RE: A Commanding Battle Staff
I agree with everything in the article, "A Commanding Battle Staff," in the January-February 1998 issue except for internal readiness and external operations. I believe, and many of my colleagues believe, the two sections should be combined. I work in one of these positions at the higher headquarters for the unit in this article. I worked in a position in the brigade staff prior to working at the higher headquarters in these sections. Our headquarters works currently under this concept. My colleagues and I agree that many taskings overlap and usually get worked only half way at the most. This is because there are two sections that work the same issue from different aspects that overlap, but because of the different chains of command, coordination between the two sections becomes a problem.
An example: I currently work in the Internal Readiness Section with equipment readiness. Many times an issue will come up that pertains to equipment readiness, and the equipment is at direct support maintenance or there is a direct support supply problem. Many times there are problems because those two activities are not part of our section and equipment readiness is not an issue or function for them. Is there a reason there should be two supply sections and two maintenance sections?
Prior to working at this headquarters, I worked at the brigade level, and the higher headquarters worked with only one supply section and one maintenance section, and everything worked much smoother. The section was called Army Chief of Staff Materiel (ACSMAT).
If anyone would like more information, please send e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.
SFC John P. Cadle, Camp Henry, Korea
FPOC's Aren't Perfect
In the May-June 1998 issue, an article mentions the convenience and overall success of the new, prefabricated overhead cover system known as the fighting position overhead cover (FPOC). However, you fail to mention any disadvantages to this new product.
After acquiring these in our unit, we decided to create a model foxhole so that all leaders in the battalion could see this new product. After excavating the earth and emplacing the FPOC, we noticed a major deficiency. First, it is impossible to dig a perfect 2-foot-wide foxhole in most soil conditions. Also, the major problem with the FPOC is the current length used in its design.
Engineering units use small emplacement excavators (SEE's) to dig foxholes. By using the backhoe bucket on a SEE, the width is, again, impossible to limit to 2 feet wide. Due to soil conditions and method of excavation, foxholes can rarely be limited to a 2-foot width. Because of this, the FPOC has limited bearing area on each side of the foxhole due to its limited 4-foot length. This reduces its ability to resist forces because of the increase of its moment arm. In other words, there is less supporting area to hold up 32 inches of soil and resist mortar rounds.
The FPOC has many advantages that need to be retained. The portability, strength, and speed of construction make the FPOC a great asset. However, the length of the FPOC needs to be adjusted so that it has an overall dimension of 72 by 16 by 68 inches. An increase in thickness may be required to support the forces created when adjusting the overall length and moment arm.
CPT James Wolfe, Camp Howze, Korea
Editor's Note: The following is an abbreviated version of the response to Captain Wolfe's letter, provided by the Product Manager-Enhanced Soldier System. For more information, please call the Public Affairs Office at Soldier and Biological Chemical Command, DSN 256-4300.
The fighting position overhead cover (FPOC) is one of three items designed to improve the time and stability in preparing a deliberate two-soldier fighting position. The other two are the fighting position excavator (FPE) and the fighting position revetment (FPR), which have not yet been fielded.
The FPE is a binary explosive kit with a hand bucket auger for creating two boreholes. The explosives are placed down into the boreholes and detonated simultaneously to loosen the soil for easier digging with an entrenching tool.
Like the FPOC, the FPR is a prefabricated structure that can be assembled in a trench that is too wide. When soil is backfilled, the position will return to a rectangular 2-by-6 foot, armpit-deep, standard two-soldier fighting position. The FPR is still in development.
The tradeoff for improving the time and stability of fighting positions is the logistics burden of arranging delivery of the FPE, FPR, and FPOC. On the plus side is the reduced bulk, weight, and volume of these items compared to conventional class IV lumber and construction materials and the simplification of engineering knowledge with respect to assembly.
However, these fighting position aides remove a certain amount of flexibility in preparing a fighting position. Prefabricated structures must have fixed dimensions for simplicity of assembly and keeping costs reasonable.
Packaging is another consideration. For overhead cover, the end result that best fits all the parameters is a system that is 48 inches long, 40 inches wide (16 inches wide when folded for transport), and 3 inches deep (6 inches when folded).
Optimum situation is to have a standard 2-foot-wide trench, allowing 1 foot on each side for bearing (1 foot + 2 feet + 1 foot = 48 inchesthe length of the FPOC). The soil cover or sandbags will usually be evenly distributed across the 48-inch cover and blended into the protective berm or parapet. In this manner, the soil tends to create its own arch-like structure with abutments, lessening the moment on the steel structure.
