Building Sustainable Readiness in Tactical Formations

MG Kurt Ryan
Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics
U.S. Army Forces Command

From Armor & Mobility, October 2019 Issue

MG Kurt Ryan currently serves as the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-4, U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM), Fort Bragg, NC. He comes to FORSCOM from Scott Air Force Base where he recently served as the CG of the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command.

A graduate of York College of Pennsylvania, Major General Kurt J. Ryan was commissioned a Second Lieutenant, Regular Army in 1987.

He began active duty service in the U.S. Army Ordnance Corps, a career now spanning 32 years. The majority of his defense experience is with tactical Army formations, twice serving as a Paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division, two tours with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), a tour in Germany with the 1st Armored Division, duty in upstate New York with the 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), and assignment with the First U.S. Corps in Washington State.

He commanded troops on six occasions; as a Company Commander in Germany, Battalion Commander in North Carolina, Brigade Commander in New York, Commanding General of an Expeditionary Sustainment Command in Washington State, as the CG, U.S. Army Ordnance Corps in Virginia, and as the CG, Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command in Illinois.

Over his career, he participated in seven named military operations, ranging from humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (New Orleans and the Philippines), peace-enforcement and peace-keeping (Bosnia-Herzegovina), and four combat tours in U.S. Central Command (Iraq and Afghanistan).

Major General Ryan has a lifelong passion to continue to learn and grow. He is a graduate of numerous military schools and received two Masters of Science degrees; from the Florida Institute of Technology (Logistics Management) and the U.S. Army’s War College (Strategic Studies).

Armor & Mobility spoke with MG Kurt Ryan, Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, U.S. Army FORSCOM, regarding readiness in tactical formations as the Army has moved from the Army Force Generation concept to Sustainable Readiness.

A&M: Could you give us a quick review of how the Army readiness concept has changed over the last few years and why the new change in how readiness is generated?

MG Ryan: Let me first start by saying that our nation has found itself preparing for future conflict since it declared independence from Great Britain in 1776. In fact, George Washington once said “To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace”. Clearly our methods to build and sustain readiness have evolved over the last two hundred plus years but still today we must remain ready to defend our nation whenever and wherever we are called.

In 2006, the Army implemented a new force generation construct called Army Force Generation (ARFORGEN). ARFORGEN was a model to achieve progressive levels of readiness with recurring periods of availability. Units returning from deployments went over the proverbial “readiness cliff” and equipment used during deployment was turned in for months of required reset, and left-behind equipment was reclaimed from a low-usage status after long-term storage.

Observations in the field showed us that ARFORGEN led to significant atrophy of fundamental components of readiness because it did not focus on building and maintaining sustained readiness. Crewmembers and maintainers alike lost the critical skill sets of maintaining their own equipment and leaders atrophied in the skills to manage maintenance, supply discipline and property accountability. General Milley, in his role as the 39th Chief of Staff of the Army, commented in a recent Army Sustainment article that “We were on a downward slope of readiness relative to the tasks required to be able to fight near-peer competitors. Our readiness was probably okay for counterinsurgency and counterterrorism but not for the higher end of warfare.” General Milley’s comments highlight earlier assessments that drove the institutional change to Sustainable Readiness (SR) in 2016.

Under SR, it is no longer good enough to focus solely on the next assigned unit mission. Combat formations must be “Ready Now” to mitigate risk which accompanies uncertainty in our environment, and be prepared to fight Large Scale Ground Combat Operations (LSGCO) in multi-domain environments. Unlike ARFORGEN that created steep peaks and valleys in readiness levels, SR means resourcing units within a band of excellence that allows commanders to sustain the highest levels of readiness over time, and stay there.

A&M: U.S. Army FORSCOM has the tremendous responsibility of providing trained and ready forces to the Combatant Commands. From your position as the HQ’s senior logistician, where has the change from ARFORGEN to SR been most apparent in regards to readiness?

MG Ryan: Let me answer that by first saying that I believe readiness begins with how well our units are manned, equipped, operationally maintained, trained, and led. Commanders need to empower subordinate leaders to focus on hard, realistic, and demanding training. Within my purview, they must also maintain the readiness of their equipment and be cautious to not allow training to outpace their unit’s ability to sustain itself.

