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Conducting an MSB external evaluation.

Picture this: a main support battalion (MSB), the logistics backbone of an armored division, moving 30 miles down a construction-ridden autobahn in a lengthy convoy carrying hundreds of soldiers and huge quantities of equipment. That is exactly what the 123d MSB at Anderson Barracks, Germany, did in June 2002, when nearly 700 soldiers and 400 pieces of equipment moved to a local training area for a weeklong battalion external evaluation (EXEVAL).

The last time the 123d MSB had participated in an event of this size was during a 1996 deployment to Bosnia. The lack of experience since then made planning the 2002 EXEVAL difficult. However, the 123d MSB learned that, even though MSB EXEVALs are difficult in a fast-paced heavy division, they are not impossible. The experiences of the 123d MSB EXEVAL offer leaders of other units a "recipe" for conducting EXEVALs. The essential ingredients of this recipe are a detailed planning period, a focused train-up period, proper resources to conduct the event, and a detailed, controlled execution period.

Evaluation Train-Up

Planning and conducting intense training for an MSB EXEVAL is nearly impossible because MSB personnel are constantly on the move providing support to the forward support battalion or to a combat maneuver training center. Conducting a major training event such as an EXEVAL is more difficult when the MSB is separated from major support operations. Just taking the entire MSB to the field causes a major strain on the division's readiness. Therefore, when preparing to conduct an EXEVAL in the MSB, it is important to have--

* A clearly defined mission-essential task list (METL) for the unit.

* A vigorous training plan that maximizes collective training at the battalion and company levels while reducing the impact on division readiness.

Do not assume that all mission-essential tasks can be performed in a weeklong field exercise. The METL must be tailored for a battalion EXEVAL. For example, when the 123d MSB conducted its EXEVAL, it focused on just two of the four tasks on its METL: project the force and protect the force.

The tailored METL must be assimilated into the training and evaluation outlines (T&EOs) in the MSB's mission training plan. The tasks in these outlines are really the "collective" tasks for the battalion. It is important to tailor these tasks to correspond to those chosen from the battalion's METL. The chart above shows the "crosswalk" that resulted when the 123d MSB integrated the METL tasks with the T&EO collective tasks. Within each T&EO task are specific steps a unit must perform in order to accomplish the mission. These steps help guide the battalion when developing the MSB training plan.

The training plan for an MSB to conduct an EXEVAL must be strenuous enough to validate all battalion systems before the exercise. The MSB's direct support mission also must continue during the train-up period, so it must balance mission support with EXEVAL training.

The training before the EXEVAL must be focused on three areas. First, training the battalion staff and company headquarters is paramount to success. The 123d did this through tactical exercises without troops (TEWT). These events focused on specific procedures for communication between companies and the battalion and on tactical standing operating procedure (SOP) battle drills. TEWTs allow the battalion to establish the standard for procedures in the division support area. They also give the key leaders the information they need to train their soldiers at the individual and collective levels.

Second, intense and realistic platoon- and company-level field training exercises (FTXs) are necessary to train the soldiers in the battalion on company-level tasks. Sergeant's time training is a good opportunity to teach topics such as leading and conducting reconnaissance and surveillance patrols and establishing work priorities. It also gives junior leaders a chance to communicate battalion SOPs to their soldiers.

Battalion command post exercises (CPXs) are another training tool to use during train-up. After company communications command posts are set up and their networks are in place, scenarios are put into motion to test company reactions. Such exercises allow the company and battalion command posts to address communications shortfalls and areas for improvement. The focus of these events should be on the communication between the battalion and company command posts and the standardization of operations as outlined in the battalion tactical SOPs.

Finally, special groups, such as quartering parties; nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) teams; quick-reaction forces; and reconnaissance and surveillance teams, must be trained to ensure success. This training is probably the most difficult, because it usually involves personnel from different companies. Identifying personnel for all of the teams and conducting their training early is essential. The 123d MSB was very proactive in this area. Teams made up of soldiers from all five of the battalion's companies were created quickly, and extensive time during the train-up period was devoted to the mission training plan T&EO tasks for each team's area of focus.

