by Colonel Steven D. Patrick, USAR, and Colonel Gary C. Howard, USAR
We must develop a vibrant capability for reach back communications and intelligence so that we can begin to aggressively reduce the size of our deployed support footprintsboth combat support and combat service support. If we don't deploy it, some maneuver commander won't have to feed it, fuel it, move it, house it, or protect it.
General Eric K. Shinseki, Chief of Staff of the Army, 12 October 1999
Managing military logistics has always been a great challenge, and realizing General Shinseki's intent will require new thinking and ever more accurate logistics planning. As the only reserve component corps support command (COSCOM) supporting an active corps, the soldiers of our unit, the 311th COSCOM, located in both Los Angeles, California, and Fort Lewis, Washington, are keenly aware of these difficulties. In wartime, the COSCOM oversees logistics for the 120,000 soldiers of I Corps. In peacetime, the 311th and its multicomponent 304th Materiel Management Center are full participants in the corps' daily activities, including the establishment of the new interim brigade combat teams at Fort Lewis, Washington.
To accomplish these missions, the COSCOM needs a large number of skilled, multifunctional logisticians who can work in a multi-echelon environment. For the Army as a whole, developing officers and noncommissioned officers (NCO's) into multifunctional logisticians requires years of diligent work. This task is even more difficult in the reserve components. The unfortunate truth is that an officer's or NCO's career usually leaves little time to master the skills needed to be a multifunctional logistician. At the 311th COSCOM, we see this deficiency year after year in our own training and in that of other units.
As a senior logistics functional command, the 311th COSCOM has a clear mission to assist in the training and development of multifunctional logistics officers, NCO's, and units. It is not altruism that drives us; it is simple survival. We will depend on these very soldiers and their units if mobilized.
The Army does an excellent job of training individual logisticians. Officer basic courses in the Transportation, Ordnance, and Quartermaster branches and the Combined Logistics Captains Career Course are enhanced with the Reserve Components Multifunctional Combat Service Support (RCMCSS) Course and other Army Logistics Management College courses. NCO's have a similar career path. Our concern stems from the lack of collective training needed to round out the development of logisticians so they are prepared to work at the echelons-above-division and echelons-above-corps levels.
Collective Training Essentials
To overcome these difficulties, the 311th COSCOM has developed a broad-based training program focusing on collective training. We begin with individual training by sponsoring the RCMCSS in Los Angeles each year. We then build on that base with intensive, year-round training in logistics operational planning targeted to key collective training events. Our training focuses on the deliberate staff planning process as outlined in Field Manual 101-5, Staff Organization and Operations. We conduct this training through the use of an operational planning group, in which planning elements from all COSCOM staff sections meet on off-drill weekends to analyze missions and prepare operation plans (OPLAN's) and operation orders as an integral, ongoing function of the COSCOM staff. We then execute these OPLAN's at collective training events.
We have learned that a training program for multifunctional logistics must have certain elements. First, units need the opportunity to conduct actual support operations. Rotations at the National Training Center (NTC) at Fort Irwin, California, and the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) at Fort Polk, Louisiana, are good examples of what is needed. In those operational environments, logistics units gain real-world experience supporting warfighters. If class I (subsistence) support fails, real soldiers get real hungry real fast. Unfortunately, there are few of these types of missions that truly exercise a full corps support group (CSG). Also, the functional elements of the COSCOM, such as the materiel management center and movement control center, are not available to the CSG commander at the JRTC and NTC, which contributes to a lack of both COSCOM command and control and visibility of stock status and movements within the corps area. In most cases, the CSG must train on what is essentially a battalion, or battalion-minus, mission.
Second, multifunctional collective training needs to be connected to the warfighters. A solid connection to our real customers infuses this training with a sense of urgency and purpose that can be lost when combat service support units train alone.
Third, unit training needs to be multi-echelon. It is only when all of the logistics pieces on the battlefield, from company to COSCOM, are put together that the full impact of a corps-level logistics operation can be appreciated.
Collective Training Exercises
All of these training elements are applicable equally to CSG's and corps support battalions (CSB's). A combination of real-world missions and computer simulation exercises is the ideal way to train. Our model would rotate colonel- and lieutenant colonel-level commands through three types of exercises
We believe that the 311th COSCOM's training program has achieved the right balance between individual and collective logistics training and includes a broad spectrum of unit training events. The 3-year rotation of exercises leverages the best aspects of each of the training programs. By combining them in a sequential rotation, one program's weakness is compensated by the strengths of the others.
It is crucial that, if The Army is to meet the ambitious goals of the Revolution in Military Logistics, multifunctional logisticians must be managed as career professionals to serve in as many multifunctional logistics assignments as possible. Unless logisticians have the dedicated and focused years of experience gained in various levels of logistics organizations, no number of classes on individual training will develop them as the skilled logisticians that The Army needs. ALOG
Colonel Steven D. Patrick, USAR, is Chief of Staff of the 311th Corps Support Command in Los Angeles, California. He previously served as Assistant Chief of Staff, G3, and as Chief of the Missile-Munitions Division in its 304th Materiel Management Center. He holds a J.D. degree from Emory University in Georgia and is a corporate attorney in southern California.
Colonel Gary C. Howard, USAR, is Assistant Chief of Staff for Support Operations in the 311th Corps Support Command. He previously commanded the 483d Transportation Battalion (Terminal) in Oakland, California. He holds a Ph.D. in biological sciences from Carnegie-Mellon University and is a senior scientific editor for an independent biomedical research institute affiliated with the University of California.