From bases in the United States, Europe, South Korea, and Southwest Asia, seven Army Field Support Brigades (AFSBs) provide the full spectrum of Army Sustainment Command (ASC) logistics support to warfighters around the globe. By integrating and synchronizing acquisition, logistics, and technology at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels, the brigades enable full mission readiness for all combat units.
The AFSB concept began in ASC shortly after 9/11, as a component of what then was called the Army Field Support Command. That transitioned into ASC in October 2006, a subordinate of the Army Materiel Command (AMC) with a mandate to become the Army’s logistics integrator and AMC’s operational arm for contingency and sustainment support of American fighting forces worldwide.
Officially, the ASC mission is to synchronize distribution and sustainment of materiel to and from the field for the Materiel Enterprise in support of the warfighter. On order, execute LOGCAP.
The AFSBs, born in war to support those in combat, have become essential to that mission and ARFORGEN actions.
“The AFSBs are truly the operational arm of the Army Materiel Command,” said Maj. Gen. Yves J. Fontaine, ASC’s commanding general. “They are the direct link for AMC to the Soldier and are our single face to the field for Army sustainment. As the operational arm, the AFSBs provide linkage from the requirements of an operational commander to the industrial sustainment capabilities of AMC and the Materiel Enterprise.
“Positioned globally, the seven AFSBs execute Army programs and field-level sustainment capabilities,” he said. “For instance, our two AFSBs operating in the CENTCOM AO [Central Command Area of Operations] provide direct theater support missions ranging from sustaining and accounting for Theater-Provided Equipment [TPE] to reconstitution and unit set configuration of Army Prepositioned Stocks [APS] to repairing equipment for theater sustainment missions to integrating the fielding of equipment to units.”
It is a two-way street, according to Carl J. Cartwright, ASC’s executive director for Field
Support Operations, not only ensuring those training for future deployment and those in theater have what they need when and where they need it, but also giving the warfighter a way to express feedback and suggestions to which the Army can respond.
“The AFSBs have command and control of all AMC/ASC activities located within their footprint, with a responsibility to support the warfighter,” Cartwright said. “On a daily basis, they are responsible for mission execution, to include the synchronization and coordination of the Life Cycle Management Commands [LCMCs], what the ASAALT [Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology] and PMs [program managers] bring to the field in new equipment, and oversee contracted support for the services we provide. They also are a conduit back to headquarters to bring us issues above their level to resolve so we can engage AMC and other strategic partners or go to the Department [of the Army] with policy issues.”
Each AFSB has its own, primarily geographically dictated, missions and operations.
The 401st AFSB, originally headquartered in Qatar, has been forward positioned in Afghanistan to provide support and sustainment in-theater for the surge. The brigade is supported by two battalions – one in Bagram, one in Kandahar – and seven logistics task forces, which operate sustainment activities at outlying forward operating bases (FOBs) and are responsible for overseeing 29 contractor-led maintenance support teams, establishing the equipment retrograde process and maintaining theater-provided equipment as well as provide LOGCAP.
The 402nd is headquartered in Iraq, with four battalions positioned in Iraq, Kuwait, and Qatar. As executors of the drawdown, they have been receiving equipment from departing units – relieving them of accountability – and working with the LCMC to either move equipment back to CONUS for Reset, relocate it to Kuwait for prepositioned stocks, or repair it at various facilities throughout the Middle East for use in Afghanistan surge efforts. The 402nd also is involved in the transfer of about 52,000 pieces of equipment to the Iraqis as part of the USETTI (U.S. Equipment Transfer To Iraq) mission. They also provide command and control for LOGCAP.
The 403rd, stationed in South Korea, is responsible for Korea, Japan, Guam, Saipan, and Okinawa, providing field support to the Eighth Army and maintaining the Army Prepositioned Stock 4 account and equipment stored in Japan, including one of two APS watercraft fleets (the other is with the 402nd). As a result of an agreement signed with South Korea two years ago, they also are retrograding excess ammunition from Korea to CONUS.
