Leadership and the Theater Support Command
by Colonel George William Wells, Jr., USAR
In the last of his three articles on the Army's new theater-level logistics organization, the author discusses the final ingredient needed for a successful transition to the theater support commandleadership.
The success of the Army's transition to a theater support command (TSC) will depend on leadership and command direction. For the TSC to work as envisioned, those of us who serve as logistics leaders must be committed to developing the skills and the leadership abilities of the soldiers we command. A TSC can function effectively only when its senior leaders are willing to take the time to train their subordinates in the latest logistics doctrine and battlefield operations. Those young logisticians must be prepared to replace us. What must we do to ensure that our leadership and mentoring is effective?
First, we must educate our young logisticians about the emerging logistics doctrine found in Field Manual 63-4, Theater Support Command, and their role in the revolution in military logistics at the operational and tactical levels. This learning curve can be achieved in a variety of ways, including individual reading and self-study, classroom instruction, preparation for exercises, and participation in such training events as field exercises and simulated role-playing scenarios. It is the duty of senior logisticians to provide an environment in which soldiers can learn logistics doctrine. As former Army Chief of Staff General George H. Decker stated, "Doctrine provides a military organization with a common philosophy, a common language, a common purpose, and a unity of effort." Young logisticians must be given ample time to learn and follow-on opportunities to lead.
People are the heart of the TSC. Teamwork and continuous improvement are empty concepts if we cannot rely on the personal integrity of each soldier. So we must emphasize those individual qualities that contribute to team achievement. The ability to cooperate, coordinate, and communicate enhances teamwork, so we must emphasize role-playing and listening and cultivate an atmosphere of mutual respect. Mutual respect fosters a logistics team spirit that is vital to achieving the level of customer service we seek. Above all, operational effectiveness depends on team cohesion and the maintenance of trust and loyalty. Within a TSC, we must strive for an attitude of professionalism in dealing with our soldiers and with other logisticians. The professionalism of the organization, founded on the integrity of the individual, provides the clear sense of mission and loyalty and the "can do" attitude needed for providing quality service.
We must become surrogate trainers to our fellow logisticians in the field. For example, the reserve contingent of the TSC must act as surrogate trainers to other continental United States (CONUS) logistics organizations that could be called forward in a contingency. These organizations, like the TSC, must be prepared to support each mission by incorporating the latest doctrine and concepts. We also must educate our customers, particularly those in the combat arms, on logistics doctrine. This knowledge can be conveyed through real and simulated joint field exercises, conferences, workshops, personal visits, and writingsall tailored to develop a working partnership with our comrades, whether they are other Army units, the other armed services, or coalition forces.
Throughout the TSC, our junior logisticians must recommit themselves to the professional arms of which they are a part. They must be innovative and aggressive in their military work habits. They must seek out their superiors for knowledge and guidance and enroll in extra training. They must be prepared for challenges, and they must perform at their best when called upon. Logistics leaders of tomorrow must be well rounded and effective. They must understand joint operations. They must be prepared to spend additional hours, beyond their normal drill periods and annual summer training, learning their craft.
Our young logisticians are the most valuable resource we have. It is vital that we not only capitalize on their military talents but also take note of their concerns and care for their needs. A recently completed survey of selected soldiers, along with some think-tank studies, indicates that a number of critical issues are affecting our soldiers. In the current economic climate, pay and promotion are not their only important concerns. The scope and length of missions, the funding of our forces, the level of trust between leaders and subordinates, the influence of technology, the micromanagement of everyday operations, and the need to be trained and ready for any and all contingencies are rated as vital concerns. These findings identify critical issues that must be reviewed seriously by our Army leadership. As TSC leaders, we must listen and be proactive in responding.
Our ultimate aim is to have a full-up TSC with quality logisticians in every position. We are all aware of the critical need to recruit and retain quality personnel for our future military force structure. However, recent end-strength figures have been below the Army's stated force needs. Even more critical than the overall number of soldiers is the number of qualified mid-level logistics officers and noncommissioned officers (NCO's) who support logistics customers in the field. Across the TSC, the logistics specialists needed to fill middle management positions are at less than the authorized level, which means a loss in logistics expertise. Unfortunately, recruitment efforts are not filling the vacancies created by normal attrition, retirements, and mandatory removals. There is no quick fix to this situation. Logistics leaders must aggressively seek out quality soldiers to fill these vacancies through innovative recruitment and retention techniques. By using internal recruiting teams, advertising, job fairs, and other local community activities, the TSC can play a critical role in reducing the projected lack of logistics specialists.
While we must be inventive in attracting new people, we also must reward those in the ranks today and encourage them to remain. We must overcome perceived negative conditions by providing innovative incentives that attract and keep our quality logisticians. We must recognize those soldiers who exceed normal expectations. Many times the opportunity to recognize quality work and performance is missed. In other instances, by the time recognition is bestowed, it is too late for it to have a positive impact. In a highly competitive environment, rewards may be a critical motivating factor in retaining quality soldiers.
We must recognize that the average TSC reserve logistician is traveling farther for the same pay. Weekend expenses often exceed accrued pay and allowances. We must push for logical legislative changes that will compensate these soldiers' commitment to their Nation's defense. What are we going to be able to offer them in the future if the economy remains strong and the time commitments demanded of them grow?
If we add the possibility of mobilization to the time and financial demands on reservists, we can see why many potential citizen-soldiers will opt to seek other, safer employment opportunities. Today, the average reserve logistician is required to give more time outside of drill. Their concerns about being gone from their families more and more, for little or no additional benefits, certainly influence their decisions to stay or leave. In the reserve components, if the environment is perceived negatively, the decision to leave becomes easy. We must build upon the young logisticians' service and convey to them the importance of that service. We must demonstrate good organizational skills and minimize administrative and operational disruptions. As logistics leaders, we must fill their time away from their families with positives. They should itch to return to drill the following month, and they should look forward to a well-planned annual training event. Our young logisticians must become the best recruiters for our organization.
The personnel system must support the needs of the logistics field. Soldiers needing to convert their military specialties must be given the opportunity to do so. Recent Army reorganizations have resulted in many nonlogistics senior officers and NCO's being assigned to logistics positions. There often is little or no opportunity for these soldiers to be trained in the proper schools because of funding constraints or lack of classroom seats. Correspondence training is not a substitute for realistic logistics training.
Many reservists are veterans of lengthy logistics support operations in Eastern Europe. There is no current mechanism to allow senior leaders to award these soldiers the logistics skill identifiers they deserve based on their accredited service. This need to recognize the skills of these soldiers seems to be lost in a bureaucratic maze. As a result, the personnel system identifies these soldiers as excess. This situation causes morale and retention problems among the affected soldiers; it also curtails promotions and upward mobility.
Logisticians face the same leadership challenges as other military leaders. Our outlook must be proactive and our attitude positive as we seek better solutions to fulfilling mission requirements and soldier needs. We must fully support the Army Chief of Staff's vision of "The Army." We must not forget that lone soldier standing vigil as a sentry at an outpost in some far-off land. So we must retain the vision of that soldier in our day-to-day logistics operations. We must provide him with what he expects in a proficient and timely manner. We must be willing to change in order to achieve the requirements set before us. As logistics leaders, we must serve as effective role models for those who will follow us. ALOG
Colonel George William (Bill) Wells, Jr., USAR, is the commander of the 21st Theater Support Command (CONUS) at Indianapolis, Indiana. He is a management support specialist with the Defense Finance and Accounting Service.