By LTC Seana M. Jardin, ACofS, G-1, 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command (ESC)
The III Corps Warfighter Exercise (WFX) 19-04 conducted at Fort Hood, Texas was the largest WFX in several years. The 13th ESC’s experience in WFX 19-04 produced valuable lessons for the Army’s Sustainment Community, in human resources supporting a Corps large-scale combat operation (LSCO).
In this scenario, III Corps had operational control of the ESC. The III Corps G-1, 13th ESC G-1, and the ESC Human Resources Operations Branch (HROB) in the ESC Support Operations Section (SPO) achieved a level of integration not previously seen in warfighter exercises. This connection resulted in great success, particularly with respect to personnel replacement operations. A team of teams approach for personnel replacement operations was required to sustain the momentum for the Corps fight.
SCOPE AND TEMPO IN LSCO
Staffs are not familiar or trained to operate with the high tempo in LSCO. The HROB’s challenge was retaining visibility of personnel movements (replacements and casualties) with the large scale and rapid tempo of the fight. Similar visibility problems existed for Health Service Support (HSS) for patient tracking and mortuary affairs for remains tracking. The other problem set the HROB and the rest of the SPO wrestled with was whether both equipment and crews needed to be replaced. The loss of a combat platform, did not always mean the loss of an entire crew. The SPO and its HROB worked to match crews with platforms when necessary through weapon system replacement operations (WSRO) as it would be useless to send people forward without platforms to man and vice versa. This is a complex problem dependent on accurate reporting from the units on what is required and the careful synchronization of critical Class VII with personnel replacements. Accurate visibility on personnel and equipment inventory is critical, followed by careful reconciliation of Personnel Replacement Requests from the unit S-1s with the personnel requirements being generated in WSRO. Through all this hard work, the Divisions received replacements in time to allow them to retain the momentum and achieve their objectives. Much work is still needed for replacement operations and the question of where to stage these personnel as they move forward to the fight is undetermined, who and what level should provide mission command of replacement operations is another question requiring additional analysis.
As difficult as WFX 19-04 was to manage replacement operations, other critical G-1 tasks were not tested at scale. The entire casualty process needs a reexamination. Reporting timelines and expectations are unrealistic in a fight where an entire Brigade’s strength can become casualties in one day. G-1s and S-1s at every echelon are not prepared to produce, staff, and process the volume of casualty requirements in such an operation. Most Commanders are not prepared to sign hundreds of letters of sympathy or condolence at one time. Higher echelon G-1s and S-1s are not prepared to fulfill the role of the lower echelon S-1 if that entire organization, including the headquarters element with the supporting staff becomes casualties. No one is prepared for the psychological toll this number of casualties would have on their organizations. Each casualty results in multiple personnel transactions and documents if wounded, more if killed in action, or died of wounds. Battle losses would be compounded by a number of non-battle losses which occur in every operation with respect to accidents and unforeseen circumstances.
Complexity in these operations is compounded by limited access to automated personnel systems in LSCO, which currently allow S-1s and G-1s to be more efficient, support their volume of personnel in a timely manner, and share vast amounts of personnel data across all echelons. S-1s and G-1s will have to revert to analog systems and reporting which takes longer, is harder to share data, and is more prone to error. Similar challenges exist within the HSS Community and Mortuary Affairs. There are gaping holes across the doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership, personnel, facilities, and policy (DTOMLPF-P) spectrum to address casualties on this scale in the Army. Some of the work has begun on these issues, but we are only starting, the Army will have to reach back into its history to see how these operations were done at this scale and the requirements needed to achieve results.
HR authorizations, especially at the Division and Corps level, have been cut deeply over time to optimize structure for the counterinsurgency (COIN) fight. Staffs at these levels are ill-structured to provide timely and accurate support at the volume and tempo of LSCO. Various grade-plate reductions across the HR Community have resulted in the degradation of experience and authority to handle the complexity and scale of LSCO. In order to fill some of these gaps, III Corps and the 13th ESC maximized their resources and nearly became one HR staff.
The 13th ESC physically placed the HROB Chief in the Support Area Command Post (SACP) behind the Corps G-1 to act as a liaison officer between the Corps G-1 and ESC HROB. This physical presence of an HROB representative paid dividends during the exercise, facilitating open lines of communication and timely response to shifting priorities coming out of the SACP. This integration provided the ESC with Corps-level visibility on the personnel requirements, casualty reporting, and other emerging issues.
