Kosovo Bound

by Captain Robert R. Rigsby

Commanding a maintenance company on a real-world deployment proved to be very different from the author's previous command experience.

    After serving as a company commander for 13 months and participating in several rotations through the Combined Arms Training Center (CATC) in Grafenwoehr, Germany, and the Combat Maneuver Training Center (CMTC) in Hohenfels, Germany, supporting the 1st Armored Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team (BCT), I thought I had some idea of what it took to command a company on a mission. I quickly learned how much my perspective would change when I was selected to command a forward support battalion (FSB) maintenance company during a real-world deployment to Kosovo as part of Kosovo Peacekeeping Force (KFOR) 2A. Peace support operations in Kosovo would require far more than providing direct support maintenance to a BCT. In Kosovo, my company would assume responsibility not only for more customers and more equipment but also for unique missions requiring additional capabilities. No longer could we be satisfied with the way we had provided mission support in the past. We would have to adjust our attitudes if we wanted to succeed.

Predeployment Activities

    Bravo Company, 501st FSB, 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division, received a warning order in the spring of 1999 to be prepared for possible deployment to Kosovo to support Task Force Falcon. The company readjusted its focus from high-intensity conflict mission support to peace-enforcement operations support.

    Before beginning any task-force-level training, Bravo Company supported the battalion-supervised individual readiness training (IRT) lanes set up at the Friedberg Training Area and the Ray Barracks Kaserne in Germany. The IRT consisted of several tasks that represented what we would encounter in Kosovo. Every soldier had to show a high level of proficiency in each task before he deployed. Results varied, and the level of difficulty was such that soldiers within the company suffered through repeated "no-goes," which meant extensive retraining.

    The company furthered its train-up by providing gunnery support to the 1st Brigade Combat Team at the CATC in March 2000. During that time, the company successfully integrated personnel from the division's 123d Main Support Battalion (MSB). This time was used to improve weapons qualification at both the individual and crew-served levels and to prepare the company for the upcoming mission rehearsal exercise (MRE) at the CMTC in Hohenfels.

    The purpose of the MRE was to replicate what the task force and, in particular, its maintenance company would experience while in Kosovo. The MRE presented several scenarios in which we would operate while managing day-to-day direct support maintenance mission requirements. The scenarios included convoy operations; LOGPAC [logistics package] escort with recovery assets; split-based operations; reaction to sniper attacks, a known minefield, an ambush, and an unauthorized checkpoint; and support of medical and dental civilian action program missions. The task force commander wanted to ensure that we would not experience something for the first time in Kosovo; instead, we would experience it in a forgiving training environment like Hohenfels.

    Following its return from Hohenfels, the company quickly set about preparing its soldiers for deployment. This included the coordination of household goods and personally owned vehicle storage, additional weapons qualification, personnel deployment processing, deployment briefings, and other activities. There was also a tremendous amount of work involved in preparing the company's equipment for deployment. Packing CONEXs and performing vehicle preventive maintenance checks and services were high priorities during the workday. Hand receipts had to be split and accountability established for property that was remaining behind during the deployment.

Organizing for Success

    During deployment, the maintenance company's mission would be to provide direct support maintenance at Camps Montieth and Bondsteel in Kosovo and Camp Able Sentry in Macedonia in support of Multinational Brigade (East) peace-support operations while maintaining the ability to transition to high-intensity conflict at a moment's notice. This meant that the support we would provide would be very different from doctrine. We needed not only more personnel but also capabilities not normally found in a divisional FSB maintenance company.

    Bravo Company became a special hybrid company composed of additional personnel and capabilities. Habitual support relationships were combined with an area support requirement that represented a twofold increase in customers. The company had to support not only the standard six battalions and associated separate companies of a brigade combat team but also an additional infantry battalion from a continental United States (CONUS) installation, an additional military police battalion, various civil affairs units, several Army National Guard and Army Reserve units, and a mobile surgical hospital. With the exception of a four-person maintenance support team (MST) that supported the CONUS infantry battalion, none of the units came with a direct support capability.

    In addition, the variety of supported equipment taxed the experience level of the mechanics and inspectors of Bravo Company. Special engineer paving equipment, family of medium tactical vehicles trucks, the small unit support vehicle, tactical quiet generators, M224 60-millimeter lightweight company mortars, an M119 105-millimeter towed howitzer, and M1114 up-armored, high-mobility, multipurpose wheeled vehicles (UAHMMWVs) combined to make things interesting as we adjusted to the additional workload.

