|Logistics Assistance Representatives Keep the Army Rolling Along
|by Charles W. Fick, Jr.
From Valley Forge to Afghanistan’s Korengal
Valley, civilian specialists have served shoulder
to-shoulder with Soldiers, pitching in to keep equipment operating and supplies flowing. Today, more than 1,000 logistics assistance representatives (LARs) are working with Army units across the country and around the world, adding their expertise and experience to achieve logistics solutions.
“LARs are the equipment and supply specialists troops turn to when they’re looking for solutions,” said Carl Cartwright, executive director for Field Support Operations at the Army Sustainment Command (ASC) at Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois. “In my 30-plus years’ experience, a LAR is worth his or her weight in gold. Their unique blend of expertise and experience, matched by a strong sense of duty, makes for a formidable force multiplier.”
Effective Additional Manpower
Managed by ASC’s Logistics Assistance Program (LAP) Directorate, LARs are Department of the Army civilians serving in motor pools, hangars, maintenance shops, and offices around the world, including those within combat zones. Highly trained, they bring 27 different specialty skills to Army equipment readiness requirements. They are all part of ASC’s global network of Army field support brigades and battalions and are linked to every echelon of the Army in the field.
As experienced professionals, many LARs are also former Soldiers. “Being a LAR is a way I can bring a lifetime of experience to a new generation of Soldiers,” said David Urbi, a retired Army noncommissioned officer and member of the brigade logistics support team serving with the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. “We’re the ‘go-to guys’ when our Soldiers encounter problems. And if we don’t have the answer, we know who to reach back to for information and support,” said Urbi, who recently returned from Afghanistan, his second combat assignment.
Mike Guster, a former director of the LAP, headed a group of about 20 people at ASC’s headquarters. “Our charter is to organize, train, and support LARs in the field,” he said. “The LAP mission is simple and enduring: provide warfighters with hands-on technical expertise to solve logistics problems and improve weapon systems readiness.
“Our LARs represent the full range of Army Materiel Command capabilities, including TACOM, CECOM [Communications and Electronics Command], and Aviation and Missile Life Cycle Management Commands, Joint Munitions Command, and our own ASC specialists. They all have technical lines of communication and responsibility to their parent commands, enabling them to reach back for solutions,” Guster said.
Proof of LARs’ critical role in field operations was recently highlighted during the delivery of mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicles to fighting forces in Iraq. In the early stages of the fielding, brand-new MRAPs rolling off airplanes and ships were plagued by unforeseen trouble with a serpentine drive belt. Because the vehicles were fielded so rapidly, no stock numbers existed for ordering repair parts.
A logistics problem with far-reaching operational impact was looming. “Our people on the ground were quick to assess the problem and implement a solution by reaching back to our stateside counterparts,” said Sue Moynihan, a headquarters LAP staff member who was supervising the Taji, Iraq, MRAP fielding site at the time. “New belts were on their way in a matter of days, and in less than a month, a national stock number was assigned, smoothing the way for troops to order replacements down the line.”
|A TACOM engineer logistics assistance representative assigned to the 402d Army Field Support Brigade advises Soldiers from the 561st Engineer Company during repairs to a Caterpillar 621B scraper at Joint Base Balad, Iraq. (Photo by Summer Barkley, 402d Army Field Support Brigade)
With their proven record, demand for LARs is growing, accelerated by our Army’s transformation to a modular, expeditionary, brigade-centric force. “Managing our program during transformation is challenging,” said Guster. “Doing so while also supporting forces in overseas contingency operations makes our task both more urgent and more complicated.”
Recent actions by the Department of the Army have increased the number of LARs from about 850 in 2005 to nearly 1,100 today. Plans call for more than 1,500 LARs in the field by 2012. “The increase is driven by the need to grow LAR strength to meet increases in supported forces,” said Cartwright.
“ASC capabilities are delivered through field structures that mirror the forces we support. Our Army field support brigades are linked to regions or operational theaters. Logistics support elements work with corps headquarters while Army field support battalions are matched to division [and] installation activities—and selected battlefield missions. Brigade logistics support teams are our smallest echelon, operating directly with and for brigade combat teams and similar formations.”
Combining their lengthy experience with support from their parent commands, LARs can cover a lot of ground. “We’re the ‘old’ pros, part of the team, living and working with and for the troops. Commanders and leaders look to ‘their’ LARs for an incredible range of support, often under intense pressure,” said Guster, who has been in the logistics assistance business for more than 20 years, including four deployments.
