THE BRIGADE SUPPORT AREA (BSA)
IN THE BRIGADE SUPPORT AREA (BSA)
by LTC Claude Shipley and CPT Robert Burks, SECOPS, NTC
men had never lacked self-esteem. Now, like any body of troops experiencing
a dashing and easy victory, they began to think quite highly of themselves.
Self-confidence was desirable and healthy, but self-adoration led to carelessness.
Seeing themselves as invincible heroes, they forgot that the French who had
opposed them had been understrength, underequipped, and undermotivated. Really,
the invasion had been simple, the battles nothing more than skirmishes, and
the outcome never in doubt . . . How poor they were would become quite obvious
at Kasserine two months later."
|PFC Richards hunkers down in his .50 -Cal position. He sees a dust cloud coming down the road and quickly realizes that an enemy personnel carrier is heading directly at him. Frantically, he tries several times to ring the company command post. Oh no! Richards realizes the line has been cut again. Cut by friendly vehicles moving in the company area. The enemy personnel carrier stops about 1,500 meters out. Richards grabs for the .50 Ca. wishing he knew how to fire it. The vehicle begins to move again. As he watches the silhouette loom larger, Richards yanks the feed tray cover. Damn! The weapon is clogged with sand and grit. He slumps back into his foxhole and watches as the personnel carrier stops 400 meters from his position. The enemy soldiers dismount. They begin to fire on his company. Richards hugs the ground in his shallow foxhole. He sure wishes he had dug this one right.|
Doctrine requires a Forward Support battalion (FSB) to destroy a single armored vehicle (Level II threat) with organic assets. Still, the unfortunate scene related above occurs all too often in the Brigade Support Area (BSA) while a unit is "in the box" at the National Training Center (NTC). Our post Cold War leadership has managed to avoid a repeat of the disastrous post-World War II and post-Vietnam "hollow" armies. Recent deployments into Somalia, Haiti and Kuwait attest to our success with maintaining a world class and jointly integrated military. Continued success relies on improving areas where we may have been minimally successful in maintaining unit readiness.
In the Combat Service Support (CSS) arena, this means security operations. A recent assessment of security operations conducted by logistical units at NTC identified three trends which adversely affect performance:
- Lack of focus on conducting security operations
- Ineffective use of training time for security operations at home station
- Unit lack of knowledge about, and use of, equipment for security operations
1. LACK OF FOCUS ON CONDUCTING SECURITY OPERATIONS TRAINING. CSS leaders and staff frequently overlook details essential to winning the Rear battle. CSS soldiers' security operations skills have become rusty. CSS units must train to fully integrate the Brigade Rear Area into the BCT's battle plan. Soldiers must regain their proficiency because future logisticians will have to defend themselves with minimal maneuver unit assistance. In a future Rear battle against a determined enemy, maneuver units will more than likely be otherwise engaged.
2. INEFFECTIVE USE OF TRAINING TIME FOR SECURITY OPERATIONS AT HOME STATION. Lack of command emphasis at Home Station is a major factor in poor battletask performance. CSS leaders are divided on the issue of tactical training. Many logisticians are not concerned with the lack of proficiency in security operations. They contend that MPs or a TCF will protect them in a real fight. They maintain that they are available only to provide support: "My OER is based on my BCT's OR rate and the safety performance of my FSB."
FSB commanders focus almost entirely on safety and OR rates. This is confirmed by the below average performance of Soldier Skills depicted in Figure 1. According to O/Cs, many CONUS logistics units retain the old survivalist mentality of providing just enough mission support to "keep the killers happy."
Logistics leaders wrestle with the same challenges as their maneuver unit counterparts:
- decreased training time
- dwindling resources
- increased garrison requirements.
- increased operational requirements (Figure 2)
CSS soldiers are expected to maintain their marksmanship skills with scarcely enough ammunition to conduct weapons qualification. This limited live fire program has resulted in a 27 percent hit rate for FSBs (Figure 3) on the Quick Reaction Force (QRF) scenario conducted at NTC. The results indicate that leaders do not devote much of the limited training time at Home Station on training a QRF/RRF.
3. UNIT LACK OF KNOWLEDGE ABOUT, AND USE OF EQUIPMENT, FOR SECURITY OPERATIONS. Specific individual soldier skills were spot-checked over a six-month period during NTC rotations (Figure 1).
- A 43 percent failure rate against appropriate conditions and standards.
- Died of Wounds rates over a 12- month period for Level II averaged 84 percent.
- Resupply synchronization for Class III (B) averaged 46 percent topped off at LD for the FSB's 5K fuel tankers.
- Only 6 percent of required fighting positions attempted.
- Only 1 percent of them constructed to standard.
- In one rotation, only 12 percent of the fighting positions were constructed to standard.
- A Small Emplacement Excavator (SEE) was available.
- Unit was in the same position for over a week.
- Soldiers averaged six to eight hours of sleep at night.
