Sustaining the Standard Scout Platoon

Contrary to conventional wisdom, arguing with success is easy. That is, using 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry's success at the National Training Center (NTC), we will argue that effective sustainment at the tactical level requires task-organizing and training a wholesale modified table of organization and equipment (MToE) for retail service. In short, effective sustainment depended on our ability to transform the highly centralized garrison sustainment systems built for efficiency into agile, fully resourced sustainment teams that could operate independently in a highly decentralized environment.

During the eight days of force-on-force for Rotation 14-04, Garryowen provided effective sustainment while logging more than 500 miles of logistics patrols and maintaining an operational readiness (OR) of 99 percent for the pacer fleet that, on average, cumulated 600 operational-tempo miles.1 We did this for a formation that was conducting a reconnaissance or security mission and rarely out of enemy contact for those eight days. Also, the squadron’s sustainment team accomplished this while critically short on personnel in our supply and transportation platoon and on our combat-repair teams (CRTs).

We attribute this success to measures we took during our preparation for NTC and an approach to the sustainment warfighting function (WfF) that reflected the squadron's organization culture. Our first task was to define the scope of our problem within the sustainment WfF.

Over the past 12 months, 1-7 Cav conducted a test of the "6x36" standardized scout platoon MToE. This brought the number of Bradley Fighting Vehicles (BFVs) in the squadron up to 47 from its normal MToE of 26, an approximate increase of 80 percent to the normal Bradley fleet. The increase in combat power would provide unique challenges by increasing our requirements to supply and maintain the additional BFVs. Although we received the additional BFVs, we did not receive the additional personnel or equipment required to sustain this force. As we entered our NTC train-up, we planned to sustain the squadron's 47 BFVs with our base sustainment MToE. Generally, our CRTs operated at 75-percent manning and our S&T platoon at 55-percent manning.

Sustainment assumptions

Knowing we would have to do more with less, and support the squadron against the time and space constraints of reconnaissance and security (R&S) operations, we made several important assumptions inside the sustainment WfF that we first tested at a brigade exercise and refined during the execution of NTC 14-04. These planning assumptions were:

  • Cavalry troops could operate between 36 and 48 hours without requiring a routine resupply of Class I, Class III and Class V.
  • We could build and maintain on hand Class IX in the maintenance platoon and CRTs that would ensure repairs at the forward line of own troops (FLOT).
  • The squadron would accept risk to efficiency within the sustainment WfF to gain effectiveness in our R&S operations.

Task organization

Once we had defined the problem within the sustainment WfF, we task-organized to maximize the effects of mission command to meet the requirements. First, we assumed risk to centralized control and built fully resourced line-troop sustainment teams. We then built three sustainment mission-command nodes around our headquarters and headquarters troop (HHT) and forward-support troop (FST): the administrative/logistics operation center (ALOC), the combat trains’ command post (CP) and the field trains' CP. We moved our ALOC forward to the tactical-operations center (TOC) based on a gap between the mission-command systems that run the maneuver WfF – which run on Secure Internet Protocol Router through Upper Tactical Internet – and the sustainment WfF, which run on Non-secure Internet Protocol Router through Very Small Aperture Terminal. Having the squadron S-4 forward at the squadron TOC helped synchronize logistics planning with operational planning and to communicate squadron requirements to both the combat and field trains.

The HHT commander served as the mission commander for the combat trains, and we resourced him with our maintenance platoon, the maintenance control section, the troop supply sergeants, the medical platoon (when not operating as separate aid stations), and two sections from the S&T platoon (each section consisting of one M978 fueler and one Load Handling System (LHS) or Palletized Load System (PLS)).

The combat trains also provided the primary mission command for sustainment operations and the tertiary mission-command node (after the squadron TOC and tactical CP for the squadron’s operations as a whole. The combat trains operated generally 15 to 20 kilometers behind the squadron FLOT, about twice the normal doctrinal distance, so that they could remain situated behind the FLOT of the brigade's combined-arms battalions and thus avoid situations requiring a rearward passage of lines by the sustainment assets under contact. The combat trains also remained highly mobile. Striking the right balance between retaining stocks on hand, supporting troops forward and being able to move with the squadron at the R&S pace required constant assessment and running estimates between the combat trains and the ALOC.

