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Chapter 7

Stability Operations and Support Operations

Ably suited to help shape the international security environment, the total Army plays a central role in the conduct of our national military strategy. With over 100,000 soldiers stationed overseas, and on average 31,000 deployed in more than 70 countries on joint and combined exercises and operations in FY97, America's Army promoted regional stability through conduct of peace operations in Bosnia, Macedonia, Ecuador, Peru, the Mideast, and elsewhere; and contributed to arms control by its chemical weapons elimination program and active participation in demining efforts worldwide.
 General Dennis J. Reimer
Chief of Staff, US Army


Stability operations and support operations are two distinct types of operations. Stability operations consist of those applications of military power or presence intended to influence the political environment, facilitate diplomacy, and interrupt specific illegal activities. These operations can include peace, combating terrorism, counterdrug, civil disturbance, noncombat evacuation, arms control, show of force, nation assistance, support to insurgencies, and support to counter insurgencies.

Support operations consist of providing essential supplies and services to assist designated groups. These operations are conducted mainly to relieve suffering and help civil authorities respond to crises that are man-made or natural disasters. Support operations can include humanitarian assistance and environmental assistance.

The following are some of the stability operations and support operations US forces have conducted:

  • Peacekeeping in Bosnia.
  • Humanitarian assistance in Somalia.
  • Support to oppressed Kurds in Northern Iraq and to tribesmen in Rwanda.
  • Civil restoration in Haiti.
  • Refugee and migrant control in Guantanamo Bay.
  • Earthquake response in Los Angeles.
  • Wildfire fighting in the west.
  • Flood fighting in the midwest.
  • Hurricane relief on the East Coast and in Hawaii.

The NCA uses the Army and its engineers as a responsive tool to improve, stabilize, or bolster deteriorating conditions. Often, the number of engineers engaged in these operations is disproportionately high when compared to other forces. These forces are used either as a sole participant or as a component of a much larger activity that reacts to crises which threaten vital, important, and humanitarian interests of the US.

The NCA allows or directs the CINCs to respond to these crises in a manner uncharacteristic of their deliberate plans for the MTWs and the smaller scale contingencies. These quick-response actions occur without—

  • The benefit of established TPFDDs.
  • Prearranged international agreements for housing or other support.
  • Pre-positioned sustainment supplies.
  • A calculated analysis on COAs rehearsed in specific war-game exercises and computer-assisted simulations.

On the contrary, a plan is developed almost instantly using the crisis-action planning process, and forces are mobilized and sent to the crisis. An appointed JTF staff that is assembled specifically for the current crisis develops this process. As troops move to the location of action, the contingency is literally being defined and refined. A given crisis has multiple national-response alternatives. Military contingency operations pose an option that can be exercised independently, but more routinely, in concert with one or more of the following elements of national power: informational, diplomatic, and economic.

The NCA's reaction to the crisis is a measured response using appropriate agencies with the ability to meet their short- and long-range intents. The ultimate goal is to remove the crisis conditions and return the region to a stable economic and political environment able to prosper without further US intervention or support.

Figure 7-1 portrays the options under the stability and support operations umbrella. Typically, military operations are executed together with other ribs of the stability and support operations umbrella. Government organizations, such as the FEMA, state and local governments, or the State Department and/or country teams, may direct actions and set priorities within the region vice the military commander. NGOs and PVOs, such as the Red Cross and World Hunger, leverage donations and volunteers to reduce human suffering. The UN has become increasingly involved in peace enforcement and peacemaking operations, asserting greater authority than in the 1970s through the early 1990s.

Figure 7-1. Stability and support operations umbrella


Recent activities, which the Army Chief of Staff recounted at the beginning of this chapter, reaffirm the likelihood of US forces becoming involved in future contingency operations. These same experiences demonstrate the role of the UN, international agencies, US governmental agencies, other components of the armed forces, allied forces, and nongovernmental agencies. This makes command and support relationships more complex and the responsibilities and capabilities of the assembled engineer force unclear. Army engineer commanders and staff must consider the possibility of commanding or directing other service-component engineers and other assets with unknown capabilities and limitations. Likewise, Army engineer assets may be subordinate to these other organizations; this is the nature of stability operations and support operations. Skillfully controlling this mixture of engineer assets is an enormous task and the key to victory for Army engineers.


