|Maintenance Management in the Heavy BCT
|by Captain Eric A. McCoy
Leaders at all levels of the Army emphasize the
importance of logistics and the freedom of maneuver it allows
tactical commanders in the execution of combat operations.
Of the tactical logistics functions, maintenance is especially
critical. Soldiers must have confidence that the equipment
they use will function when they press the button, turn the
key, or pull the trigger.
A commander must consider several elements, or “building blocks,” when
developing a maintenance program for his unit. This article focuses on maintenance
operations for the brigade combat team (BCT) at both the forward support company
(FSC) and the brigade support battalion (BSB) levels. It is meant to provide
a commander with additional insight about his maintenance program before deployment
to a combat training center or theater of operations.
Maintenance Management in FSCs and FMCs
The maintenance control officer, commonly referred to as the “shop officer,” is
the senior maintenance officer in the maneuver battalion’s FSC or the BSB’s
field maintenance company (FMC). He is responsible for providing field maintenance
to his supported battalion or, in the case of the FMC shop officer, to specified
BCT units and backup support to the FSC. He also serves as the battalion maintenance
officer. This gives him a great deal of responsibility.
Under the previous edition of Department of the Army (DA) Pamphlet 600–3,
Commissioned Officer Development and Career Management, senior Ordnance Corps
lieutenants assume the position of shop officer after 12 months of experience
as maintenance platoon leaders. However, because of the manpower demands created
by transformation and the Global War on Terrorism, lieutenants, some of whom
are Quartermaster or Transportation officers, often are assigned as shop officers
directly from the Basic Officer Leader Course.
Changes to the modification tables of organization and equipment (MTOEs) of FSC
maintenance sections also have resulted in growing pains for the shop officer.
Sergeants first class are authorized in the positions of shop office maintenance
control sergeant and company repair team noncommissioned officer (NCO) in charge.
However, the MTOEs do not authorize a battalion maintenance sergeant at either
the master sergeant or sergeant first class level to serve as an integrator and
direct assistant to the shop officer. As a result of their inexperience and lack
of senior NCO support, many shop officers who deploy to the National Training
Center (NTC) at Fort Irwin, California, have difficulty executing maintenance
Shop Officer Responsibilities
Field Manual-Interim (FMI) 4–90.1, Heavy Brigade Combat Team Logistics,
defines the responsibilities of the shop officer, or maintenance control officer,
The shop officer is responsible for the combat readiness of his
unit. Therefore, it is essential that he be aware of his roles
and responsibilities and the capabilities and limitations of his
The maintenance control officer [MCO] is
the principal assistant to the commander, both battalion
and FSC, on all matters pertaining
to the field maintenance mission. The MCO serves as maintenance
officer for the maneuver battalion and FSC using SAMS–1
[Standard Army Maintenance System-1], SAMS–2, BCS3 [Battle
Command Sustainment Support System] and FBCB2 [Force XXI Battle
Command Brigade and Below]. He is also is the senior person
in the UMCP [unit maintenance collection point] and is responsible
for the local security requirements and tying in with adjacent
units. He is responsible to the commander for the management
of the combined efforts of the maintenance control section,
maintenance section and service and recovery section, and the
maintenance system teams . . .
To ensure the successful execution of his company’s mission,
the shop officer must do the following.
Evaluate and ensure the quality of all maintenance completed by
the maintenance platoon. Having company repair teams embedded with
their habitual maneuver companies increases the complexity of this task.
officer must coordinate primary, alternate, contingency, and emergency
methods of communication between the UMCP—the location of maintenance Standard
Army Management Information Systems (STAMIS)—and forward locations
on the battlefield.
An effective way of accomplishing this may be to “redball” critical
repair parts forward and send DA Forms 5988E (Equipment Inspection
and Maintenance Worksheet) and changes to maintenance status by reverse
Develop a training and cross-training plan for maintenance personnel. The shop officer and his maintenance warrant officers are responsible for
ensuring the technical proficiency
of maintenance Soldiers in the battalion. Because commanders and
senior NCOs are focused primarily on tactical training, technical proficiency
in various aspects of maintenance
military occupational specialties (MOSs) may be sacrificed. The
shop officer and warrant officers must develop a plan for ensuring that
technical competence is not degraded. Ways
to maintain maintenance MOS proficiency include keeping critical
MOS job books on each maintenance Soldier, conducting monthly low-density
MOS training across the battalion, and
coordinating with civilian agencies to provide training.