A fair number of tradeoffs accompany acquisition programs where the objective is to achieve maximum performance with consideration given to cost, logistics, and schedule. The project manager and the combat developer stand behind the FPOC as the optimum blend of performance, cost, and logistics, taking into consideration the variables inherent in digging and fortifying on a planet with diverse soil conditions and terrain.
David L. Nelson, Fort Belvoir, VA
Include Ammunition in Total Package Fielding
I read the article, "Materiel Fielding Standardization," by Jack D. Scott in the September-October 1998 issue with great interest. I was hoping to find that class V supplies (ammunition and explosives) were included in some part of the Total Package Fielding (TPF) process, but it appears they are not.
During my Army career, I have struggled to ensure that all types of ammunition were available to be issued with new systems. Force modernization actions and TPF require ammunition for new equipment training teams, initial unit training, and ammunition basic load. Most memorable (painful) among the fielding actions I have been involved with include the AH-64 attack helicopter, the M1A1 tank, and the M2/M3 infantry/cavalry fighting vehicles. These new combat systems had very significant ammunition requirements for fielding and initial unit training. I have learned that class V is not included in the TPF process, and ammunition managers worldwide must take aggressive steps to ensure that the right mix of ammunition is available when new equipment arrives.
I realize that, due to safety requirements for explosives, ammunition for a new system cannot come in a box with the new system and be stored in a central warehouse or yard awaiting issue to the unit. But TPF managers need to ensure that the correct mix of ammunition is authorized and shipped to the supporting installation ammunition supply point where new equipment is being issued. Right now, installation ammo managers are informed of some of the ammunition requirements for TPF, and they must take the first steps to make sure the ammunition is forecast and therefore requisitioned and shipped to their installation. Many times this process is very confusing and results in ammunition for new equipment being ordered at the last minute or not being available when needed. We need to change a pull system into a push system for TPF ammunition requirements.
I suggest that TPF managers can work with Department of the Army ammunition managers to ensure that all ammunition required for a fielding of new equipment will be shipped to installations to support TPF. This information can then be passed down to ammo managers at all levels to coordinate actual allocation and issue of ammunition for new equipment fielding.
Let's make Total Package Fielding include the total package.
CWO4 Thomas R. Craig, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Is It Only Semantics?
I think that Mr. Sparks (November-December 1998 issue) wrapped up the major point of his own discussion regarding renaming support units as sustainment units in his own statement in the fourth paragraph of his editorial, "...the answer is not changing a word, but changing leadership and training."
Too often, when we are frustrated by a lack of recognition of our own discipline or soldiers, we resort to semantics rather than substantive issues. As a member of the Army Medical Department, I well understand this point. Like the quartermaster unit that Mr. Sparks references in his editorial, the role of the Army's medical soldiers is sometimes dismissed as less important than other disciplines, particularly during planning for major exercises and deployments. However, how we are referred to, as support or sustainment troops, ultimately makes little difference. When you get right down to it, it's how we do our job and overcome those very hurdles that makes us what we are.
It is about time that we focus less on semantics and more on substance in this and other related issues. Pride in a unit comes not from a title but from how good that unit is at its job. A unit that deploys to a hostile area and does a bang-up job has high morale, almost without exception. That good morale, and the respect that almost always follows such a unit, is a result of soldier competence and unit effectiveness. Those attributes are a direct result of leadership and training, not title.
With so much else threatening today's Army, and with the potential of "hollow" units being so real, let's get past the empty debate of what to call things and focus on what's important. We need to knuckle down and struggle with the issues that will actually enable us to do our jobs. We are, and will remain, the best fighting and support force in the world only if we focus on what's important: the soldiers, their training, and leadership.
LTC Dave Pratt, Fort Lewis, WA
CWO3 Paul Hodson's article on page 18 of the November-December 1998 issue contained a gross error. The 558th Transportation Company (TC) is not the only DS/GS company in the Army with the mission of providing service and support to the Army's watercraft inventory. The 175th TC has the same mission and a functional floating maintenance shop. In addition, Area Maintenance Support Activity (AMSA) 137(W) has the same mission. Since the 175th TC is an Army Reserve asset and AMSA 137(W) is staffed by civilians, it's a mistake common to most soldiers assigned to Fort Eustis or Fort Story.
Robert T. Godlewski, Tacoma, WA
Editor's note: We apologized to Mr. Godlewski and others for the oversight and invited AMSA 137(W) and the 175th TC to submit articles on their missions for publication in Army Logistician.
Trained Mechanics Not Looking for Work
Major Diana Lizotte's concept on recruiting, training, and retention of automotive technicians in her article, "Training the Force XXI Multicapable Mechanic" (November-December 1998 issue), just doesn't wash.
