A platoon leader's guide to inventory and accountability. (From the Field).
Property accountability is one of many challenges chemical officers face when assuming the role of platoon leader. Upon arriving at a chemical company, incoming platoon leaders are inundated with learning many new systems, capabilities, and personnel. Although the system of property accountability has not changed much, it is an important process for leaders and soldiers to know. The reason is that these individuals are about to become hand-receipt holders, which is a huge responsibility. This article discusses the importance of--
* Establishing yourself as an organized leader with a thorough inventory.
* Learning about and employing the equipment that you are becoming responsible for.
* Avoiding pitfalls, which could jeopardize your accountability.
* Accepting responsibilities before, during, and after inventories.
* Possessing the resolve to account for equipment on a regular basis.
Learning the Regulations
Before arriving at a chemical company, most lieutenants were either assigned to staff positions or came straight from the Chemical Officers' Basic Course. The bottom line is, they have little or no experience in inventory or property accountability. Learning how to access the appropriate regulations regarding property accountability will be of great assistance during a platoon leader's tenure. AR 735-5, Policies and Procedures for Property Accountability, outlines the responsibilities in terms of the types of property, hand receipts, and change documents and the frequency of inventories to be performed. Other key regulations that can assist in understanding accountability are--
* DA Pam 7 10-2-1, Using Unit Supply System.
* Update 2-14, Unit Supply Update 14.
* FM 10-27-4, Organizational Supply and Services for Unit Leaders.
* FM 10-14-1, Commander's Handbook for Property Accountability at Unit Level.
* TB 710-5, Unit Commander's Supply Handbook.
As a leader, becoming familiar with the basics of these regulations is imperative. With this basic knowledge, you can avoid accountability errors and paying for items that could have been accounted for.
Getting to Know Your Equipment
As a platoon leader, learning the capabilities and how to employ your platoon and its equipment is achieved through training. It is also necessary to know what the actual equipment consists of. Thus, it is important to know the types of components and sets, kits, and outfits (SKOs) that exist within the platoon. The components of end items usually can be found in the technical manual (TM), and SKOs can be found in the supply catalog (SC) that covers a specific piece of equipment. You are probably asking, "How will I find the current publications that cover the equipment in my platoon?" DA Pam 25-30, Consolidated Index of Army Publications and Blank Forms, lists the equipment by national stock number or line item number. if the TM or SC for an item is not listed in DA Pam 2530, document it and locate a component hand receipt that identifies everything that should be on hand. Understanding what the platoon is composed of will allow a leader to employ all assets to maximum capability.
Avoiding Pitfalls and Covering Yourself
Your goal is to avoid accountability pitfalls. Before starting inventories, research the platoon and the equipment for which you are responsible. If possible, talk to fellow platoon leaders, including the one you are replacing, to learn about the problem areas that they encountered as platoon leaders. Learning their pitfalls can help you avoid them during your leadership. Be sure to talk to the commanding officer (CO). He or she can enlighten you on the importance of accountability and give you some pointers based on experience. In most cases, your platoon sergeant and squad leaders will still be in their positions. They will be the continuity you will need to maintain accountability of all of the equipment during the transition. In addition, they can provide valuable feedback on methods that have and have not worked within the platoon. Most importantly, talk to your unit supply sergeant. He or she will be the most valuable asset regarding your hand receipt and ensuring that it reflects exactly what your pla toon has on hand. If possible, conduct a review of the hand receipt with the unit supply sergeant so that he or she can answer any questions you might have.
When conducting inventories, be sure to annotate any deficiencies. Keep detailed notes because often the equipment may be persent but unserviceable. This will save you from having to conduct a damage statement or report of survey. Also, ensure that the items you sign for are present. Remember, an inventory is "the physical count of supplies and equipment on hand in the unit (DA Pam 735-5, Survey Officer's Guide)." So, you should recall any equipment that is signed out. During an inventory, you may have missing items. If this happens, prepare a shortage annex. This annex documents shortages when issuing items to the supervisors of end users, and it lists only what is short from an end item that has components.
