Graduation speech to the Theater Logistics Studies Program
February 11, 2009
<i>Remarks Prepared for Delivery by LTG Mitchell Stevenson at the Theater Logistics Studies Program graduation, Fort Lee, Va., December 11, 2008</i>
Thanks, for that kind introduction. And thanks to the Fort Lee Band -- you always sound great.
It's an honor to be with you here this morning -- our third T-LOG graduating class. As an instigator in the creation of this course, I sort of feel like I did when my children were born -- a proud father!
And, it's always a pleasure to speak to the future of our officer corps -- active, reserve, and guard. Congratulations. Twenty-seven of you have completed a tough course, and accomplished another important milestone in your careers.
I also see we have the honor to congratulate 14 allied officers, representing 11 allied countries, whose support and partnership we appreciate very much.
Today, our engagement in coalition operations throughout the world is crucial to the cause of peace and security. History has taught us that when conflict is unavoidable, we will most likely fight as a coalition. No one nation can go it alone, not even a large one like the United States.
One day some of you in this room may be planning and conducting operations side-by-side with our Soldiers, or soldiers from any of the countries represented here. Your time together now should, and we hope will, make the task easier in the future.
And though there are not too many of them here today, I see a few proud faces of an essential segment of the military, the family. Army families are a powerful part of the Army team, and are just as responsible for our successes as those of us who wear the uniform. So, graduates, please join me in giving those family members and friends in the audience, and those back home, a round of applause.
Well, I suspect some of you have your cars packed and the engines running, so I won't bore you with a long drawn out speech - my goal is to try to get done talking before you get done listening.
This course, as you know, is in its infancy. I handed the faculty a tough job when I asked that we develop and offer this course while I was commander of the Combined Arms Support Command. But you can see the results already.
T-LOG alumni are doing very well -- one is now a planner for the presidential inauguration ... Another, who had no fuel experience, is now in a key petroleum assignment in Iraq because of the well-rounded education he received here.
I believe the Theater Logistics Studies Course is becoming the logistics equivalent to the School of Advanced Military Studies course (SAMS for short), training expert logistics planners at the operational and strategic level. In years to come, you and other graduates like you will be the core of critical enterprise-wide expertise within the logistics officer corps, which will enable us to provide combatant commanders a capability they have never had before.
Imagine the challenge faced by the Third Army G-4 in the fall of 2002 and early months of 2003. He was faced with planning the logistics support for the attack to Baghdad and beyond, going farther in less time than ever in the history of the United States Army -- where do you start, who do you go to for help'
Just the challenge of setting the conditions that would enable us to fuel the force was daunting enough, but there was also the need to plan for the resupply of the force in terms of food, water (always a challenge in Southwest Asia), ammunition, construction materials, replacement combat systems, and on and on.
To be able to do that, you have to learn to think big, and to have a solid working knowledge of what our joint partners in the United States Transportation Command and the Defense Logistics Agency can contribute. And you have to be comfortable with the subject of contractors on the battlefield, what they can contribute, and what they can't.
Back then we were a much less experienced Army. About the only people who had deployed on an operation of that scale were those still in the Army from Desert Shield and Storm, with 100 or so hours of combat, after which we left Iraq in about 30 days . . . and an operation where logistics forces did not see much combat.
What we needed, and this course fills that need, are experts who understand the global supply chain ... who understand both distribution forward, and the criticality of timely retrograde ... who can picture the support systems from end to end ... And who know how to bring various elements of the joint and combined logistics enterprise together. And you have to know how to leverage all the various IT systems that we use to enable operations.
When many of you came back from your deployments in Iraq or Afghanistan, I'm sure the experience hardened you, and forged you into better logisticians than you had ever thought possible. Our challenge in this course is to try to harden you in the same way, through tough operational-level logistics problems and planning requirements, as you carried out with the Caspian Sea practical exercise, in which you planned and briefed to BG (retired) Rebecca Halstead.
I know eight of you are continuing on to get your masters from the Florida Institute of Technology -- but most of you will be returning to your units. I hope you go back from this experience enriched by what you've learned; but most of all, I hope you head back with fresh ideas for the logistics challenges that our Army faces.
As our nation works its way through the challenges with the economy and a world filled with seemingly persistent conflict, the Army will be faced with a continuum of new demands. Our budgets will likely not be what they have been. We will be asked to do things better, faster, and cheaper.
And it will be a time when logistics will grow increasingly important as the new security pact is put into place in Iraq, and we begin to hand off the security and defense of Iraq to the government of Iraq and its Armed Forces.
Defense Secretary Gates said last week the commanders are looking at the implications of potentially accelerating the drawdown and what that would mean to meet our obligations to Iraqis.
So if we thought the logistical task of planning the attack in 2003 was difficult, what we could face may be the hardest part of fighting this war -- smartly and efficiently moving and redistributing billions of dollars in assets. No one since the Vietnam era has had to face such a logistical task. So, graduates, we will need your innovative ideas.
Yes, we're all better logisticians today than we were seven years ago, at the start of the war. We have to be. Last year alone, the Army fielded more than a million items of new equipment to deploying Soldiers. We moved enough people in and out of theater to equal the population of Charlotte, North Carolina.
Our depots are now turning out equipment at twice the rate they were during the Vietnam War. We expect to repair about 125,000 major end items in the coming year -- an enormous task. We will also reset the equivalent of 40 brigades of equipment returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Three years ago, it was taking us upwards of 100 days to get the last of a given unit's property back to them from Iraq. Now we have proven we can do it in less than 50 days.
But it is the talent in this room who must take the U.S. Military and that of our allies' countries to the next level. Our Army, like all great institutions, has a vision for the future.
Our vision starts by talking about people and ends by talking about people. Why' Because in the end ... with all the sophisticated equipment we have in our inventory ... with all the smart munitions and embedded electronics ... with all the fancy technology available in the military and the Army today ... it always comes down to people ... to Soldiers and Army Civilians ... men and women who can lead, who can act, and more importantly who can think.
We need leaders who can anticipate how world changes affect conflicts. Then we need to be innovative and adaptive in what we do. If we do it right, we will not only provide the most efficient and effective support we can for today's conflicts, but we will be ready for future conflicts as well.
And as you have seen in this course, in the logistics business, you'd better be able to see the entire system before you make changes, because those changes can have ripple effects that people don't anticipate.
Today when I make decisions I ask lots of questions that some people might think are in the weeds for a guy with three stars. I'm not trying to tell people how to do their jobs -- it's just that the business of logistics is about details, and thinking through the second and third order effects of what we are doing.
Operational logistics is no place for a "big hand, little map" approach. Before we can improve the logistics system, we have to see and comprehend the entire process to make certain helping one operation does not hurt another.
You are those leaders who are going to start asking those questions to improve our operations. You are the future and the key component in making logistics seamless to the warfighter.
So as you go forth from this learning institution, with the skills we have taught you and your fresh ideas, I charge you to do great things for your army and the nation you represent. Do your best every day, and things will turn out right.
As President Theodore Roosevelt, a man of great vision and personal courage, once said, "We see across the dangers of the great future, and we rejoice as a giant refreshed, the great victories are yet to be won, the greatest deeds yet to be done."
This I believe speaks to your future, and the commitment and professionalism you demonstrate thru your graduation on this day.
Thank you all very much for your service. I look forward to shaking your hands as you come across the stage.
May God bless you and all of our brave men and women in uniform, especially those in harm's way, protecting us all, and our way of life.