The Army Special Operations Support Command

by Lieutenant Colonel Brian J. Burns

The Army's Special Operations Forces receive logistics and signal support from a unique unit.

The end of the Cold War has left the Army with an uncertain future where the only constant is change. Military experts agree that most future conflicts will be characterized by an increase in special operations missions. The downsizing of military forces, a reduced overseas presence, and the shift to a force projection strategy all reinforce the need to develop and refine our ability to rapidly provide tailored, modular, forward-deployed logistics and signal support to Army Special Operations Forces (ARSOF).

Army Special Operations Forces consist of Ranger, Special Forces, psychological operations and civil affairs, and special operations aviation units that are deployed continuously and require support and sustainment. The planning and execution of operation plans, contingency plans, and operations other than war in each commander in chief's (CINC's) area of responsibility are especially critical to ARSOF because they bring limited logistics support capabilities to the battlefield. The mission of providing dedicated direct support to ARSOF units falls to the Army Special Operations Support Command (Airborne) [SOSCOM (A)].

Organization of the Army Special Operations Support Command (Airborne). The command functions as a brigade of the Army Special Operations Command. Note the forward-deployed support (the SOTSE's) and signal detachments (the "SOC's").
Organization of the Army Special Operations Support Command (Airborne). The command functions as a brigade of the Army Special Operations Command. Note the forward-deployed support (the SOTSE's) and signal detachments (the "SOC's").

Formed in 1995 and headquartered at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, with elements and detachments stationed in every major theater around the world, SOSCOM (A) is the stand-alone, premier provider of dedicated combat service support, combat health support, and special operations signal support to the entire ARSOF community and to joint special operations forces worldwide. SOSCOM (A) functions as a major subordinate brigade under the U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC). It consists of the 528th Special Operations Support Battalion (Airborne), the 112th Special Operations Signal Battalion (Airborne), the USASOC Materiel Management Center (MMC), and a Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC). The command also has five forward-deployed Special Operations Theater Support Elements (SOTSE's) integrated into each theater Army command (such as U.S. Army Europe and U.S. Army Pacific) and five signal detachments integrated into the regionally oriented special operations commands (such as Special Operations Command Europe and Special Operations Command South).

The 528th Special Operations Support Battalion and its capabilities and required augmentation.
The 528th Special Operations Support Battalion and its capabilities and required augmentation.

SOSCOM (A) leads the Army in developing and implementing an Army special operations support initiative that provides aggressive, modular, forward-deployable logistics and signal support on a moment's notice anywhere ARSOF requirements exist. SOSCOM (A) is tasked to plan, coordinate, and provide combat service support and combat health support to ARSOF over the full spectrum of conflict in two theaters simultaneously. The command also coordinates and provides operational and tactical communications for Joint Special Operations Task Force commanders in support of up to two regional CINC's simultaneously.

Planning Support

Within the HHC of SOSCOM (A), the Logistics Operations Section plans and coordinates all logistics and signal support to the special operations warfighter. SOSCOM (A)'s multifunctional logistics and signal officers, warrant officers, and senior noncommissioned officers (NCO's) form plans and operations teams aligned to theater-oriented desks. These teams work on a day-to-day basis with the supported special operations forces (SOF) and with lower and higher headquarters to anticipate logistics and signal requirements. Whether reviewing existing major operation and contingency plans, or working through crisis action planning for no-notice situations, the Logistics Operations Section works closely with SOF operational units to meet their support requirements.

The plans and operations teams use the comprehensive statement of requirements (SOR) format to ensure that all logistics and signal support needs are addressed and identified. The SOR covers requirements for all classes of supply and all logistics and signal services. It is the most important document the planners generate during the planning process. Once an SOR is completed, the supported SOF unit sends a formal copy of the document through operational channels for validation and sourcing. Simultaneously, the plans and operations teams take an informal copy of the SOR and start to put together packages of logistics and signal support that use equipment and personnel modules from the HHC, the MMC, and the 528th and 112th battalions. An initial deployment package from the subordinate battalions is prepared to deploy with special operations task forces as early as 24 hours from notification.

Other key players in the planning phase are the SOSCOM (A)'s forward-deployed, regionally oriented SOTSE's. The SOTSE's are attached to the theater Army commands and embedded in their operations and logistics staff sections. They are SOSCOM (A)'s "scouts," conducting logistics preparation of the battlefield for SOF that deploy or are forward-stationed within the theater Army's area of responsibility. As such, the SOTSE's plan, coordinate, and synchronize all support requirements through the theater Army. The SOTSE's use the SOR developed by the plans and operations teams and supported SOF units to identify where the theater Army is capable of supporting SOF requirements. The theater Army exercises its basic mission responsibility as defined in Title 10 of the U.S. Code to support deploying ARSOF whenever possible. However, some theaters are not as mature as others, and SOF may not be operating within the reach of conventional Army support units. In these situations, the SOTSE's turn to any available host nation support and contract support from local civilian vendors.

All of these players come together in the planning phase. The result is a logistics and signal support package consisting of a combination of SOSCOM (A) support modules, U.S. and host nation conventional support forces, and civilian contractors.