Split-Based Operations

    Bravo Company was split among four locations while deployed. The company headquarters was established at Camp Bondsteel and given approximately half of the company's assets. Separate maintenance support detachments were established at Camp Montieth and Camp Able Sentry. In addition, a rear detachment was established at our home station in Friedberg, Germany, to support the brigade's remaining armor battalion as it conducted rear detachment operations and provided gunnery support to the CATC and MRE support for the KFOR 2B rotation at Hohenfels.

    Each location's mission was tailored according to its customers' needs. This tailoring resulted in the establishment of a Standard Army Maintenance System-1 capability at three separate maintenance control sections at Camp Bondsteel, Camp Monteith, and Friedberg. The Camp Bondsteel maintenance control section supported the 2-37th Armor MST (-) remaining at Camp Able Sentry. The 16th Engineer Battalion MST and the 2-3d Field Artillery MST deployed to the same area as the battalion headquarters of their habitually supported customers.

    Determining where to place the limited assets located in the base shops was difficult. We gave priority to the locations our higher headquarters had determined to be critical. Therefore, one of the two available armament direct support electrical systems test sets (DESESTs) was located at Camp Bondsteel to support the supply support activity's reparable exchange program, and the other was placed at Camp Montieth to support the armor task force. The missile team was located at Camp Montieth with the mechanized infantry task force, while the artillery and engineer MSTs were split to provide support at both Camp Bondsteel and Camp Montieth.

    It was easy to split personnel in the Engineer, Service and Recovery, Electronic Light Maintenance, and Armament Sections among all four locations. The difficulty came when determining where to put the equipment. After much thought, we decided to place critical capabilities and equipment such as the halon recharge/service kit, the air-conditioning refrigerant management system, the gas-metal arc welder, fuel and electrical reparable exchange assemblies, the battery shop, and the majority of the recovery assets at Camp Bondsteel. The missile-repair capabilities were placed at Camp Montieth. A DESEST, a Single-Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System and other communications equipment and repair capabilities, and an arc welding trailer were located at each camp. Finally, both Camps Bondsteel and Montieth had a DESEST for the UAHMMWV.

    Because it was remotely located and had more customers with equipment not usually associated with a brigade combat team, Bravo Company needed extra capabilities and assets. The biggest asset it received from the 123d MSB was a Fuel and Electrical Section. This four-soldier section and its automotive, generator, and starter test stand contributed significantly to the maintenance company's mission and supported the battalion's cost-avoidance efforts by returning reparable exchange items to the task force supply support activity for reissue to other task force units. In the first 150 days of deployment, this section posted a total cost avoidance of $325,000. Bravo Company also was able to get an allied trades specialist from the MSB. While this soldier did not deploy with any special allied trade equipment, he was able to support the company maintenance effort by working with the Aviation and Support Battalion's Allied Trades Section and with Brown & Root Services in their Allied Trades Department. The maintenance company also was able to get additional special tools and equipment to use while deployed.

Tech-1 Scan Tool

    Bravo Company quickly identified a maintenance capability shortfall in Kosovo. Because of the large number of M1114 UAHMMWVs at Camps Bonsteel and Montieth, the need for special tools and equipment to diagnose and repair faults in those vehicles soon became apparent. To solve one of the major problems with the transmissions, the unit purchased two Tech-1 scanners to isolate and diagnose faults in the M1114's 4L80-E transmissions.

    The Tech-1 is a lightweight, handheld, digitized scanner with LED (light-emitting diode) read-out and a menu-driven program that can monitor several functions simultaneously within the 4L80-E transmission. The scanner monitors the transmission while it is operating rather than relying on data stored within the transmission's computer. The Tech-1 substantially reduced the number of transmissions replaced. The company was able to adjust faulty transmissions or replace inexpensive parts rather than entire major assemblies.

Brown & Root Maintenance Capabilities

    Brown & Root Services was a combat service support multiplier to Task Force Falcon. It provided maintenance support from the organizational level to the general support level. Brown & Root has the equivalent of two maintenance companies' worth of personnel, as well as experience in operating in Kosovo and Macedonia. Brown & Root provides on-site support to two maintenance facilities in Kosovo (one located at Ferizaj near Camp Bondsteel and the other at Gnjilane near Camp Montieth) so the units can focus on their own missions and force protection. At the organizational level, Brown & Root performs both scheduled and unscheduled maintenance for all units. This coverage has been very beneficial to several units that have no organic maintenance assets in theater. For Bravo Company, Brown & Root serviced vehicles and replaced or repaired tires. This support freed up the company's organizational mechanics to focus on unscheduled maintenance required by the operating tempo of certain sections in the battalion.

