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Company Resupply Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures

by CPT Frank Zimmerman, Assistant S-3, Operations Group, JRTC

The Light Infantry Chemical Officer and the NTC Experience
Table of Contents

The line infantry company, by design a maneuver force structured as part of a larger maneuver battalion, is inherently lean on Combat Service Support (CSS). That force design relies heavily on the ability of the battalion CSS system to keep the line companies supplied and ready for sustained combat in standard military operations. Yet Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain (MOUT) present particular stresses for the line company CSS system. They are similar in a way to Low Intensity Conflicts in that the line units are forced to operate as independent units within the compartments of a MOUT area. Battalion and company commanders must anticipate these different CSS requirements. Otherwise, the unit will not be able to sustain continuous operations. If the unit is to maintain momentum against the enemy, timely resupply is critical.


Planning for combat service supportThe best time to plan for CSS in a MOUT situation is the same as in any operation. The successful unit plans for CSS during the preparation phase. The following observations and discussions target that need, one not always addressed by units at the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC).

Observation: Rehearsals. Units fail to rehearse effectively CSS for urban MOUT. Typically, the rehearsals are pro forma and generate limited readjustments by the unit medical planners. The remaining logistical staff does not engage in the process.

Discussion: MOUT demands that units should thoroughly rehearse the entire CSS plan. Historically, MOUT generate high casualty rates and extremely high ammunition consumption. Those two factors alone stress the CASEVAC system and the ammunition distribution system. Urban terrain -- especially fought over urban terrain -- often isolates the line units in a battalion fight. That factor demands that the battalion CSS system establish redundant distribution and collection points to offset unit isolation in MOUT.

TTP: War-game the CSS Just as You War-Game the Fight.

Effective maneuver leaders war-game their plan. The CSS planners must do the same. Ideally, the CSS planners should attend the maneuver wargame because that allows them to synchronize CSS with maneuver. This synchronization identifies contingencies that require advanced logistical coordination. Appendix G, FM 101-5, Staff Organization and Operations, and CALL Newsletter No. 98-5, Mar 98, Rehearsals, outline how to conduct such rehearsals.

Observation: Final CSS Prep: Units fail to capitalize on the preparation phase to "top off" logistics support. This is the ideal time to complete logistical coordination and preparations.

Discussion: Tactical Assembly Areas (TAAs) are the final opportunities for preparing soldiers before urban operations. Maneuver leaders use TAAs for final rehearsals and precombat inspections. Logistics leaders should use them as a final logistic point to support the soldiers. That final logistics point increases soldier efficiency and decreases combat stress. Having soldiers well supplied and mentally prepared only makes them better soldiers. The soldier top-off point may be used to rotate soldiers off the line for rest and resupply.


a. Soldier Top-Off Point. Establish a soldier top-off point for basic services at the TAAs, depending on METT-T. A forward support operation requires time and manpower, possibly corps support assets. If that is not possible, the brigade support area, or combat trains are alternatives. Units can issue Class I (food/water), Class V (ammunition), and other equipment items to the soldier.

The following are suggested CSS tasks at a "Soldier Top-Off Point."

  • Receive mail/newspapers.
  • Hot food (with fresh fruit and cold/hot drinks).
  • Chaplain services/support.
  • Showers.
  • Combat health support (re-stock of aid bags and combat lifesaver bags).
  • Supply issue points (water, MRE, ammunition).
  • A-bag distribution (allows the soldier to change into dry/clean clothes).
  • Sleep/rest area (tent).
  • Briefing area (tent).

b. Caches. When METT-T dictates that larger scale soldier top-off points are not possible, smaller caches may be the answer. CSS planners can establish a system of small manned "caches." Sited in a relatively secure location, these caches can support soldiers engaged in MOUT. The caches should be defendable and easily accessible by vehicles. Techniques for establishing caches are found in FM 90-10-1, para E-2, subparagraph c, Other Construction Tasks.


The challenge for leaders and logistical planners in MOUT is sustaining the fight. That means getting supplies to soldiers. The standard TTP is to use M113 Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs) or FMTV to supply caches or unit distribution points in the urban area. This technique works well if the area is not heavily fought over.

Observation: Small Unit Resupply. Heavy urban fighting creates obstacles to resupply efforts. Streets are filled with rubbled buildings, abandoned cars, and broken glass, denying their use to wheeled vehicles. Even where tracks can get through, anti-armor "hunter/killer" teams are a threat. Planning and innovation can reduce the difficulties in meeting the needs of the soldier.

Discussion: There is any number of techniques to resupply the soldier at battalion level and below. Most of the techniques listed below were used in past MOUT exercises at the CTCs. O/Cs at the JRTC state that the best source for new techniques are the soldiers who actually have to move supplies or the soldiers who are receiving them.


a. "Foot-hold" Logistic Bases. The first step in MOUT is often securing a foothold within the limits of the urban area and then expanding it. That initial foothold becomes the natural supply point for the supported unit. Securing the foothold allows the higher unit to push support forward to a location where soldiers can get bullets, bandages, rations, and water.

b. Plastic Bags. Units should package supply loads of supplies outside an urban combat area in a safe location. Ideally, these loads should be designed for the individual soldier, including filled magazines, MREs, bottled water, and first aid dressings. If loaded magazines are not available, the soldier kits should include speed loaders for the ammunition. These soldier kits can be grabbed on the run, limiting the time soldiers spend at supply points.

milk blivet

c. Milk Blivets. Plastic milk blivets used in milk dispensers in most military dining facilities are excellent water containers. These blivets hold approximately 5 gallons of water, have a spout for easily filling canteens, and will fit into a rucksack or any other container. These blivets will survive a 60-foot drop from a hovering helicopter when placed inside an empty MRE box.

