Supply Specialists in Short Supply
October 25, 2007
FORT LEE, VA. -- The growing demand of Soldiers trained in unit supply and automated logistics is translating into the U.S. Army Quartermaster Center and School at Fort Lee, Va., training more specialists than their annual requirement.
Each month, the Logistics Training Department is graduating about 28 advanced individual training classes, which amounts to 840 Soldiers qualified in supply (Military Occupational Specialty 92Y) or automated logistics (MOS 92A). On average, the department starts an additional four unscheduled classes each month, which means training an additional 135 students.
"Average this out over the year and you see that we are training about 1,600 extra students above and beyond the requirements set by (U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command)," said Robert Garrison, LTD deputy director.
For example, in fiscal year 2007 TRADOC scheduled and funded about 140 classes in the MOS 92Y. Yet the QMC&S had to reallocate funds in order to open an additional 50 unscheduled classes for the 92Y alone, Garrison said.
It costs about $228,000 to staff, equip and administer two classrooms with the latest automated tools in supply training.
That type of expense has been necessary in order to ensure Soldiers are not unduly held back from starting their training and to meet the needs of the field for this critical MOS, Garrison said.
On a given weekend, when the LTD would expect to receive about 90 Soldiers from Basic Combat Training, they could get 120 Soldiers instead. That means more Soldiers than scheduled class seats.
"Recently, we had about 49 'hold unders' as we started three scheduled classes and one unscheduled class," Garrison said.
To meet the overflow of Soldiers, the department has split its administrative force by operating a day and night shift. The first class of the day shift begins at 6 a.m. and the last class of the night shift ends at 10 p.m.
"We've been teaching this way off and on since 2000, and continually since 2004," Garrison said.
In addition to the commitment of training the Soldiers it receives each week, the school responds to requests for individualized supply training from field units.
The LTD's Mobile Training Teams go to a unit's home station or deployed area of operations in a theater to provide training on site. MTTs have generally trained Soldiers in the Property Book Unit Supply-Enhanced, a new property accountability system that replaced the older system, Garrison said.
"It's a relatively new system, so there are Soldiers in the field who didn't get the training during their AIT," Garrison said.
In April, the LTD sent an MTT to Fort Bragg, N.C., to provide sustainment training to the 18th Airborne Corps G-4 (Supply and Maintenance).
"We had a shortage of 92Ys, and some of the units were forced to place non-92Y Soldiers to perform the duties of a supply specialist," said Sgt. Maj. Nicol Williams, 18th Airborne Corps G-4. "But this results in non-92Ys having no experience in logistics and therefore needing the PBUSE training."
When the MTT was conducted, units in the 18th Airborne Corps were getting ready to deploy, and others needed the training to conduct day-to-day supply operations, Williams said.
As a result of the on-site training of 40 Soldiers, property accountability has gotten better and commanders are having better visibility of their assets, he said.
"If it weren't for the vast knowledge of the two primary (noncommissioned officer) instructors who conducted two classes, we wouldn't be where we are now," Williams said. Since September 2006, the LTD has sent out about 13 MTTs to locations as far as Afghanistan. They have trained at least 750 military members in property accountability, manual supply, PBUSE, unit armor certification and other subjects.
Sidebar: When Supply Goes Wrong
Sending out training teams to units who cannot schedule Soldiers to attend institutional training, highlights the importance of having qualified specialists conduct the logistical functions of a unit.
"It has to do with depth of knowledge," said Chief Warrant Officer 5 David Dickson, Reserve Component quartermaster warrant officer proponent manager.
Units sometimes end up in complicated situations when unqualified personnel fill in for trained supply specialists or automated logisticians. Dickson recounts two cases.
He was assigned to a unit in Germany that had inadvertently logged a 9 mm weapon into the system when it was actually an M-16. The unit made an administrative adjustment with a DA Form 4949, changing it to an M-16 in the property book.
"It's fine in the property book, but when it comes to the tracking system, it doesn't affect the change. So when they disbanded their property book, they still had a 9 mm on hand," Dickson said. "I had to go through all the paperwork to explain what happened."
The tracking system didn't recognize the DA Form 4949 as a legitimate document and left it as a 9 mm.
Dickson said the laborious task of correcting the administrative error was due to a lack of understanding.
"There was no trained individual in that (supply) specialty. Although there was a quartermaster captain, there was no 92Y," Dickson said.
A 92Y specialist would have known a DA Form 4949 cannot correct the mistake, he said.
On a different occasion, Dickson said the unit also made a costly mistake that an automated logistician would have avoided.
In the Army, if a unit orders a starter, the unit turns in an old starter to get a credit. Dickson's unit had consolidated 20 starters from 20 different units and turned them in under one unit's information.
"In that particular case, there was a report that they had over 500 mismatched repairable items," Dickson said.
"What's happening is you are not getting financial credit for returns so you are actually losing money. The unit gets credit for turning in repairables, so there could be about $500,000 of funds tied up that can't be spent because the unit didn't get credit."
Dickson said the two cases illustrate how units make expensive or laborious errors a unit supply specialist or automated logistician is trained to avoid.
(Jorge Gomez writes for the Fort Lee Traveller.)