    While it is possible for Brown & Root to conduct direct support maintenance, the 501st FSB's policy was to evacuate jobs only when our backlog prevented timely repair and the result would impact a Task Force Falcon unit's mission. Brown & Root conducted various general support maintenance efforts. Most notably, Brown & Root repaired several M1114 UAHMMWV frames after receiving approval from the Army Materiel Command (AMC) to perform the maintenance.

Brown & Root Training Program

    During a guided tour through the Brown & Root maintenance facilities in Ferizaj, we noticed that a number of military retirees with maintenance experience were working there. It soon became apparent that their level of maintenance experience far exceeded that of the young soldiers in our maintenance company. When we discovered that Brown & Root had a training program for local national hires, we asked if the program could be tailored to fit the training needs of the Bravo Company's mechanics. Brown & Root agreed to provide our soldiers hands-on training in machining, welding, and fabrication; inspection procedures; and light and heavy wheeled vehicle maintenance.

    Both parties benefited from this training experience. Bravo Company soldiers became better trained mechanics and more experienced inspectors, and the Aviation Support Battalion's Allied Trades Section had an opportunity to hone its skills as well. Each 2-week training period provided experience that improved the overall level of each soldier's proficiency in his military occupational specialty. In return, Brown & Root received 2 weeks of production support from each team of soldiers that rotated through the program.

Additional Logistics Support

    The 501st FSB became a much larger organization when it deployed to Kosovo. In addition to the 123d MSB and a corps support battalion's transportation slices falling under the FSB, several organizations had representatives in country to support the task force. We soon discovered that, without repair parts or technical assistance in diagnosing and repairing faults, Bravo Company would have a difficult time supporting the task force. The organizations that could provide the most assistance included a Defense Logistics Agency (DLA)-Europe Contingency Support Team (DCST), an AMC logistics support element (LSE), and several Oshkosh Truck Corporation field service representatives.

    Because DLA and AMC could track a repair part or special tool anywhere in the world and get it released for immediate shipment to Task Force Falcon while providing on-site technical expertise support, Bravo Company was able to maintain task force fleets at higher than Department of the Army averages. The DCST provided support to the company through a repair parts materiel management element in the FSB Administrative and Logistics Operations Center at Camp Bondsteel. The DCST's forward presence and ability to direct the 4.1 million items under DLA management wherever they were needed enabled it to provide specialized logistics service to Task Force Falcon.

    The AMC LSE-Kosovo added to the logistics effort by integrating wholesale-level logistics support for the task force. On-site logistics assistance representatives from AMC provided the maintenance company with the necessary expertise in the field to find solutions to problems at the local level. AMC LSE-Kosovo is organized to support all task force equipment, but the ground combat team supporting automotive/track and armament systems and the communications/military intelligence team supporting satellite communications, mobile subscriber equipment, and intelligence and electronics warfare were critical to the company's success. In Kosovo, logistics assistance representatives provided an additional level of expertise that was just a phone call away.

    Oshkosh provided on-site support for all Task Force Falcon tracked fleets, including the M1 Abrams main battle tank; the M2 Bradley fighting vehicle; heavy, expanded-mobility tactical trucks; palletized load systems; super heavy equipment transporters; the engineer fleet (consisting of M9 armored combat earthmovers, armored vehicle launch bridges, and M88 recovery vehicles), and the M113 family of tracked vehicles. Oshkosh's assistance in providing technical expertise and repair parts support resulted in a substantial cost avoidance and had a positive impact on fleet readiness.

These two pictures depicts Bravo Company soldiers bringing order to the scrap metal pile.

Bravo Company soldiers bring order to the scrap metal pile.

These two pictures depicts Bravo Company soldiers bringing order to the scrap metal pile.

Recovery Operations

    In Kosovo, Bravo Company was responsible for clearing the main supply routes and providing back-up recovery support throughout its area of responsibility. Bravo Company accomplished this mission with four M984 tactical, 8-by-8 heavy expanded mobility wreckers, and one M88 medium recovery vehicle at Camp Bondsteel and two M984s at Camp Montieth. Recovery taskings flowed through Task Force Falcon to the FSB operations center, where the S2/3 conducted a mission analysis and passed the tasking to Bravo Company. Following an in-depth intelligence update briefing from the S2/3, the tasked recovery team was dispatched.

    Wreckers were dispatched from either Camp Bondsteel or Camp Montieth, depending on which camp was closer to the site of the recovery mission. A wrecker and crew were always on standby and were expected to move out not later than 30 minutes after the battalion was notified of a recovery mission requirement. Each recovery operation required a supporting gun truck as an escort vehicle.

