The Benefits of Incorporating Reception, Staging, Onward Movement, Integration and Extraction into the Training Environment
Whether it is deploying on global operations or on the ‘Road to Hamel’, countless hours are lost to administration in the final weeks prior to deployment that could be better spent honing our fighting skills or with family. This is where Army must ‘train as we fight’ and have a unit level reception, staging, onwards movement and integration (RSO&I) process for exercises that replicates the deployment process. The process would become muscle memory, enhancing a unit’s preparedness to deploy and mitigating administrative burden that occurs when a deployment order is struck.
This paper provides an aide-memoire of lessons and advice for the inclusion of a unit level RSO&I process in training. These lessons are written from the author’s perspective as the Training Officer of the 7th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (7 RAR), throughout 2015/16 that conducted extensive unit collective training. This paper includes suggestions against the doctrinal stages of RSO&I including the addition of an extraction stage. While this advice is relatively procedural, each unit and location will bring its own unique set of circumstances and therefore success will be built on the ability to be flexible and adaptive.
STAGES OF RSO&I
The stages below outline the process conducted at 7 RAR.
Prior to deploying
The RSO&I package is managed from the training cell and works closely with the operations and administrative cells, the deploying unit second in command, and company sergeant majors of 7 RAR. This ensures both the administration requirements and range package suit the needs of the exercising sub unit. External supporting units are engaged and directed how to populate the exercising manning directive and required administrative info into 7 RAR’s database.
An RSO&I package is made available to the all units prior to deployment to assist with planning. An end state is directed in order to achieve the required field firing progression and safety requirements. This is to ensure that all personnel are prepared to conduct advanced and potentially dangerous practices. Whether it is a 48 or 72 hour package, everything is prepared as if the mounting unit was a separate entity. This enables greater control of the process and creates administrative muscle memory for the exercising units.
All too often a supporting unit’s lack of preparatory planning and information ends with a familiar outcome: The unit in the battle space is negatively impacted with the need to fix arrival shortfalls, whereas this time should be used in executing the mission. A pre arrival package is disseminated giving the sub unit commander options on how he achieves the end state prior to arriving therefore increasing his planning time and setting the conditions for a successful start to their mission. All participating units understand the commanders intent and meet the required mission readiness.
The positive impact of an all informed exercising contingent being briefed centrally puts an end to speculative planning and rumour mongering. This also allows any late modifications to the activity to be distributed completely to one audience rather than piece meal. Although largely focused on the deploying sub unit, everyone comes through RSO&I without exception. The potential for units to integrate naturally with each other becomes easier as all sub units transition through the same process. It’s also during the reception process that the data collection begins. All data collection processes include the exercising call sign respective subject matter expert whether it is the company sergeant major, platoon staff, administration clerk or quartermaster. This builds a cohesive educational approach to fixing issues and identifying systemic and or call sign centric issues.
At the exercise reception area the RSO&I team take control of the arriving units. Time is allocated for weapons to be issued, packs to be unloaded, during this time relevant commanders and key staff are identified, briefed separately and given the opportunity to conduct range recce and back brief command. Soldiers are marshalled into the briefing area and the follow occurs:
- Informed of the RSO&I process to be conducted.
- Systematic range clearance – this incudes any range centric issues identified in local range standing orders.
- Exercise brief – highlighting key aspects of the activity, timings, range practices, training level to be achieved and commanders intent.
- Data collection – the data collection process replicates a member arriving in country on deployment from an administrative perspective. The process serves a secondary function, identifying prior to entry into the field the common oversights or errors that tend not to be identified until the event where they have become a more pressing issue. Commanders receive a detailed breakdown of their exercise RSO&I arrival data which allows them to see as a percentage what issues are present within their call sign. Two audits are conducted, they are:
- Administrative audit – each soldier files through an independent clerk is recorded on the exercising manning document and has their record of service checked for errors or changes. 7 RAR also uses this opportunity to check member’s identification card, dog tags, casualty card-part of DP1- and K number, (7 RAR unit identifier if Kilo, every member is issued a K number that directly correlates to what call sign the member belongs to. This number is fixed to a velcro patch that is worn on the member and attached to his equipment. The K number tracks the person and equipment throughout the activity). This is not new to 7 RAR, it is a process created towards the end of the Vietnam War and is known as a ZAP number. Attached members were issued a K number as they transitioned through the RSO&I process.
- Issued equipment audit – each soldier files through an independent quartermaster and has their issued weaponry and specialist stores serial numbers checked for accuracy against the issuing ledger.
