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The Brigade Combat Team Forward Logistics Element
During Offensive Operations

by MAJ Eric Cusick, Support Operations O/C (Adler 08)

Forward Support Battalion Executive Officer's Way Points to Success
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Maintenance Control Section Operations

Brigade combat team (BCT) forward logistics element (FLE) operations in the offense are a team effort that incorporates all elements from every battalion task force in the BCT. Employing a FLE is a proven method for displacing a brigade support area (BSA) while providing continuous and uninterrupted support to the BCT. The BCT FLE is a combat multiplier through its ability to push supplies, maintenance, and medical support forward at the right time and the right place. "FLE" is a term loosely used throughout a multitude of operations from peacekeeping to field training exercises. Main support battalions (MSBs), corps support battalions (CSBs), and other logistics units use FLEs, but none is more critical as a combat multiplier than the BCT FLE. This article targets how to plan and organize a FLE while displacing the BSA in offensive operations:

To begin offensive planning, there are a few things a support operations officer (SPO) must have in his hip pocket to plan for a FLE operation. Here are four essential items to consider during your planning process:

1. Battlefield Considerations:

A. Area of operations, area of influence and area of interest.
B. Intent of higher headquarters.
C. Intelligence estimate.
1) Terrain analysis.
2) Weather analysis.
3) Enemy situation.

2. BSA Mission Statement: (An example) The BSA provides continuous and uninterrupted combat service support (CSS) to the BCT during its attack on _______ to seize objectives vicinity_________. The BSA will displace forward not later than (NLT)________ to vicinity_______to provide forward CSS facilitating immediate reorganization of the BCT upon objectives as it assumes defensive operations along Phase Line (PL) Hammer (international border) NLT __________.

3. CSS Considerations:

A. Forward, coordinated positioning of essential CSS, such as ammunition, petroleum, oil, and lubricants (POL), and maintenance, preferably at night.
B. Increased consumption of POL (terrain is a major factor).
C. Using preplanned and preconfigured push packages of essential items including water, Class III and Class V supplies, and decontamination and mission-oriented protective posture (MOPP) gear.
D. Using throughput distribution whenever feasible.
E. Attaching CSS elements to supported maneuver units. CSS elements, however, should be as mobile as the units they support.
F. Echeloning support forward and initiating operations at the new site before ceasing operations at the old site.
G. Using captured enemy supplies and equipment, particularly vehicles and POL.
H. Planning communication support to cover the extended distances between combat and CSS units.
I. Preparing for increased casualties and requirements.
J. Uploading as much materiel as possible.
K. Ensuring CSS preparations for the attack do not give away tactical plans.
L. Coordinating real estate management to preclude attempted occupation by more than one unit.
M. Planning for transition to the defense.
N. Planning for enemy prisoner-of-war (EPW) operations.

4. FLE Composition. The three basic components:

A. Command and control (C2).
B. Mission support.
C. Security.

There are two basic methods to displace the BSA for offensives operations.

  • Utilize a FLE to move CSS forward to a proposed BSA location and establish a forward logistics base (FLB). The FLE, on order, takes over all CSS operations for the BCT while the BSA collapses and jumps to the FLB, whereupon the BSA is reeestablished.

  • Move the BSA by echelonment/displacement by bounds. This method divides critical CSS assets and displaces them in bounds.

Both methods have their strong points, but splitting the FSB's assets equally degrades C2because of the number of available radios and the splitting of key personnel. In addition, splitting the forward support medical company (FSMC) assets will impede timely casualty evacuation, and the FSMC will not be able to establish true Echelon II Care. For the purpose of this discussion, we will assume that the BCT and FSB agreed to execute a FLE to sustain the BCT's attack. With that in mind, it is now time to layout the requirements for a successful FLE.

A successful FLE has three components: C2, mission support (CSS), and security.

COMMAND AND CONTROL

The FSB commander is the senior logistician for the BCT. The FSB commander, FSB support operations officer, and the brigade S4 have the best overall concept and understanding of the total CSS operations for the BCT. There are three basic options for these key personnel in regards to C2. They are in no particular order.

1. The FSB commander provides C2at the BSA while the SPO and BDE S4 move to the FLB and establish the FLE. Once FLE is established, the FSB commander jumps to the FLB and leaves the FSB XO to move the BSA.

2. The FSB SPO provides C2at the BSA while the FSB commander and BDE S4 move to the FLB and establish the FLE. Once the FLE is established, the FSB SPO jumps to the FLB and leaves the FSB XO to move the BSA.

3. The FSB commander and the BDE S4 provide C2at the BSA while the SPO moves to the FLB and establishes the FLE. Once the FLE is established, the FSB commander and BDE S4 jump to the FLB and leave the FSB XO to move the BSA.

