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Task Force-Level CSS Planning

by CPT Kurt J. Pinkerton and CPT Sean Jenkins, Tarantulas, NTC

Alpha Company has suppressed Objective Ray for 45 minutes. The breach is complete, and the engineers are emplacing the second breach. Charlie Company has cleared Objective Tom, and the reserve force is assaulting to seize Objective Ray. The task force commander receives a fragmentary order over the radio to move his support-by-fire force through the breach and orient fires onto Objective Dave to allow the brigade main effort to assault.

The staff informs the task force commander that the task force is incapable of executing the mission because they lack the fuel, ammunition, and additional support required to evacuate casualties.

QUESTION: How did the task force get to this point?

ANSWER: Improper logistical estimate.

During the past two years at the National Training Center (NTC), the number one reason logistical support fails is the lack of planning at the task force and company levels. An S4 trainer routinely observes the S4's fight to be integrated into the Military Decision-Making Process (MDMP), but a company/team trainer routinely sees a lack of CSS planning and graphics at the company level.

These deficiencies are not usually tied to a lack of knowledge on the part of the CSS players, but, rather,a lack of experience in developing an integrated CSS plan to support the maneuver plan. Normally, the first time a task force CSS team is required to think through the entire spectrum (before, during and after operations) of CSS planning is during their NTC rotation. At the company level, the NTC rotation is usually the first time a 1SG and XO have to provide support to their company for an extended period of time.

FM 7-20, The Infantry Battalion, FM 71-2, The Tank and Mechanized Infantry Battalion Task Force, FM 71-123, Tactics and Techniques for Combined Arms Heavy Forces: Armored Brigade, Battalion Task Force, and Company Team, and numerous articles published in Center for Army Lessons Learned (CALL) Newsletters outline CSS operations and discuss how they must be synchronized with the maneuver plan, but how is it actually done? This article discusses a technique for CSS planning and execution.

The technique most frequently discussed and seen today in planning CSS operations has three phases: Before, During, and After. By organizing operations into phases, the S4 can methodically break down his planning requirements and develop a solid CSS plan.


The S4 should execute the MDMP for the CSS plan just as the S3 does with the maneuver plan. Throughout the process, the S4 must ensure the CSS plan is disseminated as accurately and as regularly as the maneuver plan. In accordance with FM 71-123, a task force should issue approximately three warning orders (WARNOs) prior to the dissemination of the operations order (OPORD) (Figure 1-1):

WARNO No. 1: Goes out immediately upon receiving the mission from brigade.

WARNO No. 2: Goes out upon completion of the mission analysis brief and issuance of the commander's guidance.

WARNO No. 3: Goes out upon completion of the course-of-action (COA) brief and commander's decision.


Warning Order No. 1
1. Mission.
2. Specified Tasks:

a. Maintenance Status -- BMO.*
b. Personnel Status -- S1.*
c. Haul Status -- Support Platoon (cargo, fuel, and troops).*
3. General Instructions:
a. Movement of combat trains command post (CTCP).
b. Movement of unit maintenance collection point (UMCP).
c. Directions to medics and field trains command post (FTCP).

*All statuses are current and projected.

Warning Order No. 2
1. Restated Mission statement.
2. Task Organization.
3. Specified Tasks:

a. Changes to ration cycle.
b. Changes to maintenance priority.
c. Changes to personnel priority.
3. General Instructions:
a. Guidance to support the counter-reconnaissance fight.
b. Guidance to FTCP to support task organization changes.

Warning Order No. 3**
1. Task Force Mission.
2. Specified Tasks.
3. General Instructions.

**Graphics distributed with this warning order.

Figure 1-1

To ensure that the CSS players are planning and preparing for CSS operations, each of the three WARNOs needs to provide more detail than the previous one so the executors (HHC commander, support platoon leader, truck platoon leader, BMO, etc.) can prepare and begin CSS operations.

CSS Planning Techniques:

1. Upon receipt of the mission, the S4/S1 immediately issues WARNO No. 1 via a net call over the administration/logistics net to let the CSS players know of the impending mission.

