A Practical Guide to Command Supply Discipline for Company Leadership
There are several challenges to maintaining a good Command Supply Discipline Program (CSDP): lack of recovery time; shear enormity of shortages especially in a Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC) property book (between all classes of supply excess of $1 million in shortages when I took command); competing requirements/priorities (too many of them and not backed up with appropriate risk analysis); and, a historic culture that accepted poor CSDP requiring incoming commander’s to not only teach good CSDP, but teach it over and over and over again until it finally starts to sink in.
I served as a Company Executive Officer (XO) in 2nd Battalion 75th Ranger Regiment for two years with a property book totaling around $30,000,000. I experienced poor CSDP and excellent CSDP throughout my time as a Platoon Leader (29-months), XO (24-months) and Company Commander (24-months). I am by no means an expert at this, but I have spent the last six straight years conducting cyclic inventories, sensitive items inventories, and change of command inventories and working with PBUSE and GCSS-A on a daily basis. These are my keys to success and some of the realities that face incoming commanders.
Keys to Success:
- Incoming commander must maintain a working copy document (at the end of the day the best way to avoid a FLIPL and resolve with a simple statement of charges is to overwhelm the Sub Hand Receipt Holder with proof – ie., you have your initialed working documents, signed Sub Component Hand Receipt (SCHR), initialed shortage annex, and excel spread sheet itemizing all shortages), best practice that I used was to have a copy of the Training Manual ™ pages that cover Components of End Items/Basic Issue Items (COEI/BII) and write out the authorized quantity in the margin and then write in total quantities of COEI/BII as you go through the TM. I also used the supply provided sub-component hand receipts which I had to cross out and make to match the TM and in some of the extreme situations I simply took a blank piece of paper and created my own sub-component hand receipt. Key thing on these working documents, just like Jump Master Pre-Inspections (JMPI), always execute systematically in the exact same order. I always verify National Stock Number (NSN) first on the property book, TM, and end item. Next, I verify that the TM number and date matches the TM memo and matches the information on the sub-component hand receipt. In a perfect world the supply sergeant is standing there with a completed sub component hand receipt that matches the TM and a copy of the accurate shortage annex ready for the incoming commander’s signature. The Company XO should be standing by with a copy of the outgoing commander’s shortage annex and excel spread sheet.
- The incoming commander must build a excel spreadsheet that itemizes every single shortage in the company. He/She should utilize their own Logistics Information Warehouse (LIW) account to go through and build this spread sheet and look up the cost of each sub-component, what class of supply it is, and whether it is expendable, durable, or nonexpendable. This is the only way the new commander can be absolutely sure that the total dollar amount of shortages in his/her company equals what PBUSE/GCSS-A says it does when an audit is pulled. This also makes common sense to me, as the general allegiance of a supply sergeant is going to be to the outgoing commander. Like the Property Book Officer (PBO) says, “In God we trust, all others must sign.”
- Working copies need to be kept sacred. No one was allowed to touch them other than me and I numbered and initialed every page, so that when I was done I had working documents for every single Line Item Number (LIN) for every single sub hand receipt holder, ie, 89 pages for the Arms room, 64 pages for S6, 32 pages for Supply, etc… I scrubbed through these working copies every night and used them to build the excel spreadsheet from the previous bullet.
- After the inventories have been completed the incoming commander should send his spreadsheet to the outgoing commander who along with the XO/Supply sergeant (in my experience since I’m the one who is financially responsible – I’m the one verifying it) go line by line down the incoming commander’s shortages and identify any increase in shortages. We also identified major dollar amount swings IOT protect the incoming commander. In a $20,000,000 property book it is very easy to miss something. For every single increase in shortages whether it was a $0.20 snap hook or a $1500 power amp we located my working documents from when I inventoried, the signed sub-component hand receipt, and the shortage annex and sent out a total hit list by Sub Hand Receipt. We gave each of the sub hand receipt holders a few days to get their discrepancies together and then we pulled everyone into the conference room and went line by line down each discrepancy list. This may seem like a waste of time for the other 15 Sub Hand Receipt Holders; however I think it accomplished several things. First, it allowed all the sub hand receipt holders to see the level of detail and importance that the command places on CSDP. Second, if one of the shortages was a like item that some/all of the sub hand receipt holders had, a time could be put out for the re-inventory. Third, it provided an opportunity for the incoming and outgoing commanders to go through everything prior to anyone leaving the unit.