The 404th is a CONUS brigade, based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., and responsible for the western United States, including Alaska and Hawaii. It provides ARFORGEN support to the warfighter, including field-level Reset for units returning home from deployment, left behind equipment support when units deploy, lateral transfer to other sites, and pre-deployment training equipment at sites, which includes providing equipment for training that is not part of a unit’s normal set. They also work daily readiness issues with units to maintain operational ready rates above 90 percent.
The 405th is operating in Europe and, like the 403rd, is a theater-focused brigade, providing support to the Seventh Army, APS 2 out of Italy and maintaining ARFORGEN responsibility for Reset for deployed units returning to European home bases. The three battalions under that brigade are responsible for the entire European Command AOR, as well as overseeing support for any activities in the new African Command.
The 406th at Fort Bragg, N.C., is the only AFSB with an APS (Army Prepositioned Stock) Afloat mission, executed out of Charleston, S.C. The APS equipment set is returned to Charleston every 24 to 30 months to undergo a 109-day process to repair the equipment for another 24- to 30-month deployment. This brigade also services four major mobilization sites and the National Guard’s only Stryker brigade in Pennsylvania. The 406th has been given the contingency mission in the global response force and Reset maintenance on MRAPs returning from Iraq and going to pre-deployment training sites in CONUS. The unit also has ARFORGEN responsibilities for the eastern United States.
The 407th AFSB, headquartered at Fort Hood, Texas, is responsible for the central United States, with missions similar to the 404th, and 406th, including significant roles in the ARFORGEN process. In addition to CONUS disaster support, the 407th, 404th, and 406th are now responsible for a network of 16 distribution management teams, answering to the brigade commanders and providing materiel management support to the AFSB and the warfighter. ASC also has pushed government oversight of contractors in CONUS down to those brigades and has given them command of a network of field-level readiness centers FORSCOM created in the 1990s.
There is a network of battalions and brigade logistics support teams (BLSTs) under the AFSBs, aligned with BCTs, with eight to 12 logistics assistance representatives (LARs) assigned to each, providing support at the tactical warfighter level.
“The AFSBs are the operational arm that executes the Field Level Reset mission; essentially, all support at the field level comes through either a directorate of logistics [DOL] or through a contractual augmentation capability, both of which are under the command and control of an AFSB,” Fontaine said.
“As a unit progresses through the Reset pool of ARFORGEN, the AFSB will coordinate the reissue of Left-Behind Equipment [LBE], synchronize the integration of both field-level and sustainment-level Reset, and coordinate and synchronize the fielding and training of new equipment from program managers. The process then continues as a unit comes out of Reset and back into the training pool, so ARFORGEN is truly a continual process.”
AFSB operations are fully coordinated with all other elements of AMC, with each brigade hosting senior representatives from TACOM, CECOM, AMCOM, the Joint Munitions and Lethality Life Cycle Management Command, and, in certain instances, ASAALT, all providing technical material and other support as needed.
“It is a coordinated team effort. As the conduit to the field and face to the warfighter, we take a simple structure and add specialized elements to it to create a very complex organization that brings capability to the battlefield,” Cartwright said. “In 2002, our missions were somewhat limited in scope. We had the Logistics Assistance Program, the APS mission, and a very small LOGCAP [Logistics Civil Augmentation Program] mission. The Army changed when OEF started. Units were deploying and, as one example, the LBE program was established and today LBE is a very large mission valued at $560 million.
“From 2002 to 2010, we have had a steady growth, creating a structure to support the
ARFORGEN model. That was the founding thought for creating the seven regional AFSBs that would be modular, but with a base we could add capability to, and satisfy that warfighter’s requirements. We’re still evolving, but I think it has been an extremely successful model. We are growing a generation of commanders and logisticians who understand the nuances of AMC, which can be very complicated, and as part of our continual learning, we have to know all the things AMC has to offer.”
Col. Kenneth C. Dyer, former commander of the 406th, said their responsibility for the Prepositioned Afloat program is expected to continue to grow substantially in the future.
“The Afloat program started back in the mid-’90s and will increase in the next several years as we build strategic depth back into our force structure,” Dyer said. “Now we are in the midst of standing up two infantry brigade combat team sets and two sustainment brigade sets to provide strategic depth in support of national security objectives. The IBCT set is a brand-new build, well on its way to being completed, using equipment Reset from theater or new from the manufacturers.”
