Any operation in the Army requires planning and preparation. Soldiers often fail to realize just how much planning goes into an event to make it work. But the students attending the Theater Logistics Planners Program (TLog) at the Army Logistics University at Fort Lee, Virginia, understand because they are immersed in planning and preparation every day.
“This course gives you a whole new level of confidence in yourself,” said Sergeant Major Sean Rice, the 82d Sustainment Brigade S–3 noncommissioned officer-in-charge and the first enlisted Soldier to attend TLog. “That confidence is bolstered through being involved in the premier logistics course in the Army and by the fact that you are truly a demonstrated master logistician upon graduation.”
TLog is held twice a year and is a 5½-month-long course. It immerses students in every aspect of sustainment planning.
“The Theater Logistics Program was created from a previous course when it was identified by the Combined Arms Support Command commander that there was a gap in the Army education program for logistics at the operational level,” said Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Greenwich, director of TLog. “[TLog] was reinvented to create planners. We needed the equivalency of the planning capability that the School for Advanced Military Studies [SAMS] produces for the Army.”
TLog replaced the Logistics Executive Development Course and was made to complement the SAMS course. Whereas SAMS graduates have more of a focus on operational maneuver, TLog graduates can bring that same level of advanced operation from the sustainment operations side.
TLog is taught in a way that ensures that students will fully comprehend logistics operations at the corps level and above. Throughout the course, students are constantly tested on the “so what?” factor. The “so what” factor refers to the question, “Why is what you are briefing important?” That lesson begins at the very start of class.
“Initially, you have a lot of academic and classroom-oriented work in this program,” said Captain Matthew Panepinto, a TLog student. “I have learned that you have to make sure that the information that is available to you is both relevant and credible.”
However, simply verifying the information is not enough. TLog students are taught to look at information from all angles.
“When you present information to a superior, whether that’s your company commander or your brigade commander, you have to consider what this information means to them as a leader,” said Captain Panepinto. “You have to consider how the information you are giving them will assist them in managing the organization and support Soldiers going forward.”
TLog has traditionally been reserved for senior company- and field-grade officers and Department of Defense civilians. Having the first enlisted Soldier attend the course signifies potential for great opportunities for the senior enlisted corps.
While the addition of senior NCOs to the course could prove to be a force multiplier for the Army, the instructors warn that the course is not for everyone.
“You have to realize that Sergeant Major Rice is a unique individual,” said Lieutenant Colonel Greenwich. “He’s got skill sets that not a lot of sergeants major have.” Greenwich explained that many sergeants major are precluded from attending the class because of their education.
Sergeant Major Rice recommends encouraging NCOs early on to complete a 4-year college program. “You’ve got to have the formal education to attend this course,” he said. “If you can start an NCO out young on his or her career path and give them the time for their education, they should be able to attend.”
The uniqueness of TLog makes for a powerful learning environment for students who want to learn as much as they can about sustainment operations.
TLog instructors hope that commanders will begin to see the potential that the program has for the future. Students are doubly rewarded by the unique instruction and by receiving 12 credit hours from the Florida Institute of Technology. Sergeant Major Rice is planning on using the credits to help him work toward the completion of his master’s degree.
“The implications of this course for the NCO corps are huge; we need to get the senior NCO corps more involved,” Sergeant Major Rice said. “The return on the investment in this course is invaluable.”