- TM memo, this thing needs to be scrubbed through before the incoming commander ever gets there and it needs to be done by a 92Y who has LIW/PBUSE/GCSS-A access to verify the correct info. This then needs to be sent out to all the sub hand receipt holders so that they are using the correct version of the TM. Most of this seems like common sense, but here is where it gets tricky. Your 45 days into inventories and about 40 days ago you lost any hope of having your sub hand receipt holders all present at the same time, so your basically going sub hand receipt by sub hand receipt instead of LIN by LIN. At the 20 day mark you lost the ability to even ensure that your sub hand receipt holder is present so you now have sergeant so and so helping who definitely doesn’t have the TM memo, your XO is on 30 days of emergency leave, and your supply sergeant…let’s just say that the BDE S4 told you that you are 4th in line for a new one, come back in 6 months and see if we have one for you. Get some help from your BN S4 NCOIC you say? Sounds like a good idea, except that is the sub hand receipt holder who is supposed to be going through the lay out with you and isn’t present for whatever Command Post Exercise/Brigade inspection, you name the reason. So TM memo is great in a perfect world, but in the world I found myself in, I inventoried off the TM they gave me after doing some quick phone magic to see if it was the most up to date, and then wrote down the TM number and publication date on my working documents so that at the very least I could come back and show the Financial Liability Investigation of Property Loss (FLIPL) Investigation Officer what I inventoried off of.
- Just because the TM doesn’t list COEI/BII or even goes to the extent of saying something along the lines of this item does not come with COEI/BII take a pause. For most items that probably means it really doesn’t come with anything and you don’t need to account for it, however, Tripods are a perfect example of how this is not true. I knew it because I had inventoried it as an XO, but even without the experience simple common sense and battlefield patience would allow you to look at the tripod and say what do I need to attach a Machine Gun (MG) to this? Traversing and Elevation (T&E) and a pintle of some kind. Are those things COEI/BII of the MG? No. Okay maybe we need to look further into the TM. Sure enough buried in the middle of the TM it gives a description of the three parts of the M192 Tripod: Tripod, mounting bracket (pintle) and Traversing & Elevation (T&E). I wish I had a penny for every time someone told me, “We’ve never inventoried those”, or “It’s not in the TM”, or “I’ve done 30 changes of command, sir and we’ve never done it like that.” There is a massive cultural problem, poor CSDP has become the standard. Incoming commanders should only trust in God, the regulation, and the TM. When all of those fail you should be able to turn to the PBO. My experience is that works, but who’s to say that the same PBO will be there during your change of command FLIPL? So get it on email, in writing or something. The day you start inventorying you should be building your outgoing Change of command FLIPL packet.
- Assess risk with regards to property in the following order: sensitive items and end items (no fail), Non-Expendable sub-components, durable and expendable (assess risk on these largely based off dollar amounts). This last rule on the dollar amount assessment can be applied to your time management. If you find yourself spending 6 hours inventorying a $500 tool kit and only 15 minutes inventorying the $1.5 million Satcom Transportable Terminal (STT) you should probably reassess your time allocation.
 Note: since PBUSE/GCSS-A generates most of these they are generally inaccurate and full a 10-20 additional items that are not required by the TM, but just waste institutional time.
MAJ Trevor Corrigan has been teaching Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at the United States Military Academy for two years, and is the Course Director for CH362, Mass and Energy Balances, as well as serving as the Chemistry and Life Science Department’s S4/Billing Official.
MAJ Corrigan Graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 2008. Upon completing Airborne School, Infantry Officer Leadership Course, and Ranger School, he served for 18 months as a Stryker Platoon Leader, then as a Ranger Platoon Leader for another year followed by two years as a Ranger Company Executive Officer. Following Maneuver Captain’s Career Course and Jump Master School he commanded HHC/2-35IN, 3IBCT and then A/2-35IN.
Cover image: U.S. Army Photo by Spc. Robert Winns/Released