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Force Management and Integration
Within a Deployed Sustainment Brigade

Deployment is a complex management challenge for sustainment brigades because they must identify and coordinate the arrival and replacement of numerous units over time.

In the fall of 2009, theater planners recommended that a second sustainment brigade be added to the force structure in Afghanistan and that it be placed at Kandahar Airfield to support Regional Commands (RCs) South and West and the soon-to-emerge RC Southwest. As U.S. Forces increased and expanded throughout Afghanistan, one sustainment brigade located in RC East could no longer provide mission command for all tactical logistics above the brigade combat team (BCT) level in Afghanistan.

In December 2009, President Obama announced a force uplift strategy, and the 43d Sustainment Brigade was identified as the second sustainment brigade to deploy to Afghanistan and was organized into the first push of forces, Force Package 1. The brigade's force management section, organized under the plans section, immediately started to identify the rest of the brigade's down-range task organization and to assemble a force management team.

The Army's modular force logistics concept, while giving considerable flexibility to sustainment commanders in developing a force structure to support any maneuver element, also creates many challenges for force management. Unlike a BCT, which deploys as one unit on a set timeline, a sustainment brigade must manage the deployment, relief in place and transfer of authority (RIP/TOA), and redeployment of each element within its formation. Successfully executing this critical task requires a comprehensive strategy that covers the entire force management process.

In retrospect, the modular nature of the 43d Sustainment Brigade—one where units are arriving and departing a theater over time rather than all at once—served as a forcing function to expeditiously move the force integration process forward. In preparation for its deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom 10–11, the brigade had to develop this process for the existing force structure in RCs South, West, and Southwest and for new units included in Force Packages 1, 2, and 3 of the force uplift.

Spartan Field Kitchen
(Photo by MAJ John M. Ruths)

Unit Identification

The first step was to identify each subordinate unit in the formation and its position in the Army Force Generation (ARFORGEN) cycle. With the support of the 82d Sustainment Brigade, which was the sustainment brigade in RC East, the 43d Sustainment Brigade was able to obtain a common operating picture of the units on the ground and their projected replacements.

Identifying every unit associated with the force uplift proved more challenging. A team of three people was assembled and trained to compile all the unit data pulled from U.S. Joint Forces Command and Army Forces Command (FORSCOM) deployment orders, the Forces Requirements Enhanced Database, the Joint Capabilities Requirements Manager (JCRM) system, and the Army Force Management Support Agency. This information was used to create a complete picture of the brigade's deployed task organization.

The brigade commander, Colonel Edward M. Daly, and the rest of the command group immediately recognized the importance of these data. Back at the brigade's home station at Fort Carson, Colorado, during formal ARFORGEN briefs held before the deployment, Colonel Daly often said, "It takes a brigade to deploy a company." The very same proved to be true about the reception of units within the deployed brigade headquarters.

The picture of the task organization that the force management team created was more than just a line-and-block chart. The brigade staff had to array the task organization over time to identify potential points of friction. For example, were there any windows of time in which a large number of RIP/TOAs were scheduled or that overlapped with the RIP/TOA of a major supported unit? It also was important to find contact information for every down-trace unit and initiate contact.

While the whole team was being identified and contacted, the next challenge in the process was being tackled: What did the brigade need to know about these units, what would it be able to influence, and what did the units need to know about the brigade?

Unit Integration

The brigade's force management team, in conjunction with the entire brigade staff, created a thorough product to pass on to new units. This product included the down-range mission, operating environment, unit standards, command philosophy, and process for tracking units through the deployment cycle. That packet was a critical first introduction to subordinate units.

Though the task organization would not take effect until a unit arrived in Afghanistan, the brigade wanted to bring units on board as quickly as possible to make them part of the team. Anything that helps chip away at the "first 100 days" concept is a positive step. Early contact with company-sized formations served several purposes. It gave home-station commanders an opportunity to model their training plans to match the unit's deployed mission set. That is valuable because a unit does not necessarily perform its doctrinal mission in theater.

For example, in Afghanistan, petroleum transportation companies serve as general transportation and convoy security companies. A deploying unit's mission is crucial information for home-station commanders and mobilization stations to have. It gives the not-yet-deployed unit's command team the opportunity to coordinate for the resources they need to train. Units that arrive with untrained Soldiers burn valuable "boots on ground" time before they are able to support any missions.

