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BSB Support to Advisory Teams
in Iraq

The experiences of the 27th Brigade Support Battalion serve as a model for supporting advisory teams and partnering with Iraqi units.

How effective is the logistics structure of the modular heavy brigade combat team (BCT), and how well can its brigade support battalion (BSB) support the customer units within the brigade? A reverse collection and analysis team (R–CAAT), hosted by the Army Combined Arms Support Command at Fort Lee, Virginia, in May 2008, considered these questions when it examined the experiences of the 27th BSB, 4th BCT, 1st Armored Division, in Iraq. The R–CAATs concluded that the 27th BSB proved that modularity does indeed work, but it also demonstrated that the BCT can provide the command and control and nondoctrinal area support required in the Iraqi theater without creating a separate brigade-level logistics headquarters to direct logistics functions at the tactical level.

Throughout the R–CAAT, the leaders of the 27th BSB stated that their way was only “a way” and that other units may have worked out different, or even superior, logistics methods for supporting both the BCT and the tenant units in its sector. [“Tenant units” are those units that reside within the BCT’s area of responsibility but may or may not be directly controlled by the BCT.] However, we believe that the 27th BSB’s way was sufficient and provides an outstanding model for both supporting advisory teams in Iraq and assisting the Iraqi forces. The BSB’s experience also opens the door for further discussion about future force structures in both BSBs and advisory teams as the counterinsurgency fight in Iraq develops over time.

Supporting a Force Double the Normal Size

When the 27th BSB arrived in Mosul, Iraq, the support operations officer (SPO) quickly realized that, although his unit was at around 100 percent of its modification table of organization and equipment fill, his area of responsibility and the number of units he would be supporting greatly exceeded what the BSB was designed to support. The BCT’s area of operations was roughly the size of West Virginia and included forward operating bases and combat outposts up to 120 kilometers away. Distance was just one of the challenges, however.

As shown in the chart on page 30, the BSB was also responsible for providing support to an organization with approximately 8,000 Soldiers. This was twice the size of the organization it was designed to support (approximately 4,000 Soldiers in two combined arms battalions, a fires battalion, a reconnaissance squadron, a brigade special troops battalion, and a BSB). Large contingents of those “extra forces” were the advisory teams assigned to the Iraqi Assistance Group and operating in Multi-National Division-North.

Sustaining Advisory Teams


When the 27th BSB arrived in theater, it assumed support responsibility for more than 40 advisory teams. These teams were spread out among the Iraqi forces in the region and were responsible for providing “coach, teach, and advise” support to the Iraqi Army, Iraqi Police, Iraqi Border Forces, and National Police. The military transition teams (MiTTs), National Police transition teams, and border transition teams were accustomed to receiving support by what was called the “drive by.” In other words, when an advisory team required support, it would convoy to the nearest BSB location (a forward support company or the BSB itself).

Although the requirements of these small units did not significantly affect the BSB’s ability to support its other units, the SPO immediately recognized several weaknesses in the drive-by system. One weakness—forecasting support needs—affected both the BSB and the advisory teams. Because the teams were not forecasting their requirements, they could not be certain that the BSB would be able to continuously fill their requests. By initiating a system called “request for support” (RFS), the BSB was able to provide the advisory teams with a usable tool (borrowed from the Special Forces community) for requesting supplies and tracking ongoing requirements. At the BSB, the RFS forms were cataloged by team and location and historical data were collected. When needed, stockage adjustments (across all classes of supply) could be justified to meet the demands of the additional forces within the BCT’s area of responsibility.

Perhaps the most important result of implementing the RFS system was that the BSB assumed the responsibility of supporting the advisory teams. The BSB incorporated the RFS requirements into its existing convoy schedules and delivered needed supplies to the supporting forward support company for issue to the customer rather than requiring the advisers to leave their counterparts and conduct their own independent supply convoys.

