ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. – More than 400 employees from around the U.S. Army Sustainment Command went online to participate in a virtual ASC town hall held Dec.15.
Maj. Gen. Daniel Mitchell, commanding general of ASC, led the town hall from a conference room located in the command’s headquarters at Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois. ASC team members were able to participate in the town hall via Microsoft Teams, and could ask questions via email.
A wide range of topics were discussed at the town hall, including ASC’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, and its role in supporting ongoing COVID vaccine trials; the command’s support to Army modernization; improvements to the shipment of household goods for Soldiers and families; and Project Inclusion, a command- and Army-wide effort to promote equity, diversity and inclusion at all locations and among all ranks, grades and levels.
Mitchell began the town hall by outlining his priorities for ASC and highlighting the command’s recent accomplishments and future plans. One of the main efforts currently being undertaken, he said, was support to the Army’s Regionally Aligned Readiness and Modernization Model, or ReARMM, which aims to speed modernization while maintaining high readiness rates.
“ReARMM is looking at the way we resource the Army’s mission,” Mitchell said, “and it’s a big problem, because the Army is swimming in excess.”
ASC is pioneering a new approach enabling units to turn in their excess equipment at Fort Hood, Texas, site of the Modernization Displacement and Repair Site. The MDRS is operated by ASC’s 407th Army Field Support Brigade.
“ASC does the distribution, redistribution and turn-in of all the Army’s equipment,” Mitchell said. “We set up the MDRS to ease the turn-in of excess equipment for units, which gives them time and enables them to modernize. We then take the equipment that’s turned in and send it to other units, or to depots or the (Defense Logistics Agency) as needed.
“We’ve greatly increased the velocity of turn-in at Fort Hood already,” Mitchell said, “and we’re just getting started.” He said that ASC plans to apply the MDRS concept at other major troop installations.
ASC is also responsible for the management of the movement of household goods for Soldiers and families who move under permanent change of station orders, and Mitchell cited improvements made in that mission area.
“We used data analysis to shift people and resources to where they were needed, and increase the number of inspections we performed,” Mitchell said. “This really improved the overall quality of moves. I think it was a resounding success, and it will only get better next year.”
Turning to Project Inclusion, Mitchell said he was positively impressed with the Journey to Leadership program, which provides development and mentoring opportunities to civilian employees interested in attaining leadership positions.
Pointing to the recent disturbing reports coming out of Fort Hood, however, Mitchell noted that much still needs to be done Army-wide in the area of increasing inclusion and eliminating bias and harassment.
Matthew Sannito, ASC deputy to the commanding general, said that the direction ASC will take in Project Inclusion will be driven by input received through discussions with the workforce.
“This wasn’t a leader-led effort,” Sannito said. “This was a grassroots effort. You guys identified critical gaps and let us know what we need to do to move forward in expanding opportunities.
“This is a living, breathing project that will continue in the future,” Sannito said, adding that employees would be able to access information on the progress made in Project Inclusion.
Sannito later discussed ASC’s efforts to broaden its recruitment efforts and to streamline the hiring process, with the goal of increasing employment numbers among under-represented groups.
Mitchell talked about ASC’s support to Operation Warp Speed – the nationwide effort to develop and distribute a vaccine for COVID-19 – by using the command-managed Logistics Civil Augmentation Program to set up trailers where vaccine trials could be conducted.
“While we may have a vaccine soon, we need to remain vigilant and continue to do the right things,” Mitchell said. He noted that about 80 percent of employees at ASC Headquarters are currently teleworking, but only about three percent of employees at ASC field locations could telework, due to the nature of their jobs.
“I’m very proud of the way you’re keeping the mission going, despite COVID,” Mitchell said. “That takes a lot of discipline.”
Mitchell said that he had asked supervisors and leaders to constantly check in with their employees, to make sure that they are coping well with the changes brought on by telework and other COVID-related restrictions.
The question-and-answer session began with an employee asking the limited hours at the RIA Fitness Center and when the hours would be expanded.
Col. Todd Allison, RIA garrison commander, said that the Fitness Center was now open 60 hours a week, compared to 90 hours a week pre-pandemic. He said that he hoped the hours would be expanded early next year, depending on conditions. There is also a limit on the number of people who can use the Fitness Center at a time, but Allison said that staying under this limit has not been an issue due to the decreased number of people working on the installation.
“We are one of the few Army installations that has opened its fitness facilities to all patrons, including civilian employees and military family members,” Allison said. “Most installations have opened them to military only.”
In response to a later question, Allison said that the locker rooms and showers at the RIA Fitness Center would remain closed until health conditions improve. Under current conditions, Allison said, guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control require hourly deep cleaning of locker rooms and showers, and RIA lacks the resources to do that.
An employee asked if the command planned to implement VERA-VSIP – acronyms for Voluntary Early Retirement Authority and Voluntary Separation Incentive Pay, programs that allow civilians to retire early and to collect bonus payments upon separation.
Mitchell replied that VERA and VSIP were tools used to reduce the workforce, and that ASC had no current plans to implement them.
Another employee asked about providing loaner laptop computers to employees who need them, and was told that this would be considered.
A few questions arose about the COVID vaccine, which is currently being given to health care workers and other high-priority individuals. Mitchell said that there is not yet a plan to provide the vaccine at the arsenal, and that vaccinations have not been made mandatory.
“The vaccine is being given under an emergency use authorization, so it isn’t even mandatory for Soldiers,” he said, adding that it might become mandatory for uniformed military members when it receives final approval from the Food and Drug Administration.
The vaccine may never become mandatory for civilians, but Sannito said that vaccinations could be a factor as the plan to return employees to their workplaces on the installation is developed.
“We are working with the unions, and we’ll make reasonable accommodations on a case-by-case basis,” Sannito said. “At the end of the day, we need to assure that people are protected but that the mission is still being executed.”
One employee questioned if employees would be able to continue teleworking after the pandemic ends, and Sannito said that the command’s telework policy would likely change.
“ASC has actually been tasked by the Department of the Army to help figure out what telework might look like in the future,” Sannito said. “We expect that more telework will be allowed, as long as we can maintain our productivity.”
In his closing remarks, Mitchell sent out holiday greetings and stressed the importance of ASC’s mission.
“ASC has a huge span of control. We’re the quarterback for the whole material enterprise, and we touch the readiness of every unit in the Army,” Mitchell said. “Again, I’m very proud of the way you’ve kept the mission going in a very difficult year.”
As part of the town hall, awards were presented to the following individuals:
Louis Dellamoica Award: Jeffrey Louck, Logistics Readiness Center-Rock Island; the award is presented annually to a group of employees recognized as the best in the Army Materiel Command.
Joint Service Achievement Medal: Col. Todd Allison; Capt. Beth Brooks
Hi-Pro Award: Carlous Dawson; Meghan Osbourne; Capt. Ricardo Ortiz; Hayleigh Perez; Wendy Streeter; Karen White; Sgt. 1st Class Dustin Wood
Length of Service: Sherry Duburg, Kathy Krewe, Linda Noe and Melinda Verstraete (40 years); Michael Cohorst, Timothy England, Mary Fuhr, Celeste Penn and Robert Petty (35 years); Paul Armour Jr., Matthew Burns, Carole Mitchell, John Peniston and Cecil Wright (30 years)