First, the reality is there is no collection of trained mechanics just looking for a place to work. According to the November 12, 1998 issue of the Detroit Free Press, "Auto mechanics are in high demand. But few young people see it as the challenging, high-tech career it has become. Young people simply aren't rushing to get their hands dirty under the hood." As an example of how large the issue is, Marty Keller, chief of the California Department of Consumer Affairs Bureau of Automotive Repair, recently stated "Consumers are only now beginning to feel the effects of the shortage of trained auto repair technicians." And, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 168,000 automotive repair jobs will be created between 1992 and 2005.
Keeping those issues that impact on the mechanic job market in mind, let's look at the real reason the Army will not be able to recruit and, more importantly, retain technicians. Using the average wage of an entry-level automotive mechanic with a 2-year technical degree in Springfield, Missouri, the starting wages average $11.83 per hour. So if the mechanic works a 40-hour workweek, his or her take-home pay is $1,900 a month. The average 63-series PFC with the same degree earns $1,050 for his or her effort, and if you spend much time with the troopers in the motor pool, you know a 40-hour workweek is the exception, not the norm. Then throw in deployments, field training exercises, red-cycle details, and the host of other distracters, and you can see how the jobs, though similar in name, are not actually the same in responsibilities.
Where the entire system can potentially break down is with journeymenthe staff sergeants and sergeants first class. How do we convince them to stick around and deal with the REDUX retirement option, squads and teams not at 100-percent required strength, perceptions of quality-of-life reductions, and a host of issues facing the military? Our current compensation plan is not a selling point. According to the Edmonton Motor Dealers' Association 1996 income survey, the average hourly rate for journeymen technicians is $19, or $3,040 a month, and the average staff sergeant (the typical skill level for system mechanics) with 7 years of service earns a unimpressive $1,700.
Now consider that the current educational requirement to enlist in the Army is a high school diploma. I must question why we would place additional demands on only a select portion of the enlisted force and then not provide them any specialized pay? I would hope we are not advocating a return to the days of the "technical" grades for the enlisted force. The enlistment bonus and selective reenlistment bonus programs seem to work for the junior soldiers but do little for the journeymen at the 3 and 4 skill level. Indicative of the problem is that many organizational maintenance occupation specialties regularly promote all eligible soldiers to sergeant and would promote more if they were available. To my eyes, the fact that we do not have enough eligible specialists indicates a retention problem.
The way to get quality mechanics is to look to the training base and to technical development. First, we must ensure that we adequately fund, staff, and resource the Training and Doctrine Command. For too long they have been paying the higher price during the drawdown. We need to provide lesson developers who are trained and certified to industry standards through programs such as the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence certification. Next, we need to develop courses whose foundations are solid with basic knowledge and skills. We need to be more like the vo-tech schools that Major Lizotte spoke of, but militarily focused. We need to develop leaders who actively seek out industry certifications with the same energy as they seek specialty assignments and promotions. But as in all requirements, we must not only publish a standard, we must provide some recognition when they achieve it. Finally, we need to adequately pay these technicians, or they will leave our Service for higher pay and a better environment.
This type of problem exists Army-wide, not just for the ordnance soldier. Many will stand up and say we do this job for reasons other than money, but the fact is we, as an institution, have to do a better job at compensating our enlisted force. Our Army is increasingly becoming more technically oriented, and we expect soldiers to perform at levels that years before were done at higher grades.
I propose that we recruit good people, train them to standard, then provide them pay and a quality of life comparable to that of the people they serve to protect. That is how we develop the Force XXI multicapable mechanic.
SGM Daniel K. Elder, Letterkenny Army Depot, PA
More On Training Mechanics
I read with great interest the article pertaining to the Force XXI multicapable mechanic. From a very interested motor sergeant's point of view, I can only applaud what has been painfully obvious. Unless a soldier/mechanic is allowed to really work on a piece of equipmentto diagnose, test, puzzle, and think it throughno real training occurs. The "cookie cutter" approach to maintenance (echelon 1, echelon 2, etc.) may have worked in the past, but on today's fast moving battlefield, it doesn't. A mechanic in an organizational section is only allowed to go so far, then he must hand off to the direct support folks. This doesn't train the organizational mechanic to do anything but cursory repairs and certainly doesn't enhance retention for skill training. If the Army wants competent mechanics, then expand the opportunity to get into the problem, rather than pass it up to the next level. Once that is done, speed in repairs comes naturally. The next time the mechanic will know the what, where, and why and can quickly return the equipment to service. The soldier/mechanic needs to do the repair from start to finish.