The FST commander served as mission commander for the field trains, and we resourced him with the cooks and one section of the S&T platoon – along with a small section of S-1 and maintenance personnel – to assist with casualty and Class IX operations. The field trains were co-located inside the brigade support area (BSA). The FST commander served as the primary liaison with the support-operations officer’s shop and brigade combat team (BCT) S-4 inside the BSA, representing the squadron’s needs at BCT meetings and helping coordinate supply pushes from the base-support battalion to the combat trains.

Arrayed in this way, the sustainment team had great success. Resourcing CRTs properly was critical. Each CRT moved under the troop's control and consisted of one M88A1, a M1175 PLS, a Forward Repair System, a PLS/LHS-compatible 20-foot container for Class IX storage and an M1165 truck with Force XXI Brigade-and-Below. These CRT resources – including the prescribed-load-list clerk with a Standard Army Maintenance System-Enhanced box to remain with the troop trains – allowed CRTs to provide direct maintenance for all line-troop operations. This prevented us from having to rely on arcane notions of 5988e circulation among echelons and focused CRT efforts on an effective troop-internal 5988 flow. This allowed the CRT chiefs to repair vehicles with their on-hand supply stock listings and minimized the time necessary for the paperwork flow to squadron.

Instead of depending on 5988e circulation among echelons, the CRT chiefs communicated directly with the maintenance technician over the administration and logistics net and via Blue Force Tracker (BFT). This allowed the maintenance-control section’s accumulated knowledge to impact where it was needed – pacer troubleshooting – and minimized the number of vehicles requiring recovery back to the combat trains. The attached CRTs facilitated the squadron's ability to repair combat vehicles as far forward as possible and get battle-damaged vehicles back into the fight after engagements.

On average, the BFT backbone allowed battlefield-damage-assessment-and-repair information to reach the BSA within 60 minutes of losing a vehicle to enemy action. The squadron maximized the amount of Class IX stored forward at the combat trains and thus reduced the time to repair damaged vehicles by reducing the distance needed to either push Class IX forward or pull a vehicle back to the combat trains.

Resourcing the combat trains allowed the mission commander to use direct throughput as tactics, techniques and procedures for troop resupply and was critical to the squadron's operation. While the S&T platoon logged significant mileage (516 miles during seven days of force-on-force), we mitigated risk to the crews by giving them dedicated recovery/rest time overnight with no security requirements inside the combat trains and executing the logistics package (LOGPAC) primarily as a daytime operation. Extending the amount of time the sustainment assets were forward allowed line troops to keep combat power on the screen line, enabling effective R&S operations for the brigade.

The trade-off was that sustainment assets operated inside one to three kilometers of the FLOT for up to six hours a day inside the traditional two-hour logistics resupply point time, potentially placing them at greater tactical risks. The critical lesson-learned here is that the sustainment planner needs to synchronize plans with the maneuver planner to identify operational triggers in wargaming for the execution of LOGPAC so that sustainment becomes a true conditions-based operation instead of becoming a time-based event.


For the most part, the NTC train-up and the actual rotation validated these assumptions. As part of the BCT exercise in November 2013, 1-7 Cav first practiced extended operations on a 48-hour LOGPAC cycle for the line troops with direct throughput. The squadron confirmed the initial assumption that a line troop could operate for 36 to 48 hours without routine resupply and subsequently used this as a base-planning factor at NTC. This extended operational timeline inside the sustainment WfF allowed the squadron to maximize its limited sustainment assets, conducting LOGPACs daily with one or two of the three available S&T sections while maintaining the third S&T section as an operational reserve – able to provide unforecasted resupply of Classes I, III and V as mission, enemy, terrain and weather, troops and support available, time available and civil considerations variables dictated.

The 6x36 formation proved a unique sustainment challenge for a cavalry squadron inside the sustainment WfF but was ultimately a manageable challenge. Logistics remained effective, with the squadron never being operationally constrained by its "tail." Transitioning our force from a centralized, efficient, garrison-based sustainment team to a decentralized, effective, field-focused sustainment team created the tools we needed to sustain at the pace of R&S operations. Placing these tools into the hands of company-grade leaders – re-enforced by mission-command systems and the reconnaissance culture – produced the impressive results that mark a success hard to argue with.


1These numbers reflect our pacers at the line of departure (LD) (47 BFVs, six 1064s), the average optempo miles generated by our 47-vehicle BFV fleet for the total rotation (live-fire exercise, situational-training exercise and force-on-force). We crossed every LD 100 percent on BFVs, and our OR between LDs was 96 percent.