PROFESSIONAL BULLETIN OF UNITED STATES ARMY LOGISTICS
Lacking a background in petroleum supply, the author had to learn on the job when assigned to an Army Reserve petroleum battalion. He describes some of the things he did to better prepare his unit for its mission.
"So, you're a live, breathing, qualified military police captain with combat operations experience, enrolled in the CGSOC (Command and General Staff Officers Course) through the U.S. Army Reserve School, and the MP unit has no vacancy?" recited the lieutenant colonel as he reviewed my record.
"That's right," I replied.
"Well, MP's handle traffic, don't they, just like transportation officers? Have I got a deal for you!"
As Dirty Harry might have put it, "Welcome to the Reserves."
So began my introduction to petroleum supply. I was an MP officer with an enlisted artillery background assigned to a transportation job in an Army Reserve quartermaster unit. Several classes, subcourses, field manuals, and training exercises later, I want to share with the readers of Army Logistician some of the things I have done while working in what has been for me a new area--petroleum supply.
My solutions to the challenges I faced were those of an outsider. My lack of branch qualification in either the Transportation or Quartermaster Corps was both a handicap and a benefit. Not always knowing the standard solution, I had to seek it out or create my own. Many of my ideas came from the CGSOC curriculum, which frequently seemed to give me just what I needed in my unit. This, then, is an outsider's approach to operations analysis and tasking in the petroleum supply battalion.
The operations analysis and tasking process I developed for my unit involves these steps: Examine the organization's mission and typical taskings; standardize mission responsibilities; determine the operation's phases and the critical path for accomplishing the mission; develop an operational concept; develop a task organization to implement that concept; and communicate the operational concept to subordinate units.
The first step is to examine the organization's missions. The petroleum supply battalion, currently organized under table of organization and equipment 10-226H, will soon convert to the 10-426L series. In its current format, the battalion's mission is command and control of two to five petroleum supply companies or transportation medium truck companies equipped with petroleum, oils, and lubricants (POL) semitrailers. The battalion provides general support of class III bulk products and is normally assigned to a corps support command (COSCOM) or theater army area command (TAACOM).
Typical taskings assigned to the battalion by higher headquarters include general support to an area; direct support to a division; direct support to a POMCUS (pre-positioning of materiel configured to unit sets) site, staging area, refitting area, or pipeline tap operation; mobile refuel point operations on main supply routes; and quality surveillance of petroleum products.
The variety of taskings, combined with the command level at which it operates, can create operational problems for the battalion. The battalion headquarters must provide support to forces ranging from the division level down to the using unit. Each customer varies in its demand for petroleum products and its capability to accommodate petroleum resupply. In addition, the force to be supported at the TAACOM or COSCOM level is quite likely to include joint, Allied, or host nation forces.
The variety of customers can present some obstacles to smooth operations and requires varied responses by the petroleum supply battalion. The battalion must consider such factors as the command and control capability of customer units; accountability of the petroleum stock; POL quality; the locations of units and class III facilities; the capabilities of the class III facilities and the transportation net in the area of operations; area transportation resources; the effects of weather on the transportation net and on petroleum products; safety; communications requirements; and the tactical situation.
The diversity of factors that must be considered in planning is, at first glance, a little imposing for a battalion-level operation. Some of these factors are primarily the responsibility of the materiel management center (MMC) or the movement control center (MCC) of the support command to which the petroleum supply battalion is assigned. However, the battalion must still wrestle with many of these considerations during its operations. Applying the standard definitions of general support and direct support to the battalion's missions produces some problems because of the different POL capabilities of units to be supported. A division has an MMC to regulate its POL deliveries and a variety of support forces to handle POL products. A using unit, however, may have no POL capability at all, which will hinder delivery schedules, quality surveillance, and accountability.
It seems obvious to me that the petroleum supply battalion needs to more carefully define its missions. I believe that the solution is to standardize the battalion's missions in the manner normally used for artillery and engineer missions. Provisions for command and control, liaison, communications, stock control, and accountability should vary according to mission taskings. The chart shows one way to standardize POL missions.
|Mission||Command Relations||Tasked by||Priority set by||Positioned by||POL Accounting||POL Transportation||Communications and Liaison|
|Direct Support, Close||Attached to Unit Supported||Supported Unit||Supported Unit||Supported Unit||Supported Unit||Supported Unit|
|Direct Support||OPCON to Unit Supported||Supported Unit||Supported Unit||Supported Unit through BN HQ||Supported Unit||Battalion Headquarters||Battalion Headquarters||BN HQ and Supported Unit|
|General Support||Assigned to Battalion Headquarters||Battalion Headquarters||Battalion Headquarters||Battalion Headquarters||Battalion Headquarters||Battalion Headquarters||BN HQ coord w/Supported Unit|
|General Support, Reinforcing||OPCON to Reinforced Unit||BN HQ, then Reinforced Unit||Reinforced Unit through BN HQ||BN HQ then Reinforced Unit||BN HQ then Reinforced Unit||BN HQ then Reinforced Unit||BN HQ, then Reinforced Unit|
|General Support, Dedicated||Assigned to Battalion Headquarters||Battalion Headquarters||Battalion Headquarters||Battalion Headquarters||Battalion Headquarters||Battalion Headquarters||BN HQ coord w/Supported Unit|
Having standardized mission responsibilities, the next problem confronting the petroleum supply battalion is determining the phases and critical path of an operation. The battalion must integrate petroleum storage and petroleum transportation, which are the two operations involved in petroleum distribution. Each of these operations has its own style, lingo, and phases. Petroleum personnel tend to think in terms of continuous product flow; they want to keep POL moving to the user. Transportation personnel usually view their jobs in terms of discontinuous lifts or loads; they pick up a load and deliver it, then return for another load.
