The Army developed its Army Force Generation (ARFORGEN) model to provide for a “structured progression of increased unit readiness over time,” and, under this model, has divided unit status into three main components: the “ready” pool – the troops eligible to deploy and join the fight; the “available” pool – those available to deploy; and the “reset and train” pool – which includes everything from personnel and equipment returning from the “available” pool and contingency operations to equipment requiring reconstitution, replacement or upgrades.
This proved extremely challenging, particularly for equipment to Reset, in the early years of the Afghanistan and Iraq operations, as much of the equipment was retained in theater for follow-on units.
As things have evolved in the last several years, however, it’s become a matter of synchronizing the movement to the repair source, managing the repair and upgrade of this equipment to ensure a proper reset and fielding the Reset assets back to the force for the next time it must deploy.
At Communications-Electronics Command’s (CECOM’s) Logistics and Readiness Center, it’s their focus to serve as the current executive agent for RESET Synchronization and Combined Equipping Conferences with the units when they return from the expeditionary operations.
“The key to success [is] how we work with the returning units to integrate the brigades’ long range planning calendar through the reset window,” said David Sharman, director of the Logistics and Readiness Center for CECOM. “Since January of 2010, we have executed conferences for 10 brigade combat teams, combat aviation brigades, two division headquarters, a corps headquarters and a fires brigade.” CECOM has partnered with the entire AMC family, Acquisition Community, FORSCOM and DA G8 to provide comprehensive equipping sourcing solutions to units. At the conclusion of the conference, the commander will have a clear picture of the units’ equipping and training posture.
He said that this conference is what sets the stage for everybody’s expectations.
“We go to the brigade commander and basically say, ‘Here’s the things you can do to help us for us to be successful, and here are the things we are going to do and when to RESET and equip your force. At the conclusion of the conference, the commander will have a clear picture of the unit’s equipping and training posture.’” Sharman said. “The process to date works well.”
Prior to that conference, however, CECOM will have already brought back the unit’s equipment and managed the entire retrograde process as it develops plans with the acquisition community from an industrial perspective to modify or upgrade systems.
It’s a matter of managing incoming assets early, Sharman said, and identifying them to ensure they get properly funded and inducted into the right source of repair, quickly repaired and returned to the unit in accordance with their reset schedule.
“That’s how we look at the reset process,” he said. “It’s effectively linking every brigade coming back through the [Responsible Reset Task Force] R2TF, making sure that meets with our production plans with our industrial base partners and our fielding plans and then executing that plan and adjusting as things change.”
The R2TF was created to assist Central Command (CENTCOM) as forces draw down in a variety of contingencies. Its operational links with the materiel enterprise and operational forces enhance the combat power of CENTCOM in realigning equipment and materiel internal to theater operations in a serviceable condition as well as the retrograde of equipment back to CONUS for RESET.
It’s an undertaking that involves tens of thousands of vehicles, containers and other material put to use by troops in the field. When moving that kind of equipment, it’s a matter of organization, knowing and measuring your processes and execution ultimately making such an undertaking effective.
For the BCT Reset, it’s no different.
“At the end of the day it’s all about coming up with an effective forecasting tool before the
unit comes home – because oftentimes we’re forecasting our production dates a year prior to their redeployment – so it’s all about trying to increase our accuracy in that forecast,” Sharman said. “We’ve been very successful with AMC in obtaining the funds necessary to execute those forecasts, and then, it’s all about bringing home the asset in the timeframe we expected.”
Training is the Cornerstone
According to Sharman, training needs to be an integrated part of expeditionary logistics.
“You’ve got to have trainers in country who are smart enough, savvy enough, wise enough and have the right hooks back into the industrial base to be updated on new systems and enhancements, as well as Distance Learning capability so we have a full spectrum ability to train our Soldiers.”
For example, he said that the Army is fielding the new radios for coalition mine-resistant, ambush protected (MRAP) vehicles. While similar to other radios, this one has a coalition encryption version, so this requires training so that coalition members understand how to use that particular radio. Such applications to a rotating force require the ability to train in the field on a cyclic basis.
While this technology insertion in the field is a force multiplier, it’s also a critical training opportunity.
“Whether it’s in combat operations, whether it’s in sustainment, or whether it’s in reconstitution, you have to be there and you have to be there with that brigade commander anticipating his needs, and minimizing risk to logistics operations so … he can leverage the material enterprise as opposed to it being a burden to him,” Sharman said. “I think that’s the biggest challenge we have.”
“We’re having to adopt and train and do some training with some guys deploying as well as some rapid tech insertions so that we’re all working off the same sheet of music,” Sharman said. “That’s tough – to bring that total brigade commitment up at one time.”
By mid 2010, Sharman estimated that about 6,000 training missions had been completed by CECOM with over 1,600 of them for 12 systems that were non-programs of record involving 215 work years at a cost of $50 million.
For the programs of record (POR), he said they had trained about 4,400 missions, on 16 different systems, which equals about 200 work years and $25 million.
“If we look at how the Army has transitioned its training into the ARFORGEN … it’s a continuous refreshment piece that we’ve been working on, and we work with the units and their sync conferences,” Sharman said.
He emphasized that CECOM has somewhat institutionalized non-POR training as units prepare to deploy, conducting training on certain products for their new troops or troops that haven’t deployed.
Where troops train depends on the kinds of products and where they’re available. Some are available back home, while other assets simply remain in theater.
Training includes work on counter-IED equipment, and, he said, a lot of training on the Harris suite of radios for use in vehicles such as the MRAP and other crucial vehicles and systems.
“One niche that we’ve really worked on is working … in a unit brigade [tactical operations center (TOC)] infrastructure,” Sharman said. “We’ve really never tackled the problem of how do you run the power grid supporting the TOC.”
He added that CECOM has responsibility to assist the units in power management in the brigade and the division, and that there’s an education there in how to keep the TOC operational.
Sharman said that the Readiness Directorate of the LRC has onsite trainers at locations such as Fort Carson, Colo., Fort Campbell, Ky., Fort Lewis, Wash., and Fort Hood, Texas to provide capability to meet a customer’s training requirements as efficiently as possible. This can include everything from router configuration to networking fundamentals, voice over IP technology and firewalls.
“We also have some arrangements with local community colleges where Soldiers completing that course work can get some credit for that,” Sharman said.
One truth, he said, is that training is never over, even for those who have deployed multiple times. There is always new equipment, technology, and lessons learned that any deploying Soldier needs to know about before returning to the field.
“I think there’s always a training challenge on bringing folks back up to speed to the current configuration as we insert new technology,” he said.
There is a bright side to this as well, however. He noted that the younger Soldiers coming up through the ranks are much more network savvy, and he said it’s something he sees even in his own workforce as well.
“They want to know more about how the system works, and so I think it’s more of an education process that is trying to teach – I don’t want to say intuitive – but understanding the workings of the system and not necessarily ‘Step 1-2-3-4-5,’” Sharman said. “The other part of it is, I think what we’ve seen is [that] the Soldiers are smart, the American innovation comes through and we’re learning how we can do things smarter, easier, and faster.”
This article was first published in U.S. Army Materiel Command: 2010-2011 Edition.