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Combat Service Support [CSS]

Combat Service Support [CSS] tasks are to man, arm, fuel, fix, and move the force. These tasks are generally categorized into logistics support, personnel service support, and health services support.

Logistics support includes--

  • Supply.
  • Transportation.
  • Maintenance.
  • Field services.

Personnel service support includes functions that provide soldiers to the command as well as contribute to their welfare and morale. Major personnel service support functions are--

  • Personnel and administration services, including strength and personnel accounting, casualty reporting, replacement operations, awards, and personnel management.
  • Chaplain operations.
  • Enemy prisoner of war (EPW) operations.

Health services support includes--

  • Medical treatment and evacuation of casualties.
  • Preventive medicine.
  • Medical supply operations.

Sustainment is a critical element of combat power on the AirLand battlefield. Generating combat power requires the conversion of a force's potential, resources, and tactical opportunity into actual capability. Sustainment must support violent and coordinated action, allowing forces concentrate at the decisive time and place. The basic mission of CSS is to sustain the battle. The CSS system's sole purpose is to maintain and support soldiers and their weapons systems. CSS operations must focus on sustaining the force as it executes the commander's intent while conducting deep, close, and rear operations. The measurement of sustainment success is the generation of combat power at the right place and time.

Mechanics can be found in contact teams operating recovery vehicles on the battlefield, in maintenance companies in the brigade and division support areas, and in large depots in the corps rear. Truck drivers in infantry battalions drive forward in convoys at night to deliver supplies at a rendezvous with the maneuver companies' first sergeants, scant kilometers from the enemy. Truck drivers of division and corps transportation or petroleum distribution companies may drive cross-country through minefields at night, trying to keep the advancing armored formations supplied, or may drive only along well-secured main supply routes in the rear with military police escort.

Even the personnel clerks, supply clerks, and cooks may be assigned in an infantry battalion headquarters company, performing guard duty at night for the brigade support area. Alternatively, they may be in a corps headquarters or quartermaster ordnance or personnel administration unit, in a "safe" rear area with only periodic charge-of-quarters (CQ) or staff duty at night. The cooks everywhere work extra-long hours. Of course, on the modern battlefield, no place is totally safe. Even the US Army stevedores unloading ships at the port of embarkation may be subject to ballistic missile or terrorist attack.

Because most CSS troops are further from direct contact with the enemy and further from enemy artillery than the combat arms, fewer CSS troops are killed and wounded in action. However, when they do suffer attack, their ratio of battle fatigue casualties to battle casualties is typically higher than in the "combat hardened" combat arms.

It can be hypothesized (but should never be presumed) that the combat support/service support soldiers who are integral to forward combat units will take on some of the typical characteristics and stress profiles of their assigned units. Those who are only habitually attached may be a little less so inclined. Soldiers or teams who are only temporarily attached or recently arrived far forward will be in transition and under the highest stress.

Personnel who are in familiar units of their own kind in areas with very low probability of attack may come closest to fitting the stereotype of the rear area soldier (the "REMF," or Rear Echelon Mother F-er, as the combat soldiers in Vietnam labeled them). The stereotypic REMFs are managers, not leaders. At his worst, the REMF is the petty (or senior) bureaucrat who enjoys exercising arbitrary power over others and uses the rules and regulations to do so. The REMFs take advantage of their positions to acquire even more benefits and comforts than their rear-area positions naturally provide them, often at the expense of the combat soldiers for whom those comforts (supplies, equipment, R and R facilities) were intended. The rear-area soldiers (whether REMF or "regular Joe or Jane") may feel not part of the battle.

Class I


Class II

Specialized tools and clothing.

Class III

Fuel, lubricants and other POL products.

Class IV

Barrier or fortification materials.

Class V


Class VI

Personal demand items and sundries.

Class VII

Major end items; this includes entire vehicles, such as a "float" tank or BFV.

Class VIII

Medical supplies.

Class IX

Repair parts for combat vehicles are essential to sustainment.

Combat service support (CSS), like all other battlefield operating systems, is commanders' business. Commanders view operations and CSS as interdependent. CSS is an enabling operation that generates and sustains combat power for employment in shaping and decisive operations at the time and place the force commander requires. Commanders lay the groundwork to seize the initiative, maintain momentum, and exploit success by combining and balancing mission and CSS requirements.

The force commander is responsible for integrating CSS into the overall operation. The CSS commander, as the force commander's primary CSS operator, assists in this. Operators and CSS planners view complex military problems from different perspectives. Without integration, the overall operation and CSS proceed along separate paths that may not support each other. With integration, the operational and CSS perspectives both contribute to the common operational picture (COP) that supports continuous assessment, planning, preparation, and execution.

CSS is a major component of sustaining operations. The art of CSS involves projecting a strategically responsive force that generates decisive combat power. Successful application of the art of CSS requires proper synchronization between operational and tactical commanders and their CSS commands. Effective synchronization of operational and tactical requirements enables force commanders to initiate and sustain operations and extend their operational reach.

Combat service support reach operations involve the operational positioning and efficient use of all available CSS assets and capabilities, from the industrial base to the soldier in the field. They enable force commanders to extend operational reach and to deploy and employ the force simultaneously, without pause. CSS reach operations merge operational art and science into an operations enabler. They minimize the CSS footprint in theater by deploying the minimum essential CSS elements to the area of operations (AO) and establishing links to and fully exploiting all available sources of support. CSS reach operations include the use of intermediate staging bases (ISBs), forward-deployed bases, Army pre-positioned stocks, and continental US (CONUS) resources. CSS reach operations capitalize on split-based and modular operations; they take maximum advantage of all available sources of support for follow-on sustainment.

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Page last modified: 07-07-2011 02:42:41 ZULU