Synchronizing Logistics with Field Artillery Operations at Combined Resolve XIII

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Synchronizing Logistics with Field Artillery Operations at Combined Resolve XIII

Captain Christopher W. Kim

First Lieutenant Kyle D. Haddock

First Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy

 

2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, “Black Jack,” serves as United States European Command’s Regionally Aligned Force (RAF) for Operation Atlantic Resolve.  Black Jack deployed from Fort Hood, Texas in October, 2019 for a 9-month rotation to the Atlantic Resolve AOR, spanning 5 countries.  3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment, “Rolling Thunder,” deployed to Torun, Poland to assume the fires mission for Operation Atlantic Resolve.  I took command of Fox Forward Support Company on December 31, 2019 and two days later was on a bus from Poland to Germany to execute a combat training center rotation.  Fox Forward Support Company (FSC) supported 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team (ABCT), 1st Cavalry Division in Combined Resolve XIII, the 13th iteration of the multi-national combined exercise designed to test and exercise interoperability between partner nations.  The Joint Multinational Rotational Center (JMRC) rotation was a decisive action, large scale combat operation, exercise split into two phases: live fire and force-on-force.  2nd ABCT faced a near peer threat during the force-on-force portion at Hohenfels Training Area. 

 

Fox FSC had the unique challenge of supporting the split field artillery battalion (BN), tasked with the Atlantic Resolve mission and the JMRC rotation.  3-16 FAR had two Batteries participating in CBR XIII, Alpha Battery, “Attack,” and Headquarters & Headquarters Battery, “Hardrock.”  Bravo Battery, “Bulldogs,” and Charlie Battery, “Cobras,” remained in Poland in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve.  Fox FSC did not deploy the entire company to Germany in order to support the two batteries’ operations in ToruĊ„, Poland.  We deployed a total of 53 Soldiers from our Company, including one field maintenance team, the distribution platoon, a section of the field maintenance platoon, the field feeding section, and select members of the maintenance control section.  Of the senior company leaders, the company commander, the distribution platoon leader and platoon sergeant, and the automotive maintenance technician participated in the exercise.  The terrain at Hohenfels was the most challenging ever personally experienced.  In addition to the difficult landscape, the weather was unforgiving and unpredictable.  The average high was 30 degrees Fahrenheit and low was 22 degrees Fahrenheit.  We experienced a daily mixture of rain, snow, hail and sleet, creating hazardous conditions for logistics operations.  The training area at Hohenfels is significantly smaller than the National Training Center (NTC), but the weather created unique challenges that made traversing one kilometer tremendously more difficult than any other training area.

 

Logistics in Large Scale Combat Operations

Logistics is echeloned in large scale combat operations in order to position the right commodities, at the right location, to provide logistics support at the right time.  Supporting field artillery is unique due to the position areas for artillery’s (PAA) distance from the forward line of troops (FLOT) and the wide variety of 155MM ammunition types.  Also unique to field artillery operations is the non-stop fires as the BN supports the Brigade during the deep and close fight and does not conduct re-organization operations unlike the combined arms battalions (CAB).  To support field artillery operations, there are several logistics nodes, serving different purposes, on the battlefield.  Logistics nodes include the company and battery trains, the combat trains command post (CTCP), unit maintenance collection point (UMCP), the field trains command post (FTCP) and the brigade support area (BSA).  Fox FSC had requirements at every single logistics node.

 

BATTERY TRAINS.  Attached to ATTACK Battery was a field maintenance team (FMT), composed of self-propelled artillery, light track and wheel vehicle mechanics led by an experienced sergeant first class motor sergeant.  The FMT provides direct and immediate maintenance support to the M109A6 Paladins and M992 CATs.  In addition, they carry a shop stock list (SSL) container with up to 300 lines of CLIX repair parts, reducing non-mission capable times on critical combat systems.  The motor sergeant has several critical duties beyond general track maintenance, to include tracking tube life, SSL management, 5988-E flow to the UMCP, and reporting requirements to the FSC commander and maintenance technician.  In addition to the FMT, one M978A4 HEMTT fuel tank was attached to ATTACK Battery to provide immediate retail JP-8 fuel support.  It permitted them to conduct refueling operations gun by gun, in between fire missions, significantly reducing the amount of time the Paladins spent offline, enabling the Battery to retain six howitzers in position, ready to fire, at any given time.