Coordinate the recovery of battalion equipment. Lack of planning for primary, alternate,
contingency, and emergency means of communication can cause a significant
time lag between vehicle breakdown, request for recovery assets, deployment
of recovery assets, and arrival of recovery assets at the breakdown site.
In theater, the lack of an effective recovery plan may endanger the lives
of mechanics and recovery vehicle operators. Shop officers should provide
input to battalion planners on maintenance procedures during combat operations.
This can be done by incorporating maintenance operations standing operating
procedures (SOPs) into battalion tactical SOPs so that all personnel in
the battalion know how to request, receive, and incorporate maintenance
support into their tactical operations. These procedures should include
battle drills for recovery asset requests, section precombat checks and
precombat inspections, and communications among the supported unit, the
recovery team, and the shop office.
Monitor the status of equipment undergoing repairs,
and determine the status of the repair parts required to complete those
repairs. The shop officer
must communicate daily with the BSB support operations (SPO) maintenance
officer and supply support activity (SSA) accountable officer to
receive updated status on repair parts. In high-intensity conflict rotations
the NTC, this communication frequently is hindered, resulting in
an unclear picture of the BCT’s current and projected combat power. The shop
officer, battalion executive officer (XO), and BSB SPO must ensure that
daily updates are communicated vertically and horizontally to all maintenance
managers in the BCT. These updates should include improved SAMS–2
026 reports (Maintenance Summary by Battalion); DA Forms 5988E,
turn-in and processing cycles; priority 02 (life or death or total mission
05 (severe impact to mission or reportable items), and 12 (routine)
parts ordered by unit; and workable and nonworkable backlogs. [Nonworkable
include equipment for which either the repair parts or the mechanics
are not available to complete the work.]
Perform maintenance according to the priorities
established by the maneuver battalion commander. With modularity, a significant amount
capability resides in the FSC and, in most cases, the BSB commander
no longer has the organic capability to provide support beyond the capacity
BSB’s assets. As a result, maneuver battalion leaders must be intimately
involved in their maintenance operations. Current and upcoming maintenance
priorities should be discussed as part of mission operation orders and unit
battle update briefs. This ensures that maneuver company commanders are
using their company repair teams according to the battalion commander’s
guidance. The shop officer must provide sound guidance to the maneuver
battalion XO, who is the material readiness officer of the battalion.
Maintenance Management at the BSB Level
The principal maintenance operator for the support operations officer and
BSB commander is the SPO maintenance officer. He recommends the allocation
of resources to the supported unit’s chain of command and coordinates
maintenance company operations. He also forecasts and monitors the workload
for all equipment by type.
The SPO maintenance officer is normally a senior logistics first lieutenant
awaiting orders for the Combined Logistics Captains Career Course or a career
course graduate in line for command of an FMC or FSC. He is assisted by a
maintenance NCO, typically an MOS 63-series (mechanic) master sergeant or
sergeant first class. The maintenance officer and NCO use SAMS–2 to
collect and process maintenance operations data and assist in the management
of maintenance operations. SAMS–2 processes the maintenance information
needed to control workload, manpower, and supplies. SAMS–2 is designed
to assist in both maintenance and readiness management.
The SPO maintenance cell also works with the SSA accountable officer to develop
plans and policies for reparable exchange and class IX (repair parts) operations.
The SPO maintenance officer monitors shop production and job status reports in
the FMC and FSCs. He also monitors the combat spares and coordinates the status
of critical parts with the sustainment brigade. For unserviceable items, the
Standard Army Retail Supply System-1 (SARSS–1), located in the SSA, generates
disposition instructions based on the guidance of brigade and division commanders.
Possible instructions include evacuation, cannibalization, and controlled exchange
The SPO maintenance officer and brigade S–4 review backlogs of critical
weapon systems. For any additional support requirements, the BSB SPO coordinates
through the sustainment brigade’s materiel management branch.
Ensuring Maximum Combat Power
The SPO maintenance officer must take several actions to ensure that maximum combat
power is built in support of the BCT commander’s intent. He must do the following.
