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Managing Soldiers in the
Theater Support Command

As I stated in an earlier article on the theater support command (TSC), “The heart of the TSC organization is its people.” Teamwork and continuous improvement become empty concepts if TSC leaders cannot rely on the personal integrity of each member of the organization. The Army must foster those qualities in individuals that facilitate team achievement. Teamwork is the key to organizational harmony and improvement in the TSC, particularly since the TSC brings together personnel from the different cultures of the Active and Reserve components.

To repeat another point I made in an earlier article—
As a TSC organization, we must strive for an attitude of professionalism in dealing within our structure and with other professional logisticians. Professionalism of the organization, founded on the integrity of the individual, provides the clear sense of mission loyalty and the “can do” attitude requisite for quality service.

A TSC is not the place for individuals to advance their personal agendas. Leaders must control the actions and attitudes of their subordinates for the good of the organization. When personal agendas are allowed to grow, the organization can be adversely affected. Negative statements by Active component TSC personnel directed toward Reserve component personnel can lead the Reserve component personnel to question their loyalty to the TSC and to seek other challenges. The result obviously is less than optimal.

Personnel Management

The Army continues to maintain separate personnel management systems for the Active and Reserve components. This situation can foster confusion
because members of one component do not know, understand, and acknowledge the other component’s personnel policies and processes. The simple act of filling in the correct heading on an Officer Evaluation Report (OER) can be confusing to administrative personnel from a different component. They struggle to determine which rules and regulatory guides apply to which component.

The Regional Level Application Software (RLAS) is the system used by the Army Reserve for soldier personnel actions. However, it has no interface with the Active component’s Standard Installation and Division Personnel System (SIDPERS) database. Since the Army’s recent mobilizations for the Global War on Terrorism, multicomponent Reserve units have been challenged to maintain their soldiers’ pay, careers, and personnel actions while deployed. The Reserve elements of TSCs must request authorization from their Regional Reserve Command or the U.S. Army Reserve Command to deploy RLAS. Complicating such a deployment is the fact that RLAS is structurally coded to specific regions, not globally. When a non-regionally aligned Reserve element is located with other RLAS users, it cannot use the local RLAS configuration.

Many soldiers do not recognize that manning reports change frequently for Reserve component soldiers but remain relatively stable on the Active component side of the TSC. For example, when a Reserve lieutenant colonel is selected for promotion, he has 90 days to find a new assignment; however, unlike his active-duty counterpart, he does not have to wait for an extended period of time to pin on the eagles of a colonel.

Another common misunderstanding arises from the fact that Reserve component personnel, as citizen-soldiers, can be transferred in their civilian jobs between drills. They can come in to drill, and, by the close of that drill, they have been transferred to another job. This complicates the tracking of soldiers and positions in the Reserve components and can be hard for active-duty soldiers to grasp. Resolving these challenges is critical to the successful administration of a dual-component headquarters and the interaction of staff principles, especially those involved in personnel management.

Down the road, the Army may create one personnel system. However, TSCs cannot wait for that. TSC leaders and administrative personnel must learn to use the respective Active and Reserve component personnel management systems. If TSCs are to have mixed, integrated headquarters, this is a must.

Career Progression

Arbitrary changes in modification tables of organization and equipment (MTOEs) create problems for Reserve component soldiers.

Like Active component soldiers, Reserve component personnel need to move to different positions to qualify for promotion and acquire leadership skills. When a position is eliminated in the Active ranks, the personnel system reassigns the soldier. However, when a Reserve position is deleted, the soldier normally needs to find a position in another organization for himself. Reserve component soldiers must be well managed by senior Reserve leaders to enhance the future strength of the Reserve structure. However, to really enhance the career progression of Reservists, the Active and Reserve component leaders of the TSC must work together for the benefit of the Reserve component soldier.

Another challenge for the TSC Reserve element occurs when mid-level officers assigned to a TSC are denied advanced course training opportunities because the Army has already trained them in a combat arms officer functional area. The TSC Reserve element has no funding to send the officers for training, and the Regional Reserve Command is unable to provide support. The result is that a quality officer is denied training for his assigned unit, and his unit’s readiness reporting suffers accordingly.

As the TSC matures as an integrated organization, TSC leaders need to look at the challenges facing its assigned personnel. All soldiers, not just those of one component, must receive attention. If a slot is designated for a Reservist, a Reservist should fill it. Likewise, an active-duty soldier must be allowed to perform his skills in his assigned position. When leaders start placing personnel in positions intended for the other component, they begin to toy with a delicate structural balance as well as with the individuals involved. Soldiers should not arrive for duty only to find soldiers from another component performing their duties. The TSC needs to practice total integration, placing personnel where they are officially assigned to perform their missions.

