As the U.S. Army continues to contour training and readiness toward potential large-scale combat operations (LSCO), the need for transformation and modernization is becoming more apparent every day. Furthermore, the sustainment requirements of LSCO are understandably much greater in scale and scope than those of the counterinsurgency (COIN) operations of the past 20 years. COIN operations allowed units to establish forward operating bases (FOB) where we could reset, reconsolidate, and resupply. This will not be an option in LSCO. LSCO will force units to maximize their fix-forward capabilities and efficiency of basic loads and resupply chains because there will be no FOB. Support units will need to continue to push forward to keep pace with the forward line of troops.
Historically, warrant officers (WOs) are known as subject matter experts (SME)s in their respective fields. In the COIN environment, WOs established systems to prolong the endurance of equipment, personnel, supply chains, and operations. With the continued proliferation of technology and rapid modernization, it has become largely difficult for Soldiers to maintain their proficiency regarding technical expertise. Due to the high operating tempo (OPTEMPO) and rapid fielding of new equipment and processes, much of the technical expertise shifted to field service representatives, other contractors, and local national labor. Because some logistics WO roles are so broad, we must adapt to become SMEs in systems integration and administration.
Logistics WOs will need to play a critical role as the systems integrators in LSCO, particularly at the strategic level. As depicted in an excerpt from Joint Publication 4-0, Joint Logistics, sustainment WOs offer competencies that span all the operational domains and most of the core logistics functions to support the requirements of the joint operational environment. FM 4-0, Sustainment Operations, defines the purpose of the sustainment warfighting function as to provide commanders in a decisive action environment three things: operational reach, freedom of action, and prolonged endurance. Operational reach refers to the distance and duration in which a force can successfully employ their capabilities. Freedom of action is the ability of commanders to gain the operational initiative and maintain the necessary OPTEMPO. Prolonged endurance is the ability to employ combat power for prolonged periods.
For sustainment activities to effectively ensure those things are provided to commanders, WOs will be involved in the planning, execution, and sustainment of the systems, tactics, techniques, and procedures in which those principles are achieved. Throughout their careers, logistics WOs are trained as technical experts regarding the enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions used in the Army. These systems include the Global Command Support System-Army, Standard Army Ammunition System-Modernization, General Fund Enterprise Business System, and Transportation Coordinators’ Automated Information for Movements System II. These different ERPs are the cornerstone to implementing, administering, and managing systems, which will be critical in a LSCO environment.
Through supply, maintenance, and transportation, logistics WOs are trained in both the institutional and operational domains to maximize the three facets of sustainment within their realms of expertise. Logistic WOs will be critical planners and administrators of systems throughout the joint phases of operations. Much like in garrison operations, the logistic WOs will act as advisors and liaisons between senior commanders and the operations on the ground at the user level. The conduit between echelons provided by a WO provides a level of continuity that would be otherwise absent within the joint environment. The nature of WO training and focus throughout their career enables them to provide fidelity in systems administration that may not be available from NCOs or officers because of the diversity of assignments enjoyed by those cohorts. Logistics WOs rarely work outside of their technical competencies. This enables them to be invaluable staff officers and expert advisors to commanders.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Andrew Drake is currently assigned as an ordnance warrant officer (WO) instructor at the Technical Logistics College in Army Logistics University. He facilitates technical and common core training for the WO Basic and WO Advanced Courses. He is a graduate of the 915A WO Basic Course, WO Advanced Course, and WO Intermediate Level Education. He holds a master's degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Project Management from Grantham University.
This article was published in the April-June 2021 issue of Army Sustainment.