 

COMBAT TRAINS COMMAND POST.  The CTCP is for the immediate resupply of commodities to the supported Batteries.  The FSC commander is the CTCP officer-in-charge.  The FSC transports and manages 2-3 days of supplies of commodities at the combat trains.  The trains are composed of the distribution platoon, field maintenance section, headquarters section and field feeding section.  The equipment capabilities include the M978 fuel tank, M1075 palletized loading system (PLS) and M1076 PLS trailer for mobile storage and distribution of multi-class commodities and field feeding equipment.  In order to provide responsive logistics support, it is an art and science on positioning the correct commodities and FSC assets at the CTCP.  It is the FSC commander’s responsibility for the tactical planning and execution of logistics support to the Batteries.  The BN S4 and FSC HQ section tracks the Battalion’s logistics status (LOGSTAT) report in order to issue, receive and position the correct commodities at the CTCP.  Our combat trains was co-located with the BN TOC due to the size of the training area and speed of which the fight moved. 

 

UNIT MAINTENANCE COLLECTION POINT.  The UMCP is physically located within the CTCP.  The UMCP serves as the consolidated maintenance area to conduct uninterrupted maintenance operations at a secure location.  The M984A4 wrecker and M88A2 Hercules are positioned at the UMCP to provide recovery and lift capabilities.  Important to UMCP operations are special tools, coordination of shop stock list (SSL) and common core additional stock list (CCASL) line items.  The FMTs retrograde mechanically failed or battle-damaged combat systems to the UMCP to conduct maintenance as the fight moves.  To support the FMTs, the field maintenance section provides the resources for the FMTs to execute maintenance.  Maintenance operations are deliberate, planned and operationalized in order to decrease the time to return combat systems back to the fight.  Our largest challenge to maintenance operations arose from difficulty communicating between the FMT and the maintenance tech.  To mitigate this, a manual DA 5988E rotation was implemented prior to the start of the exercise.  The maintenance technician sent new 5988s to the Battery every 48 hours, which were picked up and issued by the distribution PLT.  The Battery, in turn, would conduct maintenance activities during periods of low battlefield activity and record on their 5988s.  This did not allow for a quick turn on parts but did promote long term health of the equipment as the parts needed were ordered once the maintenance tech received the 5988s.

 

FIELD TRAINS COMMAND POST.  The field trains command post is located within the Brigade Support Area; the purpose of the FTCP is to coordinate with the BSB commodity managers, validate and package commodities moving to the CTCP.  The FTCP is typically overseen by the BN S4 assistant OIC, FSC executive officer, or the HHB executive officer.  A battalion representative with decision making authority must be at the FTCP.  It is their responsibility is to validate, request and coordinate for commodities to be moved either to the CTCP by the FSC or throughput to the Batteries by the BSB.  3-16 FAR’s S4 assistant OIC was located at the FTCP, providing enormous value for battle tracking commodities and synchronizing with the BSB SPO.  In addition, his solid grasp of commodities requirements and projections by platform was key to the Battalion’s sustainment successes as he was able to accurately project the needs of the Battalion during periods where communication broke down.  A keen understanding of the various projectiles used by the Battalion is crucial to maintaining the lethality of the Battalion through the transition from the defense to the offense.  It’s recommended for Field Artillery Battalions to maintain an individual at the FTCP who understands artillery ammunition and what is required of the Battalion throughout all phases of the operation. Failure to accurately project and order ammunition will render a Field Artillery Battalion ineffective.