Engineer activities in contingency operations may be prominent and, often, are the pivotal function that defines success for the JTF and/or component commanders. For example, in response to natural disasters (floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, and wildfires), engineers—

  • Construct protective levees.
  • Open thoroughfares for relief supplies and evacuation.
  • Conduct rescue or recovery operations.
  • Cut fire breaks to contain wildfires.
  • Remove debris.
  • Construct temporary camps to house military personnel engaged in relief actions.
  • Reduce/remove damaged structures with demolitions or other means.
  • Provide temporary repairs to public buildings such as schools and hospitals.

These activities are all engineer undertakings that are prominent within the overall military response. The engineers' clearing of sunken Russian gunships and marking of navigational channels in Somalia allowed for the off-loading of critical equipment and relief supplies. The engineers' construction or upgrade of roads and bridges and clearance of mines allowed forces to sustain the distribution of relief supplies in Somalia and maintain a stabilizing presence in outlying areas such as Baledogle, Oddur, and Bardera. The bridge crossing of the Sava River, which linked Hungary to war-torn Bosnia, received worldwide attention as a requisite activity to initiate the US efforts in Operation Joint Endeavor. Removing debris in South Florida after Hurricane Andrew was another highly visible engineer activity gaining praise from all observers.

These prominent examples of engineer effort however, do not fully illustrate the numerous missions that accompany stability operations and support operations. There are many other tasks that obligate engineers during these operations, such as force protection and bed down. Such tasks are critical to mission success; however, they are only indirectly tied to the conditions that precipitated the US response. The presence of US forces generates engineer tasks to support QOL requirements.

Typical missions that engineers conduct in response to stability operations and support operations are—

  • Terrain visualization.
  • Forced-entry support operations.
  • Force protection.
  • Force bed down.
  • Force mobility.
  • Infrastructure repair.
  • Nation assistance.
  • Redeployment.


Combat operations have a clearly defined objective, such as—

  • Defeating the opposing forces.
  • Gaining possession of or controlling key terrain.

Unfortunately, in contingency operations, the mission objective (which is translated into tasks) may not be as clearly defined. Earlier in this chapter, typical engineer missions were outlined. There is literally no end to the amount of work engineer resources can contribute to contingency operations. Engineer commanders and staffs ensure that the critical tasks are performed through a clear prioritization of personnel, material, and equipment. This prioritization serves to limit the costs of the US involvement by preventing—

  • Increased material costs.
  • Prolonged engineer deployment.
  • Degradation of our ability to react to future contingencies because units are occupied in an effort above and beyond the stated mission requirements.

The end state and standards must be set by the force commander to be universally applied throughout the TO. In December 1992, the JTF engineer approached the JTF commander of Operation Restore Hope in Somalia to obtain the commander's intent and guidance on facility and road construction. He presented multiple options with varied construction standards. Each option had an associated resource requirement affixed to the level of work and an expected completion date.

Lieutenant General (LTG) Johnson, the JTF commander, established the standards for the theater and the end state for engineer activities. This end state became the benchmark for all US unilateral activities within the theater. The end state not only served as the initial negotiation point for the transfer of responsibilities from the US to the UN, but it also became the operational date for initiating the retrograde of US personnel and equipment from the region.

Choosing an end state is an art. Most governmental and nongovernmental elements will stay behind after the military achieves the end state; therefore, it is important for all elements to acknowledge when this should occur. Since LTG Johnson's end state did not coincide with the UN ability to accept the US missions, the US involvement was protracted beyond the end state.

An established end state motivates soldiers to accomplish the desired results. Equally important, it equips leaders with the rationale to evaluate the "good ideas," which will undoubtedly come, for merit and conformity with the commander's intent. This principle has been used in subsequent operations with equal success.


With the advancements available in today's technologies to enhance topographic operations (and the promise of greater things tomorrow), the operational commander gains much in preparations for action before deploying to a contingency. Using 3D rendering tools and many types of imagery, the commander can graphically visualize the terrain in three dimension. Engineers must leverage every means available to commanders to support their fundamental knowledge of the terrain during planning.