Due to manning shortages, the HROB was not able to support an LNO in the SACP for the night shift. In addition, when the discussion arose during the operation, regarding sending out the ESC Early Entry Command Post (EECP), the ESC G-1 planned to cover the gap created in the HROB caused by sending an HROB representative out with the EECP. Coverage would not have been possible if the HROB and the ESC G-1 had not been in constant collaboration throughout the operation. The flexibility of the HR professionals at the Corps and ESC contributed to closing gaps and stitching up seams between these two organizations. It was difficult, other than by looking at shoulder patches, to determine who worked for who.
The ESC Commander provided guidance to his staff that focused on all three areas of sustainment: Logistics, HR, and HSS with a particular emphasis on the last two. This was different than previous warfighter exercises at the Corps level. In his early guidance, he tasked his senior HR advisor, the ESC G-1 to do two things: 1) get more involved with the HROB in the SPO to develop a HR plan for the Corps and 2) develop and deepen the relationship with the Corps G-1 to ensure the synchronization with the Corps plan.
The first task was a departure from current HR doctrine for the ESC. G-1s doctrinally focus on internal plans and policy guidance while HROBs focus on external HR plans and operations. ESC HROBs coordinate the HR mission with Sustainment Brigade HROBs and subordinate HR Companies focused specifically on personnel accountability, casualty, and postal operations at the theater level. The second task was in line with doctrinal relationships between G-1s and S-1s at echelon and was aligned with a number of other standing HR requirements.
Manning the ESC HROB, authorized seven Adjutant General (AG) Corps personnel, is usually a low priority. Even when manned, units fill positions with grades below the authorization. For the 13th ESC, the arrival of an AG Major before WFX 19-04 provided much needed experience in the HROB. However, the section remained manned at 50% and was critically short both of its authorized Sergeants First Class. This lack of personnel and experience limited the HROB in both capability and capacity supporting a Corps in LSCO.
The ESC G-1 and Corps G-1 were also undermanned and several positions were manned at ranks lower than authorized. The team collaborative approach benefitted all of these entities to generate a comprehensive HR plan and ultimately publish a single appendix for Personnel Services Support to the Sustainment annex of the operations order (OPORD).
ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES
The ESC Commanding General was designated the Corps’ Chief of Sustainment and worked closely with the Corps Deputy Commanding General for Support (DCG-S) and the Corps G-4 in the SACP. This integration of the ESC headquarters and Corps staff forced a better understanding of the Corps Commander’s intent. It also facilitated quicker planning, coordination, and execution required for Corps sustainment in LSCO. The Corps G-1 section’s lack of a robust internal planning capability meant it was reliant on the experience and capacity of the ESC HROB to develop and execute the HR concept of support. The Corps G-1 staff provided critical casualty estimates, by phase, which drove designs for replacement operations, casualty treatment and evacuation plans, and mortuary affairs plans.
The ESC G-1 directed her plans and operations Captain to link up with the Corps G-1 plans and operations Captain to share all products, gain guidance from the Corps G-1, and collaborate with the HROB and effectively close HR gaps and seams between these organizations. The ESC G-1 and the HROB collaborated on the design of the HR concept of support using doctrine from FM 1-0 (Human Resources Support) and ATP 1-0.2 (Theater-Level Human Resources Support) as a baseline, paired with creative thinking and guidance from the Corps G-1 based on her experience. In addition, the ESC G-1 acted as a facilitator between the staffs, ensuring communication flow while receiving and passing guidance from both the ESC command group and the Corps G-1 to the two staffs.
Continuous staff dialogue, in formal meetings and informal discussions, was essential throughout this process to maintain situational awareness. Collaboration between units assisted in developing solutions and concepts to meet the demands of LSCO with casualty estimates equating to that of an entire Division’s strength and combat power.
The concept for replacement operations was difficult to design as there is no current doctrine on the subject and no one in the Army currently has experience with replacement or casualty operations at the scale exercised in the warfighter series in LSCO. The most current reference for wartime replacement operations is AR 600-8-111, published in 1993. Unfortunately, this reference is so old, the Army is no longer structured to support replacement operations as described in this manual. Much of the Army’s personnel organizational structure was dissolved to optimize the force for a brigade-centric fight and support COIN operations in the Central Command area of operations.
Structures such as Replacement Companies no longer exist and the Army has been able to meet the need for replacements through individual personnel pulled from rear detachments or requisitioned from Army Human Resources Command (HRC). The casualty estimates for LSCO is so high, and at such a rate, that total reliance on individual replacements alone would result in an inability to sustain a unit’s combat power and momentum.
