CLASS 003-16
April 7, 2016

Since its insertion into the Stryker Brigade Combat Team, the Rapidly Emplaced Bridge System has not met expectations. Today many units don’t even bother using it or incorporating it into their training plan. This gap crossing system is failing. By conducting this analysis of the bridge I will first describe and define the bridge system before I finally identify the three major problems and what it the cause of these performance problems.

In response to an urgent operational requirement, the Army has initiated the production of a new bridge, the Rapidly Emplacement Bridge System to support the Stryker Vehicle with an organic tactical bridge which is able to keep up with its speed and mobility. In late 2006 when the REBS was introduced into the Stryker Brigade Combat Team(SBCT) the only gap crossing capability organic to the Brigade was the Medium Girder Bridge(MGB). The MGB is a great bridge but compares to the REBS’ 2 Soldiers and 10 minutes to launch and retrieve the MGB required 8 to 16 Soldiers and 30 minutes, therefore, it was not matched for speed and mobility.
The System Training Plan (STRAP) stated that The Rapidly Emplaced Bridge System (REBS) is a tactical bridge capable of crossing a 13-meter unprepared bank gap and maintains a Military Load Classification (MLC) 40 for wheeled traffic and MLC 30 for tracked vehicles. According to the System Training Plan (STRAP): the REBS is envisioned to be of modular design, rapidly launched and retrieved by a crew of two, and mounted onto a trailer or Common Bridge Transporter (CBT). The REBS will be air transportable in a C-130 aircraft, capable of employment with minimal reconfiguration time upon arrival, and air-deployable by CH-47 helicopter in the area of operation. This system will support the mobility of the Stryker Brigade Combat Teams (SBCTs). (Bennet, 2004, p. 11)
I was first introduced with the REBS in May 2005 in Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG), Maryland as a Training Developer and Subject Matter Expert(SME) for the US Army Engineer School in Fort Leonard Wood, MO. However, prior to that the REBS has already failed an operational test conducted in June 2004 at Ft Wainwright, AK. Then again in August 2005 at Fort Lewis, WA the REBS failed a second operational test due to both operator errors and major system failure. The bridge would finally pass an operational test in April 2006 in Yuma Proving Ground, AZ; but not before two major changes were made. The bridge limit switches were redesigned and replaced; and the primary operator, the combat engineer soldier 12B were replaced with the bridge crewmember soldier 12C reason being the 12C Soldiers are already trained on the Prime Mover of the bridge, the Common Bridge Transporter(CBT) and they are already familiar with the concept of bridging.
Once again in 2012 I came in contact with the REBS when I PCS to the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment(3ACR) which will later change to a SBCT and became the 3rd Cavalry Regiment(3CR) I was with the 43rd Combat Engineer Company (43rd CEC) when the REBS got fielded to the 3rd CR thru FLIMNET, OPNET, and the DTT training. Initially, there were eight bridge crewmembers, 12C and six Specialize engineering mechanics, 71L Soldiers trained on the bridge system.
My years’ of experience with the REBS in the Stryker Brigade led me to the following. There are three major problems with the REBS: insufficient and lack of proper training for the primary operators, frequent system failures and shortage of bridge parts
1. There is insufficient or lack of operators training The first problem is training as there is no institution training the only training for the REBS operators is done at the Unit level. Due to the limited number of systems to be initially fielded the STRAP stated that it will not be cost effective to train all MOS 12C soldiers in the institution. If the task analysis identifies critical skills, or system fielding quantities become large enough to justify the need for institutional training it may be incorporated into existing programs of instruction. Furthermore, the REBS STAP stated that Initial and sustainment training of this system following the new equipment training will be unit responsibility. Commanders will have to program time and resources for this effort. The leave-behind training package will be a computer-based instruction that will be administered by the operators first line supervisor. The problem is that some units are not proactive as to keeping up with the training of their newly assigned Soldiers. Many times I was told by my fellow 12C buddies from different units that they show up to their new unit to find that there is no one trained on the bridge system. When we came back from deployment in early 2015 we lost most of our 12C soldiers and all our 71L soldiers due to a permanent change of duty station (PCS) and separation from military service. When I got my PCS orders I was the only one trained on the Bridge System and due to maintenance issues all our bridge systems were down. Thanks to our new Squadron commander making a priority get theses bridges fixed and to conducting field exercise training combined with a Field level maintainers training; we were able to train all the new 12C and 71 L on the system. But not all the commanders are like and if it was for our new squadron commander’s involvement and the pressure she put on these two company commanders I would have left that unit with all bridge systems deadlines with zero trained operator or maintainers.
2. The 2nd major problem with the REBS is about the system itself. The system was rushed into production and quite frankly was not fully vetted REBS has gone directly from design to production testing with only minor development. According to Bradley Moran, development costs have been dramatically reduced and a complete bridging system in a test at a fraction of the time of previous type bridging systems. (B. J. Moran, personal communication, April 6, 2016). The bridge system was supposed to be fielded in the unit in 2004 but because of continuous operational test failures; 2004 in Alaska and 2005 in Fort Lewis, WA the bridge was finally approved for production in late 2006. But instead of redesigning it many minor fixes were made along to way. Were it not that we used civilian trained SME and tested only separate portions of the bridge that had previously failed I believe that it would not pass operational test in Yuma, Arizona. Even though the 12C were brought in to replace the 12N and 12 B as operators; the bridge system is too complicated for basic skill level operations. There is no room for errors. The operator must be familiar with all 44 launching and retrieval steps. Most likely any misstep will lead to a system failure or severe breakdowns. Now combined that we the lack of proper training that is a cocktail for disaster reason why in most units the REBS are just collecting dust in the back of their motor pool

3. The third major problem with the REBS is maintenance related issues not only the maintainers must be familiar with the system but because this is in low-rate production program with General Dynamics European Land Systems(GDELS) in Kaiserslautern, Germany. There is a shortage of replacement bridge parts there are not a continuous parts productions, most of the time ordering parts is one thing but getting them is another. When they got the parts ordered it will have to be shipped out of Germany to the States. This is the reason for longer deadline status, loss of training time and loss of confidence in the system.

The Rapidly Emplaced Bridge System could have been a great asset for the military beyond the support for the Stryker vehicle this bridge could have been used to support many different vehicles system and it could have been so successful that the need for mass production would have been mandatory. However, because of shortcuts to save money and time we end up with a failing system that is not cost productive.
Bennet, G. G. (2004). System Training Plan for the Rapidly Emplaced Bridge System (). Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.

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