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Successful Implementation of
Logistics Support Teams in an SBCT

Do Stryker brigade combat teams need forward support companies? The authors argue no—the LST can provide the responsive support that SBCTs need.

Stryker brigade combat teams (SBCTs) have a reputation of moving faster and farther in shorter amounts of time than any other formation on the battlefield today. Undoubtedly, this can be attributed to the SBCT’s ability to sustain itself over extensive distances through the use of tailored, modular logistics support packages. The brigade support battalion (BSB) uses logistics support teams (LSTs) to accomplish this mission and enable the SBCT to be a truly unique and flexible combat power.

Many people believe that the Army should add forward support companies (FSCs) to the SBCT’s organization, but the BSB can operate efficiently and effectively without changing to the FSC concept of support. Although FSCs have proven to be very effective in the other types of brigade combat teams, they are not necessary in SBCTs.

FSCs are not needed in SBCTs for two reasons. First, the SBCT’s original concept documents called for a formation that would be agile, adaptive, and creative in its employment. Adding FSCs would make the SBCT heavier and less agile. The BSB has a sufficient number of personnel and key leaders and an adequate amount of equipment to support the brigade. Second, the protracted conflict that our Nation is fighting has placed a tremendous burden on the manning requirements of the total force. This burden has led to a need to increase the size of the Army. As we simultaneously conduct operations in the contemporary environment, transform the force, and prepare for future contingency missions, several key positions cannot be filled because of personnel shortages—particularly company-grade logistics captains. Creating additional manpower requirements for our logistics infrastructure is not necessary, economical, or beneficial to the total force.

Transformation and the LST Concept

Even at the highest levels, sustainment organizations are changing at a historic rate. As part of the Army’s transformation, innovative and adaptive critical thinking brought about the concept of the expeditionary sustainment command (ESC), which has assumed the duties of the traditional division support command and corps support command. Before the transformation of logistics at the tactical level (or battalion task force level), the Army embedded maintenance, distribution, and field feeding teams into combat battalions as part of those battalions’ headquarters and headquarters companies. When the Army transformed to the brigade combat team organization, combat battalions’ maintenance, distribution, and field feeding assets were transferred to FSCs assigned to BSBs. The SBCT concept of support evolved even further, requiring the SBCT’s BSB to provide adaptive and modular support to meet the changing demands of each supported unit.

To provide adequate logistics support, one SBCT developed the LST concept—a leader-centric concept that organizes tailorable and modular support packages under the command and control of an officer in the BSB. Ideally, the LST leader is an experienced lieutenant from the BSB. Lieutenants were deemed not only to be adequate for this duty but also to provide the greatest economy of leadership force.

LSTs, which consist of a combat repair team, a field feeding team, and distribution elements, are tailorable and responsive support packages that offer economical employment of the equipment and personnel already assigned to the SBCT BSB. With all of the logistics assets in the SBCT consolidated under the BSB, the LST provides an adaptable solution that allows the SBCT to provide the warfighter with a sufficient amount of logistics support.

The use of tailored packages has been practiced and proven to work in combat by many SBCTs. The LST concept has transitioned from being just a part of specific units’ tactics, techniques, and procedures to a solution that is outlined in Field Manual (FM) 4–90.7, Stryker Brigade Combat Team Logistics. Now every SBCT BSB supports its brigade with teams of logisticians, led by company-grade officers from the BSB, using packages of equipment that are specific to the needs of each supported maneuver battalion.

The LST Leader

The LST’s structure enables the BSB to employ its junior leaders and develop them as multifunctional logisticians. While the maneuver battalion is in garrison, the LST leader functions in the BSB in his assigned position, such as platoon leader or company executive officer. Five weeks before training begins, the LST leader participates in the supported maneuver battalion’s training meetings so that he can anticipate sustainment requirements, integrate the LST into predeployment activities, and build a collaborative relationship with the maneuver battalion commander and key staff. At the onset of battalion-level training exercises (which typically require two or more commodities from the BSB) or operational deployments, the LST leader works within the maneuver battalion to provide logistics support.

The LST leader serves as his supported maneuver battalion’s representative to the BSB support operations officer (SPO). He supervises all logistics operations within the battalion and tracks all BSB personnel and equipment operating in the LST. He also ensures that the battalion provides adequate force protection and convoy security for all logistics operations. The LST leader assists the battalion or squadron S–4 with the development of operational logistics requirements and forecasts and ensures that logistics status reports are completed and passed on to the BSB SPO. The LST leader provides command and control on the ground for both BSB logistics resupply point operations and internal battalion resupply missions.

