Logistics Commander Says Goodbye To 'Dream Job'
February 18, 2010
- "This is a dream job for a colonel who has been in command of Soldiers in the field. It is at an absolutely wonderful post."
- "What I do hope remains is the processes that we built as a team across the organization and that those processes will live forever."
- What matters is making a difference for the Soldier at the tip of the spear that's being shot at."
- "The reason I loved the Army and what kept me in the Army so long is that every day when I went to work I knew I could talk to Soldiers."
REDSTONE ARENAL, Ala. -- It's difficult for Col. James Rentz to talk about his impending retirement.
After 30 years of challenging assignments, engaging command opportunities and rewarding professional relationships, trading in the green suit for civilian attire can seem rather daunting for a career Soldier.
But, for Rentz, it's not so much a change in careers that is stressful and worrisome. Rather, it's saying farewell to an Army that has been pretty much his life since graduating as a Quartermaster Corps officer from the Citadel in 1980 and to an organization - the Logistics Support Activity -- that has provided him the opportunity to work in his "dream job." On Friday, he will officially retire during a 1 p.m. ceremony in Bob Jones Auditorium.
"It's the job of all jobs," Rentz said of commanding LOGSA, an Army Materiel Command organization that is the keeper of the Army's logistics information for worldwide equipment readiness, distribution analysis and asset visibility.
"This is a dream job for a colonel who has been in command of Soldiers in the field. It is at an absolutely wonderful post. I wish I could do this job for 100 years. I could not have asked for a better final 3 1/2 years. Team LOGSA is an amazing organization. There's not been a single challenge that this organization hasn't stepped up to the plate and hit it out of the ballpark."
Rentz is the first to admit he is emotional about his mandatory career transition. But, though he hopes the processes that have been put in place at LOGSA under his watch will remain for years, he said he expects his personal presence within the organization to be forgotten as new leadership takes the helm.
"My hope is that it won't be long before people will be asking 'Colonel who'' I don't want employees to say 'We didn't do things like this when Col. Rentz was here.' I want them to put their loyalty with the next leader," he said.
"What I do hope remains is the processes that we built as a team across the organization and that those processes will live forever. What matters is making a difference for the Soldier at the tip of the spear that's being shot at. What are we doing to make life easier for that Soldier who is fighting for your freedom and my freedom, and for our right to sleep in the house we do, to watch the TV shows we want to watch, to go to church where we want to go to church and to drive the kind of car we want to drive'"
No matter how many years he serves, no matter where his second career as a civilian will take him, Rentz is passionate about Soldiers. He himself has been one for 51 years, his entire life.
"My dad served for 33 years. Ever since I was little I've wanted to be a Soldier like my dad. I've lived that dream," said Rentz, whose twin brother is a retired Navy chief and who has another brother who is in the Army Reserves.
"The reason I loved the Army and what kept me in the Army so long is that every day when I went to work I knew I could talk to Soldiers and help them become proficient in their careers and make a difference. Where else can a high school graduate or a college graduate go get a job where they are in charge of 50 people, where they're responsible for making sure 25 to 30 pieces of equipment are combat ready and where they have to balance all that against their mission requirements' The reason that works in the Army is Soldiers bond and build a team."
His quartermaster (now the logistics branch) assignments have included serving at the Army's Logistic Center; as an operations officer in Kitzengen, Ga.; as chief of the Division Materiel Management Center at Fort Riley, Kan.; as commander of the 701st Support Battalion, 1st Infantry Division; as senior logistics writer for the School of Advanced Military Studies, Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and as assistant chief of staff at Fort Hood, Texas.
The decorated veteran deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom as commander of the 4th Infantry Division Support Command. He has been awarded with the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Defense Meritorious Service Medal and Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, among others.
Yet, with all his honors, Rentz says the real heroes are the young Soldiers today who sign up to serve despite knowing they will deploy to a war zone.
"They are making a decision at a time that I can't even understand. When I joined, we were a peacetime Army," he said. "But they are joining, knowing they will get trained and deployed. I think these young kids signing on the dotted line today are heroes. Every single one is going to deploy. We still have an all-volunteer Army and it's because of these young heroes."