Providing Support

Once SOSCOM (A) forms the deployable modular support packages from the HHC, the MMC, the 528th Special Operations Support Battalion, and the 112th Special Operations Signal Battalion, it attaches them to the deploying special operations task forces. The subordinate units of SOSCOM (A) bring unique capabilities that greatly enhance mission SOF capabilities.

The 528th Special Operations Support Battalion is a 400-soldier multifunctional unit that provides rapid, deployable direct and limited general support logistics capabilities. The battalion is organized with a Headquarters and Main Support Company (HMSC) and two multifunctional Forward Support Companies (FSC's). Each company contains tailored support modules that provide all classes of supply and numerous services to SOF intermediate and forward staging bases.

Each FSC has the capability to provide an initial deployment package of critical support and service modules to arrive in an area of operations and be used to establish an operational staging base for up to 500 SOF soldiers. The remainder of the FSC's modules and modules from the HMSC will deploy as follow-on forces as the situation dictates. The follow-on packages are organized to support a 1,500-soldier base camp and can be expanded to support up to 3,500 special operations soldiers in the execution of a major theater war.

The fully deployed support package brings a robust logistics support capability to deployed SOF. Unique capabilities of the 528th Support Battalion include a level I medical treatment facility, special operations aviation fueling modules, an organic engineer base support platoon with subject-matter expertise in electricity, carpentry, and base camp layout and construction, and robust HMMWV (high-mobility, multipurpose, wheeled vehicle)-mounted water production and distribution.

SOSCOM (A) will deploy these tailored modular packages depending on the needs addressed in the SOR. Although independent, the packages are linked through the deploying organic command and control module to the SOTSE's in order to synchronize the support effort.

The 528th Special Operations Support Battalion will deploy its units with SOF task forces and provide support until the mission is completed or until the theater matures and conventional theater Army support units arrive and establish a robust logistics support structure. Once the theater Army is capable of providing support to the special operations units, the 528th will coordinate the transfer of support to the conventional units and redeploy.

The 112th Special Operations Signal Battalion provides strategic and tactical communications support for SOF units around the world. The battalion's primary mission is to support deploying joint special operations task forces by providing links from the task force to its components and from the task force to the supported CINC's headquarters.

The 112th's highly skilled special operations communicators are capable of furnishing, installing, operating, and maintaining both strategic and tactical communications to meet the special operator's secure and unclassified requirements. The battalion accomplishes this mission through its HHC and two signal companies (consolidated at Fort Bragg) and through the forward-deployed signal detachments. The signal detachments are attached to the regionally oriented special operations commands and form the core of support during contingency operations and exercises. As required, the 112th will deploy additional signal modules to meet the needs of the special operations commands and their components.

Synchronization and Command and Control

The SOTSE's coordinate, synchronize, and ensure that support is provided to deployed special operations task forces. In their wartime footing, SOSCOM (A) planners identify the logistics center of gravity for special operations support. This could be as simple as identifying a commercial vendor for bottled water for a Special Forces detachment's deployment to Africa or as complex as integrating the special operations requirements into a theater support command's plans during the execution of a major theater war operation plan. In each instance, the SOTSE's critical mission is to ensure connectivity of support by identifying and linking the deploying SOSCOM (A) support packages into the existing logistics structure.

The SOTSE's then will position liaison officers at key logistics and signal locations to facilitate uninterrupted support. If required, SOSCOM (A) augments the SOTSE's with soldiers from its Logistics Operations Section. This augmentation will consist mainly of subject-matter experts in transportation, signal, medical logistics and operations, contracting, and other logistics functional areas.

The SOSCOM (A) MMC plays a crucial role in providing logistics connectivity to planned and coordinated support. The MMC is the command's focal point for providing ARSOF with centralized and integrated materiel management of property, equipment, maintenance, logistics automation, repair parts, and supplies (all classes except classes V [ammunition] and VIII [medical materiel]). The MMC serves as the single point of contact for logistics management for both active and reserve component ARSOF units and provides command visibility on all matters concerning logistics and property accountability. The MMC's Logistics Automation Division is SOSCOM (A)'s primary means of ensuring that ARSOF units are linked into all logistics system architectures using the most current Standard Army Management Information Systems (STAMIS).

In a contingency or exercise scenario, the MMC's highly experienced senior officers, warrant officers, and NCO's deploy to the SOTSE's and work to ensure that ARSOF task forces are linked by automation to Army support activities. The MMC accomplishes this mission by linking the deploying units' STAMIS with the existing theater Army architecture. If the ARSOF units deploy to a remote or immature area of operation, the MMC will ensure linkage back to Fort Bragg via organic strategic communications systems.

The SOSCOM (A) with its special operations support initiative is a forceful concept that requires doctrinal flexibility, tailorable support modules, and logistics connectivity and versatility across the full spectrum of conflict. The result is the creation of an aggressive support structure that can provide assured support to all deploying and forward-stationed SOF units conducting training and executing missions in areas of operations ranging from less than developed to fully mature theaters. The Army Special Operations Support Command (Airborne) stands ready to lead the Army in this dynamic initiative and continues to provide the best support to the U.S. military's premier forces, anywhere and anytime.  ALOG

Lieutenant Colonel Brian J. Burns is the Chief of Operations for the Army Special Operations Support Command (Airborne) at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He has a bachelor's degree from Purdue University and an M.S. degree in operations management from the University of Arkansas.