 

BRIGADE SUPPORT AREA.  The Brigade’s commodity managers and distribution capabilities reside in the BSA.  It is critical the Battalion liaison synchronizes with the BSB’s support operations section (SPO) using the brigade logistics synchronization matrix, battalion logistics status report and the logistics common operating picture in order to create a shared understanding of the Battalion’s logistics requirements.  A portion of the Battalion’s CLV is stored at the BSA’s ammunition transfer holding area (ATHP) for pick-up by the FSC or throughput to the Batteries by the BSB’s distribution Company.  Prior coordination must be made for bulk-to-bulk JP8 fuel transfers to ensure the BSB’s bulk fuel assets are staged to transfer once the FSC assets arrive.  Also, the Battalion liaison ensures CLIX repair parts are post goods received (PGR) in order for timely transfer from the supply support activity (SSA) to the FSC.  Our maintenance technician was located at the BSA, which made requisitioning and coordinating CLIX repair parts quick and effective.

The Field Maintenance Platoon Recovery Section conducts a recovery of a FMTV

CLV Ammunition Management

CLV is the most important commodity to the battalion; CLV management and planning is done at the Battery, FSC and BN level.  The distribution platoon is the Field Artillery Battalion’s beast of burden, responsible for transporting, managing and issuing CLV to the Batteries.  Although responsible for the mobile transportation and distribution of ammunition, the distribution platoon does not forecast or order ammunition, that responsibility lies with the BN fire direction officer (FDO) and BN S4 OIC, who, along with the BN S2 project what ammunition is required to engage anticipated targets once anticipated targets are identified the order for ammunition is sent to the FTCP based off the attack guidance established by the Field Artillery Battalion Commander.

 

TRIGGERS & COMBAT CONFIGURED LOADS.  Ammunition resupply from the FSC to the Batteries or from the BSA to the CTCP are based off triggers determined through the military decision-making process (MDMP).  The battalion staff conducted daily MDMP, providing the FSC commander, BN S4 OIC, the BN FDO and the BN S2 OIC the planning analysis to refine, update, and determine the composition of CCLs, for the next 24-96 hours.  This allowed us to adjust triggers, and CCLs based off of conditions generated by current, and future operations.  Also, the staff’s daily planning, with the Battalion Commander’s Intent, provided the FSC commander the flexibility and planning analysis to better anticipate triggers with the appropriate CCLs, ready for movement to the Batteries.  With the staff’s planning, I knew which batteries were designated for the counter-fire and dynamic-fire missions in order to have CCLs ready at the CTCP and move additional CLV from the BSA’s ATHP.  Additionally, this provided flexibility to anticipate and respond to changes by having the correct assets on-hand at the CTCP.

 

FSC.  The 89B ammunition specialist in the FSC manages the CLV at the CTCP and keeps an accurate count of all ammunition on-hand.  The FSC commander and distribution platoon leader ensures the ammunition is configured and ready for immediate transport to the supported Batteries. 

The FSC Distribution Platoon Leader conducts a convoy brief in preparation for a resupply mission

BATTALION.  The BN S4 OIC, BN FDO and BN S2 intelligence officer are responsible for the ammunition composition requirement for the batteries based on the enemy situation template (SITEMP), planned targets, historical numbers of counter-fire and dynamic target missions.  Also, the ammunition requirement is based on the field artillery tasks, rounds per target and rounds required at the Battery, CTCP and BSA. 

 

R3SP:  REARM, REFUEL, RESUPPLY, SURVEY CONTROL POINT.  The field artillery community uses a unique method of resupply called the R3SP.  R3SP is primarily used during the initial movement of troops into the tactical assembly area after the reception, staging, onward movement and integration (RSOI) process.  R3SP is a deliberate and well-organized version of the supply point distribution method.  It provides the initial CLV unit basic load (UBL), CLIIIB retail, CLI MREs and CLIV material to the Batteries prior to the movement to their PAA.  Batteries must arrive at the R3SP location with a plan of which type and amount of ammunition is to be loaded into their M109A6 Paladins, M992 CATs and M1074A1 PLSs.  The BN FDO provides the Battery with the Target List Worksheet, enabling them to properly store the correct ammunition on the correct platform to engage upcoming targets. Communicating upcoming ammunition requirements by target to the Battery enables them to conduct responsive fires in support of the Brigade’s mission.

