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Expanding Logistics Capacity

Logistics units preparing for expeditionary support operations must fully expand their support capabilities by knowing their on-hand capability and training to fill in the gaps.

The no-notice deployment last year of the 407th Brigade Support Battalion (BSB), 2d Brigade Combat Team (BCT), 82d Airborne Division, as the global response force to Operation Unified Response in Haiti was an example of how the Army as an expeditionary force deploys to places that have little to no initial logistics infrastructure. As the initial support force on the ground, the 407th BSB had to establish the support architecture while supporting its organic units and other units operating within the joint theater of operations.

Units inevitably experience a gap between the deployment of their own capabilities and the arrival of units with higher-level support capability. Although enduring the gap, while painful, is doable,
a unit can reduce this gap by fully expanding its capacity beforehand.

Expanding and retaining new logistics capacity is not easy; it requires leaders with constant vigilance, creativity, and tenacity. It begins with the discipline to maintain situational awareness of specific unit status and continues with the initiative to create challenging training scenarios that will truly validate the strength of the unit’s capability. Expanding logistics capacity to optimal levels required for contingency operations in immature theaters requires knowing current capacity, refusing to be “one deep,” training beyond your formation, and contracting.

Know Current Capacity

Before expanding capacity, we must first know our current status. We often assume we possess a certain capability without truly knowing our strengths and weaknesses. In doing so, we may not realize that we actually possess less capacity than we need.

Therefore, we must fully understand the extent of our logistics combat power. Like combat power, logistics combat power involves a complete understanding and assessment of all components necessary, including the people, equipment, and training required to truly provide a capability.

For example, a logistics convoy involves much more than a fully mission-capable truck. It must have a trained crew that has worked together; the crew must have a full complement of night vision equipment, binoculars, ammunition, navigation aids, and recovery items; and the convoy must be able to perform the mission during day and night.

The people-equipment-tasks (PET) framework is extremely useful in identifying shortfalls and limitations and ensuring that we have covered all the bases in examining our on-hand capability.

In each category (people, equipment, and tasks), we must ask quantity- and quality-oriented questions to determine our current status. Quantity-type questions are simple; they address if we are authorized the items and if we have them on hand. However, quality-oriented questions best determine our true status: Are our people deployable, does our equipment function, and are we ready to deploy?

Assessing status in each subcategory entails asking a series of questions and providing a status based on the answers.

People. Here are some sample questions for assessing the people category:

  • Of the people we are authorized, how many are on hand?
  • Of the people we have on hand, how many can deploy today?
  • Do we have the leaders we are authorized?

The answers to these questions determine the level of readiness, which can be defined in terms of gold, green, amber, red, and black. To be gold in the people category means that at least 95 percent of the authorized people are on hand, 95 percent of the leaders are on hand, and less than 5 percent of the people are nondeployable overall.

To be green in the people category means that 90 to 100 percent of the people authorized are on hand, 90 percent of the leaders are on hand, and less than 10 percent of the people are nondeployable.

Being amber means that 80 to 90 percent of the people authorized are on hand, 80 percent of the leaders are on hand, and 15 percent of the people are nondeployable.

To be red means that 70 to 80 percent of the people authorized are on hand, 70 percent of the leaders are on hand, and 20 percent of the people are nondeployable.

Being black in the people category means that less than 70 percent of the authorized people are on hand, less than 70 percent of the leaders are on hand, and 30 percent of the people are nondeployable.

Equipment. Understanding equipment extends beyond knowing what is on hand and if it works. Particularly in our business, we must know if we possess all components to a system in order to make it work. Examples of those components are filters, hoses, pumps, test kits, chemicals, gauges, lubricants, and other critical components that constitute systems. A lack of components is analogous to a weapon without ammunition. Do we have sufficient spares and backups for the most critical components?

Tasks. Determining our task status involves understanding if we can perform the tasks required to provide a specified capability. To determine this status, we must first know how many battle drills comprise the task and if our teams can perform them to the prescribed performance measures.

After returning from Operation Unified Response, the 407th BSB transformed its biweekly command and staff meeting into a readiness review. During the readiness review, each company commander used the PET framework to communicate and describe his current capabilities. This discussion provided a means to understand our shortfalls before a no-notice crisis. We also used our monthly unit status report to communicate our significant limitations and challenges.

Refuse to Be One Deep

Forward support companies (FSCs) have over 30 specialties—as many as there are within the infantry battalions themselves. The BSB and FSC both have duty positions to which only one person is assigned (the specialty is one deep), such as patient administrator, small-arms repairer, and environmental specialist. When we review the additional duties we require for organizational sustainment in an austere setting (such as armorer, communications specialist, field sanitation specialist, carpenter, barber, and combat lifesaver), we may find ourselves very thin on expertise.

We can overcome these vulnerabilities in several ways. For specialties that are one deep, on a regular basis we must conduct and capture cross-training that is measured against a level of proficiency. After cross-training, units should capture the new capability within their PET assessment. For example, “people” could be expanded to measure how many people have been formally cross-trained and certified in an area beyond their primary specialties.

Considering the number of functions needed to sustain a company, all troops should be assigned an additional duty and should be routinely tested on their ability to perform those additional duties to standard.

Train Beyond Your Formation

In any expeditionary mission, we will very likely have to perform missions out of our normal mission set or support forces beyond our normal customer base. In doing so, we inevitably will need to operate equipment that is not on our modified table of organization and equipment. The expeditionary or global response force version of pre-positioned equipment may be abandoned equipment that we can put into operation. Therefore, we must train beyond our formation.