The FSB staff, working with the BDE administrative and logistical operations center (ALOC), should choose an option from above and then decide what will go forward with the command team. The basics for providing C2in a FLE are:

  • Graphics: Map(s), overlay(s), and battle-tracking charts.

  • Products: Current BCT and division support command (DISCOM) operations orders (OPORDs), fragmentary orders (FRAGOs), and CSS synchronization matrices.

  • Communications: FM (Frequency Modulation)/ SINCGARS (Single-Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System), DNVT (Digital Nonsecure Voice Transmitter), and MSE (Mobile Subscriber Equipment). Redundant communication capability is best. In working out the communications framework, you ascertain that MSE is linked to the small extension node (SEN). The BSA is normally allotted only one SEN and is supported by a RAU (Radio Access Unit) providing area basis. Timing and placement of the SEN and RAU are, therefore, critical for MSE equipment to function. The planning distance between the mobile subscriber radio telephone (MSRT) and the RAU is only 15 kilometers. If the FLB's location is 20 kilometers forward of the current BSA location, direct coordination with the brigade signal officer is a must to ensure that you have SEN and RAU coverage for the mission.

  • Power: Power generation is essential to operate communications and life support equipment. Redundant support is not always available because of split operations and the TOE for your unit.

MISSION SUPPORT

Mission support for a FLE is brigade-level teamwork, and it is at this level that the FLE truly becomes a BCT FLE. The FSB and unit field trains must integrate to push forward from the BSA to support the maneuver elements. The field trains can best support through their company team logistics packages (LOGPACs). Company/team LOGPACs are normally part of a battalion's standing operating procedure (SOP) and they cover the basics for your plan:

1. Unit supply truck. This vehicle contains the Class I requirements based on the ration cycle -- normally, one hot meal and two meals, ready to eat (MREs), per soldier. The supply truck tows a water trailer and carries some full water cans for direct exchange. In addition, the truck carries any Class II supplies requested by the unit, incoming mail, and other items required by the unit. The truck may also carry replacement personnel.

2. POL truck Bulk fuel and packaged POL products are on these vehicles.

3. Ammunition trucks. These vehicles contain a mix of ammunition for the weapons systems of the company team. Unit SOP establishes a standard load; reports and projected demands may require changes to this standard load.

4. Vehicles carrying additional supplies and replacements. These vehicles join the LOGPAC as coordinated by the support platoon leader and supply sergeant.

The FSB should focus its assets based on offensive operations. Every specific offensive BCT mission is different, but a good generic layout might include the following:

1. HQ/A Company: 5K tankers (CL III (B)), PLS with trailers (CL V), and 5-ton Tractors (CL IV and V (mines)). Critical personnel identified should include the POL platoon leader to head HQ/A at the FLE site and the division ammunition officer (DAO) representative to control the ammunition transfer point (ATP).

2. Bravo Company: Recovery section wrecker and team, wheel and track mechanic team, armament team, missile maintenance team, and a shop stock push package. Critical personnel identified should include the maintenance control supervisor (MCS) and a platoon leader to head Bravo Company at the FLE site.

3. Charlie Company: Charlie Company is best displaced as a complete unit. The MSB can adjust evacuation assets' compositions and locations to maintain casualty evacuation support to the BCT. Charlie Company Commander could be given the further mission of commanding the FLB and operating the base defense operations center (BDOC).

SECURITY

1. BDOC: An essential element to security of the FLB is the BDOC. There are a multitude of options available to man and staff a BDOC. The simplest method is to assign the responsibility to a company commander that will deploy with the FLE. The commander's mission with the FLE is to command FSB assets forward and/or to establish a forward FSB TOC with the FSB S3.

2. Base Defense: Perimeter defense is an essential part of the FLB. The plan for defending the FLB perimeter should include crew-served weapons, fighting and survivability positions, sector sketches, communications, NBC early warning devices, reconnaissance and surveillance (R&S) plan, field artillery support, air defense coverage, and tactical combat force (TCF) coverage.

3. Military Police: Route security and convoy escort when available.

4. Personnel: The FLE must be capable to defend itself and conduct CSS operations with the planned number of soldiers. When building the FSB's portion of the FLE, take into account perimeter manning, R&S patrols, listening post (LP)/observation posts (OPs), and mission support manning.

Mission support in regards to the BCT FLE in offensive operations calls for teamwork at all levels of CSS planning and execution. To be successful, we must (1) start with essential CSS information; (2) choose a method for BSA displacement, and (3) base planning on the three components required for FLE operations:

  • C2.
  • Mission support.
  • Security.

Remembering these three components of a FLE in future planning will lead to success in supporting the BCT in any operation from training to peacekeeping operations, or from small-scale contingency to major regional contingency.

Forward Support Battalion Executive Officer's Way Points to Success
Back to Table of Contents
Maintenance Control Section Operations



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