Monitor the BCT’s maintenance posture using SAMS2. Properly applying and using the reports
and matrices generated by SAMS2 will help the maintenance officer execute his mission. BCT
shop officers must understand the timeline and standards for submitting STAMIS data. Meeting
the established BCT standard should not be an issue when the Unit Level Logistics System (ULLS)
and SAMS are collocated with the shop officer. Typically, failure to achieve the standard results
from a lack of command emphasis and insufficient systems training for automated logistical specialists.
A way to counter this is for the maintenance officer to track and brief the status of unit STAMIS
data transfer at a regular brigade maintenance meeting, allowing the BCT XO and BSB commander to
focus resources on the problem. The maintenance officer also should talk with the BSB command sergeant
major to ensure that all SAMS operators in the BCT have additional skill identifier B5 (SAMS operator)
before they are assigned to a shop office or the BSB SPO section.
Forecast and monitor the workload for all equipment, by type. Because the heavy BCT maintenance meeting
primarily focuses on tracked and wheeled combat systems, other combat systems typically are not discussed
in detail or not discussed at all. Maintenance of power-generation and communications equipment and small
arms can be just as critical to the success of the BCT as maintenance of an Abrams tank or a Bradley fighting
vehicle. The maintenance officer should discuss shop workloads with shop officers weekly, including an extensive
review of the SAMS1 022 (Backlog Report). The maintenance officer should also track the number of jobs that have
been closed out in SAMS1 but have not been closed out in ULLS and the jobs awaiting pickup from the FMC.
Coordinate maintenance priorities with the brigade S4. Just as the shop officer recommends and coordinates maintenance
priorities with the XO of his supported battalion, the SPO maintenance officer and the brigade S4 must recommend and
coordinate maintenance priorities with the BCT XO. These priorities should be reviewed in the brigade maintenance meeting
to ensure that all units understand and comply with the BCT commander’s guidance, ensuring unity of effort among the
maintainers of the BCT.
Track and investigate class IX high-priority requisitions. One of the SPO maintenance officer’s most important responsibilities
is to track critical repair parts for the BCT. Units that have trouble with parts research and tracking in the NTC tactical
environment frequently look back to an echelons-above-brigade capability to track parts. Units tend not to prioritize the
maintenance officer’s efforts, which causes many hours to be spent expediting the order of a part for a noncritical combat
system. The BCT XO, in conjunction with the BSB SPO, must identify the roles of maintenance managers at each level in the
research of critical repair parts so that the maintenance officer can focus on the critical parts that will directly affect
the BCT’s ability to accomplish its mission. The chart at left depicts a recommendation for the responsibilities of each
maintenance manager in the heavy BCT.
Provide recommendations to the BCT S4 on how to redistribute FSC maintenance
assets within the BCT. Because maneuver commanders have
their own FSCs, they tend to hold on to their assets. As a result, the BSB commander cannot directly influence the maintenance posture
of the BCT because the BSB’s FMC does not have a robust reinforcing support capability. Therefore, the maintenance officer should
monitor FSC workloads and be ready to recommend through the BCT S4 to the BCT XO the reallocation of FSC maintenance elements if
necessary. Maneuver units must transmit combat slants (the number of systems on hand versus the number of systems fully mission
capable) and their maintenance status electronically to the brigade S4 and BSB SPO. This allows the SPO to identify problems
quickly and allocate resources more efficiently. FBCB2 also provides map graphics that portray unit locations, grid coordinates,
and terrain features so that the SPO can track maintenance on the battlefield.
conduct field maintenance on an M577
command post tracked vehicle during a rotation
at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin,
Brigade Maintenance Meeting
The single most important tool in the heavy BCT for identifying
and overcoming maintenance issues is a regular maintenance
meeting. The goal of the maintenance meeting is to provide
a clear picture of the BCT’s current maintenance posture
and to set the conditions needed to produce maximum combat
power for the next mission. Several factors determine how
effective a BCT’s maintenance meeting will be, but
none has a more positive effect than the attendance and active
participation of the BCT’s leaders. If maintenance
is a priority to the BCT leaders, it will become a priority
to the units within the brigade.
Here are some factors that must be considered in order for the maintenance
meeting to run efficiently.
