MSG Half-Mast recently traveled to Ft Stewart to visit with MAJ Ryan Bocklage, the 3rd ID Deputy G4 and CW4 Calvin Sanders, 2nd ABCT Maintenance Technician about the Spartan Brigade's recent rotation to the National Training Center (Feb 23). They discussed the challenges, lessons learned and successes encountered during the rotation. [MAJ Bocklage's and Chief Sander's bios appear at the end of the interview.]
I know you guys are busy and on the go all the time, so thanks for taking a few minutes to speak with PS Magazine
about your recent NCT rotation. What were some of the biggest challenges getting vehicles, equipment and personnel ready to handle a rotation at National Training Center (NTC)?
MAJ Bocklage, BDE SPO: The concept of expeditionary reception, staging, onward movement and integration (RSOI) and the inherent difficulties associated with it cannot be understated. The proper personnel must be part of the torch element and advanced echelon or ADVON to set conditions for sustainment and the reception of the main bodies. Battalions do well when they establish accounts and functional communications before the majority of personnel and equipment arrives.
CW4 Sanders, BDE Maintenance Tech: The biggest challenge was having personnel in the right place at the right time due to inadequate personnel and competing requirements. Personnel have to be in the right place at the right time to receive and download equipment at the rail.
How important was it to get “buy-in” from maintenance leaders, mechanics and Soldiers in the weeks and months leading up to the rotation? Put another way, how did the brigade’s leadership cultivate this buy-in?
MAJ Bocklage: The “culture of maintenance” that Spartan leaders emphasized at each echelon enabled success at NTC. Explaining this culture’s absolute necessity and its impact on the combined arms fight helped gain that “buy-in.” For example, language like: “Get the M2A4s FMC (fully mission capable) so the CAV Squadron can establish the screen line and ensure there are 18 of 18 M109A7s to suppress and destroy enemy positions,” was common during the exercise.
CW4 Sanders: Spartan leaders focused on communication by conducting daily maintenance meetings. Daily communication enabled the team to build combat power at a rapid pace with the assistance of the Army Field Support Battalion (AFSBn), logistics assistance representatives (LARs) and field support representative (FSRs).
NTC is obviously a fast-paced and dynamic environment. Were there any maintenance and sustainment issues that surfaced during the rotation that were particularly difficult to deal with?
MAJ Bocklage: The brigade support battalion (BSB) and forward support companies (FSCs) must treat their sustainment vehicles like pacing items. The loss of a single palletized load system (PLS) or M978 fueler has potentially detrimental impacts on the lines of communication. Sustainment vehicles were operated so heavily during the NTC rotation that the operators often didn’t have time to conduct a proper PMCS.
CW4 Sanders: From my perspective, as far as maintenance goes, there weren’t any particular issues we couldn’t handle. This was due to the experience and knowledge of the maintenance personnel and Spartan leadership.
What were the most important lessons your unit learned from a maintenance and sustainment perspective in the wake of NTC?
MAJ Bocklage: The transportation and movement of the supply support activity (SSA) and its common authorized stockage list (CASL) is a mammoth undertaking. The SSA’s CASL required more lift capacity than what was organic to the BSB distribution company. Planning for the utilization of the 87th Division Sustainment Support Battalion (DSSB) and the NTC’s 916th Support Brigade’s transportation assets greatly reduced the time required to relocate the SSA. Additionally, the movement of the SSA and the BSB must be timed appropriately, during a battle period that doesn’t require immediate access to Class IX parts and other critical sustainment assets.
CW4 Sanders: The most import lesson we learned is that maximizing time is imperative. For example, we implemented a process where, after our daily maintenance meetings, battalion XOs and maintenance personnel took crucial parts back to their footprint to repair NMC equipment.
With the benefit of hindsight, are there things you could have done better or differently?
MAJ Bocklage: One, more thorough cross-training on combat service-support automated information (CAISI) systems and the very small aperture terminal (VSAT) satellite communication system would have been beneficial prior to NTC. Two, the SPO sustainment automation support management office (SASMO) section was woefully undermanned and couldn’t respond and troubleshoot standard Army management information systems (STAMIS) in a dispersed environment. Three, having Signalers and 92As trained in the operation and basic trouble shooting procedures would have increased connectivity and access to GCSS-A functions.
What advice do you have for other units as they prepare for their own NTC rotations?
MAJ Bocklage: Establishing a format for a detailed brigade sustainment rehearsal that maximizes participation and focuses on problem solving ensures that leaders can position themselves at the point of friction during the operation. Also, detailed planning and consideration should be placed on incorporating maintenance and sustainment assets into the loadout of equipment. Some examples include: M88 tracked recovery vehicles, M984 HEMTT Wreckers, Forward Repair System (FRS) and several maintenance contact trucks. Maintenance and sustainment assets should be the first pieces of equipment that roll off the trains at NTC to enable the rapid generation of combat power. Units arriving to NTC must also ensure they arrive with at least 30 days of supply of Class III(P).
CW4 Sanders: Units preparing for NTC rotations need to make sure they bring a 30-day supply of POL, maximize time and personnel, utilize their affiliated AFSBn to help locate parts to repair NMC equipment and implement a process to replenish 100% optimized shop stockage listing (OSSL) on return to their home station. Our job is to build and maintain combat power. Go Ordnance!
Major Ryan E. Bocklage
is from Glen Rock, PA and attended Shippensburg University, where he received a four-year ROTC scholarship. Commissioned in the Quartermaster Corps, he completed the QM Basic Officer Leader’s Course and then moved to Ft Stewart, GA, where he served as a maintenance platoon leader, detachment commander, and company executive officer. While at Ft Stewart, he deployed with Bravo Company 3rd
Brigade Support BN in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. In June of 2021, he returned to the 3rd
Infantry Division after attending the Command and General Staff College. MAJ Bocklage was assigned as the 2/3 ID Brigade S4, leading the Spartan BDE through the modernization process. He then went on to serve as the 703rd
Brigade Support Battalion Support Operations Officer during NTC Rotation 23-05. He currently serves as the deputy G4 for 3rd ID.
Chief Warrant Officer Four (CW4) Calvin A. Sanders Jr.,
is from Roanoke Virginia. He has served in the military for over 20 years, as both an enlisted Soldier and warrant officer. He is currently stationed at Ft Stewart, GA and was previously assigned at Ft Belvoir, VA. CW4 Sanders military education includes WOCS, WOBC, WOAC and WOILE. He also attended How The Army Runs
-AFMC course. He has deployed multiple times to Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait and Qatar. He was Instructor of the Year in 2018. His assignments have included duties as a unit maintenance officer, battalion maintenance officer, training developer, logistics branch chief and, currently, 2/3 ID brigade maintenance warrant officer.