Army School of Logistics Operations ModernisationBy Brendan Robinson June 26, 2020
It’s hard to believe that integrated logistic training was a bold, new experiment when many of Army’s now senior logisticians commenced their initial employment training in the mid-90s. From 1996, instead of attending corps-specific training, students converged at the brand new Integrated Logistics Division (ILD)[i] to learn how to integrate logistic capabilities in an operational setting. What became the Army School of Logistics Operations (ASLO) was then a pre-mobile phone, analogue organisation. K-phones enabled command post exercises, students were issued bags of doctrine, talc overlays and map markers, and considered logistic problems through the time-honoured tradition of the TEWT.
We still do command post exercises and TEWTs but, like the change introduced at ASLO in 1996, much has changed in 2020 and there is still more to come. ASLO now graduates students return to their units steeped in a digital learning environment that replicates the tools used in combat units and in some ways leads Army’s training transformation. Here are a few examples:
Incorporation of Simulation. Up until mid-2019, we used an analogue method to assess command and control (C2) of a Forward Repair Team (FRT) on the Subject 2 Corporal (RAEME) [S2 CPL RAEME] course. This approach involved a mix of civilian and ADF B-vehicles in convoy in a state forest where convoy commanders would react to a series of ad hoc tactical scenarios. We now use the Protected Mobility Tactical Trainer (PMTT) for FRT commanders to practice their C2 of a virtual four-car convoy within Army’s Protected Mobility Training Framework. Our instructors designed the training scenarios within the existing VBS3/DATE environment to replace a low-fidelity and much less challenging activity. This recent innovation has been a great success enabling multiple ‘reps, and sets’ in a way that was previously unattainable. This has increased the learning performance and tactical skills of those under training. Indeed, the PMTT has proved to be an excellent and effective way to develop the basics of ‘shoot, move, communicate’ for all mounted combatants.
In the very near future, we will export the Subject 2 CPL RAEME to units to allow them to develop the C2 foundation to all corps protected mobility training. However, an actual transformational approach to delivering this course is possible. The week long theory component that precedes the C2 training is now available on ADELE(U) and will be released as a pilot course shortly. Concurrently, Army is in the process of acquiring more PMTT for brigade locations. Combined, these changes may make the intended learning outcomes of the Subject 2 CPL (EME) completely independent of a ‘course’. Given the nature of the learning design, it could be something every unit with a convoy C2 training liability can achieve as part of routine training. By extension, it would then not need to be constrained to start and finish dates within our enterprise HR system, PMKeyS.
Incorporation of Decision and Analysis Tools. Students attending ASLO courses from the Warrant Officer Combat Service Support (CSS) course and upwards now learn how to use the Battle Management System (BMS) and the Vital Planning and Analysis (VIPA[ii]) logistic tool in a range of planning and command post activities. Leveraging the BMS skills most of our young officers acquire at Duntroon, we require them to design and develop a logistic plan using VIPA and then communicate this via BMS. Secondly, we place them in pairs into a stressful command post activity to receive, analyse and assign by BMS (and digital voice radio) the tasks typically generated for a CSS Team by its dependency. This training enhancement directly supports the units and formations these officers return to and builds upon Army logisticians’ planning and decision-making capabilities.
ASLO instructors are now investigating a third use of BMS in training with our training partners, Elbit Systems, to support TEWTs and Quick Decision-making Exercises (QDE). Combined with a range of digital multi-media imagery products including UAS-obtained footage and 360-degree birds-eye stills of existing ASLO TEWT sites, we are really challenging a fundamental training method that has the potential to enable more home-station training.
Still, there remains much to do here and across Army. To borrow an analogy[iii], we‘ve incorporated new systems that are akin to the release of the iPhone. Apple’s iPhone 1 was little more than a phone with a music player. However, the latest iPhone model is primarily an app platform, with a phone, whereby the marketplace of users define new ways to use it every day – including now as a COVID-19 contact tracker.
