By Sharonda Pearson, 401st AFSB Public AffairsApril 23, 2013
During times of fiscal constraints, the team of Logistics Assistance Representatives, or LARS, from the Army Sustainment Command and Army Materiel Command's Life Cycle Management Commands, to include the Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command, Communication-Electronics Command, Aviation and Missile Command, and the Joint Munitions Command are making a difference in the bottom line one training session at a time.
"The Logistical Support Element (LSE) -- Kandahar Airfield is AMC's expeditionary deployable element. Our main focus is to provide technical and tactical expertise and support to the Warfighter on all of the tactical systems that are fielded by AMC and its subordinate life cycle management commands," said Ronnie Lawson, AMC Logistic Support Element chief.
"Our primary mission is not to turn wrenches, but to teach Soldiers how to do things for themselves. So our people are out in the field troubleshooting, performing diagnostics, and coaching and mentoring Soldiers so they can better sustain themselves," Lawson said.
Lawson believes there are cost savings benefits for the Army, AMC and the units that use the LSE's services by having representatives from each of the commands in one centralized location.
"We are already forward deployed, therefore, we are able to engage the unit much more readily then sending someone TDY from CONUS when the unit needs assistance. At completely no charge to the unit, the LARs go on site and provide hands on, over-the-shoulder training, which saves the unit money because they don't have to pay to bring a subject matter expert in or send Soldiers to school," Lawson said.
"This past year, we have recovered almost $50 million worth of serviceable Class II, VII and IX materiel from local retrosort yards and the Defense Logistics Agency -- Disposition Services, or DLA-DS, and returned it to the supply system for immediate use, which means the Army didn't have to spend additional funds to purchase and transport parts already in theater to get the unit's non-mission capable equipment functional" Lawson said.
John Newman, TACOM Automotive LAR for the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, said that the unit's four LARs check the retrosort yards and DLA-DS several times a week and often find usable equipment that saves the unit thousands of dollars.
"We are always out here looking for usable TACOM equipment. Once we find it, we either give it to the unit or put it back into the supply system," Newman said. "Yesterday, I found approximately $20,000 worth of tools and engineering equipment that I returned to the 1/1 SBCT for their use," he added.
Lawson says that it's the LARs dedication to the mission what makes the organization successful and able to consistently exceed the 90 percent equipment readiness rate set by the Department of the Army.
"We have a dedicated set of people. They do this day and night; and they want to be here," he said. "During my time at LSE-Kandahar, the overall readiness rate at Regional Commands South, Southwest and West has consistently remained in the high 90 percentile, something that has not been done in the recent past" he added.
John Bryant, an ammunition inspector LAR from Joint Munitions Command, said working with the Soldier and sharing his more than 38 years of experience is the best part of the job.
"My favorite part of the job is working with the Soldiers, giving them over-the-shoulder training and making sure that the ammunition is suitable to use and that they understand the required safety and functionality of any type of ammunition," he said.
"We make sure that the ammunition that Soldiers are using on the front lines is suitable for them to be using. We make sure it's serviceable from cradle to grave -- from the time it's manufactured to the time it goes downrange," Bryant added.
Dirk Nanney, a CECOM Power Generation Environmental Control LAR, said watching the light bulb come on after training Soldiers is the most rewarding part of his job.
"My favorite part about being in this position is seeing the light bulb go off in the Soldiers head--when they have an 'aha' moment. When they realize that it's not that hard," Nanney said.
"I visit the motor pools within my area of responsibility and I work with the Soldiers whenever they have an issue with a generator or air conditioner that they can't resolve on their own. I teach them how to troubleshoot them and how to repair the equipment," he added.
Lawson believes that the LARs expertise will be even more valuable as the Army continues to adapt for the future, while operating under fiscal constraints.
"The biggest issue we deal with, as the Army has already identified, is getting back to basics. Due to the length of time we've been at war and the operation tempo, units have come to rely heavily on contractors. The LARs are out there teaching them how to get back to basics," he said.