Weaving these two together can be accomplished by identifying the phases of each operation (storage and transportation) and plotting them by means of a critical path analysis. The phases of a petroleum storage operation are: requirements determination, deployment, storage site establishment, closeout operations, and recovery. The phases of a petroleum transportation operation are: requirements determination, deployment, base establishment, move to the load site, product loading, move to the offload site, product offloading, move to the unit base, and recovery.
The critical path analysis can incorporate both the flow concept of petroleum personnel and the load and lift concept of transporters. The result is an effective technique for what may be the most critical task of a petroleum supply battalion, determining the best method of distribution. The critical path can be combined with a standard transportation planning technique to produce a distribution planning chart, which may be used to support daily operations, make estimates, or plan the overall mission.
The distribution planning chart I developed contains five columns, which represent the release points, transport mode to storage, storage points, transport mode to delivery, and delivery points. By recording the pertinent information for each release point, the capabilities of each transport mode and storage point, and the requirements of each delivery point, one can use the chart to plot the critical path for each operation. The chart allows the mission to be visually represented in a way that limits confusion and thus the possibility of improper or inefficient use of available resources. When combined with appropriate operational symbols, the chart can be easily transferred to a distribution overlay to illustrate the operational concept. The petroleum supply concept can then be expressed in writing in the appropriate portion of the operations order.
FM 101-5-1, Operational Terms and Symbols, provides the basis for making symbols for all overlays. Unfortunately, it is of limited use in representing petroleum distribution. The FM contains no standard symbols for pipelines, rail cars, or vessels other than barges and amphibians. I therefore had to develop appropriate symbols. Standard petroleum references indicate that a pipeline is visually represented by a line that is labeled by size and product. I adapted this symbol to represent pipeline facilities. I developed a rail car symbol by combining the standard symbol for a trailer with the standard map symbol for a rail line. There was no obvious solution for differentiating between barges and tankers, so I combined the barge symbol with a slightly modified amphibian symbol to indicate tankers.
Having solved the problem of symbols, my unit could assemble a complete listing of petroleum distribution facilities and incorporate them into a plan book for easy reference. The symbols allow personnel to use standard visual representation on diagrams and maps.
Visual representation of data is an effective method of resolving conflicting requirements when attempting to determine the best distribution method for an operation. I recommend using map overlays since they can easily incorporate data on the military situation data. The overlays we use include the following--
Information is the key for effective staff work. Overlays may be used to present some data visually, but the material will need to be supported with other sources. The staff can rely upon the usual field manuals, but I found that developing a plan book or workbook is much more effective. A good plan book presents the data in the format in which they may be needed for developing an operations plan.
For petroleum operations, I recommend that the battalion staff start by gathering information on the petroleum slice of all units capable of class III operations, including joint, allied, and host nation forces, from theater to company level. The data should then be organized according to the planning factors that affect petroleum distribution. These factors might include storage and transportation capacity; rate of transfer; terrain and area requirements; rate of site preparation; personnel, equipment, and technical requirements; interoperability requirements; and equipment route and transportation requirements. The plan book should also include layout diagrams; an index of important references; and information on critical equipment, such as line item numbers and fuel consumption rates. Then add the petroleum symbols, formats for estimates and orders, and specific petroleum information, such as the standardization agreement (STANAG) on computing the fuel consumption unit. A good plan book gives the battalion the ability to strip down the petroleum operation to analyze a particular factor or to easily determine the capability of a petroleum-handling unit at any level, which will allow decisions to be made quickly and decisively.
After developing an operational concept with a distribution diagram, the petroleum operations branch should develop the task organization needed to accomplish the mission. The variety of missions that may be given to a general support force requires that a number of task organizations be considered. Some of the options I have identified include-
When the task organization has been determined, it should be described in a mission order for the petroleum operation. This is the final area where I believe preparation can be valuable. However, a format for a mission order is needed.
FM 101-5, Staff Organization and Operations, does not contain an example of a mission order for a petroleum supply mission. A sample of a petroleum distribution plan can be found in FM 10-67, Petroleum Supply in Theaters of Operations, but its scope is too broad for one mission. I decided that our unit needed to modify the standard operation order format. After experimenting, we developed two tailored formats for mission orders, one for storage and one for transportation. These formats contain most factors that should be considered for each mission.
What my unit and I have done is not dramatic, which is probably the most important point. I often encounter the attitude that combat service support operations are different from combat operations. While there are some techniques that apply best only to combat service support operations, many of the operational techniques used in the control of combat operations can be applied equally well to combat service support. This, I think, is the chief lesson I have learned during my tour in petroleum supply. In the final analysis, a blend of techniques to fit the task at hand is the best approach. Analysis and methodology must concentrate on the best solution for the battle and not just on the "school" solution provided by the branch doctrine.
Captain John W. Ellis, USAR, is the transportation officer, 325th Quartermaster Battalion (Petroleum Supply), USAR, in Belton, Missouri. He recently completed the Transportation Field-Grade Orientation Course. He holds bachelor's and master's degrees in administration of justice from Wichita State University, Kansas.