Not knowing the mission set can also add strain to the TOA process by potentially making it longer. Early contact can facilitate a vital early snapshot of supply and personnel readiness. Repeated deployments have left some units severely short of equipment and personnel. Having this information on hand early enough to correct problems proved to be vital. A commander down range, in the fight, can influence the Army Human Resources Command and FORSCOM to fill resource shortfalls. The 43d Sustainment Brigade staff was able to make those calls and help deploying units because it possessed the information in time to assist. Learning when a unit arrives that it is 70-percent filled is too late to effect change.

Two products came out of this staff assessment. One was a guide for newly identified units that educated them on 43d Sustainment Brigade policies and procedures and provided critical training guidance for their commanders to use in shaping their predeployment training. The other was a force integration brief that informed the brigade commander about the unit transition schedule 9 to 12 months ahead of a unit's arrival and the status of each unit RIP/TOA. These products were critical tools to make the initial transition smoother for units new to the brigade.

The introduction and guide for new units included the following products:

  • A letter of introduction from the brigade commander and command sergeant major.
  • The brigade's mission and the commander's intent and priorities.
  • The command philosophy.
  • The mission set order, spelling out what the unit would do and the nature of its mission.
  • The RIP/TOA packet.
  • RIP/TOA tasks.
  • The mission's anticipated timeline.
  • A list of theater-provided equipment, if applicable.
  • The brigade force integration brief, which tracked the progress of both incoming and outgoing units through the RIP/TOA process. (This was also briefed to the brigade commander twice weekly in his update brief for active transitions or assumptions.)

First impressions are lasting impressions. Quickly integrating a unit and bringing it on board helps to ease the transition process and maintains uninterrupted support to maneuver units.

Another important facet involved the mission information on each unit that is shown on the FORSCOM and JCRM websites. The force management team had to determine if each unit's narrative matched what the brigade would send out in the mission set order. This is important because the unit's normal predeployment higher headquarters may also check the unit's information. The narrative should really describe what the unit will do while deployed and, in doing so, give the commander an idea of what to train on and even how to do it. This might not seem very important, but it is really a key part of the process. A monthly working group was started to closely examine unit narratives so that adjustments could be sent to correct those that needed it.

Spartan Field Kitchen
Spartan Field Kitchen

Managing the Process

The ARFORGEN cycle and unit transitions are dynamic processes that demand constant oversight. To stay current with every ongoing and upcoming unit transition, force management and integration must be part of the unit's battle rhythm and receive the appropriate command emphasis. To manage the process on a weekly basis, the brigade's force management team hosted a weekly video teleconference (VTC) with the brigade's subordinate battalions. Those VTCs, chaired by the brigade deputy commander or executive officer, were a critical forum for providing updates on incoming units' preparations for deployment and for providing guidance and addressing concerns.

Like all meetings, preparation for the VTC was essential to maximizing the meeting's effectiveness. Each battalion was required to update its information no later than 24 hours before the meeting and to address any concerns. In the VTC, battalions were able to provide more thorough, interactive updates. Most issues were either successfully addressed or assigned to an action officer with a suspense for resolution. Eventually, the brigade's higher headquarters, the Joint Sustainment Command–Afghanistan (the 184th Expeditionary Sustainment Command from the Mississippi Army National Guard), started a weekly working group meeting that brought yet another useful tool to the process.

The 43d Sustainment Brigade effectively linked each currently deployed unit with the unit that would eventually replace it. Since these units shared force tracking numbers (FTNs), they were fairly easy to match with each other (the only difference being the part of the FTN that delineated the year). The brigade's force manager created a single sheet that made it possible for each subordinate battalion's force manager to track units. A timeline across the top of the sheet showed key dates, including the date of the incoming unit's arrival in theater, the date the outgoing unit would reach its last day of boots on the ground (which was the date of its arrival in theater plus 364 days), and the date the units would conduct their TOA ceremony. The rest of the space was evenly divided between the incoming unit and the outgoing unit.

On the incoming side, various areas were tracked under the headings of S–1, S–2, S–3, S–4, S–6, medical, and transportation. These areas of the sheet were populated as the information became available or as the subordinate battalion and the future deploying unit got to know one another through the process of exchanging information.