The LST leader also serves as a liaison between the BSB and the maneuver battalion executive officer and S–3. This relationship increases situational awareness and situational understanding for the BSB SPO and commander. With the LST leaders providing information to the BSB from their maneuver battalions, the BSB SPO can ensure that each commodity and field service is adequately resourced for each battalion. The SPO becomes more of a deputy commander for operations and external support—a significant increase in his scope of duties and responsibilities.

Selecting the right LST leader is critical for success in today’s fast-paced operational environments. When assigning personnel, battalion commanders and SPOs consider the capabilities of potential LST leaders and the personalities of each maneuver battalion’s leaders. The BSB should implement officer professional development programs to prepare the LST leader for multifunctional tasks. Although the LST leader will retain traditional platoon leader responsibilities in garrison, he will be exposed to many duties that will enhance his officer development, provide a sense of purpose, and offer connections to higher operational functions.

Although an LST leader has many of the same responsibilities as an FSC commander, an FSC commander also handles traditional command duties, such as property book reconciliation, administrative actions, and training. Employing junior officers as LST leaders enables BSB elements to focus on accomplishing support missions and creating truly multifunctional logisticians at a very early point in their professional careers.

Economy of Force

Maintaining the current SBCT BSB structure enables each maneuver battalion to have the necessary support while minimizing the logistics footprint on the battlefield. The LST is responsive to the war-fighter’s needs. It does not encumber the maneuver battalion commander with additional assets, and it allows the BSB SPO to surge sustainment assets if required. The LST concept is simple in planning and in execution. However, it does require the LST leader and the maneuver battalion leaders to develop a unique relationship prior to operational deployments. The LST concept provides an extremely flexible sustainment solution for the BSB commander. Through detailed mission analysis, the BSB SPO can move assets based on mission change or task organization change. This is more challenging to do with an FSC because of command and support relationships. The LST is minimal in nature, but adequate, so it is attainable with today’s SBCT organization.

The LST is a sustainable concept and provides enough support to the maneuver battalion. Synchronization of equipment densities and personnel requirements for the LST is the dual responsibility of the BSB SPO and the LST leader. The LST is survivable because it has a smaller footprint than an FSC, so the maneuver battalion has fewer force protection responsibilities. The LST has the economic advantage of having sustainment Soldiers integrated into the maneuver battalion without creating the need for additional sustainment Soldiers and equipment on the battlefield. The LST leader can provide exceptional mission integration between the BSB and the maneuver battalion and, as the resident subject matter expert, can assist the supported battalion’s S–4 with the development of a viable sustainment plan.

Screening the LST

The screening criteria for operational courses of action––suitable, feasible, acceptable, distinguishable, and complete—apply to the selection and implementation of the LST.

Suitable. The LST is a suitable solution to sustaining SBCT maneuver battalions. It provides the appropriate level of capability with an adequate amount of command and control for any operational mission.

Feasible. Lieutenant Colonel Dwayne M. Butler and Major Eric J. Van De Hey outlined the feasibility of the LST in their article, “The Logistics Support Team: SBCT Combat Multiplier,” in the November–December 2005 issue of Army Logistician. In this article, the authors articulated how the LST concept worked well in their unit’s combat training center rotations and during deployment operations in Iraq. The LST provided a command and control node for direct support assets forward of the BSB and increased the sustainment capability for maneuver battalion commanders.

Acceptable. The LST concept is currently in place as an acceptable method of support as outlined in FM 4–90.7. The use of tailorable and flexible sustainment organizations should continue to increase in Army
doctrine. This type of sustainment requires critical thinking and the development of concepts that do not fit into any established category.

Distinguishable. The LST is distinguishable from the FSC concept. The LST leader does not have Uniform Code of Military Justice authority over LST Soldiers or any administrative responsibilities for the equipment and Soldiers other than tactical readiness and mission execution.

Complete. The LST is a complete course of action with a command and control node and sustainment capabilities organic to the BSB. The flexibility to move assets allows the BSB SPO to optimize support for surge operations.

Drawbacks to the LST Concept

Although the LST approach is a sound concept in SBCT sustainment operations, this course of action has some disadvantages. First, maneuver battalion commanders would prefer to have sustainment capabilities indigenous to their organizations. But, as long as Title X regulations prevent females from being assigned to maneuver battalions, these organizations will not have organic logistics assets.