Time. Mission, enemy, terrain and weather, troops
and support available, time available, and civil considerations (METT–TC)
will always drive the time of the maintenance meeting. However, the time
must be set according
to the established supply and maintenance data processing windows so that
meeting participants have the most current 026 report possible. Units should
try to use a 026 printout that is less than 8 hours old. The meeting also
should conclude so that enough time is available to request that critical
class IX parts be placed on the evening LOGPAC from the sustainment brigade.
Location. Establish a standard meeting location. This will alleviate confusion
if communication breaks down. Units still will know where and, generally,
when the meeting will occur. Having the meeting where the unit attendees
can conduct other business, such as in the brigade support area, will help
maximize the time that task force maintenance managers have to build combat
Agenda. Have a posted agenda that supports the
BCT commander’s priorities
for the next missions and focuses on building combat power. This will center
the meeting’s purpose. By briefing the administrative data for all
attendees at the start of the meeting and allowing units to leave after briefing
their task force status, critical players will have more time to build combat
power. The information the attendees will be expected to brief, such as current
slants, expected slants, and the number of circle X systems, should be specified
on the agenda. ("Circle X" are systems that are not mission capable
according to the technical manual but are placed
temporarily in a partially mission capable status by the commander for
a specific mission or event.) A BCT sustainment meeting that includes representatives
of other logistics commodity areas, such as combat health support and supply
managers, should be conducted in conjunction with the maintenance meeting.
The chart at right is an agenda that has been effective for units deployed
to the NTC.
Attendees. The BCT XO should chair all maintenance
meetings in order to be the “hammer” and ensure the meeting runs efficiently. As chairman,
he speaks with the commander’s authority and can enforce standards
on those units that either do not attend the meeting or are unprepared to
their status. He can provide direct feedback to the BCT commander on the
BCT’s combat readiness.
Another key player is the BSB SPO, who is responsible for taking action on
any shortcomings that surface during the meeting. Other required attendees
should include the maintenance officer, a materiel management center representative
(if available from the sustainment brigade), the brigade S–4 or his
representative, each battalion or task force XO or shop officer, the separate
company XO or motor sergeants, the SSA officer
in charge, the BSB shop officer, the logistics assistance officer, the
combat service support automation management officer, and a BCT Army Oil
Once the framework for a successful meeting has been set, direct support
(DS) maintenance managers must not waste the time of the supported units
by coming to the meeting unprepared. To ensure that everyone is prepared,
a pre-maintenance meeting should be conducted by the maintenance officer,
materiel management center representative, shop officers, and SSA officer.
The following actions should
be taken during this meeting: a through scrub of the 026 printout; update
of the status on the nonstockage list of parts required; and identification
of critical class IX awaiting pickup, required class IX available on the
authorized stockage list, jobs requiring a DS workorder or DS support,
and units that may require organizational maintenance reinforcement. The
for the pre-maintenance meeting is to synchronize DS efforts and resolve
issues before the BCT maintenance meeting.
The final “must have” during the brigade maintenance meeting
is a contract. A contract, simply put, is a closed-loop reporting system.
Contracts should specify who will take specific actions, when those actions
will be completed, and who will report their
status. Contracts should be tracked and briefed by the SPO or maintenance
officer. Tracking contracts during the maintenance meeting, reviewing the
responsibilities of personnel before they depart, and closing out contracts
before and during follow-on maintenance meetings are fundamental to the success
of the maintenance mission. Not every issue should be considered a contract—only
those requiring actions over and above normal,
Thoughtful preparation for maintenance management will pay dividends during
a deployment, whether it is to the desert of Fort Irwin or Baghdad. Commanders
should encourage the development of their subordinates and train them in
the fundamentals of maintenance management so that they have confidence
in themselves and their equipment. Commanders should ask themselves, “Would
I stake my life right now on the condition of my equipment?” If the
answer is anything other than an immediate “yes,” then improvements
can and must be made within their formations.
Captain Eric A. McCoy is assigned to the Army Student Detachment while he
completes studies at Georgetown University. When he wrote this article, he
was the Brigade Combat Team Maintenance Trainer for the National Training
Center at Fort Irwin, California. He holds a B.S. degree in mental health
from Morgan State University and an M.S. degree in administration from Central
Michigan University. He is a graduate of the Ordnance Officer Basic Course
and the Combined Logistics Captains Career Course.