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Movement Control in Echelons Above
Brigade Support Operations

by MAJ Bryan K. Robbins, Senior DSA Trainer, NTC

"Movement control is the planning, routing, scheduling, controlling, coordination, and in-transit visibility of personnel, units, equipment, and supplies moving over LOC and the commitment of allocated transportation assets according to command planning directives....Movement control is guided by a system that balances requirements against capabilities and assigns resources based on the combat commander's priorities."

--FM 55-10, Movement Control in a Theater of Operations

Everything a brigade combat team needs to sustain combat operations in the theater of Mojave is pushed forward from the Division Support Area (DSA) via ground convoys. Due to the limited number of truck and personnel assets available to the echelons above brigade (EAB) battalion, main support battalion (MSB) or corps support battalion (CSB), strict adherence to established SOPs for movement control is critical. Unfortunately, strict movement control procedures are not a major factor in the planning process for conducting combat service support operations in this theater (also known as the National Training Center), and this creates problems:

1. Without accurate knowledge of the location and status of transportation assets at any given time, staff officers in the DSA support operations section cannot plan or synchronize support requirements to ensure they remain consistent with current and future operations.

2. When accountability/visibility of a convoy is lost, the safety and welfare of soldiers are jeopardized.

Vehicle movement is constantly one of the top concerns for safety and risk management at the National Training Center. Soldiers are our most important asset, and every step should be taken to ensure their safety and well-being at all times.

Movement control observations at the National Training Center:

  • Drivers are manifested for night convoys just three hours after returning from a 17-hour mission.
  • Units have no accurate list of what personnel or truck assets are on mission or available for mission at the company or battalion levels.
  • Convoys depart with communications but lose it within 5 km down the main supply route (MSR).
  • The MSB or CSB has as many as nine separate convoys on the road at one time ranging in size from 2 to 13 vehicles.
  • No current status report on active convoys is available in the Battalion TOC.
  • No current enemy situation update is included in the convoy commander's staff briefing.
  • Convoys enter and depart the BSA with no notification going to the FSB TOC.
  • The FSB has no in-transit visibility of what is coming or current location of the next convoy.
  • The convoy commander conducts very few briefbacks to the company commander or staff.
  • There is a lack of concern over convoys that have not provided a recent situation report.

Contributing factors to problems in movement control:

  • Vehicles are added or dropped at the last minute before start point.
  • Vehicles depart from the DSA to the BSA without clearance from the MSB/CSB TOC.
  • Planning for, or enforcement of, convoy schedules is poor.
  • Communications link between the MSB/CSB and the FSB is poor.
  • There is no communications plan to support convoys as they travel out of standard FM range.
  • Convoy commanders do not check in and out with the FSB TOC in the BSA.
  • Convoy commanders do not provide spot reports as they pass checkpoints on the MSR.
  • No tracking boards for convoys/movements are used in the battalion TOC or company command posts.
  • There are no status boards for monitoring status of available personnel and truck assets.
  • Status boards on hand do not match at both company and battalion levels.
  • Communication between companies and the battalion staff on the status of all assets on hand, whether on mission or available for tasking, is poor.

WHAT IS THE SOURCE OF ALL THESE PROBLEMS? Many units do not have an established SOP for movement control. When an SOP does exist, it is not used the way it is intended, or the standard is not enforced at all levels.

WHY IS A MOVEMENT CONTROL SOP SO IMPORTANT? The most important reason for maintaining strict compliance with movement control procedures is the accountability of equipment and personnel assets. Control measures established in SOPs assist leaders and planners in knowing the capabilities of the unit for support of future missions. Units have SOPs for almost every aspect of their daily operations and execution of their METL. Is it not logical for a unit that is responsible for providing support forward via ground convoys to have a thorough and user friendly SOP for movement control procedures?

Units will seldom have the freedom of movement on the battlefield or operational area that they enjoy at Home Station in CONUS. Strict movement control procedures are used in most theaters today where U.S. forces are conducting contingency operations. Some of the standard constraints and limitations include:

  • A minimum and maximum number of vehicles allowed in a convoy.
  • Designated movement times on selected routes for specific units.
  • Minimum security requirements.
  • Communications requirements.
  • Check-out/check-in procedures for convoy leaders.

During the crisis in Panama in 1989-90, convoys were restricted to certain specified routes for specific time periods, and were required to have a minimum of four vehicles and a security vehicle. In Somalia, units had specific communications requirements on departure from their base, passing Traffic Control Points, arriving at destination, and again on the return trip. As the tactical situation changed, certain vehicles and personnel were designated for convoy security elements and were included in as many convoys as possible. Infantry, engineer, and military police units provided these security elements much of the time, but logistics units were required to perform the same duties quite often. As recent as the on-going mission in Bosnia, we see specific movement control procedures in place for the units operating in that theater. Techniques and procedures used by the first units in country included a four-vehicle rule, military police monitoring all unit moves in the area of operation, and standardized fragmentary orders and drills for vehicle movement and force protection.

WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE SOP? Standard movement control procedures within a division are normally the responsibility of the Division Transportation Officer (DTO) and the DISCOM Movement Control Officer (MCO). Among the DTO's primary duties on the Division Battle Staff is staff responsibility for all advisory and planning functions regarding transportation matters. He also is the central coordinator for all movement control issues within the division as well as the formal link with the corps movement control center.

The MCO commits the division's transportation assets in support of the division's movement requirements and the division movement program. As the link between division transportation mode operators and transportation users, the MCO coordinates with the customer to determine requirements and plan for the distribution of material within the division, and ensures division transportation policies are enforced. The MCO also maintains the status of all transportation assets in support of the division.