On the other side, the outgoing unit was tracked with the same headings but covered specific tasks that fit an outgoing unit. These included the tracking of ratings, end-of-tour awards, redeployment briefings, awards and TOA ceremonies, the clearance of accounts, and the transfer of property. Having all of this information on a single page made briefing it simple and straightforward. It also made it easy to see if the battalion was on track with both the incoming and outgoing units over time.

Typically, the accuracy of information improved as the incoming unit got closer to its deployment. The overall situation in each of the three RCs—South, Southwest, and West—differed from one another. This was yet another way that conducting weekly working group meetings paid off. The efforts and outputs of the force integration working group created another way for the brigade staff to visualize the RC differences and how those differences related to bringing in new units.

Spartan Field Kitchen
(Photo by SFC Kevin W. Quill)

Systems, Practices, and Positive Results

One example of the 43d Sustainment Brigade's force management process in practice is offered by an active-duty petroleum transportation company stationed in the continental United States (CONUS) that knew it would deploy to Afghanistan. The 43d Sustainment Brigade headquarters also knew this, and it forwarded this information to the combat sustainment support battalion (CSSB) headquarters under which the company would fall while deployed. The CSSB S–3 contacted the company through the battalion's headquarters.

Eventually, the company commander talked to the CSSB S–3, who was also in charge of force management at the battalion level, and an important communication process commenced. Through requests for information, company personnel in CONUS learned a great deal about who they would replace, what their mission would be, what it would be like in the particular area of operations to which they would deploy, and a great deal more. They also learned that they would be employed primarily for convoy security, which is a key element to completing successful convoys. So, even if there had been a mismatch between the FORSCOM and JCRM websites, the company was able to learn about its mission through a "pitch and catch" proactive communication process.

In this particular case, the unit knew well ahead of time what its mission would be and even the specific type of vehicles it would use to perform that mission. This led to all three platoons of the company being trained and licensed on the MaxxPro mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle (MRAP).

If the overall force management process, along with solid lines of communication, had not been in place, over 100 Soldiers of these three transportation platoons would have had to become vehicle certified after deployment. This would have proven to be a lengthy process, with a 40-hour course and a finite number of vehicles and instructors available for training. It also would have strained the RIP/TOA process between this unit and the unit it was replacing. Being able to avoid such strains was a major benefit and made the integration of the company into the battlespace much more predictable.

This was just one instance in which the force integration process paid dividends within the 43d Sustainment Brigade. A smooth RIP/TOA process not only helps a new unit assume its mission more effectively, but it also helps the outgoing unit redeploy successfully. When the RIP/TOA process is well planned from the company through the battalion and up to the brigade, it gives the outgoing unit adequate time to accomplish all of its redeployment tasks.

The positive result was that the receiving battalion headquarters in Afghanistan was able to clearly communicate what mission the unit would routinely perform in theater and the unit was able to positively adjust its own training as a result. Deploying with the maximum number of MRAP-qualified personnel also reduced the potential risk that transportation units faced while deployed.

The 43d's force managers eventually developed a process map and an action plan specifically for force management and integration. (See process map above.) Times were built into the process map for such important predeployment events as when to research units, when to contact them, and when to send mission orders. Later, this information helped leaders develop an action plan for force management with well-defined measures of effectiveness for each line of effort.

Products such as a process map and an action plan help units to "see" themselves more effectively because they provide specific criteria that units can use to grade themselves and do not allow room for units to make subjective judgments. Both products are also useful when conducting the RIP/TOA process. They give the incoming unit assuming the mission effective products it can use to help learn the force management process and to determine how well it is executing that process.

During the 43d Sustainment Brigade's tour of duty in Afghanistan, the force management process steadily improved. It became a factor within the brigade that provided regularity and predictability to the potentially stressful deployment process. It helped the brigade on the ground in Afghanistan, the units training for deployment under the brigade, and even the units they would eventually replace.

Major John M. Ruths is the S–4 of the 4th Special Troops Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. He was previously the plans officer-in-charge for the 43d Sustainment Brigade. He holds an M.B.A. degree with a concentration in logistics management from TUI University and is a graduate of the Ordnance Officer Basic Course and the Combined Logistics Captains Career Course.

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