A Logistics-Focused NTC Rotation

by Major Eric E. Smith

Force XXI combat service support concepts and unit redesigns recently received a realistic evaluation at the National Training Center.

Force XXI combat service support concepts and unit redesigns recently received a realistic evaluation at the National Training Center.

The Army's combat service support (CSS) community recently made significant progress in evaluating its emerging Force XXI CSS doctrine and division support command (DISCOM) redesign during an exercise at the National Training Center (NTC) at Fort Irwin, California. The exercise, NTC 99-05, was designed to challenge and stress the Force XXI CSS units while they supported a heavy/light maneuver force in conflict with the NTC's Krasnovian Army.

So what was so different about this rotation? To answer that question, you have to understand that most unit redesigns are tested and evaluated in simulations, where the resolution of issues facing lower-echelon units is vague and logistics dilemmas often are "magically" repaired by exercise gurus who have access to large piles of cached supplies. By contrast, the NTC subjects units to a stressful and realistic scenario that challenges leaders at all echelons to think through a multitude of problems, and resupply does not magically "happen" at the NTC. NTC 99-05, unlike other NTC rotations, focused on the logistics issues affecting Force XXI.

Previous Force XXI Exercises

In March 1997, the Army conducted an event similar to NTC 99-05: an advanced warfighting experiment (AWE) at the NTC featuring a brigade task force reconfigured and equipped with Force XXI's futuristic technologies. That rotation demonstrated the capabilities of many new warfighting systems and the tremendous potential offered by using advanced technologies to support battlefield tactical operations. But while the rotation showed a great deal of promise for the military as a whole, the performance of the CSS units was rather bland and inconclusive.

The Army next conducted the follow-on phase of Force XXI development, the Division AWE, which focused on division-level operations on a futuristic, computerized simulation battlefield.

An NTC Rotation Focused on Logistics

After the task force and division AWE's, the Army's Combined Arms Support Command (CASCOM), at Fort Lee, Virginia, and the 4th Infantry Division (Mechanized), headquartered at Fort Hood, Texas, determined that there were several issues affecting the new designs that had to be resolved before they would be ready for fielding in 2000. In response, the 4th Infantry Division's commander, Major General Scott Wallace, donated one of his NTC rotations to assist the CSS community in improving the Force XXI CSS design. Thus was born NTC 99-05, the Logistics-Focused NTC Rotation.

The 4th Infantry Division requested that CASCOM assist in conducting the rotation, and the CASCOM commanding general, Major General Daniel Brown, began allocating resources to make the exercise a success. CASCOM provided support in three areas: defining Force XXI CSS concepts; providing subject-matter experts to observe the rotation; and coordinating for the availability of materiel enabling systems and monitoring their performance. To assist in this effort, CASCOM solicited the expertise of the Army Training and Doctrine Command Analysis Center at Fort Lee and the Operational Test and Evaluation Command, Alexandria, Virginia.

NTC 99-05's main participant was the 1st Brigade Combat Team (BCT) of the 4th Infantry Division. The 1st BCT's subordinate units included three heavy ground battalions (two armor and one mechanized infantry), a light infantry battalion [from the 25th Infantry Division (Light), headquartered at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii], an engineer battalion, an artillery battalion, a utility helicopter battalion, a forward support battalion (FSB), and representative slices of the division base. The division also deployed parts of its DISCOM sustainment cell and division and aviation support battalions. The 164th Corps Support Group (U.S. Army Reserve) provided echelons-above-division support. The CSS focal point of the rotation was the FSB, which was reorganized with a base support company, supporting units located in the brigade rear area; three forward support companies (FSC's), each supporting a ground maneuver task force; a forward support medical company; and a headquarters and headquarters company.

Objectives and Definitions of Success

In preparing for NTC 99-05, the 4th Infantry Division developed specific CSS objectives and definitions of success for an FSB supporting a BCT. The CSS objectives for the rotation were to—

Refine and mature CSS support concepts.
Exercise limited enabling and experimental systems.
Exercise distribution management and gain insights on a distribution-based logistics system.
Exercise force protection over extended lines of communication.
Refine the areas of operation and the boundaries of the 1st BCT and the 4th Infantry Division.
Exercise the Army Battle Command System (operating without the Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below [FBCB2] system).
Develop and exercise tactics, techniques, and procedures for contractors on the battlefield.
Provide an opportunity for documenting requirements for the changes in the training base.
The 4th FSB's definitions for a successful rotation were to—
Ensure that the 1st BCT has sufficient combat power to cross the line of departure as required by NTC guidelines.
Ensure that the 4th FSB maintains sufficient CSS combat power to sustain the 1st BCT until the end of the mission.
Ensure that CSS units maintain a high degree of survivability until EOM.

CASCOM's Mission

In addition to producing definitions of concepts and enablers, CASCOM assisted the 4th Infantry Division and the NTC in developing and executing the rotation's tactical scenario. Before the rotation, CASCOM developed 16 CSS vignettes, or dilemmas, designed to set the stage for specific events during the rotation. The division used the vignettes to produce the rotation scenario, while NTC used them during the rotation to inject difficult situations to which the division's leaders would have to respond.

To support its subject-matter experts in observing and collecting data during the rotation, CASCOM developed a data collection and management plan. The process began by defining 22 CSS concepts and developing evaluation questions for each. The final product consisted of 321 questions that addressed the functioning of Force XXI CSS concepts, 8 materiel enabling systems, and 5 experimental systems.

Overall Comments on the Rotation

The exercise was very successful in assessing the Force XXI CSS concepts "in the dirt." Some of the findings confirmed pre-rotation intuitive thoughts, but they also demonstrated that there is still work to be done. The rotation definitely has caused my colleagues at CASCOM and me to focus our attention on specific areas. Some general thoughts about the exercise include the following—
Through this exercise, we began to see the power of situational awareness and the ability of the enabling systems to increase combat power.
We saw the potential of the Force XXI CSS concepts to maximize limited resources.
The exercise demonstrated the need to field all of the enabling systems.
We observed that some refinements are needed to tactics, techniques, and procedures, field manuals, and standing operating procedures, especially in the areas of direct support relationships, movement control, and security.
The base support company, engineer maintenance support, and FSC support operations officer position still need some redesign work.

Initial Insights

At the conclusion of the exercise, we developed the following conclusions and insights. Our final report will contain more detailed findings and conclusions.

Forward support company. All commanders (both combat and CSS) agree that the FSC is a responsive and extremely useful organization. Unity of command exists under the Force XXI CSS force structure, but only if the FSC remains under the control of the FSB.

Each FSC needs a support operations officer and section.

Maintenance. The forward repair system-heavy (FRS-H) and the Electronic Tech Manual-Interface (ETM-I) enhance the combat repair team's ability to build and sustain combat power forward on the battlefield. By combining organizational and direct support maintenance, supported by outstanding performances by enabling and experimental systems (FRS-H and ETM-I), the BCT maintained an average operational readiness rate and combat power rates consistent with the last 15 rotations at the NTC. The BCT always crossed the line of departure above the minimum readiness rate required by the NTC.

Force XXI combat repair teams possess a tremendous advantage over the Army of Excellence maintenance support teams because of their organic command and control elements. They are effective in combined organizational and direct support maintenance in reducing not-mission-capable times for combat systems. Combat repair teams demonstrated the capability to execute the concept of replace forward/repair rear. The combat repair teams also repaired systems in forward areas when repair parts were available. The personnel and military occupational specialty structure in the combat repair teams appears to need work to meet unit requirements; we need to verify the numbers of organizational versus direct support mechanics.

Doctrine. Currently, the draft Force XXI manuals need further refinement to execute the new force design adequately. Lessons learned from this rotation and the associated train-up will assist in this effort.

To provide responsive support to the engineer battalion, brigade reconnaissance troop, and brigade headquarters and headquarters company, the 4th Infantry Division recommended placing a support area forward on the battlefield. This concept, called the brigade forward support area, should be reviewed for possible refinement to provide more responsive support to forward units.

Enabling and experimental systems. The palletized loading system (PLS) and load handling system (LHS) greatly reduce the need for load handling and materials-handling equipment and further increase the speed at which sustainment flows through the distribution pipeline.

The mobile expandable container system facilitates the rapid establishment of repair parts supply operations by providing an expandable shelter that can be set up and torn down while being transported by the PLS/LHS.

The ETM-I reduces the time needed to transmit preventive maintenance checks and services (PMCS) data and increases the accuracy rates of the PMCS data being entered into the Unit Level Logistics System (ULLS).

The armored medical evacuation vehicle (AMEV) proved to be an effective platform for the BCT commander to use when evacuating casualties. The AMEV uses a Bradley fighting vehicle chassis and is a tremendous improvement over the M113 armored personnel carrier chassis ambulance.

The Combat Service Support Control System (CSSCS) demonstrated its potential to serve as a decision support tool for CSS commanders and logistics planners. A common operating picture is critical to the success of Force XXI CSS. During the rotation, CSSCS received feeds from two Standard Army Management Information Systems (STAMIS's), the Standard Army Maintenance System (SAMS) and the Standard Army Retail Supply System (SARSS). However, a lack of feeds from the FBCB2 system resulted in a reduced common operating picture because unit data and information were input manually. This made anticipatory logistics and the surging of logistics support very difficult.

Continuing Force XXI Actions

As the results of NTC Rotation 99-05 are studied and changes considered and implemented, the Force XXI CSS development process will continue. There will be modifications to selected structure designs, such as the base support company and the engineer support platoon, and there will be significant improvements to the 63-series field manuals for DISCOM subordinate units. The 4th Infantry Division will complete its conversion to the Force XXI design in fiscal year 2000. The division then will participate in a capstone exercise in fiscal year 2001. Finally, the 1st Cavalry Division, at Fort Hood, is scheduled to convert to Force XXI in fiscal year 2002, followed by III Corps in fiscal year 2004.

The Logistics-Focused NTC Rotation represents one more step forward in the process of developing, evaluating, and refining Force XXI CSS doctrine and structures. Its results offer encouragement that the Army envisioned in Force XXI will indeed have the support needed to ensure dominance on the battlefield. ALOG

Major Eric E. Smith is assigned to the Army Combined Arms Support Command`s (CASCOM's) Combat Service Support Battle Lab at Fort Lee, Virginia. He served as CASCOM's project officer for NTC Rotation 99-05. An aircraft maintenance officer, he is a graduate of the Army Command and General Staff College and the Support Operations Course and currently is pursuing a master's degree from Florida Institute of Technology.