Who should select personnel for the Reserve component positions in a TSC? Currently, senior noncommissioned officers (NCOs) and most enlisted personnel are centrally selected and positioned in Reserve component organizations. However, officer candidates are canvassed and approved for assignment by Reserve component senior leaders. Self-recruiting thus is a necessary activity for Reserve component officers. But making assignments in the TSC can be complicated. For example, who should fill a Reserve slot for a logistics (functional area 90A) officer? What role, if any, should Active component soldiers play in the process? If the senior section chiefs are active-duty soldiers, should they have the authority to make the assignment? If the answer is yes, a problem results because the most interested Reserve component individuals will not wait until this process occurs. The reality is that the TSC’s Reserve component leaders should make the final determination of who is qualified to be placed where in the TSC.

Recruiting and Retention

What effect the current mobilizations will have on the retention of TSC Reserve personnel is still not clear. Will they stay, or will they go? Some members who joined for educational or financial reasons had no idea they would be called up for the current extended periods of deployment. Many of these individuals may leave the ranks when they return home.

The Reserve components have, and potentially will continue to have, mid-level management (officer and enlisted) shortages. These soldiers are the backbone of the Army. A TSC should have quality logistics experts holding down every authorized position. The Army cannot just pin on rank and expect logisticians to appear.
Throughout this extended period of deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, Reserve component personnel will be challenged to adjust to a new and growing reality. Future Reserve drill weekends and annual training periods will require greater commitments. Deployments will remain a given for Reserve personnel. If the Army retains the Tier Rating and Department of the Army Master Priority List (DAMPL) priority procedures, the next time a TSC headquarters is moved forward, it will be faced with the cross-leveling of Troop Program Unit members who have never served in an echelons-above-corps (EAC) logistics organization.


The Reserve component personnel in a TSC must be well trained and logistics minded. In Operation Iraqi Freedom, our logistics soldiers clearly demonstrated their ability to get the job done. Each soldier not only gained experience but also was cross-leveled into a number of other, related logistics skill sets. As a result, they now are more prepared than ever to deliver when called on. Logisticians were successful at the TSC level because TSC leaders prepared them to do their mission. TSC personnel trained hard at all levels through exercises and counterpart training. Once on the ground, they had the skill sets to carry out the daunting challenges that confronted them.

The great problem concerned soldiers who were cross-leveled into the TSC Reserve element as they mobilized before deployment or who reported to TSC units as fill-ins during the operation. The workings of an EAC organization are far different from those of organizations at a lower level. In the midst of preparing for deployment or during the intensity of logistics operations, there is little if any time to train. Those unfamiliar with the TSC’s logistics activities had to learn on the go. This created rough edges within the staff and in serving external customers. Fortunately, leaders in most cases were able to provide a task-specific overview to assist new personnel.

Rating Scheme

The rating scheme presents a number of challenges to an integrated, multicomponent organization like a TSC. Ideally, the rating scheme should be fully integrated for both Reserve and Active component personnel. However, accomplishing that integration presents many challenges. The overriding issues are time and distance. How can ratings be fair when raters and those being rated have limited face-to-face interaction? How can face-to-face NCO rating requirements be accomplished? The different cultural and psychological concerns of the Reserve and Active components can form a barrier to achieving fair ratings.

During the current contingency, mobilized Reserve component soldiers received closeout ratings. This created a tremendous workload for Reserve and Active component staffs. As this process was unfolding, Reserve component soldiers were being placed under their Active counterparts’ rating schemes. There was confusion about where they fit, and more confusion if they then were launched forward in a split-based operation. As the soldiers were redeploying, they were subjected to another closeout report, which created more confusion. Who was responsible for forwarding the closeout reports to the soldiers’ files? What address was used for the senior rater on the OER? The differences in Reserve and Active component cultures added to the confusion.

At a minimum, senior TSC leaders should be part of an integrated rating scheme. This creates cooperation, develops loyalty, enhances integrated teamwork, and improves the functioning of the integrated multicomponent structure. It is to the senior Reserve soldier’s advantage to be rated by an Active component leader. It creates more confusion if he is rated by the Reserve chain when he is working almost exclusively for the Active forces
Active Guard/Reserve (AGR) MTOE soldiers who are positioned in the Active component also must have an integrated rating scheme. The AGR soldier is the senior Reserve component liaison on the ground and must represent the interests of the Reserve components. If the soldier is fully rated by the Active component, Reserve leaders lose any influence over him. In effect, the AGR soldier becomes just another Active component soldier.