Special teams within a battalion can train in many ways. For example, after the reconnaissance and surveillance team members are selected, they must receive training on areas that allow them to operate as a fluid, integrated team. Some of these areas are map reading, radio procedures, NBC reporting, calls for fire, patrolling techniques, vehicle identification, procedures for dealing with enemy prisoners of war, medical evacuation, night operations, battle drills, contact with the enemy, and weapons operations. This training is extensive and must be started early to acquire proficiency by the start of the EXEVAL.

Resource Factors

When planning an event such as an MSB EXEVAL, resources often dictate what can and cannot be done. For the 123d MSB, the first issue was adequate training space. Doctrinally, an MSB requires a 6-by-12-kilometer area. The 123d conducted its EXEVAL at the Mainz Sand Dunes in Mainz-Gonsenheim, Germany. That training area measures about 1 by 1 1/2 kilometers, which meant that individual fighting positions had to be much closer to the perimeter than doctrine dictates. However, the need to support customers while at the EXEVAL led the 123d to choose the Mainz-Gonsenheim site because it was relatively close to home and the MSB's customers would not have to alter their daily routines very much.

Environmental laws, ecological considerations, and mission support requirements prevented the 123d MSB from taking 25 percent of their personnel and 30 percent of their vehicles to the field for evaluation. Because of these factors, the battalion created and controlled a "check-ride" system to confirm the tactical deployability of all of the battalion's vehicles. In this check-ride system, the tracks traveled on a predetermined route and thereby received credit for movement. A sticker was placed on the windshield of each truck that participated in the check ride. In this way, the battalion was able to move every vehicle in its motor pool but left wheeled assets behind so it could continue rear support missions during the EXEVAL. Elements that did not move to the training site operated at hardstand facilities to replicate field operations.

EXEVAL Execution

A detailed schedule for the exercise is crucial to maximize the quality of the EXEVAL and minimize the time required to conduct it. A "white cell" (a neutral element) from the next higher headquarters should facilitate the exercise. During the 123d MSB's EXEVAL, the division support command in Wiesbaden filled that role. The white cell drove the operations and, in conjunction with observer-controllers, dictated when events would take place. The chart on page 11 shows the schedule for 1 day of the 123d MSB's EXEVAL.

Although MSB EXEVALs are difficult to accomplish, they can be executed if a detailed training plan is followed. To ensure success, the participating unit also must carry out an intense train-up period that focuses on leader- and soldier-level tasks and training of special teams. Train-up events, balanced with an MSB's direct support mission, will help make a highly successful battalion EXEVAL attainable.
Mission-Essential
Task List Function Mission Training Plan Task

Project the force. Perform quartering party operations.
 Establish battalion command post (forward).
 Coordinate movement of subordinate elements.
 Plan battalion deployment upon receipt of a
 warning order.

Protect the force. Establish communications,
 Plan rear operations.
 Develop occupation plan.
 Supervise establishment of subordinate elements
 and battalion headquarters.
 Supervise operations security program.
 Supervise nuclear, biological, and chemical
 defense operations.
 Maintain communications.
 Maintain command and control.
 Operate base cluster operations center.
 Direct response to threat actions.
 Direct area damage control.

[] "Crosswalk" from METL tasks to collective tasks.

