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 (read part one now) 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 maintenance:
A good, quality maintenance program ensures that all vehicles and equipment receive thorough inspections. Performing PMCS to standard is, in my opinion, the key to identifying/repairing faults and reducing the risk of equipment or vehicle damage. Maintenance is more than just PMCS, in fact there many parts working in unison to achieve a fully mission capable status and as XO it is critical to understand these parts.
To make sure your Soldiers are performing the required PMCS, you must first understand the importance and key role of PMCS, and the responsibility of key unit personnel. The TMs require conducting PMCS before, during and after operations (which we know only really happens about 20% of the time).
Operators and crews must observe equipment performance and condition, then document and report what they detect. In my opinion, these two items are those that make or break maintenance operations for an XO. You MUST be the leader who spot checks to ensure 1) that PMCS is being done and to standard and 2) that the documentation of faults is accurate and timely. One key aspect of ensuring this gets done is providing adequate time in the training and operational schedule for Soldiers to perform the PMCS. Working closely with your Commander and 1SG will ensure that time is provided.
Another quick aspect of the PMCS workflow that many overlook is the training the first line leadership and operators themselves how to actually supervise Soldiers and conduct a PMCS. I know when I took on the XO position in an HHC Stryker Infantry unit, PMCS was not the same mindset as it was back in my MGS platoon. You would be surprised how many E6s cannot properly fill out a 5988-E or 2404, yet they are supervising Soldiers conducting PMCS. Having NCOPDs and other PMCS classes throughout the training year is a great way to ensure proficiency throughout the ranks.
Soldiers who make up the units who preserve the operational condition and inherent reliability of equipment are the most critical building blocks in the maintenance system. I am, of course, speaking of the Unit CRT, FMS and UTES personnel. This is one dynamic piece of the maintenance system that as XO you must master. Each element has their own maintenance priorities, Warrant Officer/Commissioned Officers to answer to and other Company elements to support.
That being said, the best tip I have is to work closely with these personnel to establish a proper priority in regard to overall unit mission requirements. Doing so will only increase your probability of your unit’s success and maintenance objectives being accomplished within your own time requirements. Some ways to help establishing maintenance objectives and pacing of services is by tracking your vehicles via spreadsheet and the SAMS-E box. Touching base with the FMS Chief on a weekly basis is not a bad idea either.
Overall, as XO you serve as the leadership link between the operators and crew members conducting the PMCS and those who are tasked with maintaining that equipment. You do so by:
- Preparing for and ensuring that your Soldiers fully participate in the PMCS process
- Attend, lead and supervise PMCS operations
- Being technically competent
- Checking and Updating Unit SOPs
- Knowing your responsibilities for your areas of supervision and maintenance operations
- Enforcing the standard and ensuring that subordinate supervisors, leaders, crews and operators have a sense of “ownership”
- Training Soldiers to properly PMCS and document deficiencies properly
- Enforce safety standards and policies
- Recording and maintaining maintenance data within your leader’s book
- Informing your Commander and 1SG when there is not enough time, personnel, tools or other means to maintain equipment as needed.
The old tanker mindset is still strong within me, so I will leave you with one last piece of wisdom…”Your life and the lives of your Soldiers depend on good maintenance. It can make the difference between whether you live or die.” I hope you have enjoyed and have taken a few pointers from this article for XOs. Feel free to share your own pointers and insight!