water bottles

d. Water Bottles. From the Balkans to Haiti, bottled water has become the preferred method to supply drinking water. In urban operations, this type of water distribution offers particular benefits. Bottled water guarantees disease-free drinking water. It is ideal for getting drinking water to the individual soldier, eliminating resupply from a 5-gallon water cans. Like the plastic bagged soldier kits, the troops can grab a water bottle and go.

e. Conserve Friendly; Seize Enemy. Supplies left on dead or seriously wounded soldiers are wasted supplies. Otherwise, these supplies get sent to the rear with the casualty captured by the enemy. Enemy logistical units are often good sources for food and other supplies. Targeting enemy logistics in urban combat eases pressure on friendly logistics and stresses that of the enemy.

f. Forage and Scavenge. FM 7-10, Infantry Company, addresses foraging and scavenging inside the urban area. Leaders must consider whether the supplies are safe, booby-trapped, or if using them is legal. Unit leaders entering MOUT should consider foraging and scavenging under the Rules of Engagement (ROE). City maps often identify locations where supplies are available. Ideally such techniques should be used only in long-term urban operations, especially if the friendly logistical system fails.

g. Speed Balls. Helicopters are another means for getting supplies to soldiers. Landing zones are limited and often covered by the enemy in surrounding buildings. Speed and simplicity are keys in aerial resupply. Open areas, such as rooftops, parking lots, junkyards, or parks, are potential supply drop-off points. Supplies packed in aviation kit bags or duffel bags can be dropped in quick "in and out" supply flights.

h. Fast Rope. Similarly, water cans and bagged supplies can be fast-roped down to units engaged in MOUT. The helicopter does not have to get close to the roof or to a secure site. Additionally, the extract point where the unit receives the rope can back-haul empty water cans and other items.

i. SKEDCO. Squads and platoons can use SKEDCO litters to move supplies, especially mortar rounds, in a rubbled urban area or through sewers. Using basic mountaineering techniques, the SKEDCO can haul supplies along the side of a building, through elevator shafts, or destroyed stairwells, to the upper floors of a building.


Observation: Knowing How Much Is Needed Is As Important As What is Needed. Overburdening a soldier or a supply point with excess supplies can hinder the logistical system just as much as the lack of supplies.

Discussion: Once urban operations begin, logisticians need to "push" supplies based on METT-T. That dictates that the logisticians maintain situational awareness in their support to the maneuver leader. "The right amount of supplies at the right time" is the CSS standard. Resupply based on forecast consumption beyond battalion level should be minimized to avoid too many supplies building up at the forward areas. CSS leaders and staff must anticipate future missions. Again, this is directly related to synchronizing the CSS plan with maneuver to identify logistical branches and sequels.


a. First Sergeants and Company XOs. The XO and the 1st Sergeant are CSS battle trackers at the company level. The supply sergeant is the CSS operator. Together they must track the battle to identify what supplies to push forward. The platoon sergeant and the RTO are the CSS trackers and operators for the platoons.

b. Tracking Techniques. Track maneuver elements and their supporting and adjacent logistical elements. Use grids and symbols for locations. A CSS/CHS overlay should provide the initial location of these elements. Track unit status with a combination of number and color codes. Tracking charts should be self-explanatory. These charts must be updated by monitoring the appropriate radio nets (command or operation intelligence nets).

c. CSS Huddles. Maneuver planners huddle and produce FRAGOs as the battle evolves. CSS planners must "huddle" as well, preferably side by side with the maneuver leaders. These huddles analyze the latest information and translate it into future support requirements. Having staff huddles to review past actions and projected upcoming events is one method of determining in these requirements.

Civilians on the Battlefield

Of all the forms of war, MOUT presents the greatest potential for encountering civilians on the battlefield. During a conflict within an urban area of any size, the military will have to plan for dealing with the mass exodus of displaced civilians living in and around an urban area.

Observation: Population densities in modern urban areas. Most modern urban areas have populations that exceed the hundreds of thousands. Many major urban areas are home to millions of people. In certain areas of the world, such as Europe or parts of Asia, the populations are so large that they may only be able to displace locally. That means that units going into a MOUT should expect a civilian presence in the area.

Discussion: Civilians in an urban area will stress the logistical system. Without proper planning, this situation can overwhelm the unit, depleting supplies and halting combat operations. Commanders, planners, and military logisticians must coordinate noncombatant operations with the separate agencies that will be in the area of operations, i.e., Host-Nation organizations and the international Red Cross.

TTP: Plan for Civilians. CSS planners, however, should not assume that such bodies will be able to completely handle the task. In fact, Change 1, FM 90-10-1, directs that commanders are responsible for sustaining civilian populations within their area until some other organization can assume that role. At the tactical level, the best technique is to use the extant CSS system to encourage them to move away from the fighting. When that is impossible, the unit should encourage them to "go to ground" until the immediate fighting moves past.


MOUT offers special challenges to logistical support at battalion and below. In some regards, the man-made compartments in a city stresses a battalion logistical system just like operations in mountains or jungles. Companies operate independently and the CSS system must adapt. MOUT also consumes ammunition and people at a higher rate than comparable fights on open terrain. Contending forces must fight it out a close range. Sustaining such a fight not only demands more ammunition and replacements, it also requires special efforts to sustain soldiers' morale and effectiveness. Doing that effectively demands that maneuver and CSS plans be integrated for both current and projected operations. Finally, the CSS planners at the tactical level must expect that noncombatants will be a pervasive challenge in MOUT.

The Light Infantry Chemical Officer and the NTC Experience
Table of Contents

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