- Units seldom request the necessary Class II/IV materiel to build for fighting positions. An issue constantly discussed at every unit's Reception, Staging, Onward Movement and Integration (RSOI) AAR.
- Not one crew-served weapon killed a guerrilla. But guerrillas have been able to turn a functional LUFOR machine-gun against the BSA and register kills.
- FSBs averaged 6.5 fratricides a rotation or more.
- Many soldiers never trained with the equipment they are expected to employ in combat; e.g., AT-4s or use of the M60/M2 machine-gun.
- Only 25 percent of the crews are familiar enough with the M60/M2 MG to fire it.
- FSBs that have the M249 SAW frequently do not include weapons qualification in the New Equipment Training plan.
- Unaware of how to employ weapons using a range card.
- Unaware of how to use Target Reference Points (TRPs) at day or night.
Our Army has deployed with little advance notification 26 times since the end of the Cold War. In a force projection Army, there is little time for trainup, especially for a support battalion helping everybody else get ready to deploy.
- You will probably go with the skills you have upon notification for deployment.
- If you were playing sandlot football before, you will not surge enough to play championship caliber football when you deploy.
- If you think that you will do it right once the pressure is on, GUESS AGAIN!
ISSUE: HOW TO PLAN A DEFENSE AND PREPARE SOLDIERS TO EXECUTE THE PLAN.
1. Define the standard in clear, concise terms under appropriate combat conditions.
2. Communicate the standard to all levels of the unit.
- Make sure the NCOs have it.
- Include it in the unit's trainup program.
3. Conduct all training down to squad and individual levels against a standard.
- Lane training is key to the success of all high performing CSS units at NTC.
- Use AARs to determine how to fix tasks not to standard
- Do not merely identify tasks to improve or sustain.
4. Enforce the standard through feedback systems that identify areas to sustain and identify tasks which need improvement.
- Clear and concise Commander's Intent statements.
- Daily tenant meetings.
- Leaders involved with underwriting mistakes, but ensuring appropriate accountability for continued poor performance.
ISSUE: THE QRF SHOULD CONTAIN THE BEST TRAINED AND MOST HIGHLY MOTIVATED SOLDIERS AVAILABLE TO THE BSA COMMANDER. THE SOLDIERS MUST BE ABLE TO VIOLENTLY CLOSE WITH AND DESTROY THE ENEMY DURING A LEVEL II ATTACK.
1. Frequently QRF is not a team, but a group of the least trained and most expendable soldiers; so why spend time on them?
2. Lack of command emphasis on security operations and the unit training program.
3. Failure to keep soldiers abreast of important items (Figure 4).
4. Inadequate Pre-Combat Inspections/Pre-Combat Checks (PCIs/PCCs) (Figure 6).
5. Other training-related factors affecting combat readiness:
- OPTEMPO. Reduced OPTEMPO means curtailing important training events.
- Company commanders have difficulty describing their METLs -- cannot assess the unit's readiness IAW FM 25-100/101.
- Lack of proficiency in individual soldier skills.
Use available time during the RSOI week at NTC to train, combining security
operations with logistics operations.
2. Develop a training plan and establish procedures to ensure it is executed to the standard desired by the commander.
3. Train under conditions as close to tactical realism as possible.
EXAMPLE: NVG training is best accomplished in a field environment on an overcast night.
RESULTS: Units that conduct standards-based Home Station training and use it in lane training from the squad/section level on up perform well on the mid-high TEMPO battlefield presented at the NTC.
In the last 18 NTC rotations, only one Brigade Combat Team effectively employed a tank hunter/killer team.
This BCT achieved:
- Highest combat power rates for combat power of M1/M2s at the NTC (94%).
- Best executed Class III (B) resupply synchronization plan (100%).
- Lowest DOW rates (37%).
- Killed 100% of guerrillas in each encounter.
TECHNIQUE: Train on METL's essential battletasks to an established standard at Home Station.
The schoolhouses can help train logistics leaders in security operations. The basics are already available in Army war-fighting manuals and professional publications. But successfully performing both mission support and security operations not only requires desire but also knowing how to strike the delicate balance between them. This is the art of command.
General Franks states in the Military Review, "Actual battle is the great auditor of how well-prepared the battle commander really is. That arena is no place for amateurs." But how do we separate the amateurs from the professionals? The answer is Competence:
- Knowing the technical capabilities and limits of the organization (functional and tactical).
- Understanding the Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTPs) necessary to defend the support area.
Understanding how to
- "See" yourself logistically.
- "See" your enemy.
- Read the terrain for CSS and security operations considerations.
- Appreciating the difference between a risk and a gamble and knowing when it is appropriate to use either.
- Demonstrating considerable thinking and communication skills under increased battle tempo.
Understanding the art of command.
- Rapidly synthesizing pieces of information into a coherent picture.
- Possessing a "feel" (intuition) when to decide.
- Demonstrating a willingness to act.
Developing these capabilities begins at the training institutions. It continues with teaching and mentoring by leaders in the field.