Over the last three years, we’ve made a fundamental change in how we train and deploy our formations. Tactical formations are back to fully using all equipment authorized by their modified tables of organization and equipment. They are exercising vehicles and systems at a higher operating tempo and conducting more training at home station. The fundamental change requires an effective command maintenance program regardless if the unit is in garrison, home station field training, a Combat Training Center (CTC) / Warfighter Exercises (WFX) or deployed.

FORSCOM’s command training guidance makes it clear that commanders are responsible for maintaining all equipment to “TM 10/20” standard. Maintaining equipment to the TM 10/20 standard is a readiness imperative. Surprisingly though, I’ve spent much of my time since arriving at FORSCOM conveying to the field what TM 10/20 really means. The vast majority of our junior Soldiers and leaders perceive that the standard of equipment readiness is fully mission capable (FMC). FMC is but just one of eight conditions of the Army’s TM 10/20 standard.

I do acknowledge that there are multiple drivers to why units might accept risk and not complete all eight TM 10/20 tasks to the full standard. Leaders must carefully manage all resources (manning, funding, facilities, equipment, and time) to achieve 90-percent or better operational readiness rates for ground fleets and 75-percent or better readiness rates for aviation fleets. 90-100% is the band of excellence we should aspire to achieve.

The results of not conducting TM 10/20 maintenance was revealed in a recent FORSCOM Inspector General report on Field Level Maintenance. The findings concluded that the high tempo, lack of predictability, and disregard for established standards are driving poor, high-risk decision making at company-level and below. Taking short-cuts or failing to take corrective action in accordance with all requirements of the TM 10/20 standard places undo risk on the operator and crews and adds risk to the mission as well. A unit not ready cannot fight. A unit that cannot fight effectively with all of its equipment will not win.

A&M: You have mentioned that the Army Standard of TM 10/20 goes beyond a piece of equipment just being fully mission capable. With that said, can you give us a greater sense of what conditions must exist in order for a piece of equipment to meet the standard and be operationally ready?

MG Ryan: The Army has one maintenance standard and that standard is clearly defined in Army Regulation 750-1. TM 10 series and TM 20 series, and/or other appropriate technical data plans specifically describe the maintenance requirements and conditions that must be met for each piece of equipment. Only when all eight conditions are met is the equipment considered to have met the TM 10/20 standard.

The following are those eight conditions as I can best define them:

  • The equipment is FMC. Simply put, the equipment can perform all missions it was designed to perform. The reinforcing safety considerations within the Army Safety Program (AR 385-10) are noted with FMC. That said, we must strike the lexicon of Partial Mission Capable or FMC plus Safety from our culture. There is no such standard. Safety is inherent to FMC.
  • All faults are identified following prescribed intervals using the TM 10/20 Preventive Maintenance Checks and Services (PMCS) tables. Equipment readiness begins with the operator of the equipment. A critical element for achieving fleet readiness in both ground and air systems is teaching and training operators and crews how to maintain their gear.
  • All repairs, services, and other related work that will correct field-level equipment and/or material faults for which the required parts and supplies are available are completed. The depth and breadth of unit shop stocks, bench stocks, and supply support activities (SSA) are critical to the sustainment of our operational readiness. Supply availability at the tactical level reduces customer wait time and enables maintainers to more rapidly repair identified faults so that equipment can get back in the fight. Repair parts and petroleum, oil and lubricants are the lifeblood of equipment readiness.
  • Parts and supplies required to complete the corrective actions, but are not available in the unit, are on a valid funded requisition. Requisitioning parts based on accurate demands enable the wholesale level to improve supply availability over time. All leaders must master the Global Combat Support System – Army (GCSS-A). It is not a logistician’s system – it is a Commander’s system. Understanding every element of the “life of a requisition” will prepare leaders to ask the right questions at maintenance meetings, while walking through motorpools, or while visiting supply activities such as the SSA or unit supply rooms.
  • Corrective actions that are not authorized at the field level are evacuated to the sustainment level for repair on a valid work order. If the repair is not a responsibility at the field-level (level one of a two-level system) then it must be evacuated to an Army Materiel Command (AMC) maintenance activity. Only AMC maintenance activities are authorized to perform Sustainment Level repairs and the unit does not burden the cost of these repairs.
  • Scheduled services are performed at the required service interval. Soldiers must perform PMCS and scheduled services on their equipment as a qualification that is no different from qualifying on a rifle, tank or aerial gunnery range.
  • All routine, urgent, and emergency Modification Work Orders (MWOs) are applied to equipment and reported in the Modification Management Information System (MMIS). This condition also covers one-time Safety of Use Messages (SOUMs) and emergency Safety of Flight Messages (SOFMs).
  • All authorized Basic Issue Items (BIIs) and Components of End Items (CoEIs) are present and serviceable or on a valid supply request. This step of TM 10/20 is arguably the most overlooked of all. One notion why this step is often overlooked is because there is limited supply status provided on the DA Form 5988-E (Equipment Maintenance and Inspection Worksheet). FORSCOM is working closely with the Ordnance School and Combined Arms Support Command to revamp the 5988-E provided in GCSS-Army so that all eight conditions of TM 10/20 are depicted. This will help leaders at the lowest echelon to fully understand the readiness condition of their vehicles.

