Property Accountability in a Geographically Dispersed Environment

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Property Accountability in a Geographically Dispersed Environment

By CPT Conrad J. Braun, Commander HHB, 3-16 Field Artillery Regiment

 

The Headquarters and Headquarters Battery of the 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment deployed for a nine month rotation in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve spread amongst four countries, and six total locations. I assumed command halfway through the deployment, and during my change of command inventories, I developed a greater understanding of how the command supply discipline program (CSDP) was conducted within the HHB. . While the systems in place were effective in keeping accountability of the Battery’s equipment, many problems existed that were causing accountability to be far more time consuming than it should have been if a more thorough organization of property, and personnel had been done prior to deployment from home station. Some lessons learned seem obvious in nature; however, the significance of each error was not fully realized until the battery lost direct contact with the dispersed personnel and equipment once arriving in Europe.  The following lessons outline possible solutions to points of friction that the battery experienced.

Headquarters and Headquarters Batteries (HHB) are large organizations comprised of the staff, medical platoons, and specialty sections such as the radar platoon, that are common to other Headquarters Companies in the Army. However, after the 2104 re-organization of Field Artillery personnel as part of the larger Division Artillery training management efforts, Field Artillery Battalions reabsorbed the Fire Support Elements (FSE), and subordinate Fire Support Teams (FiST) that had been previously organic to Maneuver Battalions under the Brigade Combat Team construct. When this occurred, HHB’s personnel numbers increased by approximately 118 personnel to 232 authorized by MTOE.

The Battery is responsible for manning, training, and equipping of all fire support elements in a garrison environment. However, the standard practice within our Brigade is for FSEs and their subordinate FiSTs to assume a Tactical Control command support relationship with their supported Maneuver Battalions in combined arms training environments and while deployed. This created a situation where four Battalion FSEs, and one Brigade FSE, were dispersed across the EUCOM Area of Responsibility (AOR) to support the Brigades mission. The Field Artillery Battalion and the HHB, retain administrative and property accountability responsibilities of these personnel while operating in the dispersed environment.

The first step to an effective CSDP is the selection and development of dependable sub-hand receipt holders. Selection of sub-hand receipt holders for the FSEs was the first error made prior to deploying from home station. A NCO within the platoon, with longevity throughout the rotation (to include no planned attendance of ALC or SLC), should be selected for uninterrupted oversight of the sections equipment. The historical sub-hand receipt holders in HHB for the FSEs had been the Assistant Battalion Fire Support Officer (AFSO). These Lieutenants were often knowledgeable of the property they were managing as some had previously been a Company FSO. However, the predictable Officer transition timeline was not taken into consideration in the selection of sub-hand receipt holders prior to deployment. All of the AFSOs signed for the FSE equipment were moved out of position and into assignments within the howitzer Battery’s. A hasty transition of the FSE sub-hand receipt occurred between the outgoing Lieutenants and their platoon NCOIC, sometimes in the middle of a significant training event that did not allow for complete layouts. HHB was able to maintain complete accountability of all equipment assigned to those sub-hand receipts during these moves. However, there became some accountability issues for equipment that was under the control of those sections due to enabler attachments and equipment signed over on DA Form 2062s prior to the deployment.

FSE control of a significant amount of equipment not on their sub-hand receipt is the second issue encountered during the rotation. Each FSE received supplemental equipment to increase their capabilities and took responsibility of additional enablers and their equipment at each location. These additions were in addition to the typical arms room equipment that would be stored in the supported maneuver unit’s arms room. While they were in control of all of this equipment, none of it had been transferred to their sub-hand receipts which made it difficult to account for sensitive items during monthly inventories. Additionally, organizing DA Form 2062s to figure out what equipment from other sections had been signed out to various locations made it difficult to prepare for change of command inventories. The solution for this was to organize all equipment at each location, to include arms room equipment, under one sub-hand receipt under the control of the FSEs. Once this was complete, the sub-hand receipt and monthly sensitive item inventory listing clearly indicated what items were at each location with no additional documentation required. The Battery XO and Supply Sergeant maintained documentation on what items had moved to each hand receipt to allow easy reconsolidation upon deployment to home station.  If the organization of sub-hand receipts to each location had been executed prior the initial deployment, the time required preparing for change of command inventories could have been greatly reduced.

