainer for the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California. When he wrote this article, he was the Commander of E Company, 702d Main Support Battalion, at Camp Casey, Korea. He has a B.S. degree in mental health from Morgan State University and an M.S. degree in administration from Central Michigan University. He is a graduate of the Ordnance Officer Basic Course and the Combined Logistics Captains Career Course.

The author would like to thank Lieutenant Colonel Edward M. Daly for his assistance in preparing this article. Colonel Daly is a liaison officer with the Combined Forces Command in Kabul, Afghanistan. He previously served as the Commander of the 702d Main Support Battalion at Camp Casey, Korea.