A majority of rated Reserve component soldiers should be retained in a compartmentalized Reserve component rating scheme in peacetime. However, when the TSC is deployed in a true active-duty environment in a contingency, all soldiers should convert to an integrated rating scheme. Once the operation is over and the Reserves move back to a Reserve role, the compartmentalized rating scheme should return.

The compartmentalized rating scheme appears to be the best way to rate the majority of TSC Reserve component soldiers in the future. This reduces concerns about cultural turf and the fairness of ratings. However, an integrated rating scheme for senior Reserve component leaders is needed to attain a truly integrated, fully operational TSC headquarters.

Council of Colonels

The challenge of trying to make the multicomponent processes of the TSC work involves all EAC TSCs and a multicomponent council of colonels at the senior levels of the Army. The TSCs represent a unique element of the multicomponent community. The challenge of aligning the components in the TSC is daunting and raises the question of whether or not such an integrated headquarters is even needed. Who should spearhead the challenges of creating a seamless, integrated TSC headquarters?

Since TSC commanding generals usually cannot spend time on this matter, it falls to the TSCs’ deputy commanding generals and chiefs of staff to work with the council of colonels to resolve issues affecting the TSCs. They express the immediate concerns of the TSC community to the council of colonels, along with suggested solutions. Providing a clear vision must be the goal of the representatives if the TSC is to be supportive, flexible, and forward leaning in logistics.

TSCs should use STAMIS technology to overcome
the factors of time and distance that separate
TSC elements, communicate and coordinate on a timely basis,
and ensure that soldiers’ STAMIS skills are used regularly
and not allowed to fade with time.

STAMIS Technology

For the most part, use of the Standard Army Management Information Systems (STAMIS) has been a TSC success story. TSCs should use STAMIS technology to overcome the factors of time and distance that separate TSC elements, communicate and coordinate on a timely basis, and ensure that soldiers’ STAMIS skills are used regularly and not allowed to fade with time. Reserve and Active component leaders in TSCs have worked to ensure that appropriate technology is available to their soldiers.

Reserve component soldiers must be trained and certified in anticipation of an alert and follow-on deployment. Those holding key positions in an integrated staff sometimes need special training and updated technology so they can perform their missions. However, in some instances it appears that the funding of STAMIS training is still hung up in the cultural conflicts between the Reserve and Active components. Regardless of who is going to get STAMIS equipment and training, soldiers from both components must work together. The excuse that the Reserve element should be supported by the Army Reserve Command, even though it is under an Active component flag, makes little sense. Information technology will improve the ability of TSC soldiers to see, prioritize, and assess critical information for the logistics warrior. The Army needs to accept that, regardless of flag affiliation, training resources should be funded adequately for all soldiers in a TSC.

Army Reserve Relevance 

Reducing the numbers of personnel in the Army Reserve raises the question of the Reserve’s continued relevance. Certainly change is necessary. More important, however, is how we achieve that change. Studies show that a corporation’s staying power is diminished as its structure is reduced. What message does the Army send when it continues to reduce personnel numbers? There is a point of no return.

Force structure change does have immediate consequences for a Reserve component member. Normally, Active component soldiers serve their tours and then are moved on to their next assignment by their personnel system. In contrast, Reserve component leaders constantly must be looking out for their soldiers and their future assignments and promotions. In a changing world, it may be harder to meet the logistics needs of an integrated headquarters. High-speed recruiting is critical to retaining vital professional logisticians.

Personnel who use the personnel system to duck alerts must be eliminated. Reservists must show the Army that they are in fact critical to the Armed Forces’ logistics needs. The Army Reserve is the backbone component that provides the Army’s needed logisticians.

The integrated, multicomponent TSC has been a great success. Unit packages incorporating a separate Reserve or Guard element in their overall structure have worked extremely well. However, an EAC integrated, multicomponent structure embodies tremendous challenges. Many of the issues facing TSCs remain unresolved despite lots of hard work. How does the TSC align itself in its present con-
figuration with the concepts of One Army and trans-formation? Do we need to make changes? If so, what are they? Here are a few suggested changes to
think about.