As the Corps and ESC G-1 wrestled with this problem, it was clear a great deal of analysis of the Corps and Division plans was necessary to understand the scheme of maneuver and priorities of effort. Knowing which units would sustain the heaviest casualties first, allowed Corps to build these replacements into the time-phased force deployment data (TPFDD) to have a pre-determined replacement flow as part of the plan. By the time the operation reached phase three, replacement units would already have to be in the pipeline. Whole units would be lost in single engagements and would therefore, have to be replaced entirely, not a handful of Soldiers at a time. Although an actual replacement TPFDD was not built for this exercise, the analysis of the units was done by the Corps G-1 staff to pre-establish which replacements would be required first in phase three of the operation.
In addition, the ESC SPO developed a detailed synchronization matrix by sub-phase, visualizing the key maneuver events to guide the sustainment plan across the classes of supply and commodities. Understanding where the units would be and anticipating their requirements at each sub-phase of the operation allowed the SPO to remain responsive to the Divisions and the Corps.
Since Replacement Companies do not exist, the ESC G-1 and HROB determined an HR Company could do the mission. Many of the tasks related to counting and accounting for personnel, tracking and coordinating their movement and life support are already resident in structures such as Personnel Accountability Teams (PATs) and the Theater Gateway Personnel Accountability Team (TGPAT). An additional HR Company was requested on the task organization to fulfill this role. It is important to note an HR Company would not be enough, a Movement Control Team (MCT) would be required along with a host of additional enablers to support replacement formations at either Theater Gateways and/or in the Corps Support Area (CSA). The mission command also still needs to be determined. The ESC G-1 and Corps G-1 estimated due to the scale of replacement operations, it likely needed to be at least a Lieutenant Colonel or Colonel-level Commander responsible for replacement operations and all the supporting requirements. A Captain would not have enough experience or authority to manage the scope of replacement operations in LSCO.
In this scenario, much of the postal requirements were suspended in phase three, postal assets were re-tasked to perform the role of PATs and casualty liaison teams (CLTs). These teams were simulated producing some difficulty maintaining accurate accountability of replacements, casualties, and human remains. As phase three unfolded, the validity of the casualty-estimate-informed replacement plan was revealed. The Corps G-1 provided priorities of replacements to the HROB based on the casualties reported by the Division G-1s. The HROB communicated those priorities to the Sustainment Brigades via the orders process. Using personnel priority requests (PRRs) from the units, the Sustainment Brigades, in coordination with the ESC SPO, loaded personnel on various transportation modes and sent them to the appropriate units.
Some reexamination of the ESC G-1 structure is also required. This G-1 staff is authorized 16 HR personnel while a Division G-1 is authorized 24 HR personnel, not including the Human Resources Operations Cell (HROC), which is another seven HR authorizations for a total of 31 HR authorizations for the Division G-1 supporting a task organization of roughly 18,000 personnel.
Although when not deployed the 13th ESC’s task organization is small, amounting to roughly 3,500 personnel. When deployed, with the addition of Sustainment Brigades and other modular sustainment organizations to its task organization, it quickly becomes the same size as a Division or larger, with greater span of control and a more dynamic task organization. Typically, none of the units will have trained together or worked together prior to arrival in theater.
To support an organization of that size, the ESC G-1 does not have the correct number of authorizations or additional enablers to support a formation of this size. A multi-component solution may be required to round out an ESC G-1 section in LSCO to support a larger task organization and practicing with those enablers would be critical to establishing important working relationships, standard operating procedures, and policies.
TEAM EFFORT REQUIRED TO WIN IN LSCO
The collaboration between the Corps and ESC staffs was necessary to achieve success in the warfighter exercise. Due to capability and capacity gaps resident in both staffs, the two were able to complement each other. The Corps G-1, ESC G-1 and HROB closed their gaps and seams so tightly it was hard to tell one staff from the other. Although the replacement plan worked as designed, aspects of the simulation masked some of the real complexity of replacement operations, casualty operations, and mortuary affairs. Additionally, critical enablers such as CLTs and PATs who help provide G1s, S1s, and the HROB greater visibility of personnel across the battlefield were not exercised with live players, making it much harder to maintain accurate personnel accountability. The ESC and the Corps learned the value of in-depth HR planning prior to the start of the operation and the importance of the casualty estimate which feeds so many other aspects of the plan. Manning shortages not felt in the COIN fight in organizations such as the G-1s and HROBs manifest and become acute in LSCO scenarios where this expertise and capacity is a necessity. Success in this fight took a true team of teams approach, with a shared understanding of Commander’s intent and vision for success.