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Combat Service Support Rehearsals - A Framework

by Lieutenant Colonel Chip Carroll, CMTC

Just as combined arms rehearsals contribute to tactical success, a Combat Service Support (CSS) rehearsal can improve support operations for the brigade.


* validate synchronization plans
* ensure continuity of supporting plans
* verify the sustainability of the tactical plan within the maneuver commander's intent

Rehearsals deconflict terrain, routes and sustainment in the near term, while contributing to the logistics preparation of the battlefield for the next fight. Rehearsals also validate security considerations and help integrate the BSA defense into the brigade's overall defense plan. This cohesively binds the close, deep and rear battle.

This article offers a basic framework for a CSS rehearsal, with example products, for use by a Forward Support Battalion (FSB) working with its supported brigade. With no doctrinally prescribed format for a CSS rehearsal, a look at the rehearsal process in conjunction with CSS functions and imperatives provides a basis for a logistics-specific rehearsal.

Rehearsal Principles

Several CALL Newsletters and FM 71-123, Tactics, Techniques and Procedures for Combined Arms Heavy Forces, Sep 92, provide excellent information about rehearsal types and some techniques on how to conduct rehearsals (CALL Newsletter 91-1, Rehearsals, Apr 91; CALL CTC Bulletin, Reconnaissance, 93-4, Jul 93; CALL Newsletter 93-3, The Battalion and Brigade Battle Staff, Jul 93).

Three key points relevant to developing CSS specific rehearsals emerge from these rehearsal references:

* Based on METT-T, select a rehearsal technique that maximizes the logistics community's ability to visualize the battlefield during each phase of the operation.

* Before rehearsing the basic mission plan, orient the rehearsal to:

- terrain
- threat
- friendly forces
- timelines
- future operations

* Ensure coordination of all aspects of the plan throughout the rehearsal and "recock" the rehearsal to critical decision points to consider branches, sequels and contingencies.

CSS-Specific Rehearsals

CSS rehearsals should focus on these critical functions:

- Man
- Arm
- Fuel ---- THE FORCE
- Fix
- Move
- Sustain

Divide your mission rehearsal into three phases: BEFORE, DURING, AFTER (see Figure 1, below), where LD time represents the transition from before to during, and the after phase begins with achievement of the commander's end state, or on order.

CSS Rehearsal Chart (3955k)

1. Each CSS functional area must be planned and rehearsed to platoon and section levels prior to the brigade rehearsal, based on the OPORD and the concept of support.

* use the rehearsal to verify and validate plans already made.

* do not use a rehearsal to conduct basic staff coordination.

* resolve the following before you rehearse:
- time/distance factors
- terrain factors
- route identification
- air defense coverage
- other basic security considerations

2. What your CSS rehearsal should do:

* validate the synchronization of operational logistics, the WHO, WHAT, WHEN,WHERE and HOW of support.

* demonstrate that supporting plans integrate the following logistical imperatives:
- continuity
- responsiveness
- improvisation

* visualize conditions for actions and triggers for change.

3. Who should conduct and who should attend?

* this is the brigade commander's rehearsal; his representative, the brigade S-4, would normally conduct the rehearsal.

* the CSS rehearsal must receive the same emphasis and importance as the combined arms rehearsal.

* Each task force should send, as a minimum:
- S-4
- Support Platoon Leader
- Medical Platoon Leader
- HHC commander

* FSB should send:
- Support Operations officer
- S2/S3
- all company commanders
- supply platoon leaders and sergeants
- ambulance platoon leaders and sergeants
- MEDEVAC team leader
- shop officer
- maintenance officer
- repair control supervisor

* the brigade staff should send:
- S-4 representative
- S-2 representative
- S-3 representative
- fire support representative
- engineer representative
- specialty platoon (MP, chemical, air defense, signal) planners

4. When should you conduct the rehearsal?

* Whenever possible, the CSS rehearsal should follow the brigade combined arms rehearsal.

* Use the same terrain model, map set or diagram.

Benefit: The scheme of maneuver and plan for fire support are set and readily available, and many of the key players will already be at the rehearsal site.

5. What type rehearsal works best?

Map or terrain model rehearsals provide the most effective and efficient results given the large area over which CSS must operate. Whatever type rehearsal chosen, from full-force down to backbrief (see earlier mentioned references for detailed descriptions of type), always conduct an AAR of the rehearsal.

Develop a rehearsal SOP that specifies:
- format
- participants
- products
- standards

Table of Contents
Chapter 4 - NTC OPFOR Update
CSS Rehearsals: Techniques and Procedures

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