The DISCOM Role in Synchronizing Support
by Major Charles B. Salvo
Synchronizing sustainment operations is a team effort that involves personnel from all battlefield operating systems (BOS) and all combat functions in the division rear area. Tactical maneuver plans drive sustainment operations, so changes to those plans often result in changes affecting all BOS areas and combat functions. Successfully implementing changes requires "resynchronization" of sustainment operations, and the organization in the division rear area that should take the lead in synchronizing sustainment operations across the division is the division support command (DISCOM).
The DISCOM can't synchronize sustainment operations alone, but it is the organization best resourced to lead the synchronization process in the division rear area. This is because the DISCOM commander can call on the talents and resources of a brigade S3 section (with a plans officer, support operations officer, and movement control officer), a division materiel management center (DMMC) section, and a division medical operations center section.
I'd like to present some thoughts on the DISCOM role in
synchronizing sustainment operations, focusing on the process of synchronization
and how to incorporate all elements and sections in the division rear area
into that process.
DISCOM Synchronization Matrix
A synchronization matrix is an effective tool that can be used to facilitate the synchronization process and record its results. One can read a synchronization matrix at a glance and determine the critical tasks associated with key sustainment missions without having to read through the volumes of pages in operation orders, operation plans, annexes, and appendices. A synchronization matrix must be designed to show specifically what is required in order to synchronize sustainment operations; it must show specific missions at a specific level of detail. (An example of the 10th DISCOM's sustainment synchronization matrix is shown at the top of the next page.)
When designed correctly, a synchronization matrix will drive the synchronization process. Regardless of its specific purpose, a synchronization matrix should be designed to include the following features-
Time. A synchronization matrix should be divided into segments that break down the phases of an operation into distinct time periods. More importantly, all times must be synchronized (D-day, C-day, H-hour, M-hour, P-hour). The matrix should not change the division's tactical phases; it simply should use the existing division phases and break them down into manageable periods. This is an important step in designing a synchronization matrix because it gets everyone operating on the same sheet of music.
Enemy. The matrix should list pertinent enemy events (both planned or confirmed) that may affect sustainment operations. The division rear G2 is responsible for updating this portion of the synchronization matrix, but all sections are responsible for identifying the impact of enemy events on their specific areas in the overall sustainment mission.
Maneuver. Tactical maneuver plans drive sustainment operations. A sustainment synchronization matrix must list critical maneuver events by phase (deep, close, and rear) in order to effectively synchronize sustainment operations across the division. The division rear G3 plays a critical role in updating this portion of the synchronization matrix.
BOS and combat function representatives. Synchronization is a team effort. BOS and combat function representatives in the division rear area are experts in their areas and must be included in the synchronization process, so they must be listed in the matrix. Each BOS and combat function representative in the division rear area is responsible for updating his specific portion of the synchronization matrix.
Concept of support and decision points. The division's concept of support and specific decision points must be incorporated into the synchronization matrix so all representatives have a common understanding of critical sustainment missions and the triggers for their execution. This information enables representatives to anticipate requirements in the overall sustainment support mission. The DISCOM S2/3 is responsible for updating this portion of the matrix.
Classes of supply, services, medical support, maintenance, and transportation. Incorporating this information into the matrix provides structure and ensures that all support areas are covered during the synchronization process. The DMMC chief is responsible for this portion of the matrix.
Move. All methods of distribution should be listed. This portion of the matrix, which is updated by the DISCOM movement control officer, aids in deconflicting sustainment operations across the division.
A well-designed sustainment synchronization matrix will prove
to be an effective tool in driving the synchronization process. It is important
to "put the effort up front" when designing a synchronization matrix to attain
the desired level of detail needed to support a division. What is left off
the synchronization matrix probably won't get synchronized in the heat of
Initial Sustainment Synchronization (Planning)
Information incorporated into an initial synchronization matrix is the product of detailed planning (through the deliberate decision making process), coordination, and synchronization. An initial synchronization matrix should be as accurate and detailed as possible. It should be the "80-percent solution" to take into the fight.
