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AFSBs and RDECOM: Strengthening the Materiel Enterprise

Army field support brigades work with the Research, Development and Engineering Command and other partners in theater to meet Soldiers’ materiel requirements.

The 402d Army Field Support Brigade’s (AFSB’s) Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology Directorate (ALT−D) has the unique mission of integrating and synchronizing acquisition and technology support with accountability and sustainment in support of the Materiel Enterprise in the brigade’s area of responsibility (Iraq, Kuwait, and Qatar). Now that the theater is downsizing, ALT−D’s mission has expanded to include synchronizing accountability of technology insertion during retrograde operations to prevent loss or destruction of equipment.

In order to accomplish its mission, ALT−D has built strong partnerships with in-theater program managers (PMs), the Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) senior command representative (SCR), and the other life-cycle management command (LCMC) representatives in the brigade. These partnerships strengthen the Materiel Enterprise and create synergy among the LCMCs, RDECOM, and the 402d AFSB.

Working With the SCR

Within the AFSB, the personnel in ALT−D work closely with the RDECOM SCR. The SCR (who resides in the brigade headquarters) is responsible for coordinating with all RDECOM agencies, laboratories, and centers and for collecting data on vehicles within the theater for his parent agency, the Army Materiel Systems Analysis Activity.

The 402d AFSB’s science adviser complements the SCR’s efforts by applying his expertise; the science adviser does this through direct coordination with supported units on various technological challenges throughout the theater. The science adviser and the SCR work together to gather Soldiers’ requirements and resolve many unforeseen problems with the new technologies that support the warfighters.

One example of how the SCR and the science adviser collaborated was when they assisted an engineer company (Stryker) deployed from Fort Lewis, Washington, in developing a lighting kit that provided better visibility during night-time route clearance missions. Once this capability gap was identified, the SCR and the science adviser worked quickly to meet the Soldiers’ requirement. In conjunction with developing a design, they also submitted a request for information to both RDECOM headquarters and PM Stryker to assist in developing an Army-funded lighting system.

The science adviser and the SCR used the capabilities of the welding shop of the 1st Battalion, 402d AFSB. The two men provided the welding team with diagrams and templates to build the new Stryker lighting bracket set. These lighting brackets were designed to support an existing lighting system used by the engineer company. The engineers are using these brackets on a limited basis until PM Stryker develops a lighting kit that addresses the unit’s requirements.

During a subsequent video teleconference (VTC) with RDECOM headquarters, the science adviser informed the participants that the lighting brackets had been created and distributed to the engineer company in Iraq. Since the 402d AFSB had already developed the lighting bracket prototypes for Stryker vehicles with and without slat armor, the Task Force Paladin liaison officer, who was a participant in the VTC, requested that the AFSB help to develop a better Stryker lighting system for units supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

The following day, the RDECOM SCR emailed the engineering drawings and shipped prototype brackets directly to the 401st AFSB in Afghanistan for fabrication and distribution to Task Force Paladin. Currently, RDECOM is prepared to produce more lighting brackets to support the demand from both theaters.

Coordinating With the STAT

The lighting kit illustrates the partnership between the AFSB and RDECOM. This partnership is further enhanced through the support provided to RDECOM’s Science and Technology Assistance Team (STAT).

The 402d AFSB has an agreement with RDECOM to support the STAT with life support (such as housing, use of vehicles, accountability, computers, and phones) and office space. Not only does the AFSB support the STAT administratively, it also supports the team in its mission to assist the warfighters in articulating their requirements to Department of the Army headquarters, RDECOM’s laboratories and centers, and the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology (ASA [ALT]) community.

The AFSB assists the STAT’s operational efforts through the brigade’s science adviser. Along with the Science and Technology Acquisition Corps adviser (STACA), the AFSB and the science adviser canvas the entire Iraqi theater to address Soldiers’ requests for information, challenges, and improvements at the company, brigade, and division levels. This group of highly trained individuals also fields questions and accepts challenges from other services, delivering solutions to the warfighters quickly and across all phases of an operation.

Partnering for Theater Support

How is it possible for a science coterie to address technology issues across an entire theater? The answer is not as complicated as one might think. The AFSB science adviser, the STACA, the corps science adviser, and the STAT cover specific areas on the battlefield, and each has specific responsibilities. On special occasions, each officer has the ability to cover another officer’s area of responsibility.

To assist in this overall effort, the AFSB science adviser is responsible for gathering requirements through logistics support elements and brigade logistics support teams. Working with these elements allows the science adviser to gather requirements from all combat units on the battlefield through sustainment and maintenance channels.

The STAT is embedded in the division headquarters, which gives it direct access to divisional units. However, its reach goes farther than just the division; the STAT has a medical adviser who can gather requirements from all medical facilities in the theater.

The corps science adviser and the STACA work closely together to field requirements and direct those requirements through corps leaders for approval and execution with command emphasis. Although they both reside in the corps headquarters, they have differing roles.

Since the corps science adviser (who typically resides in the C−3/J−3 Force Management Directorate) can interface directly with the corps commander and corps staff sections, he has the backing to influence the efforts of external supporting agencies, such as the Rapid Equipping Force, the Army Test and Evaluation Command, and science and technology agencies (RDECOM headquarters and research and development centers). The corps science adviser is also the focal point for all divisional requirements. (The STAT has access to only one division.) With all these moving pieces, an element that can unify all these efforts is needed.

The STACA is that unifying agent, providing synergy to all science and technology efforts in the theater. Since he resides on the corps staff, the STACA uses his position to organize requirements from the STAT, the corps science adviser, and the AFSB science adviser. This allows for synchronization of effort and reduces redundancy in submitting operational need statements, formal requests for information, and other requirements documents.

The coordination, level of commitment to Soldiers, and consistent dialog among key RDECOM agencies and organizations, the STAT, the STACA, science advisers, PMs, AFSBs, and the ASA (ALT) demonstrate how the Materiel Enterprise supports the war-fighters in the field. From the AFSBs to RDECOM to the PMs, these entities have forged an alliance that converts Soldiers’ requirements into materiel solutions, thus increasing their survivability, lethality, and mobility on the battlefield.

Major O’Neal A. Williams, Jr., is the brigade science adviser of the 402d Army Field Support Brigade. He holds a B.S. degree in electrical engineering from Howard University and a level-2 certification in systems planning, research, development, and engineering and is a Lean Six Sigma green belt.

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