The FSC Distribution Platoon conducts an R3SP with A-BTRY

METHODS OF RESUPPLY.  Fox FSC conducted multiple types of resupplies based on the operational environment, troops available, mission, terrain and enemy SITEMP.  The primary methods of resupply are unit distribution, supply point distribution and throughput from the BSB.  The BN S3 section issues the order and the BN S4 section and the FSC commander determine the requirements based on the LOGSTAT and commodities on-hand at the CTCP.  Furthermore, the distribution platoon leader executes the resupply using one of the three methods of re-supply based on the operational environment and the batteries’ operation.  In addition to unit and supply point distribution, the BSB is capable of executing CLV throughput to the Batteries depending on the brigade’s priority of support and battle period.  During the close fight, the BSB executed multiple throughput CLV resupplies to the Batteries, caching ammunition nearby the PAAs.  This enabled the Battery to receive a quick resupply without the direct support of the FSC. It also reduced movement across the Area of Operations, minimizing the likelihood of a convoy being detected and targeted by enemy information collection assets.

 

Lessons Learned

The company’s time at JMRC was invaluable to assess the company’s readiness to support 3-16 FAR’s mission.  Additionally, it showed where we could think outside the box to provide the best support to the BN.  Through the combat training rotation, the Company understood its areas for improvement and further development.  We developed TTPs to include daily planning procedures, looking out 24-96 hours and logistics resupplies based on triggers.  In addition, we quickly learned a shared understanding of the logistics status is only achieved when leaders at all echelons remain in constant communication with one another. 

 

COMMODITY MANAGEMENT & FORECASTING.  The FSC must maintain Joint Capabilities Release (JCR) capabilities between the FMTs, CTCP and the FTCP in order to track the commodity levels at each logistics node.  The CTCP must maintain a live logistics common operating picture, with the commodities on-hand with the FSC and with the Batteries.  In addition, the CTCP must communicate with the FTCP for incoming commodities and the commodities that have been resupplied to the Batteries.  In a high stress environment where many individuals are sleep deprived, maintaining JCR communications, with its written record, are key to return to for reference.  We had challenges with JCR LOG communications, increasing the NMC time for maintenance operations and movement of commodities between the logistics nodes.  We semi-successfully used our PACE plan to work through the JCR, but relied on primarily on FM and face-to-face communications at the Brigade and Battalion logistics synchronization and maintenance meetings.

 

COMMUNICATION & FSC TO BN STAFF INTEGRATION.  The FSC commander must conduct logistics synchronizations (LOGSYNCH) with the BN S4 OIC and BN FDO and lead the LOGSYNCHs with the batteries.  Doing so validates the Batteries’ logistics requirements which allows the FSC to accurately request supplies from the BSA.  Huge to success are the twice daily LOGSTAT reports which are then validated during the LOGSYNCH with the Batteries.

 

BSA EXPECTATIONS.  The Brigade Support Battalion supported eight battalions which caused delays for 3-16 FAR to receive commodities.  The BSA was often backlogged with units waiting to receive supplies and 3-16 FAR was not the first in priority of support or resupply.  The FTCP must be engaged with the BSB’s commodity managers and distribution assets in order to receive resupplies in a timely manner.  In addition, the FSC must be prepared to receive commodities; assets must be made available when the BSA is ready to issue supplies to the battalion.  I was constantly engaged with the support operations section (SPO), the BSB operations officer (S3 OIC) and the distribution company commander, communicating when my assets were moving to the BSA in order for the BSB to prepare for the transload of commodities and to ensure synchronization one level up. 

 

Captain Christopher W. Kim is the Commander of Fox Forward Support Company, 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment.  He holds a bachelor’s degree in history from North Georgia College. 

 

First Lieutenant Kyle D. Haddock is the BN S4 OIC, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment.  He holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from California Polytechnic State University.

 

First Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy is the Distribution Platoon Leader, Fox Forward Support Company, 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment.  He holds a bachelor’s degree in secondary education from Arizona State University.