By Greg Wilson, ASC Public Affairs
ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. – The way forward through the COVID-19 pandemic was a major topic of discussion at the U.S. Army Sustainment Command virtual town hall held Feb. 25.
Maj. Gen. Daniel Mitchell, ASC commanding general, led the town hall from a conference room located in the command’s headquarters at RIA. ASC team members were able to participate in the town hall via Microsoft Teams, and could ask questions via email. In all, about 500 team members attended the town hall from their homes or offices.
A variety of topics were discussed, including ASC’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, the availability of vaccines locally, the command’s policy concerning teleworking, its support to Army modernization, and responses to the latest command climate survey.
Mitchell began by re-emphasizing the important role ASC plays in Army readiness.
“As you know,” Mitchell said, “you synchronize and integrate the materiel enterprise, to bring the readiness effects, all the way from the strategic support area, back in the United States, all the way down to the tactical edge. Soldiers can’t do their job, can’t do anything, as far as mobilizing or deploying, maintaining readiness, without you. So I thank you for what you do every day.”
Mitchell gave an update on the Army’s new Modernization, Displacement, Repair Site program, an initiative by which Soldiers can turn in old equipment more quickly and easily, freeing up space for new, modernized equipment, and saving labor and money.
Mitchell also referenced the Army’s Modernization Strategy, which describes how the Total Army -- Regular Army, National Guard, Army Reserve, and Army civilians -- will transform into a multi-domain force by 2035.
“As we think about multi-domain operations, and taking on our near-peer competitors – think Russia and China – so they know we’ve got to modernize, and we have a lot of modernization coming down the pike, and so we still have to train, and we still have missions to support combatant commanders,” he explained.
Mitchell said there were about 300,000 pieces of excess equipment throughout active component units that are backlogged and not being used. This excess equipment needs to be redistributed, he said.
“We’re the lead materiel integrator, so we synchronize and coordinate the distribution and redistribution of all the Army’s equipment, and, with this Modernization Displacement Repair Site, we’re going to make it easy for them to get rid of their old equipment, and we’ll redistribute it rapidly,” Mitchell said.
“So what we’re looking for there is ease of turn in, and velocity. That’ll save Soldiers a lot of time, time that they can use to do other things, like train. And it will also redistribute equipment a lot faster to get it to where it needs to go to support equipment readiness.”
In the upcoming Defender Europe and Defender Pacific exercises, Mitchell said ASC plays a vital role. Defender Europe takes play from May 1 - July 1, and Defender Pacific takes place from July 15 - Aug. 15.
“That involves not only mobilizing and deploying and projecting power, but then at the other end, once they get there, issuing APS (Army Prepositioned Stock), sustaining network force, reception staging, onward movement integration, so we’re really exercising our full capabilities in these exercises,” he said.
Mitchell added these exercises will take place while ASC continues its daily operations, including transitioning from LOGCAP IV to LOGCAP V, and ASC’s supply, maintenance and transportation mission at 78 installations worldwide.
Mitchell then discussed the COVID-19 pandemic and said the Army realizes there is going to be a “new normal,” and is in the process of developing new guidance on telework and has tasked AMC with writing it.
“We are not going to wait for any of them. We are revising the telework policy now, and it will meet the unique needs of our work environment, and also leverage what we’ve learned,” Mitchell said.
The former policy, prior to COVID-19, allowed up to 25% of the force to telework. The new ASC policy will allow for much more telework, as long as mission requirements are fully met. This is meant to allow flexibility for both supervisors and employees.
Starting March 1, a maximum of 40% of ASC’s workforce will be allowed to come to work on the island on any given day. Supervisors will be given maximum flexibility regarding the needs of their employees and their mission. There will also be strict guidelines concerning social distancing, wearing masks, and maintaining a hygienic work environment.
Regarding vaccine availability for Soldiers and civilians at RIA, Mitchell said coordinators only get about a 96-hour notice of vaccine delivery, and as of Feb. 25, about 2,500 doses have been received by ASC, including its AFSBs, of which most have been administered.
He then turned the subject of the Ready Army Civilian program off to Matt Sannito, deputy to the commander.
Sannito said this program is in line with the Army’s top priority of “people first.” He explained AMC is developing a tool that can help assess an employee’s tangible and intangible skills, and can help facilitate discussions between employees and supervisors about future training and experience.
“Ready Army Civilian is a concept, but really it is a tool. It is a system that is going to be deployed here over the summertime frame across the MSCs,” he said.
This voluntary program will give employees the opportunity to complete a self-assessment of their skills and needs, and how those fit into the organization’s requirements. It will also help individuals, with input from supervisors, to develop a future career path that meshes their own needs with that of the organization.
The discussion included the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute Organizational Climate Survey. These surveys have been given during the last several years.
Mitchell said the overall trend in terms of organizational climate is good and heading upward, but there were some areas of concern.
Some of the positive trends were those dealing with sexual assault response climate, connectedness, and engagement. However, some areas of concern were those dealing with organizational processes, inclusion at work, and sexual assault reporting knowledge.
“I’ve asked the directors to dig deep, get into the specific questions, get into the specific comments, come up with an action plan for their area, and tell me what you’re going to do to address your weak areas,” Mitchell explained.
He added that this has been done, and each area is different because of its respective work climate.
“The beauty of LOE (Line of Effort) 4 is that we’re taking many disciplines and we’re communicating and working together. So the SHARP program, substance abuse program, the suicide prevention program, and all these areas are working together to come up with better training, better solutions,” he said.
Mitchell stressed that everything can’t get fixed overnight, and that it will be an ongoing effort.
“Leaders just need to focus on the basics: Treat people fairly, treat people with respect, lead by example, communicate expectations. That’ll go a long way if we just get back to the basics of being good leaders,” he said.
Mitchell added the command should keep investing heavily into the Journey to Leadership program, along with providing better mentorship, and having a fair and transparent hiring process.
During the question and answer session, many of the questions or comments centered on teleworking and the way forward through the pandemic and beyond. Several specific situations were raised, including caring for others in the home, being in a risk group, and finding childcare.
“That involves a conversation with your supervisor. Mission is obviously important, it comes first, but also compassion with working with someone to address their concerns, whether it’s high-risk concerns or their childcare concerns,” Mitchell said. “But at some point, getting the mission done is important. If we can do that efficiently and effectively through telework, then that’s always an option.”
Mitchell thanked all ASC personnel for their hard work, and said he is always impressed with how professional the workforce is, and said the span and skills of ASC are “incredible.”
“You play a vital role, and I thank you for what you do, and you should be proud of what you do, from mobilizing and deploying units, to issuing Army Prepositioned Stocks all over the world, deterring our enemies,” he said.
Length of service awards were also presented to the following individuals: