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GETTING THE CTCP INTO THE FIGHT
by CPT Shawn McGinley

"I don't know about this thing called logistics. All I know is that I want some." --Anonymous

An observation from recent rotations at the National Training Center (NTC): Engineer battalion Combat Trains Command Post (CTCP) logisticians are too often not adequately prepared and trained to support engineer battalion operations.

Realizing Home Station training is usually not resourced to replicate the battlefield at the NTC or any potential deployment area, this article provides a few lessons learned from some hard-working engineer battalion logisticians training in the High Mojave Desert.

FUNCTIONS, ORGANIZATION AND TRAINING

OBSERVATION: The basic challenge that the personnel in the CTCP initially struggle with is to determine what their functions are. Without a clear understanding of what the CTCP is expected to accomplish, it is difficult to devise any meaningful plan on how to organize to support the fight.

RECOMMENDATION: A good guideline for CP functions is found in CALL Newsletter No. 95-7, Section 2, "TOC Functions:"

  • Receive information
  • Distribute information
  • Analyze information
  • Submit recommendations to the commander
  • Integrate resources
  • Synchronize resources

Using these functions as a guide, the battalion logisticians can develop their plan to address issues such as CTCP manning and duties and responsibilities of CTCP personnel.

OBSERVATION: Most engineer logisticians are challenged with how to accomplish all of the CP's tasks with their limited manpower. A common, self-imposed burden is that most CTCPs arrive at the NTC split into separate S1 and S4 sections. By the end of the NTC campaign, however, they find that to conduct continuous operations, all personnel must work as a single unit and address all logistical issues. This transition is usually very painful since few units train this way at Home Station.

RECOMMENDATION: Develop a cross training plan at Home Station between S1and S4 personnel and execute it during weekly "Sergeants' Time" training and Home Station field exercises.

LOGISTICAL PLANNING AND FORECASTING

OBSERVATION: The logistics annex is often planned and written well after the engineer battalion's military decision-making process (MDMP) is completed, if it is done at all. Usually, logisticians are not present when the engineer battalion planners are planning the next mission. The result is a flawed plan, because no logistician was present to offer current and anticipated information to allow the unit to "see itself." Plans are often drawn up for defensive operations showing 100-percent operational readiness rates when in reality the rate is often well below that. As a result, the battalion and brigade immediately begin to fall off their survivability timeline as execution begins.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

1. A logistics representative must be a participant in the battalion MDMP, and logisticians must ensure that the assistant battalion engineer (ABE) has current and projected data prior to entering the brigade's MDMP. For the mission analysis phase, the logisticians should provide the following information (current and projected status, in six-hour increments, from now until mission execution):

  • Personnel strength (by MOS and grade)
  • OR rates
  • Reconstitution status
  • Classes of supply

2. During course of action analysis, the logistician should provide a casualty estimate for the next mission and an assessment of whether the mission can be supported logistically.

3. Cross training is the key. Both the S1 and S4 should be capable of gathering and analyzing the data presented and conducting a logistics mission analysis for the next mission. This allows the logisticians greater flexibility by enabling one of the CTCP " battle captains" to focus on the current fight while the other is planning future operations. No combat training center can truly replicate the climate in which logisticians can forecast, receive, and distribute all classes of supply (other than Class I and III) as they would in an actual deployment. However, that does not mitigate the requirement that logistics forecasting be conducted.

OBSERVATION: Many unit TACSOPs do not contain an "on-hand" quantity column as part of the logistics status (LOGSTAT) report, or the column is there but not used. Most CTCPs roll into a campaign with an accurate status but quickly lose it after two to three days because no requirement is placed on subordinate units to report their on-hand status. This becomes critical in an austere logistical environment if cross leveling within the battalion must occur. Usually the main effort subordinate unit goes into the battle without needed supplies or, after command involvement and late-night shifting of supplies, they get to the right place just prior to LD.

RECOMMENDATION: The CTCP must have an accurate on-hand status from subordinate units. Units should have and require subordinate elements to use an on-hand status column in the LOGSTAT reports. This allows the logisticians increased visibility, more accurate forecasting, and the ability to recommend shifting supplies if the situation arises.

BATTLE TRACKING

OBSERVATION: Battle tracking is usually the most difficult task for CPs to execute throughout the campaign.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

1. Logistics operations are a 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week "battle;" therefore, the CTCP must maintain continuous situational awareness. Units that accomplish this well have one thing in common--a well-written, well-used, detailed CP SOP. There is no specific "right way" to accomplish battle tracking. However, a couple of excellent guides are found in CALL Newsletter No. 95-7, Tactical Operations Center (TOC), and on the NTC Sidewinder Team homepage at http.//www.irwin.army.mil/sidewinder/, under TOC SOP. Use these guides as a basis for planning 24-hour battle tracking operations.

2. One possible function of the CTCP is to assume the functions of the main CP. This situation occasionally arises at the NTC, and CTCPs are often not adequately prepared to meet the challenge. Some of the key issues are:

  • Situational Awareness: If you want to be effective you must have it. It starts with understanding the plan, having the order and all graphics, and continuously maintaining a battle captain who keeps himself and his personnel updated on the current enemy and friendly situation.

  • Communications: You cannot be situationally aware if you cannot hear or talk. Most CTCPs are able to maintain communications with the battalion TOC, but often lose communications with the forward line companies. While relaying at the TOC can be accomplished when there is no battle, it falls apart once units cross the LD and the CTCP quickly loses situational awareness. The CTCP has the capability to conduct its own retransmission, but it is seldom planned and, if executed, done hastily with little effect. With a little training and prior planning, the CTCP can conduct its own retransmission operations. Some key things to do to make retransmission effective:

    • Line-of-sight analysis conducted on Terrabase to plan retransmission locations (and forward to the BCT through the battalion).
    • Ordering and training on the use of the CX-13298 cable so that any radio set can be used as a retransmitter.
    • Ensuring the retransmission OIC/NCOIC is fully briefed on the tactical plan and has a map with all graphics.

CONCLUSION

With increasingly fewer opportunities for units to train their CTCPs on the tasks they must execute during actual operations, these lessons learned and recommendations are intended to stimulate discussions at the battalion level on how to organize, operate, and train the planning and execution of engineer logistical operations. Develop SOPs now, and test and refine them during training opportunities. With possible force structure changes looming in the future, the issues of command and control of engineer logistics will still remain, but they will be even more difficult to manage.


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