Second, the LST leaders and noncommissioned officers in charge must be taken out of current BSB positions, leaving the BSB area short of platoon leaders, sergeants, and squad leaders during full-spectrum operations. If all five maneuver battalions have an LST functioning in combat, five officer positions in the BSB will be left vacant. This problem can be relieved either by having the BSB’s noncommissioned officers rise to the task or by shifting around lieutenants within the BSB before operational deployments. This risk is acceptable, but the effects must be mitigated through detailed training and systems integration by the BSB SPO. Another shortfall of the LST model is that individual LSTs may not habitually train with their supported battalions. The LST must be familiar with the supported battalion’s standing operating procedures so that they can function together seamlessly in established battle drills. The fact that LSTs do not train with their maneuver battalions is understandable because the LST concept does not support the desire of many warfighters to “own” their logistics. Even with the FSC model, maneuver battalion commanders essentially lose their logistics assets. The unit’s modification table of organization and equipment requires specific and thorough memorandums of agreement (MOAs) among commanders to mitigate conflict. These MOAs are often garrison-focused rather than operationally-focused.

Command and Control and Manning Issues

After taking an honest look at the Army and its current operational demands, we conclude that there are simply not enough personnel available to transform SBCTs to include FSCs. Creating FSCs to support each SBCT maneuver battalion would require 5 additional logistics captains and 5 additional first sergeants per SBCT, causing a total impact (over the seven current SBCTs) of 35 Combined Logistics Captains Career Course-qualified captains every 2 years. Currently, the “Grow the Army” initiative precludes the Army Human Resources Command from filling all of the Army’s logistics captain requirements. Captain and major shortages already exist, and changing the SBCTs to include FSCs would just add more personnel requirements that will be left unfilled.

The FSC works well in other BCTs, but given the current manning and equipment shortfalls, the SBCT BSB can provide responsive support using LSTs. Changing the SBCT’s table of organization and equipment to include FSCs is not necessary.

The FSC represents a well-known and easily understood concept for the leadership of today’s Army. At first glance, the LST may appear to be a hastily developed, ad hoc unit, but the LST solution has evolved through critical thinking over multiple operational deployments and training exercises. Many commanders may be uncomfortable with the LST concept because of unfamiliarity or a lack of understanding in the implementation process. The LST concept requires exceptional sustainment synchronization and planning by the BSB SPO and increases the responsibility of logistics lieutenants. The BSB SPO must be intricately embedded into the SBCT’s concept of operations and able to anticipate necessary changes in the LST’s operational purpose and key tasks. Based on the SBCT’s support requirements, the LST represents a course of action that the Stryker community should continue to follow.

The concept of the LST is a sound, viable, and executable sustainment organization for today’s SBCT. The BSB commander and staff must provide additional training for LST leaders so they can be successfully integrated with the maneuver battalions. Today’s SBCT BSBs are robust and can support the equipment requirements for the LST and provide appropriate personnel to man the organizations. The LST is the most advantageous solution for SBCT sustainment operations in today’s ever-changing operational environment. LSTs empower junior leaders to become multifunctional logisticians early in their careers while enabling supported units to maintain a minimal footprint. Perhaps, instead of focusing on whether or not the SBCT needs to change to include FSCs, the discussion should be about when the Army is going to standardize LST doctrine.

Lieutenant Colonel Dwayne M. Butler is the commander of the 296th Brigade Support Battalion, 3d Brigade, 2d Infantry Division. He has bachelor’s degrees in Spanish and economics from Rutgers University, a master’s degree in administration from Central Michigan University, a doctor of philosophy degree in organization and management from Capella University, and a doctor of education degree from Rutgers University. He is a graduate of the Combined Logistics Officers Advanced Course and the Army Command and General Staff College.

Major Kenneth C. Bradford is the brigade support operations officer of the 296th Brigade Support Battalion, 3d Brigade, 2d Infantry Division. He has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina, and a master’s degree in management and leadership from Webster University. He is a graduate of the Armor Officer Basic Course, the Combined Logistics Officers Advanced Course, and the Army Command and General Staff College.

Captain Juliane C. Schwetz is the adjutant of the 296th Brigade Support Battalion, 3d Brigade, 2d Infantry Division. She has a B.S. degree in American politics from the U.S. Military Academy. She is a graduate of the Transportation Officer Basic Course.