The METL of a tactical support battalion is start point for determining what to teach our NCOs and officers to ensure success.
CLOAC-CAS3 and Pre-Command Course (PCC) must be instrumental in pushing security operations to the top of the Mission-Essential Task List. Technical schools should concentrate on making sure our NCOs and officers understand their functional trade. CLOAC-CAS3 and PCC must teach future leaders to be effective in a tactical unit.
- Officers TDMP, OPORD, Troop-Leading Procedures, confirmation briefs, back briefs and rehearsals.
- Platoon leaders must know how to set up a platoon defense.
- NCOs must know the CTT task of "Setting up a Squad Defense."
Training should be standards-based and progressive. It should begin in the classroom and progress to field sites. Figure 5 provides a model applicable to both the school environment and in the field such as lane training.
DEFINE THE STANDARD
* COMMUNICATE THE STANDARD
* TRAIN THE STANDARD
* ENFORCE THE STANDARD
CSS Advanced Course (CLOAC -CAS3) should produce Captains who are fully confident that they have the skills to be a successful company commander in a tactical unit. Interviews with CLOAC students and recent CLOAC graduates indicate feelings of being inadequately prepared for tactical unit command .
Each school, Pre-Command Course (PCC) and combat developments activity must routinely monitor trends at the CTCs. They should use the trends to adjust school curriculums to ensure the best POI for future leaders. Schools should adopt the CTC After-Action Review (AAR) process as a priority learning objective. AARs provide rapid, positive feedback based on current doctrine. They allow us to conduct a quick and honest appraisal of ourselves and our units against a standard.
Many CSS leaders still have to be convinced that logisticians can provide mission support and simultaneously conduct security operations. That's what it will take in a downsized Army to survive on a mid-high OPTEMPO battlefield. Today, few CSS leaders can describe how to plan a defense. Unfortunately, there is not even a "school solution" to use as a point of departure. The school system does not teach how to do plan a defense, yet doctrine requires it. FSB METLs always contain some form of "conduct rear battle operations." The dilemma is: How can schools prioritize their reduced POI time to cover everything that is really important?
The following method can achieve success. It requires proficient soldiers and leaders who intuitively understand the five-paragraph field order and the fact that Troop-Leading Procedures (TLPs) provide the process for conducting combat operations (Figure 6).
Although log estimates are important, TLPs and OPORDS should have equal emphasis for CLOAC students. Armed with a basic understanding of TLPs and OPORDs, logisticians will be able to use the nine steps in Figure 7 to plan, prepare and execute a base defense.
FSB and company commanders alike can use this process. FSB commanders have sufficient staff to conduct the planning process. HHC field trains commanders can serve as "special staff" for the Battlefield Operating System's (BOSs) elements. Company commanders can adapt the battalion orders process to help them focus. Regardless, success depends on the following:
- Clearly defining standards for the desired products.
- Assigning individuals to be responsible for the products.
- Developing an understanding of what to expect in an OPORD within compressed timelines.
- Conducting orders processes with and without time constraints with all BOS elements.
The single most important factor for success of the orders process is multiple repetitions at Home Station.
Trained and disciplined soldiers are essential to successful execution of the plan. Leaders who have executed "Conduct Rear Battle Operations" agree that the BSA commander must have a nucleus of soldiers he can rely upon to execute critical tasks of self defense. These soldiers will have to be carved out of hide. CPT Tilzey, in the 1997 Winter issue of Quartermaster Professional Bulletin, on Base Defense, recommends establishing an EFMB/EIB level of interest program -- train the BSA's cadre to a standard. The program produces a cadre of soldiers who can conduct patrols, LP/OPs, access control points, and man crew-served weapons. These soldiers should also become proficient in the tasks associated with security and advance party operations to assist with the FSB's METL of "move the BSA."
Relying upon the concept that every soldier will be trained on all tasks does not appear to be successful at the NTC. Nor is it supported by unit actions in Somalia or Haiti. If the BCT helps by providing the training to the soldiers of the BSA, a highly trained force able to execute critical collective/individual tasks is achievable.
The DISCOM commander must be the training integrator for the FSB commanders for this to happen. Unless the FSB commander is in a separate brigade, the DISCOM commander is his/her advocate with the other BOS elements. It requires colonel-level cooperation to integrate the training requirements of the entire BSA with its associated field trains.
These suggested "fixes" are not easy. They assume that we are fully aware of Army Training Management doctrine. Today's battalion/DISCOM commanders are only part of the target audience. Lieutenants and sergeants should pay special attention. It is they who will be battalion/DISCOM commanders and CSMs in the year 2015 -- the year when many experts, including the Chief of Staff of the Army, Howe (Generations), and Strauss (The 4thTurning) believe we may face our next challenge. By then our CSS leaders should know how to provide support and defend themselves in a fight against a future-determined enemy. That is the challenge.
Troop-Leading Procedures: Building the BSA Defense
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|