The RFS system allowed the advisory teams to request all classes of supply and submit maintenance, transportation, and nonemergency combat health care requests. The requests were categorized as routine, priority, and emergency. Routine requests would be filled as early as the next scheduled convoy if the commodity was on hand or with the next convoy scheduled after the commodity arrived at the BSB. Priority requests would be filled by rerouting existing convoys. Emergency requests would generate a dedicated convoy to the advisory team immediately on receipt of the request.

The RFS system required some level of connectivity. Data connectivity by email was preferred, but voice connectivity would suffice if necessary. Most requests were sent to the 27th BSB by email using a very small aperture terminal.

To ensure that the advisory teams were requesting support in a responsible fashion and to achieve visibility within the advisory team structure, the BSB required that most requests be processed from the battalion-level advisers through their brigade and division advisory teams. Because the border transition teams did not have higher echelons, their requests were sent directly to the BSB. This process is depicted below.

Supporting Iraqi Army Units

The BCT was “partnered” with both the 2d and 3d Iraqi Army Divisions. Partnership is a relatively new term that has yet to be doctrinally developed; however, for our purposes, partnering occurs when coalition forces form a synergistic relationship with their corresponding host nation units. This relationship develops over time and depends on the efforts of both commanders and their superiors. These partnerships harness the strengths of both coalition and host nation forces.

One of the strengths of the U.S. Army is the BCT’s extremely capable logistics support system. As those of us who have deployed to the Iraqi theater know, working with Iraqis can mean supporting them logistically. This logistics support, which is provided in accordance with local command policies, the availability of Iraqi logistics resources, and the operational urgency of the need, can also strain the BSB’s ability to provide the doctrinal support required to its supported BCT.

A stated mission of the 27th BSB was to provide class IIIB (bulk petroleum, oils, and lubricants [POL]), class IV (construction and barrier materials), class IX (repair parts), on-order medical, and maintenance support to the Iraqi Army. The 27th BSB also provided contingent class I (subsistence), class IIIP (packaged POL), class VIII (medical materiel), transportation, medical, and mortuary affairs support to the Iraqi Army. The BSB fixed more than 400 Iraqi Army high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles, delivered more than 3 million gallons of fuel, and responded to more than 10 major tactical incidents (such as vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices and suicide bombers) with food, water, medical, and other recovery support during its 14-month deployment.

As with the advisory teams, the 27th BSB found it necessary to track and maintain historical data for the support given to the host nation forces. Because the mission of the advisory team is to develop the Iraqi forces’ capabilities and systems, the BSB determined that Iraqi Army Form 101 was the best system for the Iraqi Army and other Iraqi forces to use for requesting and receiving logistics support. The form provided a simple process for communicating requirements to the BSB though the existing advisory team structure.

Requiring the Iraqi forces to use this process not only reinforced their existing supply procedures but also allowed advisory teams to oversee and validate Iraqi requests, provided a “paper trail” to use in reducing corruption and inventory shrinkage, and developed the needed historical documentation that allowed logistics planners to predict commodity usage according to the pace of operations and seasonal changes.

Learning From the 27th BSB’s Experience

Beyond the results that the 27th BSB achieved in theater, the BSB’s way provides logistics planners with a model for what the future may hold. The BSB’s experiences and lessons learned offer several areas for Army logistics planners to consider for possible changes.

Doctrinally, the sustainment brigade provides area support and backup direct support for units within a given area. The BSB requests backup support once it is unable to meet the support demands of its BCT units. In northern Iraq, the sustainment brigade supporting the 27th BSB was almost completely committed to ongoing operations and had very limited assets available to provide to BSBs (especially transportation assets). This limitation pushed nondoctrinal responsibilities to the 27th BSB. For 14 months, the 27th BSB had to provide nondoctrinal area support with limited line-haul transportation from its sustainment brigade. The BSB’s successful efforts to sustain advisory teams provide insights into the challenges that may lie ahead for sustainment units as the political and tactical landscape in Iraq evolves.

