Supporting Army National Guard Regional Training Sites

Supporting Army National Guard Regional Training Sites

David D. Lindeman

It sounds simple. I need two M35 series 2 1/2-ton trucks to support an upcoming 63B (light wheel vehicle mechanic) Basic Noncommissioned Officer (NCO) Course. In a modification table of organization and equipment (MTOE) unit or on an active-duty post, where the NCO academies are supported internally by units on the installation, getting the trucks would he a simple task. However, for an Army National Guard (ARNG) Regional Training Site-Maintenance (RTSM), it is an exercise in logistics.

Reserve Component Training

For training purposes, the Army Training and Doctrine Command has divided the world into seven regions. Each region has a TASS (The Army School System) battalion headquarters that coordinates the content of courses to be taught at the RTSMs in its region. The Army Combined Arms Support Command, the Army Training and Doctrine Command, the proponent school (such as the Ordnance School), and the RTSM provide input to the course content.

The programs of instruction (POIs) for RTSM courses are developed by proponent agencies composed of both military and civilian personnel. Writers are not necessarily service members; they are subject matter experts, military or civilian, who know what needs to be included in the courses. When new technology and equipment become available to the Army, training on them is written into the POIs. The RTSMs then have a period of time, normally a year, to obtain the equipment required to complete the POIs.

MTOE and TDA Unit Priorities

Because the RTSM is a table of distribution and allowances (TDA) organization, it often does not have access to the vehicles called for in a POI. An ARNG RTSM has a minimal number of tactical vehicles, which are training aids and are not fully mission capable. The RTSM may lack many of the items required by its POIs and may have to rely on the state logistics system and ARNG units within the state to provide items it needs. Since the needs of deployable units come before those of training activities, obtaining these items can be difficult.

New equipment is fielded to MTOE units using a basis-of-issue plan and a fielding plan that are based on projected needs. MTOE units are deployable and have real-world missions for which they need to train. RTSMs are TDA units that normally are assigned to state headquarters in the ARNG and to major U.S. Army Reserve commands (MUSARCs). The real-world mission of these local and area headquarters or operational units is to support the readiness levels of the MTOE units.

When new equipment is of a tactical nature, the MTOE units need it to maintain their readiness and deployability. During peacetime, some equipment can be substituted. For example, a unit may be authorized five 5-ton M923-series vehicles. The state headquarters or MUSARC can substitute two 2 1/2-ton M35-series vehicles for one 5-ton. In the event of mobilization, the 2 1/2-ton vehicles are replaced by the authorized 5-ton vehicles and the unit then moves to the mobilization station and on to the theater. This does not work for RTSMs since TDA units generally are not allowed tactical equipment. Most TDA units use commercial vehicles from the General Services Administration or equipment hand-receipted from MTOE units.

POI Requirements

Specific tasks in the POI call for specific pieces of equipment. In some cases, different pieces of equipment have identical systems. For example, the engine, transmission, and other systems of a heavy, expanded-mobility, tactical truck (HEMMT) are basically the same whether it is a wrecker or fuel truck. However, some similar items, such as M109A5 and M109A6 howitzers, have significant differences, and sometimes new equipment is completely different from old equipment.

Many people think that when an RTSM does not have the equipment it needs for training, the solution is to borrow the equipment from a unit within the state. But not all states have all of the required equipment. For example, an M109A6 Paladin howitzer may be required to train on a task, but the state may not have any M109A6 artillery units. It is possible, but difficult, to obtain equipment from other states within the TASS region.

If the needed equipment is not available, the RTSM may request a waiver of the task that requires the equipment; however, this leaves soldiers untrained on the task. In some cases, a task cannot be waived, so the RTSM cannot teach that particular course.

When a unit in the state has the equipment, borrowing it is difficult because the owning unit needs to train on the equipment to remain deployable. Maintenance training typically is conducted on equipment readiness code (ERC) A or ERC P (pacing items), and units do not like to loan out their prime and necessary equipment. [ERC A items are primary weapon systems and equipment essential to a unit’s mission. ERC P items are major weapon systems or equipment that are so important that they are continuously monitored and managed.] In addition, Army Regulation 750-1, Army Materiel Maintenance Policy, states that a condition code of “F” (unserviceable [reparable]) or less will be assigned to equipment that is used for training and is disassembled and reassembled during the training. A cavalry squadron commander who is approached by the RTSM about borrowing an M1 Abrams tank for maintenance training knows that the M1 will become condition code F as soon as it is used as a training aid. At $1.9 million per tank, loaning the tank to the RTSM would not be a fiscally sound decision.

An RTSM might consider having the needed items added to its TDA to ensure that the equipment is available for training use. However, this is not a good solution because the process of having an item added to a TDA is long and MTOE units have priority for equipment authorization. TDAs are published annually. Change requests, which include a battery of questions about usage and justification for the equipment, must be made within the TDA change window and forwarded through the State Operations and Intelligence Office, with coordination with the U.S. Property and Fiscal Office (USPFO) and the state G-4. If all of these offices agree, the documents are forwarded through the Force Integration Office to the National Guard Bureau and then to the individual program managers. Once the program manager gets the request, he considers the overall need of the service to determine if the equipment will be added to the RTSM’s TDA. This process can take as long as 2 years, and if the equipment is a high priority item, such as the M1 series tank, the TDA unit will not receive the equipment. Even equipment that is being “recycled” in the system will not go to the RTSM if MTOE units need the items. The result is that RTSMs do not get the equipment they need to train mechanics fully. Equipment is not added to the RTSM TDAs, and MTOE unit commanders are not going to give up equipment and lower their readiness.

The Solution

A simple solution to this Reserve component training dilemma is to include RTSMs on basis-of-issue and fielding plans. When procuring new equipment, an additional piece of the equipment or a piece of equipment that was used as test equipment could be sent to the RTSMs around the Nation that will be responsible for training mechanics on the equipment’s maintenance.

RTSMs are always looking for ways to solve their equipment problems. Today’s Army has to operate in a smarter, more streamlined manner. Maintenance training should take place when items are being fielded so that soldiers will not find themselves with not-mission-capable equipment because no one is trained to repair it.



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