Building sub-hand receipts early in the Battery planning process to reflect all property at each FSE location would be a significant help when identifying which property would be left behind with Home Station Mission Command (HSMC). Once the sub-hand receipts are built to support the mission set, the remaining equipment can be identified and inventoried for transfer to HSMC. After final sealing shipping containers, DD Form 1750s should be inspected for a final comparison against the primary hand receipt. In our situation, sections made the choice to leave certain ancillary equipment in the rear without notifying the chain of command. These discrepancies were not discovered until approximately two months later when all personnel and equipment arrived at their final European destinations. Once 100% inventories were complete upon arrival, HSMC had to be notified of all property that was left in the rear and had to locate each piece before it could be laterally transferred to the HSMC property book. This proved to be a time consuming process that could have been avoided with additional preparation prior to deployment.

A lesson learned on an effective way to account for dispersed property is the leverage of Battalion FSOs to manage cyclic and sensitive item monthly inventory requirements. The average refundable flight (higher headquarters requirement) to the two furthest outstations was approximately $800 per person. The cost and time to fly, along with the time required to drive between neighboring countries and semi local unit locations, made it impossible for the Battery Commander and the appointed sensitive items inventory Officer to make it to every location monthly. Early coordination with the Brigade Property Book Officer (PBO) resulted in a solution utilizing memorandums for record to account for monthly inventories was decided upon. Each unit location functioned as a miniature battery with its own monthly appointed SI Officer. All sensitive items at that location were inventoried and annotated by item type and serial number on a memorandum for record. This memorandum was then signed by the sensitive items inventory Officer and the Battalion FSO who confirmed as a Captain and the Battery Commanders representative that the inventories had been completed to standard. For cyclic inventories, the Battalion FSOs received the Line Item Numbers to be inventoried that month and conducted the cyclic inventories for their locations equipment. Once complete, the Battalion FSO signed a cyclic memorandum for their location and submitted the paperwork to the Battery XO. These memorandums were then reviewed by the Battery Commander and primary sensitive items inventory Officer, and used as supporting documentation for the final submission of monthly reports to PBO. Not only was this method very effective in properly accounting for all equipment and updating shortages, it also proved to be a great developmental opportunity for the Battalion FSOs who would be future battery commanders.

            The final pre-deployment lesson learned is the validation of Government Travel Cards (GTC), to include expiration dates, for those personnel who manage battery property. While all battery personnel need to have GTCs for emergency leave purposes amongst others, a change of command that involved travel to four different countries required the Battery Commander, XO, and Supply Sergeant to have a current GTC. Our Supply Sergeant deployed with a valid GTC; however, that card expired a month prior to the execution of change of command inventories. When the replacement card was mailed, it did not arrive until after the required travel was completed. Inspecting all GTCs prior to deployment and coordinating for early replacement cards for those due to expire during the rotation can help solve many Soldier’s travel problems, to include those related to property inventory and accountability.  

            Overall, while operating in a geographically dispersed environment, the battery did an outstanding job of accounting for and maintaining equipment. Many of the lessons learned are largely implied when managing battery property, however if even a small number of mistakes are made, the time required to solve the issues while dispersed is significantly longer than in a typical garrison environment. Communicating with HSMC or Citibank for GTC support on a seven to eight hour time difference and a possible month to two month wait time for replacement GTC can make simple problems much more difficult to solve. Despite some minor difficulties, the primary lesson learned is that with deliberate and detailed preparation, if you implement the right processes with the right people, managing a large property book across four countries and six locations is a very manageable task.

 

CPT Conrad J. Braun is the Commander of HHB, 3-16 Field Artillery Regiment. His former assignments include Battalion Fire Direction Officer, Battalion S4, and Brigade Fire Control Officer. He completed his Lieutenant time in 3rd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division. CPT Braun has two Regionally Aligned Force deployments, one to the Republic of Korea and one to Europe as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve.