Supply and Maintenance Tips for Army XOs (Part I)

Even when everything else is going well, supply and maintenance problems can keep your unit from running on all cylinders.  Your unit may just be the best trained in the Battalion, but if your equipment isn’t on hand or doesn’t work right, you won’t get very far.

Supply and maintenance are the key duties and responsibilities of an Army XO and are what allow a unit to train, fight and will battles.  This two part article will provide you with a broad overview of the basic maintenance and supply concepts along with some helpful tips that you will need to know as an XO carrying out your duties.  Let’s take a look at supply:

Supply is really a verb rather than a noun, in my mind, as it is the process of providing all items necessary to equip, maintain and operate within a military unit.  Shortages and non-functioning equipment can prevent units from accomplishing its mission and as XO, your job is to make sure that doesn’t happen and that supply flows efficiently.

As XO, you must know all about the resources your unit needs down to the type, quantity on hand, location, status and availability.  Coupled with that is acknowledging the need for the XO to also know the rate of use and consumption trends of the unit to be able to estimate future consumption rates.

Let’s take a look at some of the key characteristics of supply operations and some tips that will help you as XO:

  • Anticipation: Being able to foresee future operations and identify, accumulate and maintain the assets to support those operations.

Tip: Work closely with your peer PLs to understand what they need.  It is one thing to read a WARNO or OPORD and be told what someone may need, but until you make contact with those you support, it won’t mean much.  Try to at least project your outlook to 90+ days out (3 IDTs from now).

  • Simplicity: Avoid complexity in both planning and executing logistical functions.

Tip: SOPs can really aid in simplicity regarding supply operations.  Also, everything in the Army seems to be overly and unnecessarily complicated…avoid that by using some common sense.  For example, rather than jump through hoops to get ammo drawn early the next morning, draw it concurrently with another range and have that unit sit on that ammo on that range until the next day.

  • Responsiveness: Get the right supplies and other support to the right place at the right time. 

Tip:  You can only be effective and responsive if you are organized.  If you are not carrying around a small notebook, you’re wrong.  Ensuring accurate and timely logistics is a reflection on your ability as XO to stay organized. 

  • Economy:  Provide appropriate support without excess. 

Tip:  Take the time to sit and plan logistical operations.  Anyone can simply order boxes and boxes of ammo or bring a fuel truck out to fuel 3 HMMWVs, but when you aren’t economical with your logistics, it often takes away from those who probably need it a lot more.  Sit down and ensure that your logistical plan ensures that the “beans, bullets and ammo” are prioritized and allocated appropriately.

  • Flexibility: Make sure organizational structure and logistical procedures are adaptable to changing situations, missions and operations.

Tip:  This tip goes hand in hand with those previously mentioned.  The more you plan, keep it simple and organize the easier it will be for you to remain flexible.  It is much harder to react to change if there was no real game plan to begin with.  This idea of flexibility is also a mindset.  You can’t go getting frustrated or upset when your plan goes to crap because, guess what…it will (I promise).  Having an understanding that it won’t always go to plan allows you to be better prepared to handle the changes coming your way.

  • Attainability/Sustainability: Make sure you have the quantity of supplies and services available to execute the mission and maintain that continuous support throughout your mission.

Tip:  This last characteristic is a nice segway into our next discussion and that is accounting for your supplies and equipment.  One thing I am known for as an OCD, Type A Company XO is my extensive spreadsheets and record keeping binders.  At any moment’s notice I can pull up a spreadsheet to answer any question in terms of attainability and sustainment.  “XO, we need an idea of how many mission capable vehicles we will have available for AT.”  Too easy, all I do is pull up my spreadsheet showing our vehicle density, which is color coded based on the vehicles status and its next scheduled services.  A little OCD, yes, but makes my job exponentially easier.

When you assume duties as XO, you also assume responsibility for the property assigned to that unit.  All property (except real property) is classified for accounting purposes and maintained as part of the unit’s property book.  The Army is known for accounting for its property, after all few if any organizations have so much to keep track of.  As XO, you will see that there are many methods of accounting for the different categories of supply and property and of course, various pieces of paperwork to do so.  Basically, you will keep track of your supply and equipment using property books, hand receipts, inventory lists, transfer documents and other tools.

Let’s start with the basics.  Your Commander will have (or will) sign for all the equipment assigned to the Company.  He or she should then pass that down to the Platoon leaders using sub-hand receipts.  If that PL is smart, he will then also sub-hand receipt that equipment down to the user level (i.e. Platoon Sergeant, Squad Leader, etc.) using a hand receipt.  

hand receipt is just a listing of non-expendable and durable items that have been issued to an individual.  To do this, you will use the DA FORM 2062.  Using this form ensures that responsibility is officially assigned to the signature.  As XO, I often spot check platoon equipment cages to hand receipts and look over PL Leader Books to ensure that they are maintaining their hand receipts internally.

Sometimes there are situations where it doesn’t make sense to assign further responsibility for property (i.e. a Platoon Sergeant who signed for a MBD for a 105-mm main gun that all crews will use or XO/Supply Sergeant maintaining the Company weapons).  In this case, you may have to manage the property using an automated system as an inventory list.

When doing this, you as the PBO (Property Book Officer) must inventory the property monthly (sensitive items) and semiannually.  Our Battalion, for example, issues a priority PBUSE printout of all equipment and sensitive items that much be inventories and digitally signed for each month.  I will receive a list of NSN numbers to inventory that month and, as a tip, I also make sure that those NSN equipment pieces are properly PMCSd and a 2404 filled out for that equipment.  Reason being, a lot of equipment within your unit goes unused all year and goes overlooked until COMET inspection time… Avoid that mistake by using your inventory time to also conduct maintenance (but that’s another article…).

Other times, XOs and Supply Sergeants may have to use DA FORM 3161 to issue, turn-in or transfer equipment.  If your unit does not use an automated system (which is highly unlikely in today’s Army) you may also use the DA FORM 3161-1 to request supplies.  Typically, you will use this to laterally transfer items to other units when authorized by the appropriate approval level.  You simply post the DA FORM 3161 to the hand receipt, but each unit is different for how they handle lateral transfers.  Look into DA PAM 710-2-1 or your unit SOP to know what procedures to follow.

Lastly, hand receipt annexes are used between XOs (or Supply Sergeants) and the primary hand receipt holders and between primary hand receipt holders and sub-hand receipt holders.  When an item with components is issued on a hand receipt or sub-hand receipt, you must record any shortages of non-expendable or durable components on a hand receipt annex.

Supply accountability is a very time consuming and overwhelming task sometimes.  The best tip I have is always keep previous copies of your unit property book and hand receipts, especially when they have been updated.  This gives you a “track record” of property that was removed or transferred from your books.

Transfer paperwork can become lost, and transfers can be posted incorrectly which can result in property that others turned in still showing up on your books.  Try and avoid this.  Hand receipt annexes are also critical as you may be able to operate a piece of equipment for years without other components but when you go to transfer or turn-in that piece of equipment, that receiver will want all the sub-components as well.  That can be a real pain to rectify…

Mirroring the advice provided in the Part-Time Commander XO Course it is very important to work closely with your Supply Sergeant and take a few courses on the PBUSE system and supply operations.  It will help you exponentially.  As XO, you must understand the art and science of planning and carrying out the movement and maintenance of your equipment and vehicles.  I hope this article has provided some good insight for you and that my tips prove helpful.  Keep a look out for Part II of this series where in the next article, we will talk Maintenance.

Read Part Two

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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3 thoughts on “Supply and Maintenance Tips for Army XOs (Part I)”

  1. Great job Justin. I am a huge fan of statistics. It would be great if a unit would have charts keeping track of usage and then you can go back and find what average usages were during certain time periods. There are even computer programs that will “break” all these statistics down for you. It will give you a great idea what you need to order. I believe all Supply Sergeants should utilize a system such as this.

    Great post; Hopefully, the right people will read it.

  2. I love Supply.

    The Supply Sergeant really can make or break a unit.

    And the XO must be really involved with the Supply Sergeant to ensure everything is working smoothly.

    I tell all Company XO’s to work closely with the S4, PBO and Unit Supply Sergeant.

    This will consume about 70% of your time if you are doing it right.

    See what you can do to help the Supply Sergeant, pick up where they are weak, and figured out the Commander’s Supply priorities.

    Just my two cents.

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