2. Mission Analysis. The S4 begins his mission analysis focusing on the logistical and personnel estimate (Figure 1-2).

Logistical Estimate
"A Way"

Arming - Do we have enough Class V? How long can the mortars suppress/illuminate? How many tanks/BMPs can we kill? Who is support by fire? Can I get Class V resupply in by air or ground? How responsive (time) will our emergency resupply be? What will it contain? Will we get a resupply before the line of departure (LD)? Who is priority? When do scouts leave the LD?

Manning - How many casualties will we take? Where? What MEDEVAC will we have? How do we evacuate casualties? Through an EA? Ambulance exchange point (AXP) locations up close due to distance? Other unit AXPs/battalion aid stations/forward aid stations? How can we evacuate scouts?

Fixing - Will the wrecker go forward? Self-recovery - can we consolidate tow bars to AT/ADA Plts? Can we get some from sister elements? Where are their MCPs? What is our Combat Power? At UMCP? At field trains?...Projected status in 24 hours?

Transporting - Do we have enough aircraft? How many trucks/Will they transport the whole unit? Can we use vehicles for non-standard CASEVAC? How long will it take to make a complete route and return? Will we have the capacity for resupply?

Fueling - Haul capacity? Time to refuel before LD? Will we need to refuel prior to mission complete?

Figure 1-2

a. The S4 should arrive at the Tactical Operations Center (TOC) for the task force MDMP with the following status:

  • Current and projected combat power.
  • Current and projected logistical assets (fuel and cargo trucks, medical ambulances, etc.).
  • Current and projected personnel status.
  • Current and projected supply status (specifically Class III, IV and V).

The S4 collects this critical data from the key CSS players (BMO, S1, support platoon leader and medical platoon leader) and then changes it into information that the task force commander can use in determining whether he can support a course of action.

b. Once the S4 and S1 arrive at the TOC, they immediately begin reviewing the brigade operations order and CSS graphics.

  • The S4 reads all paragraphs of the order, putting special emphasis on paragraph 4, and reviews the brigade CSS graphics.
  • The S1 with the medical platoon leader look over the maneuver graphics and CSS graphics and start preparing a personnel estimate and developing a CHS plan.
  • The S4 should have a complete personnel and logistical estimate and a clear understanding of the specified and implied tasks upon completion of this stage. Items that should be identified are:
    • AXPs in the task force sector/zone.
    • Changes in task organization that will affect the supply requirements.
    • Potential treatment site locations that may coincide with AXPs.
    • Potential limitations or constraints. (An example of a limitation or constraint would be the inability to support in depth with treatment teams, or the inability to develop a complete defense because of a lack of Classes IV/V.)
    • The S4 then ensures that key CSS times are placed on the Task Force timeline (LRPs, CSS rehearsal, Classes IV/V point established, etc.).

c. The S4 then briefs the task force commander on the unit's capabilities (logistical/personnel estimates) to support the operation with the current requirements (see Figure 1-3).

Logistical Estimate
"A Way"
1. Arming:
a. Bn has 19 Dragons = 9 tanks (2/tank).
b. Bn has 30 M1s x ____ rounds = ____ tanks (1.5/tank).
c. 20 M2s x ____ TOW rounds = ____ tanks (1.5/tank).
d. 20 M2s x ____ 25-mm AP = ____ BMPs (8/BMP)
e. 4.2 MORT
> 90 rds HE supresses a tank.
> 108 rds HE destroys a tank.
> 30 rds destroys wheeled vehicle.
> 6/9/12 rds HE troops open/dug in/overhead for one casualty.
> 36 WP = 12 min of smoke for 300m screen.
2. Fueling:
a. M1: 6-8-hour burn time.
b. Package: Turboshaft (10-20 qts/day/CO/TM), FRH.
c. Emergency resupply vs schedules resupply vs ROM/RAM.
3. Fixing:
a. Tow bars with ADA.
b. Wrecker with CO/TMs (area coverage).
4. Transporting:
a. 26 km from CTCP to OBJ???.
b. Planning rate is 10MPH = 5 min/k = 2 hrs and 10 minutes travel time.
5. Manning:
a. Casualties (personnel and patient estimate) - numbers and locations
b. Six M113s and two 5-tons - enough assets??

