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Training Strategies for Sustainment Brigades and Echelons-Above-Brigade Logistics Units

At the 3d Infantry Division Logistics Conference in September 2006, Major General Rick Lynch, the division commander and the host of the conference, challenged logisticians to train as the Army fights in theater and under modularity. During the course of presentations on logistics modularity and the current theater logistics infrastructure concept of support, Major General Lynch commented that logistics training should replicate logistics operations in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

More specifically, he wanted elements of the 3d Sustainment Brigade and 3d Infantry Division to replicate theater logistics command and control (C2) and the flow of information through Standard Army Management Information Systems (STAMIS) during National Training Center (NTC) exercises for the brigades of the 3d Infantry Division. This article documents how logisticians responded to Major General Lynch’s challenge.

In an effort to meet this challenge, the commanders of the 3d Sustainment Brigade and its subordinate combat sustainment support battalions (CSSBs) aggressively sought out opportunities to provide direct, general, and area support to divisional units that would mirror the sustainment brigade’s mission in theater. Three NTC rotations for the 3d Infantry Division’s 1st, 2d, and 3d Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs) offered the 3d Sustainment Brigade the opportunity to train as they would fight. These training events were held both at the NTC at Fort Irwin, California, and at NTC-sponsored home station mission readiness exercises (MRXs). The 3d Sustainment Brigade participated in the 1st BCT’s home station MRX at Fort Stewart, Georgia, called NTC 06–10; the 2d BCT’s home station MRX at Fort Stewart called NTC 07–05; and the 3d BCT’s training event at the NTC called NTC 07–04.

Logistics Task Forces

In order to support the 1st BCT during its home station MRX, the 3d Sustainment Brigade established a logistics task force (LTF). The LTF was built around the 87th CSSB from Fort Stewart forming LTF 87. LTF 87 consisted of the 87th CSSB’s headquarters and headquarters company (HHC), the 135th Quartermaster Company (Petroleum Bulk Storage), and the 226th Quartermaster Company (Supply and Services). In addition, LTF 87 was augmented with elements, equipment, and personnel from the 260th Quartermaster Battalion and communications assets from the 3d Sustainment Brigade’s special troops battalion.

The 3d Sustainment Brigade provided C2 to LTF 87 from a tactical operations center (TOC) located at Fort Stewart. The 3d Sustainment Brigade received logistics requirements from the 1st BCT through the brigade’s forward operating base (FOB) logistics report and through the BCT’s Battle Command Sustainment Support System (BCS3). The 3d Sustainment Brigade used the daily distribution management board process to plan and coordinate combat logistics patrols (CLPs), support customer units, and turn requirements into mission tasks for LTF 87.

The task organization and concept of support for the 1st BCT’s NTC exercise put the 3d Sustainment Brigade on track for meeting Major General Lynch’s guidance of replicating the current theater logistics infrastructure, C2, and STAMIS flow during predeployment training. However, in order to more accurately replicate a sustainment brigade operating in theater, the 3d Sustainment Brigade developed an exercise concept to support brigades (the 2d and 3d BCTs and the 3d Sustainment Brigade) operating at multiple geographically dispersed FOBs.

The 3d Sustainment Brigade established two more LTFs with units deploying to Operation Iraqi Freedom 07–09. LTF 13 was built around the 13th CSSB stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia. LTF 13 consisted of two companies from the 13th CSSB (the HHC and the 104th Medium Transportation Company), and two companies from the 87th CSSB at Fort Stewart (the 135th Petroleum Bulk Storage Company and 226th Supply and Service Company). The 3d Sustainment Brigade’s special troops battalion also participated to provide medical and signal support.

Cooperating With the 7th Sustainment Brigade

The 3d Sustainment Brigade TOC was unique in that it combined two brigade staffs. The 3d Sustainment Brigade developed a partnership with the 7th Sustainment Brigade, which was formerly the 7th Transportation Group from Fort Eustis, Virginia. The 7th Sustainment Brigade integrated 15 members of its brigade staff into the 3d Sustainment Brigade staff at Fort Irwin. The two staffs integrated seamlessly under the 3d Sustainment Brigade’s Colonel Darrell Williams for the first half of the rotation and then under the 7th Sustainment Brigade’s Colonel Mark Barbosa for the second half of the rotation. In addition to the 3d and 7th Sustainment Brigade staffs, the TOC had liaison teams from the 603d Aviation Support Battalion, Hunter Army Airfield, and Task Force 1–3, and the senior logistical analyst (contractor) from the 3d Sustainment Brigade. Critical to the success of the operation were the transportation assets of the NTC’s echelons-above-brigade support battalion (EAB SB) that were placed under the operational control of the combined TOC of the 3d and 7th Sustainment Brigades. The distribution crews and vehicles of the EAB SB also were integrated into convoys under LTF 13’s C2.

During the exercise, the 3d and 7th Sustainment Brigades further replicated current theater logistics C2 by incorporating C2 elements from the 316th Expeditionary Sustainment Command (ESC). The 316th ESC would perform as the logistics headquarters for all sustainment brigades in the Iraq area of operations and would fall under the C2 of the 1st Theater Sustainment Command. As they would in theater, the 316th ESC provided logistics guidance when needed. The 316th ESC, in conjunction with the NTC observer-controllers, provided scenarios for the 3d and 7th Sustainment Brigades to exercise. The staffs at Fort Irwin, Fort Stewart, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and Fort Eustis conducted video teleconference battle update briefs every 3 days in order to maintain operational situational awareness and work through training and operational challenges.