Topographic engineering provides the framework whereby the commander and his staff can—

  • Visualize the terrain.
  • Appropriately employ his forces.
  • Gain an understanding of the vulnerabilities or threats posed on his forces by opposing forces (natural or man-made).

For example, satellite imagery can map out the extent of flooding or the spread of wildfires. Using infrared spectral imagery, satellites can show the extent of earthquake damage and predict weaknesses within a slip plane of landslides.

Terrain analysts can provide critical information on base-camp sitings near functional roads and railway conduits and outside floodplanes subject to seasonal fluctuations. Digitized terrain products exploit numerous available data sources to equip ground commanders with—

  • Special products in lieu of or supplemental to map products.
  • Combined information from multiple sources for the most up-to-date intelligence.
  • Existing maps and charts not readily available through traditional map depots and stockage.
  • Near real-time terrain conditions of an area.

Terrain data empowers the commander to make informed decisions before soldiers deploy, reducing risk and increasing their efficiency when they arrive at the location requiring stability operations and support operations.


In some contingency operations, the US force-projection element may be opposed by belligerent forces who wish to deny the US an opportunity to stabilize an embattled situation. The same force may require LOTS operations for those areas with inadequate port facilities. Under either of these circumstances, engineers are required to establish and expand a lodgment area to receive US forces. This may be accomplished by—

  • Building an expedient air strip.
  • Enhancing a limiting port facility.
  • Reducing obstacle systems at borders.
  • Providing force-protection structures.

Sustained operations, beyond a few days, require supplies, equipment, and personnel support that must—

  • Land on an improved runway.
  • Off-load at a developed port facility.
  • Transit on an established LOC network of roads or railways.

An engineer-support activity that is embedded in forced-entry support operations is establishing or enhancing C2 facilities with electrical power to operate maneuver-control, computer, and communications systems.


Force protection is a security program designed to protect soldiers, civilian employees, family members, facilities, and equipment in all locations and situations. As experienced in Operation Joint Endeavor, commanders considered the threat, natural elements, and safety when planning force protection. Engineers provide capabilities to combat terrorism and enhance physical security. In Army and joint/multinational operations, force protection is a principal concern of leadership at all command levels. Soldiers in Bosnia, Haiti, Somalia, Northern Iraq, and Panama faced a threat from armed and organized opposition groups. The rise in terrorist activities, such as the bombing of Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, is of increasing concern. However, the threat is not limited to operations involving strife.

In a disaster-relief response, forces may need protection from—

  • Natural elements (heavy winds, freezing temperatures, fires, or floodwaters).
  • Disorganized, yet armed, bands of looters or rioters.
  • Deprived citizens and mobs anxious to obtain relief supplies.

Regardless, commanders equip soldiers with well-defined rules of engagement (ROE) and direct resources, typically engineers, to reduce the risks and mitigate the effects on the force. Those engineer resources, in concert with maneuver forces, build such items as protective bunkers, wire structures to control personnel, protective berms, and overhead cover to protect the force. Engineer resources also include technical assistance. The Army engineer's force-protection center of expertise for planning and design is resident at the USACE Protective Design Center (PDC) in Omaha.


Force bed down is a basic requirement that is applicable to all operations. Force bed down is the provision of expedient facilities for troop support to provide a platform for continued operations. These facilities may include modular or kit-type facility substitutes. Translated as facilities requirements, engineers choose facilities in the following order of precedence: HN assets provided at no cost, leased existing facilities, facilities constructed by the HN, and US-constructed facilities. Providing housing for the US projection force is an engineer function, whether it is building base camps or leasing facilities that will house soldiers. The housing requirements go beyond tent floors or strong-backed tents and include facilities for—

  • Personal hygiene.
  • Messing.
  • Sanitation.
  • Administrative functions.
  • Morale, welfare, and recreation (MWR).
  • Storage.
  • Maintenance.
  • Environmental protection.

