by Major Gerhard Schröter and Major Brian K. Vaught
TD05 [training day 5], brigade battle update briefing, 0300 hours, in preparation for an 0430 movement to contact LD [line of departure]. The brigade commander cannot understand why he has only 37 of 58 tanks, 33 of 58 Bradley fighting vehicles, and 2 of 6 FISTV's [fire support team vehicles] available for the fight. His executive officer had back-briefed him after yesterday's maintenance meeting. Based on the units' reports, he thought he would have 47 of 58 tanks and 50 of 58 Bradleys to execute his mission. Now, the plan must change because the task force assembled for the main effort has insufficient combat power. He shakes his head and thinks, "What went wrong?"
What went wrong may have been the commander's daily maintenance meeting. A successful maintenance meeting synchronizes the activities of numerous individuals throughout the brigade's battle space and focuses their efforts on the goal of generating and sustaining combat power. Conversely, a poorly prepared and conducted meeting may leave the commander uncertain about his combat posture and hinder the execution of his plans.
The purpose of a brigade's daily maintenance meeting is to provide the commander with a clear picture of his current and projected combat power, as well as to synchronize and coordinate the brigade's maintenance and class IX (repair parts) sustainment efforts. An effective brigade maintenance meeting is the product of many activities by crews, leaders, mechanics, staff officers, and commanders throughout the entire spectrum of the brigade's battle space. It also includes echelons-above-brigade activities.
The building blocks of an effective maintenance meeting are
A productive and well-attended maintenance meeting ties together all of these building blocks. Leadership (meaning command emphasis) and involvement by personnel at all levels are the crucial bonds that ensure the brigade's management system is focused on the commander's priorities for current and follow-on operations.
Tactical Unit Maintenance Program
The cornerstone of an effective unit maintenance program is the preventive maintenance checks and services (PMCS) performed by the operator or crew of each system. The first key to the maintenance system, and the gateway to logistics automation, is the Unit Level Logistics System-Ground (ULLS-G) computer. ULLS-G links unit class IX requirements and maintenance data to the automated logistics system that provides supply and maintenance requirements to both the Standard Army Retail Supply System (SARSS) and SAMS. ULLS-G provides the battalion maintenance officer (BMO) with the tools he needs to monitor and manage his unit's maintenance program in the form of a commander's not mission capable (NMC) report. Although this report is not as easy to read as a locally produced spreadsheet, it provides information that a spreadsheet does notautomated confirmation that the logistics system has received and processed the unit's requirements.
The building blocks of an effective maintenance meeting.
During tactical operations, when time is limited, the unit focuses on the essential components of tactical maintenance management, which include
Automation Connectivity and Synchronization
A viable brigade supply and maintenance management system requires that its CSS automation infrastructureULLS-G, SAMS-1/2, and SARSS-1/2be connected seamlessly and integrated under the brigade's communication support plan. CSS automation connectivity and synchronization are not unique to operations in the theater of Mohavia used at the National Training Center (NTC) at Fort Irwin, California. A force-projection Army must be prepared to use many of the same techniques when deploying anywhere else in the world.
Today and in the 21st century, contingency deployments will require the formation of ad hoc organizations whose components normally do not work together on a daily basis. These mission-tailored organizations must be able to operate together for extended periods, using the logistics information flowing from ULLS-G through SARSS-1 and SAMS-1 to manage normal maintenance and class IX support within the theater. In some cases, the supporting logistics structure will be based in the continental United States.
Our logistics automation systems are very flexible. However, soldiers and their leaders must establish these systems properly and validate that they are connected and able to "talk" to their supporting logistics automation systems, often under austere conditions. All ULLS-G computers within a brigade must be "zeroed and boresighted" to produce accurate maintenance and supply information. This ensures that maneuver commanders have a clear picture of combat power and that maintenance managers at all levels can validate that the supporting system is "talking" properly to sustain combat power. In order to validate this ability, all ULLS-G computers within the brigade must clearly demonstrate that they can
Accurate SAMS-2 026 Print
The SAMS-2 026 print serves as the principal automated maintenance management tool for brigade and division maintenance managers. The 026 print is produced at the SAMS-2 computer, located in the FSB's support operations (SPO) section, and provides leaders an automated snapshot of the brigade's maintenance posture by system and unit. It also provides a view of each system's repair parts requirements and status. The 026 print indicates the relative "health" of the entire brigade's CSS automation architecture and maintenance management procedures. In the absence of any other maintenance information, an accurate unit 026 print will represent a unit's maintenance posture at the maintenance meetingparticularly if a unit representative is unable to attend.
A sample meeting agenda.
However, as a system management tool, the 026 print's accuracy depends not only on the effectiveness of unit maintenance programs and CSS automation connectivity but also on a comprehensive data synchronization plan. The data synchronization plan is the conductor that orchestrates the efforts and products of unit maintenance programs and automation connectivity. Within a brigade combat team, the FSB SPO officer and the brigade S4 should develop the synchronization plan. The plan is based on tactical conditions, the maneuver plan, and the capabilities of a theatre's support infrastructure. The time-windows and sequences for data transmission that each computer site must meet are vital to realizing the synchronization plan's potential to produce timely and accurate 026 prints.
Failure to develop, disseminate, and enforce a synchronization plan jeopardizes the integrity of the entire automated system. The brigade then will be forced to operate in an unresponsive, error-prone manual environmentand that potentially could destroy its combat power as maintenance problems accumulate.