Leaders will issue equipment or property to the sub-hand-receipt holders on sub-hand receipts. Use DA Form 2062, Hand Receipt/Annex Number, to list all major end items for which a sub-hand-receipt holder will sign. According to DA Pam 710-2-1, "The sub-hand-receipt holder becomes financially responsible for all of the components, except those listed as short on an accompanying shortage annex or that are signed for using component hand receipts." A component hand receipt is a more specific method of accounting for items. One caution when using component hand receipts: the person issuing the property accepts responsibility for any items that are listed as short. So, be sure to have an accompanying shortage annex for component hand receipts. Also, all sub-hand receipts must be updated every 6 months.
Responsibilities Before, During, and After Inventory
There are several things that both the outgoing and incoming platoon leaders must do before starting an inventory. First, the outgoing platoon leader should recall all property loaned out and update his hand receipt to reflect any changes that occurred (that is, any unserviceable equipment). Together, both platoon leaders create an inventory schedule, keeping in mind the sub-hand-receipt holders, soldiers, and the company's training schedule. Try to have maximum participation from the platoon during the inventory. Schedule an open day for make up in case there is an issue with a certain piece of equipment. In addition, the incoming platoon leader should get a copy of the hand receipts and shortage annexes from the unit supply sergeant.
There are many ways to avoid a long and painful inventory. First, keep track of who signed for what. One method to accomplish this is to write the name of each NCO next to the piece of equipment that will be sub-hand receipted. Write the TM/SC number and date so you can prove what reference was used for the inventory. This is important because the person who replaces you may have a more recent publication that lists components different from the one you used, which could make it appear as though you are missing items when you are not. If a TM or SC is missing, try to find a copy of it, Usually, the unit supply room or another platoon will have a copy. If so, make a copy of the cover and the pages that include the components of end items and basic issue items. The local military occupational specialty library may be another place to check. References may also be available online via General Reimer's Library Web site. Once again, if a TM or SC cannot be found, inventory to the best of your ability and document that you did not have the proper references to verify components. Keep a list of the missing TMs and SCs and have your unit publications NCO order them for you.
Ensure that items with serial numbers are checked by serial number. Annotate any deficiencies or different serial numbers. If a serial number is different, inform the unit supply sergeant so he can check it. Remember, when sub-hand receipting property with serial numbers, ensure that the serial numbers appear on the sub-hand receipt. Most of all, during your inventory, stay organized. Create a filing system that will help you keep track of everything from the inventory. Once you have finished accounting for everything, verified all serial numbers, and documented all deficiencies, this phase is complete.
After the inventory, you can hand receipt the equipment down to your sub-hand-receipt holders and users. Remember to create shortage annexes for any shortages. After all of this is done, you can sign your hand receipt. However, it is important to take your time and point out any errors to your unit supply sergeant before you sign. It is also a good idea to bring your files, from the inventory, with you when signing your hand receipt.
As a platoon leader, you will perform many missions. You will use the equipment that you just signed for to accomplish those missions. So each time your platoon concludes an exercise or mission, conduct a thorough inventory during the recovery stage. Usually, each company will have a recovery plan that documents the schedule of events. If there is no recovery plan, develop one and inventory your equipment. This makes it easy to update shortage annexes and fill out field loss and damage statements in a timely manner. Ensure that a DD Form 362, Statement of Charges/Cash Collection Voucher, is completed for all lost or damaged equipment. It is important to requisition replacement equipment to maintain unit readiness.
Remember to update your sub-hand receipts. One way to do this is through your recovery plan. Another way is to conduct 10 percent inventories in conjunction with the company's 10 percent inventories. Plan to conduct these inventories by putting them on your platoon training schedule or calendar. It is important for a leader to keep a copy of the most current hand receipts in his possession. By doing so, a leader will know the equipment his platoon is responsible for, at all times.
Inventory and accountability seem like menial administrative tasks. But peers, subordinates, and superiors will value a junior leader who can account for equipment and personnel. The keys to keeping accountability are conducting regular inventories, updating the hand receipt, and maintaining organized files. Accountability can be a hefty task, especially in units with high OPTEMPO and high turnover. I hope that you will take something from my experience that will help you during this process and allow your unit to remain combat ready at all times.
Flanders, P. (2000), Change of Command Inventory 101: Tips on Counting Your "Stuff" Before You Sign, Armor, July/August 2000, pp. 25-44.
Captain Timothy Herd is currently attending the Chemical Captain's Career Course at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. His assignments include battalion chemical officer with 2d Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, and dual-purpose platoon leader and executive officer with 7 1st Chemical Company (Smoke/Decon), 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.