By Patrick Buffett, IMCOMApril 22, 2013
FORT LEE, Va. (April 22, 2013) -- Under Secretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal, gained a new perspective of warfighter logisticians after observing and discussing training with students, instructors and leaders at the Sustainment Center of Excellence at Fort Lee, April 18.
"It definitely put a very big accent mark on it," Westphal said after a day-long tour of maintenance bays, virtual simulators, classrooms and kitchens. "Here, you see it all come together -- the blending of it, the jointness, the rigors of training. I gained a true appreciation for how the Combined Arms Support Command contributes to the sustainment community and supports our warfighters."
Fort Lee is home to the U.S. Army Ordnance, Transportation and Quartermaster schools and the Army Logistics University, known as ALU. Westphal got a taste of each with an itinerary that included a chat with students of the Theater Logistics Studies Program at ALU, a Stryker maintenance bay walk-through on the Ordnance Campus, a parachute packing demonstration at the Aerial Delivery Field Service Department, a taste of the cuisine prepared by students at the Joint Culinary Center of Excellence, a tour of the U.S. Army Women's Museum and more.
Describing himself as a "hands-on kind of guy," Westphal said he appreciated the opportunity to meet military instructors and students face-to-face. It helps him identify "critical components" like the quality of Army training and the satisfaction of Soldiers.
"I was taken by the seriousness of the students in these programs," he said. "What I see is their focus and dedication to what they're doing and what they're learning. It's easy to tell they're committed and the instructors are terrific. You can tell there's a high level of experience and dedication here."
Westphal praised Combined Arms Support Command's credentialing program that allows service members to obtain commercial qualifications and licensing in a growing number of technical fields ranging from motor vehicle repair, machining and welding, to heavy equipment operators and food service. He referred to it as a "superb example of taking care of Soldiers" from both a professional development standpoint and for preparing them to transition into the civilian job market.
"This visit provides me greater understanding of how all of these aspects of logistics and the schools are integrated, and how they'll posture our Army for future requirements. Now, what I want to do is help build on this and emphasize the need to support it better."
As the visit concluded, Westphal also shared his thoughts about issues that he and other Army leaders are currently facing. Acknowledging that budget-constraints threaten military readiness, he vowed that the Army is focused on "keeping the faith" with Soldiers, their families and civilian employees.
"We are not going to walk away from the Army community, our Soldiers and their families," he said. "We will not undermine key programs that support our Soldiers and their families."
"Our Army has gone through some very complex and tough combat operations over the past 11 years, and it has brought hardships like multiple deployments and health issues," Westphal continued. "If we don't take care of our Soldiers now, it's like a wound that doesn't heal right. It doesn't take care of itself; we have got to make sure we take care of it. So this is a very important commitment that the Secretary of the Army, and all Army leaders, have made."
Westphal said the civilian workforce should be just as aware of rebalancing and restructuring as their counterparts in uniform. He discussed how the dramatic growth of the military over the past 11 years extended into the non-uniformed population, and because of budget limits and the need to restructure, the resizing of the civilian force will have to keep pace.
"Up front, I would say that our commitment to growing the quality of the civilian workforce is stronger than it has ever been before," Westphal said. "We've initiated efforts to ensure the sustainability of a top-notch workforce through educational development and career opportunities. I am as committed to investing as much in a civilian employee's professional development as I am in investing in a Soldier's professional development."
The key to a strong workforce, he also noted, is attracting the right people from both the military and civilian sectors.
"Opening opportunities" to those outside of the military community is important," Westphal said. He wants the Army to recruit talented minds and aggressive, innovative and "out-of-the box" thinkers."
"We can't limit ourselves to folks who are inside the Army," he said. "That's why I'm pushing hard to change some of the ways we're doing business. Also, I think we have to embrace our diversity. Right out here in front of the museum, I just talked to some folks [during a game-changer award presentation] that represent our broad and rich diversity. It's incredible and it reflects the make-up of our country. Let's continue to embrace our commitment to opening opportunities for all to participate and rise to the highest levels of the civilian workforce as well as the highest levels of the military."
Offering kudos to the Women's Museum for its impressive collection of artifacts and displays that tell the story of female Soldiers throughout Army history, Westphal said it's also a testament to the contributions of female Soldiers and their vital role in the Army's success.
"Now, we're expanding opportunities for female service members. There will be struggles, but we've got to keep it up, and part of it is opening that aperture for hiring the best qualified people regardless of gender and offering the best career advancement opportunities we can."
Westphal shared one thoughts about the contributions of the Army to the nation and the challenges that lie ahead.
"The unshakeable fact is that the Army is the one true thing this country can count on for almost anything, and it has always been that way," he said. "In fact, we just saw another example of it in Boston with National Guardsmen running to take care of people even though it meant putting their lives on the line. They didn't know what else was going to blow up, but they knew they were needed and they were there. Those Guardsmen deserve a lot of praise for all their efforts.
"And Soldiers do that all the time for us all around the world," he continued. "Our Soldiers, no matter what job they're asked to do, are prepared. So I think were a high quality organization all the way around. But there's still the fact that we're evolving, we're changing, the world is changing. And the way in which the Army will be used in the future will be far different than the way it was in the past because of technology and because of the way society is changing."
"So I think we're in that period where we're taking a very hard look at how we modernize the force, how we educate and train the force to address those new and evolving challenges of the future," he concluded. "Are we going to be doing more in aviation? More in space? How heavy will the Army need to be? What's the right ratio of reserve component to active? How do you keep a reserve component trained and ready? How do you ensure that your Army is always trained and ready? So, all of those are the challenges of the future and we are working very methodically to address them and ensure that we will always be prepared to answer our nation's call."