by COL William E. Cole
Today approximately 68,000 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines are deployed in Afghanistan as the U.S. element of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). They are equipped with the best vehicles, weapons and electronics in the world, systems supported by a confederation of military personnel, DOD civilians and contractors who make up the materiel enterprise team. The members of that team issue new equipment to Soldiers, train them to use it, maintain nonstandard equipment, provide technical advice, and even help retrograde vehicles and other systems out of Afghanistan.
The majority of the personnel making up the materiel enterprise team in Afghanistan come from the U.S. Army Materiel Command (AMC) and the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology (ASA(ALT)). Just as AMC and ASA(ALT) organizations are teamed in the United States to form life-cycle management commands (LCMCs), in Afghanistan the deployed AMC and ASA(ALT) organizations partner to provide better support to the Soldier. Other partners in the materiel enterprise team include the Rapid Equipping Force, and members of the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command conducting forward operational assessments of new equipment.
The mission for most of the deployed ASA(ALT) personnel in Afghanistan is to field, upgrade or maintain non-standard equipment. This includes items not supported by existing Army maintenance and supply systems, perhaps because theequipment is too new to have school-trained Soldiers supporting it, or because the equipment is so unique to the mission in Afghanistan that it may never become part of the Army’s standard inventory. In either case, ASA(ALT) contractors provide and support the equipment in the field to keep it operational for Soldiers in the fight.
A DIVERSE ROSTER
The largest AMC organization in the materiel enterprise team is the 401st Army Field Support Brigade (AFSB), headquartered in Bagram. The 401st AFSB provides field- and sustainmentlevel logistics for U.S. forces and selected coalition partners across Afghanistan. One element of the 401st AFSB, the Acquisition, Logistics and Technology Directorate (ALT-D), focuses on providing life support to deployed ASA(ALT) and AMC personnel who are fielding, upgrading or sustaining non-standard equipment.
Most deployed ASA(ALT) personnel fall under the 401st AFSB for administrative control, and they rely on the officers and civilians of the ALT-D to provide the living areas, workspace, vehicles and other support equipment necessary to perform their mission.
Some of those deployed ASA(ALT) Soldiers, DA civilians and contractors are upgrading vehicles with improved armor or fielding improved communication systems, including Capability Set 13. Others are fielding new targeting systems
and precision munitions, including the Precision Guidance Kit for 155 mm artillery. Still others are training Soldiers to operate the non-standard equipment used in Afghanistan, such as the latest handheld mine and wire detectors. On many projects, such as vehicle upgrades, the ASA(ALT) teams partner with the 401st AFSB’s own property managers and maintainers to accept systems from combat units, perform field maintenance and install upgrades, and then reissue the improved system back to the units. This provides a one-stop shop for the warfighter, who can drop off a vehicle and then pick it up a few days later with the upgrade installed.
Some other deployed civilians and contractors from ASA(ALT) and AMC’s U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) are embedded with units, including the regional commands, reconnaissance and counter-improvised explosive device task forces, and special operations commands. They work alongside Soldiers from those units to sustain or even operate non-standard equipment in a tactical environment. Their missions include operating state-of-the-art sensor systems on aircraft and maintaining non-standard vehicles, electronics and weapon systems at remote locations.
A few of the military members of the materiel enterprise team act as advisers to combat units, helping them to determine their materiel requirements and obtaining necessary equipment. Regional Command (RC)-East and RC-South each have a field-grade officer from ASA(ALT) dedicated to supporting their operations.
These officers can reach back to the ASA(ALT) product and project managers to provide battlefield feedback on how non-standard equipment performs in
THE RETROGRADE MISSION
combat. Together, they have helped the commands effect rapid modifications to equipment to react to changing battlefield conditions.
Other officers and NCOs from RDECOM help units and Soldiers by providing information on the latest technology and even providing prototypes that may give Soldiers an edge on the battlefield. The Soldiers then provide feedback, which will aid in future system development.
Supporting our warriors in their combat operations is the materiel enterprise team’s most important mission, but another increasingly important mission is retrograding excess equipment out of Afghanistan. For this mission, too, AMC and ASA(ALT) personnel partner to ensure that vehicles, electronics, weapons and other systems are shipped back to the United States and other locations around the globe, or are disposed of responsibly in Afghanistan if shipping the equipment out of the country would be uneconomical.
The 401st AFSB has the lead for retrograding Class VII equipment—major end items—from Afghanistan, and ASA(ALT) personnel provide the technical support to ensure that non-standard equipment is properly deinstalled from vehicles and prepared for shipment.
For the retrograde of Stryker combat vehicles, the 4th Battalion of the 401st AFSB in Kandahar partnered with the Project Manager Stryker Brigade Combat Team (PM SBCT) to develop a coordinated “racetrack” of activities to prepare those vehicles for retrograde. At different stations, 401st AFSB and PM SBCT personnel work together to remove mine rollers, gunshot detectors,radios, jammers and other non-standard equipment mounted on vehicles in Afghanistan. After a cleaning and serviceability check, those systems are then available for reissue to other units or for retrograde if they are no longer needed in theater. The vehicles themselves are then thoroughly cleaned in preparation for shipment back to the United States. The teamwork between 4th Battalion and the PM allowed both organizations to reduce manpower while still meeting all mission requirements.
By deploying to provide support in the combat zone, the members of the materiel enterprise team enable our Soldiers to fight while equipped with the world’s most advanced vehicles, weapons, sensors and other systems. The partnership between ASA(ALT) and AMC, using a mix of government and contractor personnel, ensures that the materiel enterprise team has the right people with the right skills ready to support our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines in Afghanistan.
For more information, contact the Operations Directorate, Office of the Deputy for Acquisition and Systems Management: Ronald Crevecoeur, 571-256-9352 email@example.com; or COL Donald Moore, 571-256-9450 firstname.lastname@example.org.COL WILLIAM E. COLE served as acquisition, science and technology adviser, U.S. Forces – Afghanistan and director, ASA(ALT) Forward Operations (OEF) from July 2012 to May 2013. He holds a B.S. in human factors psychology (ergonomics) from the United States Military Academy at West Point, an M.S. in systems acquisition management from the Naval Postgraduate School, and an M.S. in national resource strategy from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. Cole is Level III certified in program management and Level II certified in communications/computer systems. Cole has been a member of the U.S. Army AcquisitionCorps since 2002.