Serving in the Army has reinforced the values Rentz was raised with. It's also taught him "to never take the easy right. Take the hard left, and do what's right for the organization and the Army. You need to do what you think is right and then defend that decision."
Coming to Redstone Arsenal in 2006 was definitely the right move for Rentz, even though it was down an unfamiliar path. Rentz knew very little about Redstone Arsenal when he took over command of LOGSA. And, he soon realized, he didn't know much about LOGSA itself.
"I didn't know Redstone had NASA and military on it. That's somewhat unusual for an installation," he said. "The only thing I knew about Redstone was that explosive ordnance training was linked to the ordnance school here.
"But I was thrilled with the assignment. I thought I knew what LOGSA does when I got here. I found out I only knew about 10 percent of what this command does. There are so many things that LOGSA does that are linked to preventative maintenance that keeps our aviation systems and our combat systems from having a catastrophic accident that could cause the loss of a Soldier's life."
Preventative maintenance isn't meant to keep an Army vehicle or aircraft in "shiny new" pristine condition, and LOGSA's role in the preventative maintenance process isn't focused on sustaining hardware for hardware's sake. It's the human life inside the machine that makes preventative maintenance the top priority.
"I can explain to Congress why we need a new helicopter or tank," Rentz said. "I can't explain to a mom and dad why I let their son or daughter operate an unsafe piece of equipment and then end up a fatality. Our work is all about doing things to take care of Soldiers."
With missions in both Iraq and Afghanistan, preventative maintenance is particularly challenging because the environments are so different, requiring different techniques and procedures, and different equipment.
"The challenge is rocket science," Rentz said. "It's not easy to outfit Soldiers with personal gear, combat systems and equipment they need to execute the mission anywhere in the world. We try to provide logistics tools and products that will make Soldiers' jobs easier."
LOGSA responsibilities fall in the areas of supply, maintenance and transportation. The organization develops and supports data collection systems that allow Soldiers to analyze systems to ensure they are performing at the highest level. LOGSA employs 305 Army civilians, 22 Soldiers and 450 contractors in its worldwide mission.
LOGSA relies on Soldiers from Fort Campbell, Ky., and Fort Hood to help test the new logistics products being developed to address Soldier requirements. LOGSA also provides training teams that go to deployed units to provide training on new products. One challenge LOGSA employees face is the quick turnaround required by Soldiers in theater.
"Our tools are used throughout the Army. They are easy to learn and easy to use. They are designed for efficiency on the battlefield," Rentz said. "Once we have efficiency, then we work to optimize cost. The challenge is providing the right tool that's easy to use in a short amount of time and that is cost effective and that can be used across the entire Army."
Whether commanding Soldiers or managing civilian employees, Rentz said establishing good working relationships is essential in any organization.
"The secret to success is not how great you are but it's about surrounding yourself with great people. If you do that your organization will take care of itself," he said. "Take care of your employees, take care of their families, and the mission takes care of itself because your employees will give you eight hard hours of work every day.
"Organizations come and go. But the people and the camaraderie and teamwork put in day-to-day is what makes an organization that can produce and make a difference for our Army."
Even with his impending retirement, Rentz remains passionate about Soldiers and the Army mission.
"When a Soldier makes a decision to come into the Army, they turn that decision into a passion," he said. "This has been my passion. But nobody can do it alone. At my retirement ceremony, I will talk about some of those great people who have worked for me and with me throughout my career. I will talk about both of my families - my Army family and my personal family - and especially my wife, Melinda (a defense contractor), who is the rock of our marriage."
Besides his wife, several other relatives will attend Rentz's retirement ceremony. Also in attendance will be fellow Soldiers from places like North Carolina, South Carolina and Pennsylvania. Lt. Gen. Jim Pillsbury, deputy commander of the Army Materiel Command, will preside over the ceremony.
Rentz hopes to maintain his connection to Soldiers through his post-retirement career.
"I don't know what my next career will be," he said. "But whatever it is I will still serve Soldiers in some fashion, and stay linked to the Army and the government in some way."