WASHINGTON -- "Maintenance is the cornerstone of readiness," Army Materiel Command's senior enlisted advisor told an influential audience gathered Oct. 4 at the Association of the U.S. Army's Institute of Land Warfare Contemporary Military Forum on Soldier readiness.

The discussion and dialogue was led by Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey, who said this was only the second time the CMF was chaired by a panel of senior enlisted leaders, including AMC's Command Sgt. Maj. James K. Sims. Sims was joined by Kevin J. Bostick, AMC's deputy chief of staff for Logistics Integration Directorate, G-3/4.

The panel's focus fell in line with guidance and priorities from 39th Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, said Dailey.

"This subject is the Chief of Staff of the Army's number one priority. There is no other number one, but from a different perspective, but from a different level of what we focus on: our Soldiers," Dailey said during his introduction.

For AMC's part, the key to readiness success lies in Army equipment, which must be maintained in order to continue that success, said Sims.

"The battlefield today is very complex. We must be very proficient, starting at the sergeant level," Sims said.

During the height of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, the military heavily leaned on contractor support for general operations, while Soldiers could focus more on the mission at hand. As the Army has evolved, and budgets shifted, Sims said it's important Soldiers return to their basic warrior skills.

"It's our responsibility to ensure our Soldiers are very, very confident in maintaining and sustaining our equipment. It's our responsibility as leaders to ensure all our Soldiers are trained to not only identify, but to order the right part the first time," he said.

The ability to identify issues at the lowest level is key, added Bostick.

"Soldier and individual readiness leads to collective readiness. Sometimes when we're on the ground level, looking at what we do every day, we sometimes forget what the big picture is, what the impact is," Bostick said. "When we're looking at core competencies, it's all about getting back to doing those things that we've inherently done over the years, what we've gotten away from in a lot of cases in the past 15 years. We've got to get back to doing the things we need to do."

Sims and Bostick acknowledged that contractor support is still much-needed to fill the demands of a fully functional and adaptive force, but leadership support of basic line training and maintenance are a requirement to move forward.

"We need to focus on ensuring that we as leaders are making maintenance readiness a focus. We must take ownership of our equipment. Maintenance is not a logistics Soldier's responsibility; it's all of ours," Sims said.

Other panelists were Command Sgt. Maj. Scott C. Schroeder, U.S. Army Forces Command; Command Sgt. Maj. Gerald C. Ecker, U.S. Army Medical Command; and Philip M. Paternella, Medical Readiness Program manager, Office of the Surgeon General, who provided subject-matter expert advice.