Preparing the CSS Base for Rear Battle

by Captain John W. Ellis

The Army's rear battle doctrine is outlined in FM 90-14, Rear Battle. However, this manual does not address the process that should be followed in preparing combat service support (CSS) units for rear battle. After dealing with this mission at various levels, I have gained some insights into the problems, solutions, and tricks-of-the-trade of rear-battle planning. Some of the lessons learned about preparing for rear battle should benefit commanders of CSS units assigned to command a CSS base or base cluster.

The rear-battle mission includes two primary planning areas (rear-area security and area damage control) and two primary contingencies (evacuation or destruction of a CSS base). The keys to successfully accomplishing the rear battle mission are thorough preparation, strong coordination, flexible integration, and imaginative adaptation.

Thorough preparation begins when a unit assembles the necessary reference library of manuals, regulations, forms, and files. After key personnel understand the doctrine, rear-battle mission requirements should be compared to the unit's Army training and evaluation program (ARTEP) tasks. The two lists of tasks will overlap, though not completely. By matching rear-battle and ARTEP tasks, the unit develops a rear-battle task listing that aligns the unit's rear-battle and CSS functions.

During the analysis of tasks, it will probably become apparent that the unit's field standing operating procedure needs to be rewritten, or at least reorganized. All pertinent areas must be consolidated in the procedure to ensure proper coordination whenever the unit is assigned to command a base or base cluster. Commanders should expect to identify areas that need further attention. Evacuation and destruction procedures, command and control requirements, lateral coordination requirements, area damage control procedures, fire control procedures, and rules of engagement are typically weak or nonexistent in field standing operating procedures. The final stage of preparation is training under the new procedure and in any new tasks identified as a result of the rear-battle mission analysis.

Rear-battle doctrine stresses the need for strong coordination. The commander who faces the task of rear-battle command at any level will be confronted with the challenge of coordinating a bewildering array of units. The variety of CSS branches defies unity of command. The task of determining what resources are available for rear battle is a formidable one filled with traps for the unwary.

The commander must coordinate units that are not designed for tactical operations. He must correctly assess the rear-battle capabilities of available units, looking for limitations that will become apparent only after analysis. These limitations can create total mission failure. However, there can also be offsetting capabilities that are not immediately evident. Be alert to all possibilities.

An excellent starting point for attacking the coordination problem is FM 101-10-2, Staff Officers' Field Manual: Organizational, Technical, and Logistical Data Extracts of Nondivisional Tables of Organization and Equipment. The standard missions, capabilities, and equipment of units can be determined from this manual. Using these data, staff planners can work through the personnel, intelligence, operations, logistics, and operations security estimates found in appendix E of FM 101-5, Staff Organization and Operations (estimates modified for the rear-battle mission). The commander can then create a rear-battle operations order modified from the example presented in appendix G of FM 101-5. A synopsis of the estimates that the planner should make follows.

Personnel estimate. Start with the authorized strength of the units assigned to the base, determine their assigned strength, and compute their available strength. An accurate count of available strength requires the planner to subtract those troops not available for rear-battle operations because of mission strength reduction or noncombatant status. Mission strength reduction occurs when a unit, such as a transportation unit, is assigned a mission that is performed away from the CSS base. Consequently, those troops are available for base defense only when they are not performing their primary missions.

Noncombatant strength includes personnel in medical units and temporary noncombatants, such as patients recovering from wounds, prisoners in custody, replacement personnel not yet issued equipment, and persons working or present in areas where weapons are prohibited. Besides reducing the combatant strength of the base, noncombatants may also create personnel concentrations that are highly attractive to attackers.

After determining available strength, identify base defense personnel requirements and seek soldiers with skills to match. Create a list of critical skills and survey units for them. CSS units typically have senior personnel with experience in other branches. Identify personnel with combat skills and use them to organize or train for base defense. Do not forget civilian skills such as proficiency in foreign languages. When available strength and needed skills are accurately determined, the personnel estimate is complete.

Intelligence estimate. This estimate may be the most difficult to make for two reasons. First, a CSS base is expected to defend primarily against Level-I threats (terrorism, sabotage by enemy sympathizers, and activity by enemy-controlled agents). However, this type of threat is difficult to assess. The targets and purposes differ from the usual military attack. It is also difficult to assess the organization, intentions, and capabilities of the threatening force because of the high level of operational security it exercises. This is where the intelligence deficiency of the CSS unit comes to the forefront. Defending against kidnaping, assassination of key personnel, or sabotage of utilities requires different techniques than defending a position against a conventional assault. The commander should not overlook the secondary skills of base personnel to assist in making the intelligence estimate.

The second difficulty comes in the intelligence preparation of the potential battlefield around the base area. The intelligence preparation is critical since it forms the basis of the command and control or fire control procedures that will be developed. The most common error is to assume that the base will be located in a passive environment. The potential complications offered by the base's surroundings are seldom considered. The rear area will be filled with friendly units, civilians, structures protected under the Law of Land Warfare, and such temporary elements as convoys or friendly air lanes. All must be identified because they create dead zones for fire that can be exploited by attackers. The base and its operations--ammunition points; petroleum, oils, and lubricants points; barracks; and transportation routes--can also create internal and external dead zones that can affect weapons employment both on and off the base.

These dead zones must be recognized during the intelligence preparation, specifically plotted on map overlays, and identified by type of limitation. The graphics must be complete and precise. Failure to identify dead zones can create the potential for destruction of friendly personnel or supplies. Be sure to include a transportation route analysis for both internal and external nets since speed of movement and route capability are important in emergencies.

Operations estimate. There are often two failures in making this estimate. The first is the assumption that resources in the area will be available to the CSS base when needed. For example, CSS bases often plan on receiving medical support from a nearby medical unit, or area damage control or firefighting from an engineer unit. Little consideration is given to what the base elements should do while awaiting support from these units or what the base should do when help is delayed.

The second failure is incomplete development of counteractions to overcome the vulnerabilities identified in the intelligence estimate. Since rear battle response typically involves personnel from several units, arrangements must be made in advance to ensure smooth operation.

The operations estimate should result in a defensive concept of operation that uses the base's capabilities to overcome vulnerabilities. A tasking list is developed with command and control procedures describing the chain-of-command, fire control procedures, notification and warning systems, area responsibilities, coordination provisions, and communications structure.

Logistics estimate. Errors in the logistics estimate for rear battle are usually those of omission. Resupply requirements and methods during rear battle operations must be determined and responsibilities assigned. Fortification and barrier requirements may be significant.
Dispersion of personnel and material must be assessed for their vulnerability to attack and their importance to mission accomplishment. A critical equipment listing must be made. Operators for the equipment must be identified and their availability determined. Available area damage control resources must be identified and matched against the most probable area damage situations.

Finally, the commander must prepare for the evacuation or destruction of the CSS base under adverse tactical circumstances. The priorities to be implemented, the methods to be used, the authority to order actions, the material required, the sequence of events to be followed--all must be considered in planning for evacuation or destruction of the base. Failure to plan adequately can create enormous complications.

Operations security (OPSEC) estimate. This may be the most important estimate for a CSS base because effective OPSEC enhances the base's mission. OPSEC is passive defense and thus frees more resources for CSS operations than other modes of defense. In this way, effective OPSEC will help the CSS base counter one of the goals of a threatening force--reducing the base's ability to provide forward support to our forces. Because of its importance, the commander should resist the temptation to include OPSEC considerations under either the operations or logistics estimates. Such a consolidation, or the omission of an OPSEC estimate, is the most frequent OPSEC planning mistake.

The OPSEC estimate must include a review of the intelligence estimate of the local threat; the techniques used by threatening forces; the rules of engagement that will be used to comply with the Law of Land Warfare; camouflage, deception, information security, and physical security requirements; electronic warfare counter-techniques; and civil-military contacts. An effective OPSEC estimate directly assesses the Level-I threat and develops strong passive and some active counters to that threat.

While other estimates may be needed in some situations, the ones listed above should be considered critical for effective rear-battle planning.

Flexible integration is the most difficult, and perhaps the most critical, aspect of rear battle. The overall battlefield situation will be fluid and available resources will change as units arrive, depart, pass through, alter missions, sustain losses, and refit. The changes, combined with the variety of units initially deployed at the base, will require firm control. The rear-battle chain-of-command must be clearly established and must strongly function.

Areas of responsibility must be firmly established, communicated to all units, and adhered to strictly. The commander of the base should contact each unit within 1 hour of arrival and provide initial reports and requirements. This orientation must be followed by an in-depth assessment interview within 24 hours. Use of a survey, with sections for vulnerability, preparation, personnel, equipment, and team structures, is strongly recommended. Having, made a valid assessment, the commander must determine the appropriate command and control provisions.

The most common error in effective rear-battle integration is the tendency to approach rear battle as a combined-arms operation conducted in a different setting with inadequate equipment. Rear battle encompasses much more. In some respects, a CSS base readied for rear battle operates more like an American city government than a combined arms organization. A CSS base requires police, ambulance and medical, firefighting, utility, street, disaster, and warning services. When the difference between a CSS base and a combined arms force is understood, effective integration of CSS operations becomes more likely.

The key to integration is tailoring the base's response to the incident being handled. A rear battle response depends on the proximity of the incident, the time available to respond, and the authority, capability, and size of the responding force. Since these factors create a critical operations path that varies from incident to incident, rear-battle integration must remain flexible.

At this point, the need for imaginative adaptation should be clear. Imaginative adaptation stresses countering a threat by using available resources in ways other than those for which they are intended. The timing, proximity, and nature of an incident frequently force the CSS base to resort to available resources, regardless of their type or effectiveness. The ability to effectively employ available resources requires imagination, planning, and on-the-spot adaptation.

Some examples can demonstrate the value of creatively using what is at hand. With proper use of their booms and cables, cranes and wreckers can be set up as barriers to temporarily deny access to the base. Landing zones or perimeters can be defended in this fashion. Forklifts can provide portable observation posts that can be used from protected positions. Portable loading ramps can quickly bridge an area covered with aerially dispersed mines while the base awaits explosive ordnance disposal specialists. Water trailers and shower and laundry equipment can be used for firefighting and decontamination.

Even CSS personnel can be "adapted" in an emergency. A track mechanic, tank turret mechanic, and ammunition handler can be placed under an officer or non-commissioned officer and, with little cross-training, function as a tank crew. Many such adaptations are possible in ordnance and supply units--only a little advance planning and training are required. The effectiveness of the adaptation is limited only by the imagination, preparation, and adaptive skill of the user.

The final stage of planning for rear battle is anticipating problems and integrating solutions into the plan. Experience shows that most units are unfamiliar with, do not understand, or cannot implement rear-battle doctrine. Rear-area operation centers (RAOC's) and headquarters assigned rear-battle missions can create enormous coordination problems by failing to adequately define areas of responsibility, fire limitations, and similar control measures. The poor results are then typically blamed on poor performance by subordinate units.

Another problem is the tendency of subordinate units to "run and gun," based on the belief that an armed reaction force that immediately responds to firing is performing effective rear battle. This type of thinking leaves many rear battle tasks undone, often to the tactical advantage of the attacker.

Other problems are caused by the rear-battle "blindness" of the units involved. This is a tunnel vision that results when units focus on their own missions and experiences. RAOC's frequently try to micro manage all things tactical in the belief that CSS personnel do not understand tactical operations. This usually creates a work overload at several levels. RAOC personnel are often unfamiliar with the organization and operations of CSS units and thus fail to see the enormous rear-battle potential of the materials-handling equipment, wreckers, cranes, bulldozers, and other items in the CSS units.

Another example of blindness is the weakness of CSS headquarters units in intelligence analysis, particularly in intelligence summaries. Level-I threat information is almost universally ignored. Military police units focus on Level-II threats and frequently do a poor job of integrating Level-I threat responses into their plans. (Level-II threats include diversionary or sabotage operations by unconventional forces; raid, ambush, and reconnaissance operations by combat units; and special or unconventional warfare missions.) Command and control may become a touchy issue in some military police units.

Medical units are often left out of rear-battle planning because of their noncombatant status. Unfortunately, this omission ignores the vulnerability of medical units to nuclear-biological-chemical and Level-I threats. It also ignores the fact that threatening forces will not recognize the noncombatant status of medical units. Medical units have a critical role in area damage control and must be integrated into the rear-battle structure without being assigned battle control responsibilities or battle missions.

CSS units have three weaknesses in rear-battle response. First, they fail to adapt standard CSS safety regulations to the existing tactical situation, thus failing to achieve their safety objective while leaving themselves vulnerable to attack. Second, units handling critical assets tend to overrate their own importance, assuming that they will be defended by a military police forces under all circumstances and refusing to plan for other possibilities. These units typically fail to integrate their defense with assigned military police units and have no plan for action inside their unit storage areas.

The final CSS weakness is caused by battle inexperience and is not limited to CSS units. Lack of experience leads to unrealistic defense plans and response. CSS troops tend to overreact in tactical confrontations. The lack of tactical discipline of CSS troops must be addressed by training and strong fire control procedures or rules of engagement.

Rear battle is more than an infantry operation relocated to the rear area. It is a combination of many branch operations. It is the CSS equivalent of combined arms operations in the Air Land Battle. Effective rear battle relies on thorough preparation and strong coordination to achieve flexible integration through the imaginative adaptation of available resources. The ability to identify, obtain, unify, and use all the ingredients on hand is the mark of the rear-battle professional

Captain John W. Ellis is currently enrolled in the Army Command and General Staff College with the 5039th USAR School in Independence, Missouri. This article was written while he served as transportation officer, 325th Quartermaster Battalion (Petroleum Supply), Belton, Missouri. He holds a bachelor's and a master's degree in administration of justice from Wichita State University, Kansas.