Similarly, the technology we have adopted over the last few years has enabled new and unexpected ways to improve training. Moreover, the COVID-19 restrictions have given my team of instructors an unexpected and massive opportunity to accelerate these changes. As with all of Army’s training establishments, we have worked hard to transform our residential courses to increase the scalability and flexibility of delivery – sometimes this means online delivery, but it could also mean regional or unit delivery where practical. We are exploiting the wealth of PME sources available (such as the US Army’s Sustainment Virtual Playbook) and the innovative training methods promoted by Army’s Education Centre. Fortunately, we are also the beneficiaries of some well-timed foresight and project funding gained through Army’s Training Transformation Program Strategy.
In a bold move to reduce residential durations of our courses, make better use of our learning management system (ADELE) and to make learning more accessible, we’ve partnered with the University of New England to transform our senior soldier courses. By September 2020, we will have completely modernised the Subject 2 for Corporal, Sergeant and Warrant Officer suite of logistic courses. This project is ambitious in combining multiple corps-specific learning management plans into two CSS Sergeant and Warrant Officer learning frameworks. Importantly, it seeks to emphasise the integration of corps-specific logistic outputs to generate operational logistic effects. For example, this could see the creation of catering and personnel tracking learning modules and the absorption of road movement planning delivered on the RACT Subject 4 course into the new Subject 2 Sergeant course. This project also anticipates the removal of overly specific training delivered as generalist career training on other courses. Finally, it looks to align Army logistics training with Workforce 2028 plans to create the workforce flexibility required for a future ready force. The guiding design principles for this project are to simplify learning design, make learning more accessible and to enable continuous learning with reduced residential demands.
These innovations are critical to creating the flexibility and scalability necessary to train our current and future workforce. Furthermore, the tools now in use at ASLO are enabling better and faster decision-making. This directly serves our school mission: to train and develop Army’s logistics officers and senior soldiers to command or support joint land force operations.
[i] ASLO began as the Integrated Logistics Division in 1996 and became ASLO in 2004.
[ii] A note on Logistic Planning and VIPA
Few combat officers will appreciate the time logisticians must spend developing concepts of logistic support for their manoeuvre plan. As famously put, “(logisticians) deal with facts but must work for those who deal in theories.” Prior to the genesis of VIPA in the early 2000s, Army logistic planners relied on dated, static staff planning tables in doctrine and handbooks to determine consumption and casualty rates (often based on World War II statistics) for stores, parts, equipment and personnel. A trusted individual trained to use Excel (typically an engineer) would then pull this data into a large spreadsheet to determine logistic culminating points for a particular planning scenario. Unsurprisingly, this led to the creation of many unique and complex logistic planning calculators. All were prone to bugs and errors. After a long period in development, VIPA has nearly replaced the need to do this with only maintenance and health planning tools still required. Both of these are in development with Defence Science and Technology Group and ASLO instructors continue to collaborate on beta versions with other users including the Army School of Health for the casualty calculator.
What is VIPA? For the uninitiated, “VIPA is an integrated suite of desktop software tools that assist planners to rapidly determine broad orders of battle (ORBAT), plan missions, configure supply chains and generate logistics and movement support calculations.”[ii] Managed by Leidos Australia through a Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group (CASG) funded project and run under HQ JOC as the Capability Manager, VIPA is one of the logistics community’s best decision support tools. Last year, ASLO staff fully incorporated VIPA into ASLO’s curriculum and from this point, became its biggest user.
How does VIPA work? VIPA draws its processing data from two centrally managed data services: Aide Memoire Data Services (AMDS) and Order of Battle Data Service (ORBATDS). A dedicated Data Services Manager updates this data daily and it remains accessible to any ADF member with an account. Effectively, these two services are a centralised and current online Defence capability and ORBAT library for logistic planning. Data updates includes user and original equipment manufacturer quantified consumption rates for equipment, activities and unit structure to improve VIPA’s accuracy.
Why is VIPA better? VIPA allows logisticians and other planning staff to perform broad viability checks of a range of manoeuvre courses of action and enables the comparison of relative efficiencies and effectiveness of alternative deployment, sustainment and redeployment options. It is now an essential tool widely used at ASLO and has provided logisticians with a single, automated decision support tool allowing planners to reach detailed deductions, risks and culmination points faster, thus providing more time to plan.
[iii] Analogy used by COL Stu Cree when discussing training transformation at the Army Employment Category Seminar in March 2020.