As we achieve more and more success in Iraq and Iraqi forces continue to improve and take responsibility for the security of more of their own cities, it is not unreasonable to expect that the number of advisory teams will increase and the number of combat forces will decrease. As BCTs are rotated out of the theater and are not replaced, we will see the role of the remaining BSBs expand to support the advisory teams and other tenant units. As the role of the BSB changes, the composition of the BSB might also change so that it can better support the additional forces and meet the other logistics requirements of supporting areas significantly larger than those of a doctrinal BCT’s area of responsibility. The addition of line-haul assets (such as heavy equipment transporters and M915 tractor trucks) and additional local-haul assets (such as palletized load systems), quartermaster and maintenance Soldiers, and nondoctrinal logistics equipment (such as cranes and sewage-pumping trucks) seems to be a minimum requirement, especially if the tactical situation prevents the effective use of Logistics Civil Augmentation Program personnel.

Another subject for consideration is the structure of the advisory teams themselves. Currently, the teams are designed to support tactical, coalition effects, intelligence, and logistics requirements. [The coalition effects provided ranged from indirect fires to assistance with information operations campaigning, medical operations, school and humanitarian assistance drops, and access to aviation (combat, medical evacuation, and unmanned intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets).] All logisticians on an advisory team wear two “hats,” one when advising and the other when logistically supporting the Iraqi forces and their team. The addition of more logistics Soldiers, with limited equipment additions (for materials handling, storage, and maintenance), to create reinforced teams at the brigade or division level could greatly enhance the ability of the advisory teams to be more self-sustaining. These Soldiers and equipment could be pulled from the Army National Guard or Army Reserve or from a BCT. The equipment requirements could be met by reallocating theater-provided equipment as BCTs leave the Iraqi theater.

Planners would need to consider the location of the advisory teams that will be supported by a reinforced team when determining which level (brigade or division) to reinforce. For example, if the entire division MiTT structure is collocated, perhaps only one reinforced team is required. If the teams are separated along brigade lines, then a reinforced team may be required at the brigade MiTT level. Another consideration is the likelihood that the Iraqi forces will remain in their current configurations and locations for the foreseeable future. An example of a brigade MiTT with this reinforced structure is shown below.

A final area for exploration is the option of receiving life support and limited maintenance and transportation support from the Iraqi forces. Discussing a drawdown of conventional U.S. forces and increasing the number of advisory teams assume up front that the Iraqi forces will be at a significantly more capable state of readiness, with the logistics systems and infrastructure in place to sustain themselves (and their U.S. advisers). Combat health care would remain a U.S. responsibility, at least until the Iraqi health care system is capable of providing adequate care that meets U.S. standards.

The 27th BSB’s tactics, techniques, and procedures serve as a model and provide a way that U.S. forces can use to support the existing advisory team structure. The BSB’s success also provides logistics planners with a model that can be used to make decisions as the force structure in Iraq shifts from 15 BCTs, with approximately 250 externally sourced advisory teams, to fewer BCTs with a greater number of tenant units. Most importantly, however, is that the success of the 27th BSB in supporting a task force twice as large as it was designed to support, and over a much larger geographic area, is a testament to the outstanding logistics Soldiers who made it happen. ALOG

Major Andrew Hotaling is attached to the Joint Center for International Security Force Assistance pending attendance at the Army Command and General Staff College. He served as the logistics adviser to the 3d Battalion, 3d Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army, in Abu Ghraib, Iraq. He has a B.A. degree from the University of Texas at El Paso and is a graduate of the Ordnance Officer Basic Course, the Combined Logistics Officers Advanced Course, and the Combined Arms and Services Staff School.

Major Jason “Jay” McGuire is the brigade support operations officer of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, at Fort Bliss, Texas. He served as the brigade support operations officer in Mosul, Iraq, for 15 months. He has a B.A. degree from the University of Montana. He is a graduate of the Infantry Officer Basic Course, the Combined Logistics Officers Advanced Course, and the Combined Arms and Services Staff School.