A&M: Obviously the supply system must support the maintenance operations of the organization. Can you elaborate more on what actions you see at the tactical level?

MG Ryan: Disciplined maintenance programs require disciplined supply operations, including the management of authorized stockage lists (ASLs), shop stocks, and bench stocks. Disciplined demand at the unit level is critical to driving readiness throughout the organic and commercial industrial bases. Disciplined demand drives down customer wait time and drives up availability and operational readiness. Brigade commanders must own the ASL review process to help shape the breadth and depth of the ASL, particularly the stock of readiness drivers and shop stocks.

Tactical commanders don’t often realize that they are also the pseudo Chief Executive Officer of a multi-million dollar supply operation. Our Soldiers working in the tactical SSAs are responsible for the requisition, receipt, processing and storage of thousands of supplies each and every day. Fortunately, leaders are now empowered with the analytics to see equipment and materiel readiness across formations in near-real time and they must leverage these improved analytics to improve their supply processes.

As stated earlier, long customer wait time contributes to low operational rates and commanders can directly influence wait time by driving disciplined supply processes. Three specific drivers of customer wait time that is greatly influenced at the tactical level are (1) requisition processing time – standard is one day to clear ZPARK and Release Strategy; (2) processing time for SSA to issue to customer – standard is one day from when supply arrives from wholesale; (3) part picked-up by the customer – one day standard. In total, the standard for customer wait time for high priority parts is ten days in total. This includes the seven days given to the wholesale level to process and ship the required part from national stocks.

We must gain proficiency in operating our supply activities in austere field conditions and in supporting combat formations on the move in the LSGCO environment. FORSCOM directs Commanders to deploy their ASLs to the CTCs. This is a major change in the way we’ve done business for the last couple of decades and begins to shape the expeditionary capabilities of our sustainment organizations.

A&M: What other changes are being shaped at the CTCs that get after building readiness within our Brigade Combat Teams (BCT)?

MG Ryan: The CTC program remains the crown jewel of our training program for BCTs. The focus of our maneuver CTCs is honing brigade and battalion command and control and battalion maneuver and live fire proficiency in a high-fidelity, live training environment. To compete globally we must be able to win decisively against a near-peer enemy and we must be able to project power across multiple domains.

The efforts to increase rigor throughout the unit’s National Training Center and/or Joint Readiness Training Center experience are paying huge dividends in challenging our Soldiers and developing our leaders to be able to cope with unknown and rapidly changing situations. For instance, at the CTCs we now require all logistics units supporting rotational BCTs to compete in the maneuver box as well. As a young Second Lieutenant, this was a crucible experience for me and it remains the hardest combat-like experience for our future leaders. Our logisticians have to contend with interdicted supply routes, jammed communications and networks, civilians and casualties on the battlefield, unmanned aerial vehicle swarming, and a whole host of other hazards that degrade their mission performance. It is the most realistic environment we can create to prepare the force for Multi-Domain Operations and drives home the integration of maneuver and sustainment efforts, as well as the synchronization of all the warfighting functions.

A&M: What final thoughts would you like to leave with readers?

MG Ryan: Sustainable Readiness will continue to be the Army strategy for generating the most trained and ready forces to meet current and future global requirements. Soldiers and leaders must continue to build upon the readiness gains achieved since the Army moved to the Sustainable Readiness concept. Leaders need to remain involved and focused on all aspects of warfighting readiness – manning, equipping, training, and maintaining.

Balancing current sustained readiness with the immense efforts of modernization will require all of us to roll-up our sleeves. I am confident that our Army in 2028 and beyond will be the envy of the world and a deterrent for threats for generations to come. Thank you for what you will do to realize the Modernized Army.