Figure 1-3

It is important that the data briefed is quantifiable. For example:

"Sir, we have 30 M1s and 20 M2s available for the fight; additionally we have 12 Fuel HEMMTs. As the support-by-fire force for the brigade, we should be able to fight for approximately 12 hours or travel 400 miles and suppress the objective for 2 hours."

d. When the briefing is complete, the S1 disseminates WARNO No. 2 on the A/L net to issue further guidance to the CSS executors, and then returns to the CTCP to begin CSS preparation and tracking.

3. Course-of-Action Development. When the S4 and the key CSS players have completed the mission analysis phase, they begin course-of-action development. Unlike the S3, the S4 usually can develop one plan that will support all maneuver courses of action. Critical during this phase is the use of the medical platoon leader, the NBC officer or NCO, the truck platoon leader and the S3 Air.

a. Using the brigade CSS overlay, the S4 confirms that the brigade's plan supports the task force, or refines the plan and recommends the changes to the brigade S4.

b. The S4 adds routes that the task force will use as task force Main Supply Routes (MSRs) and Alternate Supply Routes (ASRs) in their zone that will be linked into the brigade MSRs and ASRs.

c. The S4 then plans where he will move his CSS assets based on his personnel and logistical estimates and the maneuver graphics. A technique for planning this support is by using a series of "task force logistical support areas" (TFLSAs) along the routes to support the maneuver plan. The TFLSA is an area about 2 kilometers behind the location the task force plans to make contact. The S4, medical platoon leader, NBC representative, and S3 Air plan the locations of the CTCP, treatment teams, decontamination linkup points, maintenance collection points and PZs to support the fight with the required logistical support inside these areas.

d. The S4 then plans the locations for the scheduled resupply points (could include a Refuel On the Move/Rearm on the Move (ROM/RAM)) and LRPs throughout the depth of the zone. Later the S4 must confirm the brigade S4 received a copy of the plan so he can plan support for the PZs, LRPs and ROM/RAMs as necessary.

e. If the task force plans to transition to a defense upon completion of the mission, then the S4 plans the tentative locations of the Classes IV/V point with recommendations from the engineer representative at the TOC. The end product from this process is a CSS overlay to support the entire operation and an execution matrix (Figures 1-4 and 1-4a).

Figure 1-4a

4. Wargaming. During wargaming, the S4 must ensure the CSS overlay is used so he and the medical platoon leader can synchronize the CSS plan with the maneuver plan. Routinely, units will develop a good CSS plan, but will fail to synchronize the plan with the maneuver plan, resulting in the maneuver units outrunning their logistical support during execution. Upon completion of wargaming, the S4 and all the wargaming participants brief the task force commander, and the maneuver and CSS plans are approved.

5. WARNO No. 3 is now issued with a set of graphics to the CTCP, UMCP, medical platoon leader, support platoon leader, and the FTCP. There are numerous techniques for getting the graphics to the critical players:

a. Send the S4 driver with the S1 or the S1/S4 NCOIC from the combat trains to each location to hand-deliver the products.

b. Deliver them at the next logistics package (LOGPAC) meeting -- a good technique if the planning process ends relatively close to the LOGPAC time.

6. Another product developed throughout this entire process is a critical information list or a commander's critical information requirements (CCIRs) list for CSS. The CCIR list for CSS is a valuable tracking tool for the S4. This list should be posted in the CTCP, UMCP, FTCP, company command posts (COCPs) and the battalion aid station to ensure everyone reports the critical tasks that are complete, and any changes to the proposed support package. This information allows the task force commander to make decisions about potential changes to the plan and preparation because of CSS constraints. These tasks are vigilantly tracked by all command posts and progress briefed throughout the entire preparation phase.