Effective Class IX Distribution System
A brigade's class IX distribution system is the lifeline of maintenance sustainment operations and combat power generation. Effective class IX distribution is divided into two systems. The first handles the routine class IX pushes, which consist of all item priority designator (IPD) shipments; these include the highest priority IPD_02 parts. These routine class IX items are not absolutely vital for the next mission and do not require intensive management or tracking. In other words, these parts are resupply pushes that usually are sent with other sustainment commodity pushes for the brigade. The second system is the "Redball," or "911," class IX distribution system, which is designed and tailored specifically to expedite critical, or "hot," parts that will immediately influence the building of combat power for the next mission.
The fundamental structure of a "Redball" system is exactly what the name implies. The entire system is planned in detail and coordinated, synchronized, and, most importantly, rehearsed to the proficiency level of a battle drill. Intransit visibility that can confirm or deny a part's progress toward its destination, as well as centralized management and tracking by the FSB SPO section, are essential to maintaining the continuity of effort.
The preferred, and fastest, mode of transportation is by helicopter. Unfortunately, many units observed at the NTC do not use their aviation assets to help expedite the flow of critical class IX parts forward on the battlefield. Because of weather, battlefield friction, and other factors, ground transportation always must be available to take over immediately and complete the mission. So a unit's primary plan should focus on ground transportation, but it should have a backup plan to take advantage of aviation assets as they become available.
Maintenance Meeting Agenda
A common observation at the NTC is that, after the brigade maintenance meeting, the brigade XO does not have a clear picture of the brigade's maintenance posture or a reasonable prediction for combat power at LD. Consequently, the XO is unable to advise the brigade commander accurately on the brigade's capabilities and limitations. A viable maintenance meeting agenda is effective only if the key participants from all units attend and the meeting has command emphasis.
A meeting agenda is the execution plan for the meeting, focusing and guiding its conduct. The brigade XO or FSB commander must ensure that all critical topics are covered and must prevent the meeting from drifting off onto irrelevant and time-wasting tangents. The chart above is an example of an agenda that covers all of the key matters that the meeting should address; it can be modified in a time-constrained environment.
The heart of a maintenance meeting is the "scrub" of the 026 print. The effectiveness of the meeting in most cases is directly related to the accuracy and integrity of the 026 print. The automated data synchronization plan therefore must be designed to produce an 026 print with a near-real-time maintenance snapshot of the brigade before the maintenance meeting. An 026 print scrub process that covers all of the key matters and can be modified quickly to adapt to a time-constrained environment would look like this
A critical step in creating a viable meeting agenda is determining who should attend and what each participant should bring to the meeting. The key participants should include the brigade XO, FSB commander, maneuver unit BMO or battalion maintenance technician, FSB SPO officer and SPO maintenance officer, a division MMC representative, the main support battalion or corps support battalion liaison officer to the FSB, shop officer, technical supply officer, and logistics assistance representatives. Remember, the FSB SPO officer is the person responsible for focusing and synchronizing the direct support effort. However, he must have the backing of the brigade XO so that he can follow up on delinquent issues and enforce compliance by the units.
Before the meeting, all key participants should know what information they are required to bring; they should conduct their own internal assessments of their respective areas of responsibility; and they should come prepared to discuss all issues in detailthey must do their homework. Specifically, the key players within the FSB should conduct a pre-meeting scrub of the 026 print to ensure that they can provide cohesive, accurate information on direct support issues and customer support. Likewise, the unit representatives should conduct a reconciliation of their ULLS-G NMC report against their current 026 print to ensure that they report accurate information; if they have not performed a reconciliation, they should be prepared to provide essential information to expedite the repair parts process. As a result of these preparations, the meeting will not bog down in administrative details. Instead, it will be able to focus on the critical tasks needed to accomplish the next mission in accordance with the commander's intent.
The building blocks of an effective maintenance meeting provided in this article serve as the tactics, techniques, and procedures for focusing the efforts of leaders and managers on the essential elements required to build and sustain combat power. Although each task is relatively simple, the potential for complexity arises as all of the individual steps are assembled into the entire system. The ultimate goal is to produce a maintenance meeting that is proactive and shapes events, rather than a reactive meeting that allows events to propel the brigade into daily crisis management. Planning, training, and rehearsing ensure that this maintenance management system remains relatively simple to orchestrate and synchronize.
These tactics, techniques, and procedures were developed for the current CSS automation architecture and maintenance doctrine. However, their fundamental principles and mechanics provide a framework that is flexible enough to adjust to the changing environments and emerging technologies of Force XXI and the Army After Next. New communication technologies, such as video-teleconferencing at the battalion level and lower, will eliminate the constant need for face-to-face meetings. All of the key participants then will be able to link up electronically to synchronize their efforts, permitting them to spend less time traveling to meetings and more time on executing their missions.ALOG
Major Gerhard Schröter is a graduate of the Naval Command and Staff College and is now stationed in Germany. He previously served as a logistics observer-controller at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California.
Major Brian K. Vaught commands a British maintenance company as an exchange officer in the 1st United Kingdom Division in Germany. He was the executive officer for the Operations Group at the National Training Center and the Support Operations Observer-Controller for the Goldminer Team. He has a B.S. degree in business management from Niagara University and is a graduate of the Ordnance Officer Basic and Advanced courses and the Army Command and General Staff College.