The habit of Soldiers referring to the LAR as “their” LAR is born out of respect and camaraderie. “We all know what it means when we volunteer to become LARs: This is a muddy-boots job,” said Urbi, the Fort Campbell LAR. “We go wherever we’re needed. From our main base, we’ll travel to any outpost and stay there until the work is done. Where our Soldiers go, we go; where they live, we live; what they eat, we eat.” All LAP personnel are classified as mandatory mobile/emergency essential, meaning they deploy as AMC’s civilian “troops,” able to meet the needs of the Army’s force structure today and into the future.
In the field, Soldiers and units count on LARs for a wide range of support. Army Regulation 700–4, Logistics Assistance, outlines a LAR’s many tasks and capabilities. LARs, by definition, are subject-matter experts from each of their parent commands (Army Aviation and Missile Command [AMCOM], TACOM, CECOM, Joint Munitions Command, and ASC) who provide assistance to commanders and leaders in analyzing readiness,
identifying problems, determining responsibility for resolution, and when appropriate, assisting with resolution.
LARs provide commanders with the technical guidance necessary to resolve weapon systems, equipment, and systemic logistics problems while coordinating national-level sustainment support for non-standard equipment and contractor support when required. LARs also identify and report all logistics matters that have (or may create) an adverse impact on logistics readiness, including supply, maintenance, transportation, personnel, training, organization, systems, and doctrinal issues.
The demand placed on LARs makes for a highly selective recruitment process. “When we accept a volunteer into the LAP, we have to be confident that person can operate far from home station, think on their feet, and have their Soldiers’ best interest at heart,” said Guster.
Benefits and Responsibilities
Being a LAR has many benefits. “Job satisfaction tops the list,” said Bob Gottfreid, a former ASC staff member with 12 years as a LAR. “The thanks of a reequipped Soldier, grateful for what I bring to the fight, are my highest honors,” he said.
Connecting AMC’s vast resources to battlefield logistics is another benefit. “Expeditionary operations demand that we adapt, invent, and implement sound supply and equipment solutions as we go,” said Gottfreid, a veteran of four deployments. “Our knowledge, capabilities, and responsibilities are expanding as fast as the Army is transforming.”
In the premodular Army, primary logistics assistance functions included—
- Enhancing the operational availability of weapon systems.
- Providing onsite logistics and technical assistance and reach-back to the industrial base.
- Providing hands-on training to Soldiers at the unit level.
- Ensuring cost avoidance through on-site technical logistics assistance.
Added LAP functions now include—
- Synchronizing and integrating directed missions that support the Army Force Generation process.
- Integrating field-level acquisition, logistics, and technology.
- Managing field-level reset.
- Managing and accounting for left-behind equipment.
- Repairing and provisioning equipment during reset.
- Planning work loads for sources of repair.
- Managing fleets and ensuring Army Training and Doctrine Command equipment readiness.
- Providing predeployment training equipment.
- Writing prepare-to-deploy orders for Army pre-positioned stocks.
- Satisfying nondivisional post, camp, and station requirements.
- Managing and accounting for theater-provided equipment.
- Providing command, control, communications, computer, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance integration.
“It can be very daunting,” said Guster. “Our numbers are few; our missions are many—and increasingly complex and urgent.”
Keeping an eye on more than 1,000 LARs dispersed in small groups to supported units in the United States and overseas tests management skills. “It’s a challenge,” Guster said. “We have to coordinate and synchronize our effort with our LARs’ parent commands. Four commands [AMCOM, CECOM, JMC, and TACOM] besides ours get a vote in the process.”
Among the shared missions and functions are—
- Personnel accountability.
- Training (mandatory, common, technical, and new equipment training).
- Mission assignment.
- Reporting metrics.
- Assignment processing for permanent changes of station or taskings.
- Deployment and dwell time.
- Career progression.
- Individual equipment.
|A TACOM logistics assistance representative specializing in equipment repair works with Soldiers from the 50th Engineer Multi-Role Bridge Company working on a 22-ton all-terrain crane at Joint Base Balad, Iraq. (Photo by Summer Barkley, 402d Army Field Support Brigade)
“Our intent is to leverage the full capabilities of our LARs to provide first-class support to warfighters,” Guster said. “We’re shaping a comprehensive program that tracks and manages our people from recruitment through training and on to service in the field, right up to retirement. Our objective is guiding LAR careers in a logical progression, balancing their professional development and warfighter support.”
Night and day, in garrison, at training centers, and in combat, LARs serve alongside Soldiers. “Logistics assistance representatives are teamed with troops all across the Army. They’re putting life in the ASC motto, On the Line,” said Cartwright. “A thousand times a day, a Soldier somewhere turns to a LAR for help, guidance, or sometimes just assurance. It’s a partnership built on trust and supported by faith. A LAR will never let you down.”