 NOT NOT
DATE EARLIER LATER EVENT TASK TO BE REVIEWED

3 Jun 02 0700 0730 Perform Move QP to new operating
3 Jun 02 0730 0800 battalion site.
 quartering Supervise securing of new
 party (QP) battalion area
 operations (QP leader).
3 Jun 02 0730 0800 Identify chemical agents
 using M8 detector paper.
3 Jun 02 0730 0800 Detect chemical agents
 using M9 detector paper.
3 Jun 02 0730 0800 Use M256 or M256A1
 chemical agent detector
 kit.
3 Jun 02 0730 0800 Supervise radiation
 monitoring
3 Jun 02 0730 0800 Locale mines by probing.
3 Jun 02 0730 0800 Neutralize booby traps.
3 Jun 02 0730 0800 Use a map overlay.
3 Jun 02 0730 0800 Analyze terrain.
3 Jun 02 0830 0900 Secure new battalion area.
3 Jun 02 0830 0930 Supervise area preparation
 (QP leader).
3 Jun 02 0830 0930 Implement tentative
 battalion layout and
 circulation plan.
3 Jun 02 0730 0800 Implement hasty security
 plan.
3 Jun 02 0830 0900 Implement analog and
 digital communications
 plan.
3 Jun 02 1000 1030 Supervise reception of
 main body (QP leader).
3 Jun 02 0800 1000 Establish command post
 (CP) (forward).
3 Jun 02 0800 1000 Establish Supervise forward
 battalion tactical operations.
 CP
 forward.
3 Jun 02 0800 1000 Perform forward
 tactical operations.
3 Jun 02 0800 1000 Supervise forward
 logistics and combat
 health support
 operations.
3 Jun 02 0700 Until Coordinate support for
 completion move with headquarters
 (HQ) and supply company
 (staff sections).
3 Jun 02 0700 Until Coordinate Monitor move of
 completion move of subordinate companies
 subordi- and battalion (BN) HQ
 nate (S-2/3 section).
 elements
3 Jun 02 0700 Until Direct external support
 completion operations during move
 (support operations).
3 Jun 02 0700 0800 Monitor move of QP
 (S-2/3 section).
3 Jun 02 0700 1200 Supervise Perform command post
 establish- function (BN HQ).
3 Jun 02 0700 1200 ment of Monitor deployment of
 subordi- subordinate units and
 nate ele- BN HQ (S-2/3 section).
3 Jun 02 0700 1200 ments and Develop occupation plan
 BN HQ. (S-2/3 section).
3 Jun 02 1000 1200 Plan operations security
 program for current
 operations (S-2/3
 section).

DATE OBSERVER-CONTROLLER
 (O-C) REQUIREMENTS

3 Jun 02 QP coverage
3 Jun 02 QP coverage
3 Jun 02 QP coverage
3 Jun 02 QP coverage
3 Jun 02 QP coverage
3 Jun 02 QP coverage
3 Jun 02 QP coverage
3 Jun 02 QP coverage
3 Jun 02 QP coverage
3 Jun 02 QP coverage
3 Jun 02 QP coverage
3 Jun 02 QP coverage
3 Jun 02 QP coverage
3 Jun 02 QP coverage
3 Jun 02 QP coverage
3 Jun 02 QP coverage
3 Jun 02 QP coverage
3 Jun 02 QP coverage
3 Jun 02 QP coverage
3 Jun 02 QP coverage
3 Jun 02 Staff O-C
3 Jun 02 S-2/3 O-C
3 Jun 02 Support operations O-C
3 Jun 02 S-2/3 O-C
3 Jun 02 S-2/3 O-C
3 Jun 02 S-2/3 O-C
3 Jun 02 S-2/3 O-C
3 Jun 02 S-2/3 O-C

[] The schedule for 1 day of the 123d MSB's EXEVAL.


Captain Christopher D. Noe is the Battalion S-3 for the 173d Main Support Battalion at Anderson Barracks, Germany. He has a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Virginia Military Institute and is a graduate of the the Field Artillery Officer Basic Course, the Combined Logistics Captains Career Course, the Combined Arms and Services Staff School, the Petroleum Officer Course, and the Mortuary Affairs Course.

Second Lieutenant William D. "Dan" Brosey is the Ground Support Equipment Platoon Leader of C Company, 173d Main Support Battalion, at Anderson Barracks, Germany. He has a bachelor's degree in communications from Washington State University and is a graduate of Officer Candidate School, the Transportation Officer Basic Course, and the Unit Movement Officer Course.
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Article Details
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Author:Noe, Christopher D.; Brosey, William D.
Publication:Army Logistician
Date:Mar 1, 2003
Words:2039
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