“This year alone we will build five ships’ worth of equipment as the APS program rebuilds per the Army’s 2015 plan. We are changing the ship type we’re using – a new LMSR [large medium speed roll-on/roll-off] rather than a standard RORO; on board the ships our mission is to execute the maintenance of this cargo. We take care of what is onboard the ship, which is itself under Military Sealift Command.”
The missions assigned to AFSBs continue to grow; among the more recent is OPCON of all DOLs around the globe – 50 in CONUS and 27 overseas – from the Installation Management Command to AMC and managed by ASC.
“The transformation of the DOLs will give the AFSBs and the Army Sustainment Command a more robust capability to execute the ARFORGEN missions assigned to this command,” Fontaine said. “We are putting the operational control of the DOLs under the AFSBs and their assigned battalion structures. That will further allow us to execute their missions across the entire enterprise, whether through centralized workloading of equipment repair or through standardization of functions and processes. The realignment will clearly align their capabilities under the core competencies of AMC.
“Our intent is to establish the DOLs as the ‘hub’ for all maintenance and supply functions on an installation, a core capability that also will control any additional capability that may reside [at that installation] – essentially, a single source of repair. Augmentation of each DOL’s capabilities will be exercised based on capacity and assigned work. We are looking to not only standardize how we handle performance work statements in contracts, but also standardize processes, set standards, and establish metrics to control how we maintain those standards.”
The AFSBs have significantly affected the way equipment is handled and provided to the active duty force, from pre-deployment training, to getting them what they need in-theater, to ensuring they have what they need when they return home – all of which has changed or come into being since 9/11.
“Some of what we do didn’t need to be accomplished before 9/11. The Materiel Enterprise, ASC, and AMC’s mission sets changed as we went into combat, supporting forward, protecting dwell, and ensuring Soldiers return combat ready. That was a major change in the whole Army force generation model,” Dyer said.
“We still did this service to units before the 406th was created, but because of other priorities, [a] program like LBE didn’t get the attention it needed and pre-deployment training equipment [PDTE] did not exist. Before, Soldiers showed up in Iraq and saw equipment for the first time and were expected to use it in combat after a brief instruction period in the field. Now they can train prior to going into combat, which is what we should be doing.”
But the impact on the National Guard has been even greater.
“For the National Guard, the states run the LBE. The PDTE mission gives them the opportunity to train prior to mobilization, which was not available to them before the 406th stood up. When the North Carolina Guard came back from their second tour of Iraq in 2010, for example, versus their first tour return in 2004, they should have received equipment more quickly, with a lot less encumbrance to do things themselves. And they should have gone the second time with a lot better equipment, including body armor. And all that continues to get better,” he said.
“Prior to the 406th, a National Guard unit would have gotten very little real AMC support, and what they did would have required a dozen phone calls to get someone deployed TDY [temporary duty] to fix a radio or something. Now, they place one call to the AFSB at Fort Bragg, because we are here to support them on a full-time basis, not just while mobilized. So we simplified and made it easier for units to get assistance when they need it. We are much better postured to execute those kinds of missions now than we were even three years ago.”
All of which follows Cartwright’s assessment that the operations and benefits of the AFSB organization come down to focus, and synchronization of national level and field sources of supply and repair.
“Our priorities for FY 11 are OIF drawdown, OEF surge and sustainment, material management across the enterprise – such as evolving into the CONUS Theater Support Command/Materiel Management Command – and using ASC as the mechanism to get there,” he concluded. “There are 77 DOLs around the world and, as we complete the full mission transfer, the command and control of those will go to the brigade commanders we have on the ground, so we will be adding this capability to their duties.
“The Army also is evaluating naming a lead materiel integrator, with one headquarters to perform equipping as units return from the fight – and there are indicators AMC will be the lead equipper for the Army and we, at ASC, may be assigned this mission. We are not at the end of this transformational journey yet. The transfer of the DOLs appears to be locked in, FORSCOM is behind us on ASC becoming their TSC/MMC, and we are doing whatever we can to help the Army in what they believe to be the right direction for the future.”
This article was first published in U.S. Army Materiel Command: 2010-2011 Edition.