During this exercise, the 3d and 7th Sustainment Brigades’ TOC received logistics status reports from units at Fort Irwin and Fort Stewart using BCS3. The forward staff combined logistics requirements from the 2d BCT, the 3d BCT, the 3d Sustainment Brigade, and the 7th Sustainment Brigade into reports and forwarded the information to the 316th ESC. The 316th ESC used BCS3 client privileges at each BCS3 node to review automated input from units at both Fort Irwin and Fort Stewart. The 316th then analyzed all reports and information, provided logistics guidance, and sent the reports to the 1st Theater Sustainment Command. The CSSB used the Movement Tracking System and BCS3 to track CLP movements throughout the brigade battlespaces and to develop alternate courses of action in the event of a movement delay.

Training as They Would Fight

The 3d Sustainment Brigade gained valuable experience supporting NTC 06–10 and NTC 07–04 and was prepared to support again when the order was given to move the 2d BCT’s NTC 07–05 from Fort Irwin to Fort Stewart. The 3d Sustainment Brigade, along with the 17th CSSB’s headquarters at Fort Richardson, Alaska, deployed to Fort Stewart and established an LTF built around the 10th Transportation Company and the 416th Transportation Company. Although the 3d Sustainment Brigade conducted the detailed coordination, the deployment only occurred because of the backing of the 3d Infantry Division’s Commanding General of Support, Brigadier General Cardon, the 3d Infantry Division staff, and the United States Army Alaska. The 17th CSSB, which was to be task-organized to the 3d Sustainment Brigade for a future Operation Iraqi Freedom rotation, received its first collective training opportunity since reflagging in July 2006. The NTC’s EAB SB, with the 2d Heavy Equipment Transportation Company, also deployed from Fort Irwin to Fort Stewart to establish an LTF for additional support to NTC 07–05.

Both LTF 17 and the NTC’s EAB SB were under the C2 of the 3d Sustainment Brigade during the pre-deployment MRX. In addition to supporting the 2d BCT during NTC 07–05, the 3d Sustainment Brigade and the LTFs conducted multiclass distribution in support of the 4th BCT’s home station preparation for the NTC 07–06 field training exercise, which was being conducted simultaneously with the 2d BCT’s NTC 07–05. Both LTFs were resourced with vehicles, equipment, personnel, and training from the 13th CSSB, the 87th CSSB, and the 260th Quartermaster Battalion.

To prepare the 17th CSSB for its mission, the 13th CSSB from Fort Benning conducted a 3-day after-action review with the 17th CSSB, using lessons learned from the 13th CSSB’s NTC 07–04 rotation. The process covered such critical areas as the commander’s update briefings, the distribution management board, battle rhythm, battle drills, and C2 of CLPs. The after-action review also covered lessons learned on integrating companies from different battalions into unit operating procedures.

Integrating EAB Units Into Training Events

Successfully integrating EAB logistics units into training events is possible. The challenge is identifying units that will be deployed together in Southwest Asia in time to program them into the training events. These units must be far enough along in their Army Force Generation cycle that they have the equipment and personnel to participate in the training, but they also must be far enough out from their latest arrival date that the training event is a force multiplier and not a distraction. The recommendation is that EAB logistics units be programmed into combat training center (CTC) exercises. This would require major commands to provide support in identifying, linking, and simultaneously training EAB logistics units that will deploy together.

This requirement exists for EAB logistics units because, for many, it is the first time they will work collectively. This process also will enable EAB units to train with units other than their parent units. Given the requirement for logistics units to support operations across the full spectrum of conflict, units should train with the many different kinds of units that they will be working with while deployed. Planning and executing distribution operations and CLPs are complex missions, and units should be familiar with these processes at all levels.

The opportunity to conduct quality multi-echelon training at CTCs currently exists for BCTs and their subordinate brigade support battalions. The opportunity also exists for CTCs to provide training for EAB logistics units. However, EAB units are not presently integrated into these events. Clearly, the 3d Sustainment Brigade’s experience with the NTC indicates that it is not only possible but invaluable. Our training experience over the past 7 months is not the only way, but it represents “a way” to more effectively train EAB units.

This aggressive approach to training opportunities for 3d Infantry Division units proved extremely successful. The 3d Infantry Division is, without question, a better trained and more confident organization today as a result of the NTC exercises. Other EAB units and sustainment brigades can glean ideas from these training experiences. Establishing a habitual linkage between BCT and EAB units during CTC rotations would benefit the Army for years to come.

Colonel Darrell Williams is the Commander of the 3d Sustainment Brigade. He is a graduate of the Quartermaster Officer Basic and Advanced Courses, the Combined Arms and Services Staff School, the Army Command and General Staff College, and the School of Advanced Military Studies. He is a distinguished graduate of the National War College and holds a master’s degree in logistics management from Pennsylvania State University.

Major Geoffrey DeTingo served as the Support Operations Officer for the 3d Sustainment Brigade. He is currently the Chief of the distribution management center of the Sustainment Brigade (Special Operations) (Airborne). Major DeTingo has a master’s degree from Webster University and is a graduate of the Army Command and General Staff College.

Rae Lynn Michelle Graham served as the Senior Logistical Analyst for the 3d Sustainment Brigade during their National Training Center rotations and during Operation Iraqi Freedom III. Currently, Ms. Graham is the fielding manager for Global Positioning Systems at the Communications and Electronics Command at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of New York, Regents, and an associate’s degree in aviation maintenance from Troy State University.