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Graduate-Level Education for Logisticians

The author uses her experience as a student to describe the Master of Military Logistics program at North Dakota State University, one of several universities offering a master’s degree to Army logisticians.

The ability of the United States to fight and win wars rests on the military’s ability to deploy and sustain troops in theater. Our logistics networks need to become even more flexible in order to respond to an increasingly unstable geopolitical environment. The only way to develop such networks is to create adaptable logisticians who have the knowledge and skills to integrate, coordinate, and synchronize capabilities to optimize the use of all available logistics assets and provide worthwhile outcomes in a joint environment. The best way to cultivate these expert logisticians is to provide professional education opportunities that allow students to build new skill sets and gain fresh perspectives on global logistics and that encourage them to develop contacts with other logisticians. The Master of Military Logistics (MML) program at North Dakota State University (NDSU) in Fargo, North Dakota, provides just such an experience.

An Interdisciplinary Approach

NDSU is uniquely situated to provide a high-quality MML program because it is home to the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute (an independent organization that conducts research and outreach in urban and rural transportation and logistics issues) and a new technology park that holds research and development contracts with the Department of Defense. These two great resources provide students with access to research and analytical tools that no other college can offer.

The university also recognizes the importance of an interdisciplinary approach to teaching logistics. To develop a truly interdisciplinary approach, the program recruited instructors from NDSU’s colleges of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Natural Resources; Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences; Business Administration; Engineering and Architecture; and Science and Mathematics. The MML program is part of the Transportation and Logistics Program offered through the College of Graduate and Interdisciplinary Studies and is sponsored and coordinated by the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute. The program does not emphasize one right way of performing logistics operations. It focuses on providing the technical expertise to evaluate situations and to devise plans based upon the evaluation. The program’s director, Dr. Denver Tolliver, put it best when he said, “We want to develop global, interdisciplinary problem solvers who can think out of the box and make confident logistical decisions with little information.”

The instructors make a concerted effort to understand the needs of the military and to shape their courses around those needs. The courses support one another, providing their students with advanced skills and knowledge in designing and managing global supply chains. Students expand on military training and gain a deeper understanding of how to analyze transportation networks and manage inventory. They study civilian business models, become familiar with best practices from a variety of industries, and apply them to military models. This enhances critical thinking skills and helps each student to build a toolbox to use in future challenges.

Preparing for Challenging Careers

Students not only get a strong background in transportation and supply chain management, they also acquire skills that will aid them in all aspects of their logistics careers. Courses in change management and enterprise resource planning bring greater understanding to the total Army transformation process. Courses on crisis management and homeland security shed light on the cultural impact of logistics operations and focus on less traditional logistics missions. Students receive instruction in contract law and acquisition. Also studied in detail is the increasing role of technology in sensing wear on equipment, tracking supplies, and securing information networks. This interdisciplinary approach gives students the chance to interact with professionals throughout the university and develop strong and knowledgeable networks. Captain Joshua Hirsch, a student, expressed his sentiments about the program, saying, “This program is going to make me a better logistical officer, so I can better support the troops on the ground with necessities in a timely manner. This will also make me a better planner and enables me to see the global picture.”

An important requirement of the program is a country study, where students use their new awareness of logistics procedures to analyze the logistics distribution network of a strategically important foreign country. This exercise allows for students to put their newfound capabilities to good use. Students complete these exhaustive studies and present them as part of a capstone exercise at the conclusion of the program.

MML students represent the Quartermaster, Ordnance, Transportation, and Engineer branches and the Civilian Service Corps. Each student comes from a different background, and each has his own “war stories” to share with the class. Interacting with other logisticians is one of the best things about the program. Efforts are underway to include the other services to make the composition of the class more representative of the operational logistics environment.

The MML program synthesizes the most important themes in logistics and creates leaders who will be better able to support the Nation’s strategic missions. The knowledge gained through the MML program is especially useful for those working at a strategic level, but it is also useful for leaders at the operational and tactical levels. After completing the program, students have a fresh outlook on logistics and an enhanced ability to conduct operations. They learn skills that will make them more effective leaders at any level.

Any Army officer or Department of Defense (DOD) civilian seeking to enhance his logistics career should strongly consider applying for the MML degree at North Dakota State University. This master’s program, which is offered in collaboration with the Army Logistics Management College (ALMC) at Fort Lee, Virginia, supports the 12 curriculum objectives defined by the Army’s National Logistics Curriculum initiative administered by ALMC. The MML degree is a non-disquisition degree requiring a minimum of 36 graduate credits and involves a 12-month residence.

Interested officers and DOD civilians with recognized baccalaureate degrees from accredited universities should submit their applications to their appropriate human resource command or comptroller agency. A DOD selection board will review the applications and choose the most highly qualified candidates for the program and forward those applications for admission to the NDSU Graduate School. Information on the program can be obtained at http://www.ugpti.org/mll or by contacting the author at stacy.pennington@us.army.mil.


Captain Stacy Pennington is the support operations transportation officer for the 101st Sustainment Brigade, which is deployed to Iraq. She holds a B.S. degree in biology from Creighton University and a master of military logistics degree from North Dakota State University. She is a graduate of the Transportation Officer Basic Course and the Combined Logistics Captains Career Course.

National Logistics Curriculum

The Army’s National Logistics Curriculum (NLC) has established a network of prestigious universities that offer logistics-based master’s degrees. The NLC program is managed by the Army Logistics Management College (ALMC) at Fort Lee, Virginia. To date, ALMC has formed a partnership with six universities to offer master’s degrees in logistics. They are—

  • Florida Institute of Technology
  • North Dakota State University
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • University of Kansas
  • University of Tennessee-Knoxville
  • University of Texas at Dallas
Graduate credit hours from ALMC’s Theater Logistics Studies Program (TLog)—formerly called the Logistics Executive Development Course (LEDC)—or the Army Command and General Staff College’s Intermediate Level Education (ILE) Program may be granted at some of the NLC universities. Pennsylvania State University, the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, the University of Texas at Dallas, and Florida Institute of Technology-ALMC campus will give the student credit hours (varying from 9 to 12) for completion of TLog. The University of Kansas gives the students credit for the ILE Program at the Army Command and General Staff College. All of the programs take 12 months or less to complete.

For information about obtaining credit hours, NLC partners, application processes for officers and civilians, and funding methods, email ALMC at leeeNLC@conus.army.mil or visit the ALMC website at www.alu.army.mil and click on “NLC (Master’s Degree Program).”