Landfill operations and environmental support are also among force bed-down requirements. Power generation and distribution, well drilling, and fire fighting are also engineer requirements implied in force bed-down missions. Continual upkeep of camps in protracted deployments is also an engineer requirement that is defined as RPMA. The RPMA centers on the efforts to maintain the facilities that forces occupy and use to ensure that these facilities remain safe and sanitary. Finally, as soldiers remain in a deployed status, their QOL becomes an increasing concern to leaders. As time goes on in a deployed status, more and more engineer effort is spent on improving the units' QOL.


Again, force mobility is a prevalent activity in most stability and support operations, regardless of the location. However, the activities are varied. In a disaster-relief operation, engineers may be—

  • Clearing rubble.
  • Repairing bridges that are flooded or damaged by an earthquake.
  • Carving a bypass in an area obstructed by raging fires and mud slides or damaged by earthquake tremors.

In humanitarian relief, engineers enhance mobility to distant population centers whose access does not include serviceable roads. In peacekeeping operations, all the previous tasks may exist along with a probable requirement to clear the roadways of mines, particularly in countries like Cambodia, Somalia, Bosnia, Mozambique, Afghanistan, and Angola that have survived years or even decades of civil war.


Infrastructure repair is another engineer-specific activity through which the commander can materially influence stability operations and support operations with tangible results. The infrastructure includes all fixed and permanent installations and facilities for the support and control of military forces. Repairs may be done to improve operational efficiency for the commander or as a stand-alone mission. The completed projects will directly contribute to the doctrinal stability and support imperatives.

Furthermore, infrastructure repair is a constant reminder to all of the US aid and commitment to the troubled region. Repairing or upgrading utilities, such as sewers, electrical systems, and water-distribution systems, directly impacts the populous by improving their QOL. Improving the transportation network of roads and bridges allows commerce to meet or exceed precrisis activity levels. Repairing airports and piers accelerates relief efforts by increasing throughput capabilities and allows international commerce to regain precrisis activities as well. In addition to the efforts that US forces directly impact, engineers assess and prioritize the repairs that the HN or others will perform to restore the infrastructure.


Much like infrastructure repair, nation assistance from the engineer's perspective normally encompasses construction activities. The main objective of nation assistance is to promote stability by helping a HN establish institutions and facilities that are responsive to its people's needs. Repairing or building municipal structures such as schools, clinics, hospitals, and orphanages is among the high-payoff projects. Repairing or building police stations, detention facilities, and marksmanship training ranges helps the HN reestablish law and order. This in turn enhances the HN's ability to "self-rule." Constructing dams and improving irrigation systems allow farming production to increase, while indirectly allowing population migration from densely populated areas to areas previously undeveloped. Again, these activities add legitimacy to the US activities within the region and reinforce the political circumstances of the host agencies responsible for the US presence.


Often overlooked within planning and during execution, redeployment considerations can be a significant engineer challenge, particularly when terminating overseas contingencies. Restrictions aimed at guarding the US agriculture from inadvertent exposure to potentially devastating organisms require that equipment and vehicles be thoroughly cleaned before redeployment to meet the US Department of Agriculture's standards. Wash racks, substantial freshwater sources (both clean and desalinated), and drainage structures are among the redeployment considerations that involve engineer units. Engineers support the logisticians who collect and dispose of hazardous materials (HAZMATs) and waste. To reduce the effects of oil and fuel spills, engineer equipment is used to assist in clean-up by removing and containerizing contaminated soil or treating it through wind-rowing. For large-scale operations, redeployment facilities include—

  • Troop housing.
  • Staging areas for equipment awaiting washing.
  • Inspection areas for the US Department of Agriculture's and Customs' inspectors.
  • Sterile areas for equipment awaiting return to the US.
  • Transportation networks.
  • Hazardous waste accumulation sites.


Stability operations and support operations possess many, if not all, the operational considerations found within the MTWs. At the execution level, the engineers perform the same tasks. Clearing rubble after a hurricane differs little from clearing rubble following military operations on urbanized terrain (MOUT). Constructing roads during stability operations and support operations differs little from constructing MSRs in an MTW. Yet, some of the force structure that automatically flows into a combat situation does not flow into a contingency operation because caps are emplaced on troop strength and the Army's response is tailored and limited by design. These limitations may be fiscally driven, politically motivated, or strategically oriented to retain the Army's flexibility and the deterrence capability that is associated with the MTWs. Some considerations that merit attention when planning and executing contingency operations follow.