Let the opportunity for better training be made available, let it count for promotion, and give the soldier/mechanic the opportunity to excel by recognizing good work and initiative. The Army is best served by soldiers who use intelligence, initiative, and flexibility in maintenance; let's not stifle them.
SFC Jack L. Beckman, Seattle, WA
Master MechanicsA Lost Cause
I want to comment on Major Diana Lizotte's article, "Training the Force XXI Multicapable Mechanic," but first, I should introduce myself. Since November 1976 I have been an Army National Guard technician truck mechanic at Camp Roberts, California. Camp Roberts has about 200 full-time civilian track and wheel mechanics who, like myself, have to be in the Army National Guard to have the civilian job. We come from all branches of the regular active duty services. I was a wheel mechanic in the Air Force from June 1965 to December 1968. I was an engine man in the Naval Reserve from December 1972 to December 1974, and joined the Army National Guard in February 1975.
In the past decade, I have seen many articles written for Army Logistician and other Army publications by authors saying the same thing as did Major Lizottethat the Army needs a super, more capable mechanic for the 21st century who will somehow be cross-trained and expert at more skills. That mechanic never has, and never will, exist.
As long as high technology has been around, the Air Force and the Navy have provided the best services. They have generally had the best of the military brain pool and the highest percentage of brainy people to tend to their technical things. Neither has been famous for cross-training to create jacks of all military trades. The Army and Marine Corps are known for cross-training the jacks of many trades. Now that the Army is getting more technical, they think they are still going to keep doing it. The Army could stand to take a lesson from the Navy and the Air Forceeven if you have the best and brightest people, you shouldn't try to make everyone a master of many trades.
The best and brightest of the mechanics struggle to make the new technology work. It is more than enough challenge to have some expertise at what they are doing already without trying to become expert at additional tasks. When the sixties decade ended, mechanics no longer had a handle on all things. The technology just got to be too much.
SGT Roger K. Fike, ARNG, San Miguel, CA
Contractors(?) On the Battlefield
The discussion of contractors on the battlefield in the November-December issue was informative and pretty much on the mark. The cover of the magazine, however, is in no way contractor-related, but it does point out a major deficiency in our force structure which will need to be reckoned with.
First, the picture is of the Russian-made, Hungarian-owned PMP military ribbon bridge used in support of Task Force Eagle in Bosnia. The trucks pictured are Hungarian Army vehicles as well. This bridge was moved from the Russian Brigade sector of Task Force Eagle to the vicinity of Slavonski Brod in order to open up a second main supply route until fixed bridges across the Sava River were reconstructed. (You can see a similar picture with an article on the cover of the 26 June 1996 issue of the TALON, Task Force Eagle's online newpaper, Volume 2, No. 24).
The issue that your cover brings attention to is the state of the Army's military bridging. The cover photo points out the dependence on combined operations to support coalition-type engagements. We needed to depend on some other army's bridging because of the inadequacy of our own. The post-Cold War reductions in the Army's size took a disproportionately high number of float bridge units out of the force structure. Companies were removed from divisions and placed at corps. Corps force reductions were much more severe than divisional cuts. The result was that fewer than half the 1993 number of bridge companies remain today, and most of those are in the reserve components. Only four float bridge companies remain in the active force. The real problem is that the number of rivers in the world has not changed, and the number of places in the world that could involve our Army has increased tremendously. We simply lack the Cold War capability to cross those rivers.
How do you deal with the problem? Part of the solution was creation of the multi-role bridge company, which merges the remaining fixed (land) bridge and float bridge companies into a single unit with the capability to build both fixed and float bridges. The company's organic capability, however, is not as great as either the fixed or float bridge companies it replaces. This was mitigated somewhat by the logistics decision to treat bridging as a commodity. This allows the new unit to do more because bridging materials beyond those in their TOE are delivered directly to them when needed. That is not a complete solution, as was clearly shown in Operation Joint Endeavor. The demands for bridging were greater than the troop strength available to satisfy those demands. Lack of bridge erection boats and trained operators for the boats was a problem.
Contractor support may provide another partial solution. Contractors were used in Bosnia to replace fixed bridges after initial deployment had occurred. The NATO Maintenance and Supply Agency in Luxembourg contracted in early 1996 for 18 fixed bridges, a number of which were erected in the U.S. IFOR sector. Although it has never been done, there might be instances where contracting of float bridging might be of value once the area of operations is substantially secure. There is very little commercial float bridge capability; the bridging may have to be supplied by the Army. As pointed out in your articles, care must be taken in the advanced planning to balance the pros and cons of using contractors for such a role so that success of the mission may be assured. Then again, maybe the Hungarian Army will once more be available for hire.
COL (Ret.) Frederick J. Charles III, Fairfax, VA