The precursor to sustainment planning is a detailed logistics estimate, which is a product of mission analysis. The DISCOM logistics estimate is updated continuously and refined during the planning process. The DMMC chief will increase the accuracy of the logistics estimate as units submit their initial logistics status reports, and the DISCOM plans officer (or support operations officer) will refine the estimate further when he coordinates directly with other units (major subordinate commands and separate battalions). An accurate logistics estimate places the process of sustainment planning on a sound foundation.
The DISCOM plans officer uses the logistics estimate when conducting parallel planning with the division operational planning group. After parallel planning is completed, the DISCOM plans officer returns to the DISCOM with a sound understanding of the division's tactical plan. The DISCOM staff then executes the deliberate decision making process, develops a concept of support, and begins to synchronize that concept with supported units across the division.
A detailed and coordinated distribution plan is critical to
synchronizing sustainment operations. Redundant methods of distribution (which
must be included in a concept of support so the commander doesn't "put all
his eggs into one basket") must be deconflicted and coordinated during initial
planning; this is especially important for fixed-wing resupply. An effective
technique to deconflict distribution plans is to organize a matrix for each
class of supply, medical support, maintenance, and services by phase (see
an example above right).
Synchronizing Sustainment Operations Synchronization meetings are used to facilitate the process of sustainment synchronization. To lead all BOS and combat function representatives through the synchronization process, the DISCOM must-
Provide hard copies of the most current sustainment synchronization matrix to all representatives participating in the process so that everyone is operating with the same information.
Update the logistics situation map (which is used to conduct synchronization meetings) to ensure that the combat service support overlay is current and shows such features as main supply routes (MSR's), alternate supply routes, dirty routes, pickup zones, landing zones, drop zones, field landing strips, ammunition transfer points, ambulance exchange points, logistics release points, engineer forward supply points, and first destination reporting points (FDRP's).
Provide a clean, or "sterile," copy of the sustainment synchronization matrix (blown up to butcher-board size) to record changes made in the meeting.
Conduct a roll call of meeting participants and lead the synchronization process.
Synchronization meetings are conducted twice daily (more often if needed). They begin with all representatives gathered around the logistics situation map (preferably a flat map). The DISCOM staff reviews each significant sustainment mission for the next 24, 48, and 72 hours. After each mission is reviewed, the DISCOM representative goes around the table to solicit the input of each BOS and combat function representative. Representatives also address the impact of the mission on their respective BOS areas; for example, the G3 Rear may point out that a sustainment mission conflicts with a recent change to an infantry battalion's infiltration mission. Representatives may recommend and coordinate resources to augment a particular sustainment mission; for example, the military police may determine that a particular resupply convoy requires a military police escort from an FDRP to a designated release point because of an increased threat level on an MSR. Only with all key representatives participating can effective sustainment synchronization occur. The process is repeated for each sustainment mission 24, 48, and 72 hours out.
The DISCOM scribe records the changes provided by the participants
on a sterile synchronization matrix and incorporates the changes on a master
matrix, which is accessed on computers. The updated "resynchronized" matrix
then is put out on TACNET so it can be disseminated across the division
(particularly to the division main command post and division tactical command
post so they have information on sustaining the division when planning deep,
close, and rear operations). After the synchronization meeting, BOS and combat
function representatives go back to their respective activities to coordinate
any changes resulting from the synchronization meeting, thus fulfilling their
roles in support of sustaining the division.
The DISCOM-led synchronization process results in sustainment
operations that are synchronized with tactical maneuver plans across the
division. All BOS and combat function areas required to support sustainment
operations are incorporated into the synchronization process-a result produced
by the design of the synchronization matrix. The synchronized sustainment
plan is disseminated across the division via TACNET, ensuring that synchronized
sustainment plans are further coordinated across the division before execution.
Major Charles B. Salvo is a support operations officer in the 210th Forward Support Battalion, 10th Division Support Command, Fort Drum, New York. He was the 10th DISCOM plans officer.