Engineers establish a sufficient operational staff to plan, perform engineer design, and control engineer actions. This allows the engineer force commanders to remain focused on mission execution. This principle is a reiteration of the concept discussed in Chapter 3. The expertise of theater assets, which are trained and equipped for theater missions, allows divisional units to remain focused on and responsive to mission execution. In May 1996, the 412th ENCOM, augmented with personnel from the 416th ENCOM, deployed a 28-man C2 element to support Operation Joint Endeavor in Hungary, Bosnia, and Croatia. This element provided theater planning and control for engineers deployed in the AO. The ENCOM C2 element was well equipped to—

  • Monitor all LOC.
  • Plan and oversee the maintenance of the LOC and coordinate and monitor all Title X construction.
  • Plan future engineer operations.
  • Provide vital engineer input to theater plans by the US Army, Europe (USAREUR) (forward).
  • Provide real estate acquisition, management, and disposal.
  • Oversee HAZMAT removal and environmental restoration.

Because of this in-country operational element, the CINC's staff was not entirely consumed with the operations in the Balkans and was able to manage the strategic elements throughout the entire region. Likewise, the supported commanders were free to focus on their mission.


These recent activities demonstrate the likelihood of US RC forces becoming involved in contingency operations. The following are a few of the units that can only be accessed through the reserve structure because there are none that are active duty:

  • ENCOMs.
  • FE teams.
  • Port-construction companies.
  • Dump-truck companies.

Similarly, the OPTEMPO for some active-duty low-density units, such as combat heavy battalions, light dive teams, or fire-fighting detachments, may preclude their participation in contingency operations. Therefore, a reserve or national guard battalion may be called on to meet mission requirements. These issues are not unique to engineers, therefore, a PSRC is a likely occurrence for contingency operations. A PSRC was initiated for both Haiti and Bosnia operations.


The availability of Class IV materials within a contingency region may be limited. Unlike regions of continued presence and the two MTWs where preparations for Class IV materials were established through pre-positioning or thorough site surveys, contingency operations may place US forces in regions where these supplies are not available or sources are unknown. Engineer assets are limited in effectiveness without Class IV materials. This axiom was the 36th Engineer Group commander's point in 1992 and remains relevant to all engineer commanders today.

In December 1992, the 36th Engineer Group commander prepared to deploy to Somalia as the Army force (ARFOR) engineer. His concern for Class IV materials was preeminent in his preparation planning. He believed that engineer victory hinged on the availability of Class IV materials and convinced his installation commander to use his operating-budget funds to purchase Class IV materials to be deployed with the group's equipment.

Contingency actions may occur with little notice and no funding. Contingency operations are unprogrammed activities, and resources typically come, at least initially, from another's command operating budget (COB) at the expense of programmed activities. Engineer and logistics planners work with resource managers to locate initial funding for Class IV materials and other engineer needs so that these items can be purchased, assembled, and shipped to the region. They capture such costs in reporting to support the replacement of funds shifted and expended for the operation.

Environmental compliance and conservation are considered in all aspects of operational planning and execution in stability operations and support operations. Hazardous wastes and POL are managed in a manner that minimizes the potential for releases to the environment which may expose personnel or impact valuable natural resources such as drinking water sources. Solid wastes are managed to control dumping that attracts vermin and disease causing vectors. Similarly, pesticides are managed and applied in a manner to minimize the possibility of impacts on natural resources, such as fish kills due to overapplications of pesticides. As with other operational considerations, environmental needs may be fiscally driven (controls hazardous-waste generation and minimizes the disposal cost), politically motivated (improves relations with HNs by ensuring the cleanup and the enhancement of the environment), and strategically oriented (minimizes cleanup efforts in postconflict periods). The FE team provides environmental management services to support military missions.

These operational considerations are not all that a deploying operational engineer will need to know; however, they are significant concepts that will help equip him with a more clearly defined scope and understanding of stability operations and support operations. For more information on stability operations and support operations, see FM 5-114 and other sources cited within this manual.

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