Within the EAB battalion structure, the transportation management responsibility falls in the support operations section, specifically with the support operations transportation officer (SPO Trans). The responsibilities of the SPO Trans are very similar to those of the MCO; however, they are limited to within the scope of responsibility of the EAB battalion. In a theater like Mojave at the National Training Center, where there is no higher HQ available to provide DTO or MCO, the SPO Trans becomes the primary transportation and movement control manager for the units operating in the DSA.

Another staff officer who plays a key role in planning and supervising operations, and indirectly assists in managing the assets, is the Battalion S3 Operations Officer. As the primary staff officer for operations and plans, some of the responsibilities of the S3 are to:

  • prepare operational SOPs and coordinate them with higher and subordinate units.
  • maintain current roadnet data.
  • maintain centralized operational control over subordinate units.
  • monitor the battle.
  • plan troop movement.
  • coordinate and direct terrain management.
  • coordinate and synchronize external security requirements.
  • supervise and direct operation of the battalion communication services.

These duties and responsibilities make the S3 an indispensable member of the staff to assist the SPO Trans in the area of movement control SOP development and enforcement.

WHAT SHOULD THE SOP LOOK LIKE? At a minimum, the SOP should include command and control procedures for any convoy departing the unit area. This is the one subject that units must specifically address because the TTPs can change with each command or operational area in which the unit is located. Other areas to address should include:

  • standard checklists for convoy preparation, organization, briefings, and responsibilities.
  • planning processes.
  • vehicle operations and convoy operations.
  • convoy defense techniques and movement techniques.
  • communications.

In EAB, unit convoys are routinely composed of assets from several different units. With this configuration, across-the-board standardization in procedures is critical and must be very clear to all personnel. Most movement techniques, convoy procedures, vehicle operations procedures, and checklists can be found in FM 55-30, the related MTP manuals, and the ARTEP Battle Drill Handbooks.

The Goldminers, the logistics trainers at the National Training Center, issue to the battalions conducting the EAB support mission in the DSA a list of movement control instructions for the unit during the Live-Fire Phase of the training rotation. These procedures, outlined below, are a set of constraints and limitations placed upon the unit specifically to maintain strict movement control and accountability of assets during this critical time of the campaign. The campaign is not unlike those a unit may see during a contingency operation overseas.

TD 10 - TD 13

Safety and accountability are critically important during Live-Fire Operations. Support battalions, because of the wide range of missions and distances involved, face particular risks. Rotational units are required to certify all members of their units are accounted for, and no one is in the live-fire impact area. They report to both their chain of command and supporting O/C Team to preserve the safety of our soldiers while ensuring mission support. The following procedures are to ensure accountability is efficiently maintained.

  • No Support Battalion convoy may enter the maneuver area without positive C2.
  • C2vehicle w/working radio to maintain communications with the DSA and/or BSA.
  • Relaying messages between the TOC or Co CP and subordinate elements through other units is authorized. Names and duty positions of all personnel involved in the message relay must be recorded in the Support Battalion TOC/Co CP.
  • Units must establish a sign-in/out roster for all personnel leaving the unit area maintained at no lower than Company CP level. Roster must include time out, destination, and estimated time of return.
  • No DSA personnel/vehicles may depart Irwin Military City without clearance from the Goldminer DSA Trainers. Phone number to the DSA Trainer office is 4-4266/5552. Information required for clearance is:
    • number/type/bumper number of all vehicles
    • number of personnel
    • name and rank of convoy commander
    • manifest of all other personnel and equipment on the convoy - written
    • mission, destination, and estimated time of return
  • Any element going forward of the BSA while any unit of the BCT is in a "RED DIRECT/INDIRECT" status must have an O/C escort in addition to unit C2. Inform O/Cs immediately on receipt of any requirements forward of the BSA.
  • DSA elements in the BSA must be verified by name and bumper number using a check-in/out system with the FSB TOC.
  • DSA TOC must notify the FSB TOC of all elements traveling to the BSA with the number/type of all vehicles, number of personnel, and name of convoy commander. Convoy Commander must check in with the FSB TOC on arrival with the manifest of the convoy, and check out with the FSB TOC prior to departure for return to the DSA. FSB TOC and DSA TOC must confirm or deny the arrival/departure of all elements traveling between the BSA and DSA.

In the example, the Goldminer DSA Trainers replicate the DISCOM MCO, or a corps movement control team. The movement control instructions outlined above are a sample of the type of strict movement control procedures a unit could encounter in an operational environment. Units will encounter them during their deployment to Mojave and the National Training Center. These instructions can provide the foundation for units to develop their own movement control SOP for implementation at the company and battalion levels.

CONCLUSION. In keeping with the philosophy of "train as we will fight," units must include SOPs for movement control in their Battlebooks for daily operations, and train to the standard in all areas. Key personnel who are responsible for making this work in EAB units are the Commanders, the SPO Trans Officer, the S3, and convoy leaders at all levels. Whether at Home Station, the National Training Center, or overseas, the techniques that units practice in their daily routine can make the transition to an operational environment much smoother for all involved.


1. U.S. Army Field Manual 55-1, Transportation Operations, October 1995.
2. U.S. Army Field Manual 55-2, Division Transportation Operations, January 1985.
3. U.S. Army Field Manual 55-10, Movement Control in a Theater of Operations, December 1992.
4. U.S. Army Field Manual 55-30, Army Motor Transport Units and Operations, June 1997.
5. U.S. Army Field Manual 63-21, Main Support Battalion, August 1990.
6. U.S. Army Field Manual 101-5, Staff Organization and Operations, May 1997.
7. "Force Protection during Vehicular Movement," by MAJ Andy Arrington and CPT Fred Johnson, Center for Army Lessons Learned, News from the Front!, Mar-Apr 97.

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