Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Why does it take 2 days to move a brigade? 
A reader reacts to my statement, "it takes more than two days to get a brigade ready to move," and writes:

Just out of curiosity, what would it take to get a brigade ready to
move in a day? If we gave it an unlimited budget, could it happen?

on the flip side, what would happen to an exising unit that tried to
move in a day. Would they be at all effective in disaster response,
or would they be worse than useless?

I don't think it's a matter of budgeting. It's a matter of planning. With an element that big, you can't just pull off the highway and pull into a parking lot. You have a quartering party leave a half day early to recon, verify, and mark the assembly area. If you don't, you have a nightmare going in, and you'll spend two days just trying to find everyone and get everyone unstuck.

The main body - mostly the Brigade Support Battalion types, but also all those HHC detatchments, engineers, and other odds and ends - needs to conduct rehearsals of both the staging and the occupation. Those can take up to an hour or more by themselves. And that's not counting travel time for the element commanders to and from.

It takes a day just to get the plan from brigade level down to battalion level down to company level down to platoon level down to squad level. Each echelon needs time to plan, write the order, and brief its subordinates. A brigade movement order will keep the brigade staff up all night. A battalion movement order can still take hours to put together from scratch. And once you move, you can't just move everybody in one big lump. Well, you can, but you're asking for trouble. (Suppose the lead vehicle takes a wrong turn? You'll have 500 vehicles trying to make a U-turn on a side street.

And you don't want to have every vehicle showing up to the refuel point at the same time. So you break it up, and you leave it up to subelement commanders, and you have them take different routes in so you don't overwhelm the fuel assets on any one route. That takes planning to work out, too.

And a refueling stop for a battalion's worth of vehicles can take an hour or more, depending on the number of pumps.

That takes planning and staffwork and, ideally, reconnaisance.

It will take half a day just to load up equipment, issue weapons and communications gear, conduct radio checks, brief the rules of engagement. And you haven't even gotten out into the affected area yet. You haven't even conducted a leaders' reconnaisance down to the company level (and preferably the platoon.)

You also have to get your scout platoon (assuming they're competent at route reconnaisance and bridge classification) or some engineer experts to take a look at each bridge along the route and verify that it can handle a fully loaded HETT or LMTV or 5-ton truck. Until that route reconnaisance is completed, trucks ain't gonna roll.

You also need to afford NCOs at all levels time to conduct precombat checks.

Hell, it will take most of a day to make it through a company phone roster before you can successfully contact everybody in the best of times, just to get people in the motor pool. And once you get into the motor pool, vehicles need to be PMCS'd and dispatched.

You also need to push out your LNO teams early, to set up shop in the EOCs, and confirm just what it is they need the military to do, and where, and set limits on those objectives.

No amount of money is going to significantly shorten that process. All money can buy is an entire brigade sitting there at the ready all the time. WHich really means rotating several brigades through the training cycle, which is incredibly expensive.

If you already have the troops on hand, with a movement order already worked out in advance thanks to some heads-up ball by the XOs all up and down the chain, you might be able to create the appearance of a one-day movement from a standing start. But that's all that is - the appearance of a one-day movement.

That appearance has already fooled a number of observers, who think that such and such a unit moved within 8 hours of recieving the order. No. A brigade sized unit probably got the warning order three days out, and the battalions got it at least 2 days out, and both elements started working up their movement orders.

Splash, out


It amazes me that people continue with this mantra. Think about it...it takes my family a whole day to pack and load our stuff & the kids when we're leaving for a weeklong vacation, to a hotel with a restaurant nearby, not to mention gas stations and general sorts of shopping areas. And these people stil think that the Army should be able to move a few thousand men and all their equipment, vehicles, and all the support needed within 2 days to an area that has been devastated that noone has been into since that devastation occurred. I'm continually amazed at the Army's ability to move a regiment or battalion within 2 weeks. Hoorah!
OK, I have a dumbass, non-military, non-logistician's question. Does it take two days to move a brigade in combat? Even when the enemy is shooting at you, and pushing you back? What if the enemy doesn't give you two days to do your planning? What if you're on the attack, and a sudden opportunity arises that you need to take advantage of, and the opportunity would be lost if you took two days to move?

And, if you can somehow move faster than 2 days in combat, why can't you move fast in peacetime?
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