Operation Junkyard Dog

    Midway through the deployment, the maintenance company was tasked to process a "mountain" of scrap metal. The byproducts of three KFOR rotations had been stored at one end of Camp Bondsteel and easily could have filled a 100-by-50- by-8-yard area. It took 10 soldiers working in concert with a forklift operator and truck driver from the supply and transport company 6 weeks to identify, tag, and dispose of repair parts and scrap metal through the supply support activity or a local contractor. The scrap metal they processed exceeded 500 tons and yielded $481,000 worth of recovered repair parts.

Patrol Support

    Soldiers from the maintenance company had the opportunity to participate in urban patrols and checkpoint operations with the 1-36th Infantry Battalion based at Camp Montieth. Volunteers went out into the sector or manned checkpoints with 1-36th soldiers so they could experience the same things the infantry soldiers encountered. Each weeklong patrol was planned carefully, and our soldiers received pre-patrol training that included rules of engagement and actions to take when confronted with several scenarios. The patrols were a success and cemented our relationship with the supported units.

British Soldier Sponsorship

    Personnel from several other countries came into Camp Bondsteel daily, and this provided yet another opportunity for our company to broaden its knowledge base. We coordinated with the British Equipment Support Squadron and the Commando Logistic Regiment located outside of Pristina to establish a British Soldier Sponsorship Program. Each week, two to five British soldiers came to Camp Bondsteel and joined the company for a week. Soldiers representing various military occupational specialties were linked with their American counterparts so they could exchange knowledge about their respective organizations. In addition, our unit traveled to the British base camp to participate in their "Tradesman's Challenge." This event included a sports competition, a tradesman's test, and an endurance exercise. The event was somewhat lopsided in that we did well at our American sports of basketball and volleyball while the Brits did well in the tradesman's test and endurance exercise. The Tradesman's Challenge was the capstone event in our exchange program and enhanced our friendship with the British logisticians.

A Bravo Compnay soldier, with the assistance of an interpreter, provides instruction to TMK personnel. A Bravo Company soldier, with the assistance of an interpreter, provides instruction to TMK personnel.

Kosovo Protection Corps Maintenance Training

    Bravo Company formed a partnership with soldiers from 106th Logistics Battalion, which is part of the Kosovo Protection Corps (referred to as the "TMK," which stands for the Albanian term, "Trupate Mbrojtjes Se Kosoves"). The purpose of the partnership was to give the TMK soldiers a better understanding of how the U.S. Army's echelons of maintenance work. Over a 4-week period, several TMK soldiers spent approximately 4 hours a week learning the different echelons of maintenance within the U.S. Army and the functions and capabilities of a direct support maintenance company. This partnership built a better understanding of the U.S. Army's maintenance program for the TMK soldiers and encouraged interaction between Bravo Company and TMK soldiers.

An American soldier hands out shoes during a school visit in Gorance, Kosovo.

An American soldier hands out shoes during a school visit in Gorance, Kosovo.

 

Medical and Dental Support

    The maintenance company was tasked to provide a two- to six-soldier security detail with crew-served weapons to accompany the 501st FSB's C Company on its weekly medical and dental civil action program (MEDCAP and DENCAP) visits to the surrounding towns. The company assisted a total of 53 MEDCAPs and DENCAPs during its deployment. The tradeoff for the maintenance company was the opportunity for our soldiers to see some of the surrounding towns and to interact with the local people.

    Toward the end of the deployment, the maintenance company used these visits as an opportunity to distribute some of the 4,500 pairs of shoes sent by volunteers in the United States. The humanitarian support provided during these visits reinforced for our soldiers the purposes of the 6-month deployment while enabling us to portray the American soldier as a humanitarian to the local Kosovar Albanian and Serb populations.

    Bravo Company had to assume a much greater mission responsibility while deployed to Kosovo. Whether it was supporting the supply and transport company's LOGPAC and Prisitina fuel missions or the medical company's MEDCAPs and DENCAPs, patrolling with the 1-36th Infantry Battalion, reducing scrap metal piles, training with Brown & Root, handing out shoes during school sponsorship visits, or standing guard at night, the company met its expanded role and responsibilities in Kosovo time and time again. We learned during this deployment that flexibility and anticipation are critical to a maintenance company's success during peacekeeping operations such as Operation Joint Guardian.  ALOG

    Captain Robert R. Rigsby is assigned to the Division Support Command, 1st Armored Division, in Wiesbaden, Germany. He has a bachelor's degree in geography from the University of South Alabama and currently is pursuing a master's degree in international relations. He has completed the Infantry Officer Basic, Ordnance Branch Qualification, and Combined Logistics Officers Advanced Courses and the Combined Arms and Services Staff School.

    The author thanks Chief Warrant Officer (W-3) Michael W. Hurrell for his assistance in writing this article.