So, you’ve just posted into the Operations Cell of your combat arms or combat support unit and the boss has asked you to go over the plans for the first shake-out of the year. Having read over an administrative instruction that appears to have been copied from the year prior, you realise you’re not entirely across some of the terminology and actions required to deploy, sustain, and reconstitute those heading out the gate, so – along with the S4 (the unit’s senior logistics officer) – who do you talk to?
The unit’s quartermaster (QM) and regimental quartermaster sergeant (RQMS) are responsible for managing equipment (items either held by the unit or issued to individuals, e.g. weapons, vehicles and soldier combat ensemble) and stores (consumables like fuel, rations and ammunition) on behalf of the Commanding Officer. Between them they have decades of experience and should be integrated into all stages of planning and execution. This includes advice on how much lead-time orders will need, organising loan equipment from a JLU or other unit, security and storage requirements (both in transit and once in the field) and returns and disposals when the activity is over.
Most sub-units will have a permanently allocated Q Cell (typically a SGT / CPL and PTE) who provide the direct linkage back to the Main Q Store, as well as to the unit’s workshop and any transport elements. Including them in planning, not just the conduct of activities, will go a long way to making sure all the considerations for pre-deployment preparation, sustainment in the field, and re-fit to fight actions have been factored in.
Ahead of your shake-out, the Q Store can order all your different ammunition and pyrotechnic natures; assist getting the command post set up with blackouts, lights, maps and markers etc. They may even be able to get more than one type of ration pack for the time you’re out field. On your return, the Q Store can also help with key remediation activities such as replacing items that were missing or broken, or preparing the paperwork (an Equipment Entitlement Variation) to get new equipment you’ve identified a need for.
Technical Support Platoon / Troop
The Tech Spt Pl / Tp Commander and the Artificer Sergeant Major manage the integral maintenance of the unit’s equipment. They are also the conduit for any equipment maintenance being conducted externally. For those who deploy with a RAEME element in support (a Forward Repair Team), you get an invaluable means to keep equipment functioning while you’re away from the barracks.
Before your shake-out, the workshop can support you in ensuring there is enough equipment in a fit state and in the right configuration. In particular, early engagement will ensure that any scheduled maintenance for items such as weapons, vehicles and generators isn’t going to impact the exercise. On your return, the workshop will support the maintenance and relevant data entry to ensure equipment is ready for follow on tasks. Similarly, if you think an item is defective or not fit for purpose, they can assist making a submission (Report On Defective or Unsatisfactory Materiel) to have that investigated.
Transport Supervisor / Road Safety Officer
With support from Brigade HQ, the transport supervisor (typically a WO2 or SGT) is responsible for coordinating vehicle operations for the unit. This includes: driver training, skills maintenance, movement of equipment and dangerous goods (e.g. ammunition and fuel), route planning, and over-size vehicle permits. Statistically, vehicle operations is one of the riskiest activities Army does, so getting expert advice on movement to and within your activity will help you understand when and how that risk can be reduced.
Prior to your shake-out, the transport supervisor will work with the Q-store to establish what needs to be moved where, when and under what conditions – particularly important for security and permits when moving on civilian roads. They’ll also be speaking to the workshop to make sure the required vehicles (and recovery options) are available. Once you’re out field, the transport element can assist with resupplies (distribution or exchange points) and other vital admin tasks like rubbish collection and personnel movement.
The Orderly Room (either at unit or sub-unit level), and the Command Support Clerks who work in it, provide a range of essential functions both in barracks and in the field. From advice on pay and conditions, to processing administration, to filling a range of functions in the command post – clerks have a very broad skill set. Additionally, there is an emerging role for them as data analysts, which in the near future will enable decision-making support through artificial intelligence augmentation and predictive analytics functions.
In the lead up to your shake-out, clerks can assist with auditing individual readiness and checking that personnel have the relevant qualifications for any and all activities being conducted. They can also help look through your unit’s archives for previous instructions, orders and post activity reports so you can review past outcomes and ensure that lessons identified are actually being applied. Once deployed, clerks can assist with battle tracking and managing traffic on all communications systems. On return they will make sure that everyone gets the right field pay and additional leave, not to mention assisting to ensure records are appropriately saved so that they can be reviewed in the future.
Obviously, logistics doesn’t just happen, that’s why units have an S4. The enabling functions provided by the Q-store, workshop, transport and clerical personnel (not to mention cooks, medics, signallers, intelligence, analysts, etc.) is essential for the deployment, sustainment and reconstitution of any force – be it a section or a reinforced brigade. At a higher level these functions are some of the ‘fundamental inputs to capability’; however, in units and sub-units, they are people – peers and colleagues. Investing in professional relationships with them and involving them in planning will go a long way to getting the best support available, reducing risk to the mission and achieving the mission.