By Capt. Nicholas G. DomsMarch 12, 2018
A common problem I have witnessed in my time as an instructor at the Transportation Basic Officer Leader Course (BOLC) is that logistics lieutenants are not tactically proficient in a field environment. Commanders are concerned that logistics second lieutenants are behind their peers in executing field training and in showcasing confidence in front of troops.
Candid feedback from National Training Center observer-coach trainers and from surveys conducted throughout the force reinforces these concerns. BOLC is a logical resource to help with these problems.
The Logistics BOLC at Fort Lee, Virginia, consists of 17 weeks of branch functional area training, including three weeks for field-craft training. The field-craft training includes weapons marksmanship, land navigation, convoy training, and a field training exercise. The course cannot expand on field training without significant reductions to functional area training. This leaves a junior officer's first unit responsible for the bulk of his or her initial tactical training.
LEADER DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY
Common after action review comments from unit rotations at combat training centers tell a story of logistics second lieutenants who are too "soft" and not used to training requirements and battle rhythms. Other comments indicate that logistics second lieutenants do not have the basic competencies required of their branch and rank, such as conducting range briefings, setting up perimeter security, and conducting radio operations. These skills are taught in BOLC, but the time allocated to such training is limited by course length and resources.
Brigade support battalion and combat sustainment support battalion commanders are constantly looking for ways to bridge the knowledge gap for second lieutenants. Every battalion has a leader development strategy, but finding a way to improve the field-craft skills and confidence of their second lieutenants is a challenge. Commanders can give themselves an edge by executing an annual training event that tests junior officer's mental and physical toughness while validating a minimum standard of training proficiency.
THE LIEUTENANT STAKES COMPETITION
Conducting an annual lieutenant stakes competition meets three training outcomes: It builds camaraderie by allowing lieutenants within the brigade combat team to train together, serves as a forcing function to validate that the lieutenants can do basic Soldier tasks, and serves as an evaluations and ratings tool for their raters.
Units can best execute stakes competitions by having a senior company commander or the battalion S-3 lead planning committees that draw input from each company. The primary trainers and evaluators for the competition should be senior noncommissioned officers and warrant officers. Incorporating noncommissioned officers and warrant officers will build trust and camaraderie between the branches and create buy-in so that it does not become an event just for officers.
A beneficial secondary outcome of conducting a stakes competition is the opportunity to evaluate senior enlisted and warrant officers in how they manage and execute training events. Ideally the competition would take place between heavy training cycles or before a combat training center rotation.
An example of a two-day stakes competition includes 10 to 15 graded events, such as setting up an radio antenna, conducting preventive maintenance checks and services on a Humvee, distributing fuel from a heavy expanded-mobility tactical truck fuel tanker, and completing a physical training test, weapons qualification, land navigation, ruck march, and written supply exam. The competition should conclude with a leader social, a recognition of outstanding achievements, and an after action review.
Logistics leaders looking to build up their lieutenants, create new training opportunities for their noncommissioned officers and warrant officers, and increase esprit de corps can look to a lieutenant stakes competition to meet these demands.
Capt. Nicholas G. Doms is an instructor-writer for the Transportation Basic Officer Leader Course at Fort Lee. He has a bachelor's degree in economics from Widener University. He is a graduate student at the Florida Institute of Technology studying logistics management.
This article is an Army Sustainment magazine product.