As the senior enlisted leader of Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy Guden is at the forefront of preparing our future force. In between six combat tours, Guden previously served as command sergeant major of the United States Military Academy at West Point, the Maneuver Center of Excellence, and the United States Army Infantry School. Here are his thoughts on the Army of 2028, and the role sustainers will play.

How do our non-commissioned officers--the backbone of the Army--stay relevant as the Army modernizes?

As someone who's been in the Army for a while, it can be difficult to imagine. But if I put myself in the shoes of a new Soldier who is immersed in this modernization and technology all the time, I don't think it's that hard.

Words matter; we need to stay away from the mentality of "back in the day when I grew up, it was like this." That may have a small impact or bearing on modernizing, but it's not going to be exactly the same. A lot of things are going to be different.

Our new Soldiers must understand the importance of their positions and their roles as enlisted leaders. Regardless of all the technology or the pace at which it comes along, when they become an NCO, they must take ownership and accountability of it. If it's the bread and butter of their career management field (CMF) or military occupational specialty, they are the subject matter experts, and it's incumbent upon them to share that knowledge with their Soldiers as primary trainers.

With modernization, it can be easy to separate yourself from that line of thinking. Whether that bread and butter has changed radically after 10 years or is still the current model that's there today, it's absolutely critical to keep our NCOs focused on their primary roles as a trainers of modernization.

How is TRADOC staying nested with Army Futures Command (AFC)?

To not be nested would be a disservice to our Army and every intent of AFC. As they look out to the Army of 2028 and 2035, they're coming up with what our future formations should look like: how our squads are structured, what equipment our Soldiers and formations will be outfitted with, and the like. At a certain point in that cycle, TRADOC has to develop the doctrine and programs of instruction, and ultimately introduce it into our training courses. So it's extremely important that TRADOC and AFC stay nested.

As it is, some TRADOC entities slid over and became part of AFC, such as the capability development integration directorates (CDIDs) at the centers of excellence (COE) level. The CDIDs work on capabilities and requirements and integrate directly with the TRADOC capability managers (TCMs). They are both tied in with the cross-functional teams that are associated with the Army's six modernization priorities, such as Soldier lethality. By having that connection, we're able to start introducing and familiarizing Soldiers with those future developments earlier in training.

Can you discuss progress on the synthetic training environment, and how it will enable our Soldiers in the future?

You could argue we've been dabbling in the synthetic training environment for a long time. Going way back, we had the old weaponeer for marksmanship training. They would bring it to your location and give you on-the-spot practice for your four fundamentals without shooting real bullets. Even five to 10 years ago, we had the stationary disks for the dismounted Soldier training system that connected Soldiers for a situational training exercise where they'd essentially march in place in their full kits and visualize squad movement virtually. Now, we're at the point where you sit in a chair, you've got a screen in front of you, and you go through all of that training either individually or with a squad.

We've come a long way. Whether it's leader or individual Soldier decision making, or it's actual tactical action like pulling a trigger or acquiring a target, it's all about being able to get as many repetitions as you can. The synthetic training environment affords the ability to constantly change scenarios; nothing is ever the same. Each action or decision takes you down a different trail. Historically, you only had that opportunity when you took all your equipment and went to a combat training center.

Some tasks we just haven't been able to do over the past 15 years because of throughput and operational tempo. I remember getting a bandolier of ammo strapped to me, marching out to a firing position, sitting there with my NCO, and plugging away at 200 meter targets at the range. While that can still happen, you can now do the same thing without going to the range and shooting the bullets and still get to the same level of proficiency.

That being said, it's important to note that even though synthetic training is the future, it should never be mistaken as a complete replacement for getting out on the ground. To say that an infantry squad doesn't actually have to get out and perform the actions required in the last 100 yards is not the right mindset. They still have to get out and do those things. But the more reps they can do to supplement those limited opportunities in live training, the better off they're going to be.

How has sustainment evolved throughout your career?

Early on, I really didn't have any idea about the way the sustainment system worked. The supply room was largely the basis for my interpretation of logistics working well. Our NCOs and S4s at the battalion and brigade level were always on top of things when it came to supporting the warfighter.

But over the last 10 or 15 years of counterinsurgency (COIN) operations, I think we got away from that reliability on a good logistics system. Whether it was a big forward operating base or a small joint security station, the mentality was if you could get your hands on it, you took as much as you could: I need as many tires as I can get because I don't want to run out. It was easy to stockpile.

Very routinely, I'd go into those places and see supplies that were probably accumulated three or four rotations prior. Why were we continuing to stockpile them? Obviously the need wasn't critical because they were still there collecting dust.

As we shift to multi-domain, large-scale combat operations, we're really putting the proper focus back on what it means to be logistically supplied, correctly. Especially with advanced individual training and all the instruction we do within the Sustainment COE and Combined Arms Support Command at Fort Lee, we're moving in the right direction.

What's on Soldiers' minds in terms of future sustainment needs?

Soldier lethality. How can we maximize Soldier, team, and squad lethality for their warfighting mission while staying supplied properly? A lot of that has to do with the way we are modernizing and designing our future force, and I think it's important to keep it as simple as possible.

You can't just take a whole bunch of stuff with you, whether you may need it or not. Soldiers can't become the holiday tree where we continue to strap things on them--pretty soon they feel like pack mules. On the frontline, that's not necessarily the right idea for those last 100 yards when we're trying to close with and destroy the enemy.

We also can't talk out of both sides of our mouths. If we say we're going to lighten the load and make them more lethal, flexible, and energetic, then at the same time we have to be able to give them confidence in what we supply them. If it goes bad or runs out--whatever the case is--they can turn around to exchange or resupply. It's right there so there's no gap or stoppage in moving on with the mission.

Again, that was a little hard to actually experience during COIN operations because of the availability of supplies. But with the uncertain character of any future conflict, establishing that faith and trust in the sustainment system early in training is a necessity. We have to get in the reps of working through those resupply actions so it becomes second nature.

It's all about ensuring the ability to maintain a steady, on-time logistics program that builds confidence in the supported Soldier.

What is the most important thing young Soldiers should know as they enter a dynamic, evolving Army?

Things are changing, but it's important to make sure you don't lose focus on the fundamentals. To a cadet or new lieutenant, that may not sink in initially. But right away--and we say this all the time--talk to your NCOs and trust them. Most of the time, they're going to be the ones who help you set priorities and keep you grounded in those fundamentals.

With the speed at which we're modernizing, it's hard to keep up. Just take the cell phone: it seems like every few months a new iPhone model is released, and each one is significantly different from the last. You're just not going to be able to stay up front with every bit of modernization and new technology.

You have to be a little cautious in not consuming too much at once; how much are you actually going to be able to do effectively? You can't touch everything. You can't do everything.

Doctrinally speaking in terms of numbers, you can really only effectively control three to five things. That's why we set our organizations up that way: there's four squads in a platoon, three to four platoons in a company, and so on. As a leader, it comes down to priorities.

Figure out the things you can actually control, and focus on getting those right. Don't try to become a steward of strategic things; be a steward of the things you can effectively execute and do those fundamentals well.

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Arpi Dilanian is a strategic analyst in the Army G-4's Logistics Initiatives Group. She holds a bachelor's degree from American University and a master's degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Matthew Howard is a strategic analyst in the Army G-4's Logistics Initiatives Group. He holds bachelor's and master's degrees from Georgetown University.

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This article appears in the October-December 2019 issue of Army Sustainment.