Results from implementing this process have found an increased efficiency of staff across the battalion at all rank and responsibility levels. Exercising sub unit administrative and quartermaster staff are included in the audit process as a means of education and allowing first hand to see their call-signs issues. Sub unit senior staff are alerted of any serious oversights and errors, which are addressed as appropriate. This has had both a humbling and educational effect. This level of scrutiny equals a more focussed attitude on the minute details. What may have started off as an acceptable oversight and an issue to be addressed for next time has become the commander’s immediate priority.
Due to the open and transparent nature of the process, lessons learnt are quickly adopted by other participating sub units. Army is a competitive environment that sees us strive for perfection, our attention to detail is what saves lives so applying the same principle to administrative work is no different. Truth can be said of the acknowledgement that a unit rather than be exposed for a lack of professional application stands out as being well organised and prepared.
The staging element of the RSO&I process holds the capacity to introduce any new training capability and allows for development at an individual or collective training leve1. The fundamental elements of staging are no change from current doctrine. Consisting of assembling, accommodating, organising arriving personnel, equipment and materiel into their exercising force element groups and onward movement into the exercising battle space. During the staging process the RSO&I team become a supporting element that is on hand to fix friction points, interact with supporting elements, liaise with range control and assist the deploying call sign achieve its step off timings and criteria.
It is during the staging process that the governing unit is able to really start to shape the integration of supporting C2 elements, individual and collective training, range practices and rehearsals. For example; The 7 RAR training cell has open learning management packages, (LMPs) to cover the plethora of training deficiencies that occur due to the introduction of new equipment, or as with the 9mm in service pistol which is not taught during initial employment training. Open learning management packages allow march-ins and non-qualified individuals deploying field at short notice opportunity to be qualified on equipment that is part of Army standard issue. This has a flow on effect of relieving the companies of such training burdens, and a governing body approach to fixing shortfalls. Staging is also where there is opportunity to interrogate a member’s individual load carry against a standardised load carry list.
Onwards movement and integration
The RSO&I team works as the conduit between the exercising unit and the officer in charge, (OIC) of the exercise. Whether it is a blank or ball activity, the RSO&I team facilitates the necessary step off requirements to enable the exercising unit to conduct the first 48 hrs of its mission without resupply. Listed below are the main points to a successful onwards movement and integration process:
- Information drops – as the unit is preparing for its mission the exercise controlling authority rather than interact directly with the sub-call sign utilises the RSO&I commander to deliver intreps etc building the battle picture.
- Training level – facilitating the required ranges to enable the sub call sign to cross the line of departure at the required training level and confirming this outcome to the OIC. An example would be the prerequisite for dismounted troops to pass Live Fire 6 for field firing and or the throwing of F3 grenades if F1 grenades were going to be utilised in the first 72hr.
- Range clearance – an exercise may contain various training components and see the unit transition more than once from ball to blank and vice versa. A detailed equipment inspection prior to crossing the line of departure is essential for safety.
- Transport to tactical assembly area.
- Marry up with supporting call-signs.
- Changes to exercising manning document delivered to the OIC.
It is at this stage that the doctrinal responsibilities listed in ADFP 3.0 differs as the RSO&I team is still in support of the exercising call sign, enabling soldiers individually departing the exercise area or temporarily not able to continue the activity an admin control area and support.
Once a call sign has departed on its mission the RSO&I team is poised to receive the next incoming sub unit.
The inclusion of extraction into the process is a logical step in the management of units on exercise. At the completion of the exercise RSO&I facilitates the transition of the exercising unit back to unit origin. Taking the responsibility of extraction from an exercising call-sign enables fresh eyes on what are invariable tired soldiers who are keen to get home.
Safety is paramount and it is during this process that 7 RAR found the RSOI&E team’s coordination of assets and clearance techniques can identify potential issues and solve what may have been less than favourable situations on return to units. This includes but is not limited to following:
- range remediation
- range clearance
- transport liaison: this includes the appointment of packet and convoy commanders, the issuing of convoy orders and departure stagers
- manifesting soldiers to transport assets, including a nominal roll check on departure
A single point of extraction has enabled excellent situational awareness for commanders on the ground relieving them of the burden of chasing assets, timing and departure information prior to redeployment. This has allowed call signs to concentrate on equipment and stores inspections, remediation and to commence post field administration. It has also allowed a detailed field matrix to be processed quickly with the flow on effect of soldiers getting field pay in once instance during the very next pay cycle.
Defence has invested millions on the RSO&I process, even raising units to support the function. Yet RSO&I has not become an integral part of Army’s scheme of manoeuvre to exercising when not on operations. It is here that incorporating RSOI&E when exercising has improved 7 RARs’ internal and external cohesiveness. The inclusion of a unit level RSOI&E process will enhance a unit’s operational capability – this is smart soldiering.
About the author
Warrant Officer Class Two Michael Keefe is currently posted to the Combat Training Centre – Live as an Observer Trainer.