For example, while supporting recovery from Hurricane Katrina, we used forklifts and rough-terrain container handlers (RTCHs) on loan from the Army Materiel Command to complete our container reception mission. We also hot-wired a stray John Deere forklift to facilitate repositioning a combat support hospital.

In Haiti, our arrival/departure airfield control group (formed from our maintenance company) borrowed baggage carts from the international airport to expedite passenger reception and integration. Our maintenance company, with elements of FSCs from the 2d BCT, received 3 vessels and uploaded 12 to receive and eventually redeploy the BCT.

Training beyond our current formation begins with asking these questions that assess our logistics agility:

  • Can we operate a RTCH or crane? Do we have the licensed operators to do so?
  • Can we hot-wire a RTCH or other equipment?
  • Can we maintain shotguns, sniper rifles, or foreign weapons? (Our supported force may gain such weaponry, or we may gain a force in the task organization that possesses such weaponry.)
  • Can we maintain mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles or nonstandard civilian power generation equipment? (Power generation on today’s battlefield is absolutely critical, whether it be to support land forces or restore power to the indigenous population.)
  • Can we pump water vertically from wells? If so, how far? (Pulling and purifying water from wells
    can be more difficult than pulling water from rivers and lakes.)
  • Can we refuel rotary-wing aircraft?
  • Can we test fuel?
  • Can we receive and download vessels?
  • Can we operate a railhead?
  • Can we conduct class I (subsistence) break-and-issue operations? (This is a BSB mission that is often overlooked until deployment).
  • Can we fabricate parts, hoses, and other items that are not available because of an immature supply chain? (Although we performed 35 fabrication jobs in Haiti, BSBs are not authorized fabrication trailers, vans, lathes, or items necessary to fabricate parts).
  • Can we perform low-cost, low-altitude airdrop, container delivery system airdrop, slingload operations, and other methods of air distribution?

In seeking answers to questions such as these, we assess our support agility and identify our training requirements. Obviously, we must assign priority to these training requirements, particularly if we are not fully trained on our organic capabilities. But we cannot delay in expanding our capacity either. We should address both our baseline capability and our capability beyond the baseline simultaneously. One method is to reward and empower specially selected Soldiers and small units by sending them to advanced training.

Training beyond one’s formation does not come easily. It requires a great amount of tenacity and creativity on the part of leaders. Leaders must draw from past contingency deployments, identify requirements, and then actively pursue the resources required to build such capabilities. Units building capability beyond their formation should record these capabilities in their PET status.


Our contracting needs have changed little from conflict to conflict. During our Operation Iraqi Freedom deployment, we had the same needs as we did in Haiti. What changed was our ability to contract on our own. When we deployed to Operation Unified Response, we did not have trained, tested, and ready contracting teams at the company and battalion levels. We did not deploy with bags of money, draft performance work statements, or trained and ready contracting teams.

Logisticians—particularly those serving in a quick response, no-notice contingency—need to be contracting experts. Units performing expeditionary support operations will always have shortfalls in capacity until a higher-level logistics unit arrives or a permanent contracted solution is established; therefore, logistics units must maintain trained and ready contracting teams that are prepared to enact contracts immediately upon arrival.

While all companies must have teams trained and ready to enhance organizational sustainment, the support operations (SPO) contracting team is focused on expanding the logistics capacity of the BSB and FSCs throughout the BCT in order to lengthen the BCT’s logistics reach. This SPO contracting team must contain internal security, translators, and a pay agent or field ordering officer team. It must have draft performance work statements ready.

The support capabilities and services that BSBs and FSCs inherently lack should be maintained in a prioritized “hit list” for the contracting team to secure. Support and services that directly expand capacity are buses, container-handling equipment, cranes, 40-foot trailers, lowboys or heavy equipment transporters, land or warehouse space, refrigeration vans, power generation equipment, forklifts, fuel, fuel storage, and water transport and delivery.

The contracting team should target and secure vendors that can provide services that indirectly expand and facilitate support operations, such as floodlights, gravel, and supplemental labor. Had we not received over 50 general purpose tents from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to protect our brigade’s paratroopers from Haiti’s unforgiving sun and rain, we would have desperately sought a source for festival-style tents. We were also fortunate to find vendors to provide plywood to build tent flooring to protect the troops from Haiti’s harsh rains and other environmental threats.

The BSB must train and maintain a validated contracting capability to procure and manage contracts beyond simple certification or theory. The proper use of this type of contingency contracting team is not only a battle drill within the team, but a process throughout the BSB battlestaff. The BSB S–2 must provide leads for services through the logistics intelligence preparation of the battlefield.

In a nonpermissive environment, the BSB S–3 may coordinate with battlespace-owning sister
battalions for key leader engagements to procure services. The BSB must validate the entire process through realistic home-station training and combat training center exercises. Once the unit establishes its contracting teams, it should integrate and track the contracting teams in the PET analysis of support capabilities.

To be fully prepared for expeditionary support operations, logistics units must fully expand their support capabilities ahead of time, beginning first with knowing their on-hand capability and continuing by training on scenarios that force them to use all skill sets, perform beyond their missions, and tap into contracted solutions. Logistics units that prepare in this manner will reap the benefits of increased logistics readiness, agility, and overall confidence to conquer any austere support environment.

Lieutenant Colonel Matthew P. Shatzkin was the commander of the 407th Brigade Support Battalion, 2d Brigade Combat Team, 82d Airborne Division. He has deployed on three no-notice deployments with the 82d Airborne Division. He is currently a Ph.D. student in North Dakota State University’s Transportation and Logistics Program.

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