By Elizabeth BehringJanuary 9, 2019
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- The Army's senior logistician called on leaders to keep pace with modernization efforts, which enable the lethality and success of the force, during an Army National Guard Commanders Conference, Jan. 4.
Speaking to brigade teams representing National Guard units stationed throughout the United States, Army Materiel Command's Gen. Gus Perna emphasized the importance of cooperation between the three Army components to remain the most lethal fighting force in the world.
"I am 100 percent convinced that if we are not doing it together, it is not going to be a success, and frankly, it is our responsibility to be ready. My priorities of effort - which happen to also be the Secretary of the Army's and the Army Chief of Staff's - are Korea; the current fight; focused readiness units; and Europe," Perna said.
Secretary [Mark] Esper and GEN [Mark] Milley are driving us to this endstate, but we are not 100 percent on our collective caucus. We must do our due diligence and hold ourselves accountable."
Part of that solution to accountability lies in Perna's focused efforts to be ready for multi-domain operations. Those efforts are installation readiness; supply availability and equipment readiness, particularly when it comes to medical and materials, as well as repair parts and components; munitions readiness in the form of receiving, storing, issuing, destroying and demilitarizing; strategic power projection at Army Materiel Command's Logistics Readiness Centers and in Army Prepositioned Stocks; readiness of the Industrial Base; Soldier and family readiness; and logistics information, which includes enterprise systems.
Perna briefly talked about changes in installation management reform and the Army's efforts to reshape military posts and facilities and ensure their capability to support the warfighter. Expanding land-holding commands to provide a strategic support area where Soldiers can live with their families, train to prepare for war and then deploy to war, is a marker of success, Perna said.
While such proposed installation management reform may not directly impact the National Guard day-to-day, Perna acknowledged the unique role the Reserve Component has played since 9/11 and the important relationships and partnerships cultivated between the Active and Reserve Components during a heightened operations tempo in which full integration was crucial.
But as focus continues to shift from Southwest Asia and the Middle East, many Guard members are seeing a return to the traditional Reserve Component program of one weekend a month, two weeks a year and fewer deployments in between. As a result, many troops are at risk of losing the hard-earned connection to the bigger picture, which is something Perna said officers and NCOs should be aware of and try to avoid.
"Leaders being engaged can change the dynamic. It is vital we feel comfortable talking with each other, whether it is in your personal lives or businesses, at your day job or in your Army role. You need to understand the principles and character of those around you. Many of us have been working together over the past 17 years, so we are going to go back into certain corners. We have every opportunity to build, and when we miss that opportunity, the force pays for it," Perna said.
Crucial to those building blocks is for leaders at every level to get involved in the logistics process, regardless of branch or military occupational specialty.
"To the sustainment brigade commanders, you are responsible for five things: mission, training, maintenance, supply and administration. It is also your responsibility to plan, synchronize and integrate echelons through transportation maneuver commodities in support of maneuver commands. This is an Army-wide issue, and doing well in training and at the Combat Training Centers is not enough validation of that. We are only as good as the food and fuel we give maneuver commanders," Perna said.
While Perna acknowledged that the audience was not solely comprised of logisticians, it is the charge of all leaders to have, at minimum, basic knowledge about the vital role the branch plays in and out of battle. And as the responsibility for maintaining equipment and arms reverts from contractors and Logistics Assistance Representatives to the troops themselves, Perna reminded the command teams of the importance of comprehending the larger picture and their role in that.
"We are no longer able to build large mountains of supply. Everyone needs to understand logistics, to connect the dots. Doctrine will do this in words, but we have got to get ourselves thinking across all domains. We all need to be prepared for the future fight. Equipment also needs to be maintained. If it breaks, our mechanics need to fix it, warrant officers need to diagnose it; it is circular in execution. You will not have time to do this when you hit the peninsula or the continent of Europe because, if you do, you will fail. This expectation that anybody else is going to do it is false," Perna said.
The reality is the new battlefield is not like anything troops have seen since about 2003, when theaters were last set, Perna said. The Army needs to be prepared for the future fight and redefine how it modernizes. That means focusing on precision logistics and looking at the Pacific and Europe as Areas of Operation.
"We need to be setting conditions for logistics success, and that means establishing relationships and setting the theater. Whether you are at the battalion, brigade, corps or Joint Task Force, you need to know how to manage and control it. This is the key to setting functionality beyond the strategic support area into the battlefield."