TSC commanding generals should have their deputy commanding generals get together to discuss, formulate, and share workable solutions to such issues as how to resolve differences in Reserve and Active component regulatory guidance. They need to create a future of better and more seamless internal operations in TSCs.
Collectively, TSCs must influence the various Army headquarters to make changes so TSC daily administrative needs, training, and operational mechanisms perform better. Regulatory guidance must be revised, or exceptions made to regulations, to improve the operations of TSC integrated headquarters. One clear need is to distinguish the integrated, multicomponent headquarters structure from other Army multicomponent structures.

Headquarters personnel assigned to TSCs must be committed and must bring an attitude of teamwork and cooperation. Personal agendas can damage a fluid environment that needs teamwork and cooperation to function successfully.
Effective integration of the TSC multicomponent headquarters requires the integration of the rating schemes of Active component, Reserve component, and civilian personnel. To ensure that TSC personnel are loyal to the combined components of the TSC, Reserve and Active component soldiers need to be rated through an integrated rating mechanism. AGR officers and NCOs also must have an integrated rating scheme. This process must not be a pencil exercise but a meaningful rating process.

The TSC headquarters must enforce monthly exchanges among senior leaders, including routine visits by Active soldiers to Reserve elements on the latter’s drill weekends. The exchange of working visits to Active and Reserve locations must be a normal aspect of business. Without these visits, the integration of TSC operations will be stymied by a lack of shared understanding and knowledge.

We must keep in mind that the Reserve components bring a cheap yet highly professional labor pool to the fight. The Reserves are the retention pool of logistics knowledge in the Army, especially for the TSC. The routine rotation of Active component personnel in and out of TSC assignments leaves the Reserve component soldiers in possession of the command’s institutional knowledge. Recognizing Reserve component strengths and using techniques and materiel solutions that maximize the TSC’s collective abilities will be the TSC’s greatest future challenge.

Civilian planners are critical to the success of the TSC. To ensure stable TSC operations, civilians assigned to table of distribution and allowances positions should have job descriptions based on an 18-month tour at the TSC’s Reserve element headquarters. Civilian planners provide solid support for the Reserve staff and can be helpful in integrating planning for operations outside of the continental United States.

The Army’s proposed unit manning initiative (the practice of keeping soldiers together in a single unit for fixed periods of time) needs to be applied to the TSC. The result would enhance the TSC’s capability to meet robust logistics requirements in a theater. Unit manning must apply to the Active as well as the Reserve elements.
Overseas deployment training (ODT) should be conducted by section when feasible. This would force each TSC directorate chief to work in a cohesive environment with all of his logisticians. 

Reserve component personnel should receive more than ODT orders; they should be eligible for orders that allow them to operate in danger zones such as the Balkans. This will enhance the use of Reserve soldiers and minimize complaints by Active component soldiers about the value of Reserve soldiers on active duty. Combatant commanders should be authorized to determine policy in this area.

The senior leaders of the TSC headquarters’ Reserve and Active elements must develop a memorandum of agreement (MOA) that ensures the headquarters’ proper integration and operation. The senior leaders also must understand fully the MOA’s contents. In fact, a number of MOAs are needed among the TSC’s Active component headquarters, Reserve component headquarters, and senior headquarters above the TSC.

TSC leaders should be focused on organiza-tional goals as opposed to component goals. This would reduce misunderstandings, foster growth within the organization, and influence better cooperation and knowledge.

Our Nation’s ongoing military operations will affect the future of the TSC. Soldiers who leave the Army take with them the skills they have learned. No number of new recruits can immediately replace these skilled soldiers. However, with a solid foundation of supportive leadership, future training opportunities, career progression, and high morale, the Army should be able to maintain the numbers of skilled personnel it needs.

TSC leaders must think of the future growth of their personnel. They must forward proposals to move skilled military logisticians into positions of opportunity, in command or at schools. We cannot hold them back—that would be unprofessional. TSC commanders must be leaning forward in thought and action.

Leaders must recognize that, when deployments conclude or are winding down, soldiers must receive appropriate recognition of their sacrifices. Leaders must promote these events to the extent that the command fully engages in an appropriate “thanks.” When done correctly, command recognition creates a lasting impression of gratitude in soldiers, which will increase bonding, organizational allegiance, and retention. Sincere leadership and care for the soldier are always the hallmarks of effective leadership. ALOG

Major General George William (Bill) Wells, Jr., USAR, is the Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Mobilization and Training, Army G–4. He previously served as Chief of Staff of the 21st Theater Support Command in Indianapolis, Indiana.