7. The CSS rehearsal is another critical event during the preparation phase. The rehearsal can be done in conjunction with a LOGPAC (preferred method) or as a separate event at the task force Rock Drill site. The final activities that take place throughout the preparation phase are LOGPACs. During the LOGPAC meetings, the CSS status is being updated through the exchange of data. Because this data could affect the plan, it is important to ensure everyone is at the meeting, that they are turning in their LOGSTATs and DA Forms 5988, and that nobody leaves until everyone is in agreement.


The execution phase is relatively routine if proper effort was put into the preparation phase.

1. It is crucial that the S4 closely battle-track the fight to allow the logistics tail to maintain the momentum with the combat forces. The CTCP should be set up to remain mobile and still be able to maintain a battle-tracking chart and situational map. A technique used by one task force is displayed below.

CTCP/FTCP Tracking



Figure 1-5

a. The point to remember about the CTCP tracking board is that if your task force uses the CTCP as the alternate command post, then the configuration must be approved by the battalion executive officer.

b. The S4 synchronizes the CTCP's movements during wargaming and then command and controls the moves as he deems necessary during the fight.

c. Communication with the TOC, UMCP, treatment teams and the FTCP is the most critical indicator for whether the CTCP should jump or remain in place. No communications, no support.

2. Although receiving reports from the companies during the fight is critical, the amount of information received usually overloads the Administrative Logistic (A/L) net. The S4 should eavesdrop on all traffic, except for requests that pertain specifically to supplies, in an attempt to lower the amount of traffic on the A/L net. To reduce transmission times on the A/L net, recommend the following techniques:

a. Companies call in all resupply requests to the S4 at the CTCP using the color code system (green, amber, red, black) to reduce transmission times. The request should consist of the color code, location of unit and the marking system for guiding in the support platoon.

b. Companies send the number of casualties by type (routine, urgent, priority) and grid location directly to the medical platoon leader on A/L. Markings are in accordance with the unit SOP.

c. Companies call in bumper numbers, grid and general deficiencies with damaged vehicles to the BMO. Later during lulls in the battle or during consolidation/reorganization, the remainder of the information can be transmitted (i.e., battle roster numbers).

3. The S4 must focus on the fight to ensure that the treatment teams are positioning on time and at the correct locations. He must activate scheduled resupply if necessary or initiate emergency resupply operations if the situation arises, and ensure that vehicle recovery is being executed in an efficient and effective manner. The S4 does not have time to have long conversations on the radio, nor do you want your A/L net so busy.


1. Once the fight is complete, the CSS "fight" begins. CSS players really earn their money during the consolidation phase.

a. The S4 must ensure that scheduled resupplies are executed. Changes to the priority of effort must be identified immediately and relayed to the appropriate people to ensure proper execution.

b. Companies submit updated reports to the CTCP if they have not already done so.

c. Submission of accurate LOGSTATs at the first LOGPAC meeting are absolutely crucial to ensure the companies receive the proper quantities of supplies to prepare for the next fight. Most LOGSTATs list O/H, 24-hour, 48-hour and 72-hour needs - - the O/H quantity is the most critical data. Logisticians should be able to order the correct amounts of supplies with the O/H quantities.

2. Personnel tracking is the most difficult process.

a. The S1 and the companies must get the proper accountability of KIAs, WIAs and MIAs as quickly as possible.

b. The DA Forms 1155 and 1156 must be collected immediately. If they were not sent with the casualty and collected at the treatment site by the S1 representative, then the best place to consolidate these forms is at the first LOGPAC meeting.

c. The other half of personnel tracking is the proper accountability of replacement personnel arriving at the companies. This entire process must be tracked continuously and will usually continue up to departure for the next mission.

3. The S4, along with a lot of the key CSS leaders, starts to prepare and/or move to the TOC to prepare for the next mission (starting the entire process over again).


Planning, preparing, and executing CSS operations is not an easy task. There are many activities that take place throughout the process and few personnel to ensure it all comes together. If you can master this process, then you will greatly increase the chances for success and have a definite influence on the outcome of the battle. If you come to NTC with the knowledge of how to plan and execute CSS operations and you understand the ROE used at the NTC, you have a better-than-average chance of winning on the NTC battlefield!

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