In an increasingly complex global environment, the collective U.S. military services must work in synergy during joint operations. For this reason, Department of Defense (DOD) logisticians must be proficient in supporting the joint force. The Joint Staff J-4 (J-S/J-4) collaborates with Army Logistics University (ALU) to sponsor the Joint Logistics Course (JLC) to educate logistics leaders to do just that. The JLC exposes students to the Joint Logistics Enterprise (JLEnt), enabling senior logisticians to understand how the DOD functions and coordinates with various stakeholders, including non-governmental organizations, multinational partners, interagency partners, and the U.S. industrial base to support joint operations.
Shifting from Tactical to Strategic Focus
The target audience for the JLC is field grade officers and senior non-commissioned officers, warrant officers, and DOD civilians who are currently part of or have orders to serve on a joint staff. These leaders enter the course with significant experience at the tactical level of their specific service. They are preparing to take the next step in career progression and enter the world of operational and strategic operations. Each student brings unique perspectives from their careers to the JLC. Students participate in group projects, working together with teammates from the various military services. This enables students to observe how sister services operate and gain first-hand knowledge and experiences from their student peers. Promoting a joint understanding enables the class to progress in thinking together, breaking out of their tactical mindsets and into logistics considerations at the theater level. This prepares students for the challenges they may face in the future associated with the construct and scope of working on a joint staff. In addition to learning from their fellow students, JLC participants can interact with multiple general or flag officers and members of the senior executive service through professional development engagements. These senior leaders provide their perspective and expertise to the class, helping students better visualize the scope of the problems they will have to overcome and solve in the future.
Strategic Leader Engagements
A strength of the JLC is its partnerships with personnel in assignments who are currently working on real-world problem sets in the JLEnt. These personnel bring relevancy and current contemporary thought to the course contributors to the JLC include personnel from the J-S/J-4, Defense Logistics Agency, U.S. Transportation Command, the J-S/J-4 Operational Contract Support Division, Joint Health Services, the Joint Staff J-7 (J-S/J-7), the Joint Engineering Education Program, the Center for Joint and Strategic Logistics, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and multinational partners. These organizations provide guest speakers to interact with the class. This serves two purposes. Guest speaker interaction exposes students to potentially unfamiliar organizations within the JLent. This opens the students’ knowledge aperture and allows them to experience insights from some of the real-world players in the JLent. This allows students to build an understanding of how the different organizations fit together to build an enterprise. In addition, students have an opportunity to expand their professional network. The guest speakers not only serve as lecturers, but also points of contact for the future. The students leave the JLC with reach-back capabilities to all the members of the JLEnt that participate in the course and the JLC team at ALU.
U.S. international partners and allies are key players in the JLEnt. The JLC recognizes this and further expands student points of view and exposes them to members of foreign militaries. For example, the JLC hosted an International Student Day in late 2021 in conjunction with the International Military Student Office (IMSO) at ALU. Students from the JLC and IMSO gave presentations on their respective militaries to emphasize and facilitate the understanding of the importance of international partnerships and the interdependent nature of logistics at the strategic to the operational level. Presenters included military officers from the Federal Republic of Germany, Republic of Lithuania, Republic of North Macedonia, Republic of Cyprus, Republic of Korea, Republic of Iraq, State of Israel, State of Kuwait, Republic of Ghana, and United States of America. This multinational exposure promotes an understanding of the capabilities of key foreign partners during joint operations with emphasis on the importance of multinational logistics and acquisitions and cross-serving agreements. However, the value in such an event goes beyond just knowledge. Just as introducing students to strategic guest speakers enables them to build a contact list filled with valuable points of contact. Exposure to multinational partners also allows students to forge relationships that they can leverage in future assignments or deployments.
Bringing It All Together
After each course, the students in JLC can leverage the knowledge they gain to complete a theater logistics overview (TLO) presentation. This capstone exercise requires students to recall the capabilities of all the various players in the JLEnt that they interacted with throughout the course. The students come together to tackle a strategic problem set where they must consider multinational relations and impacts. They take on a mindset far from the tactical experience that most students have at the beginning of the course. Students present their overview to a senior strategic leader familiar with the area in which the capstone scenario takes place. On Dec. 17. 2021, Marine Corps Maj. Gen. David Maxwell, JS/J-4 Vice Director, visited the JLC at Fort Lee, Virginia. JLC students had the opportunity to brief Maxwell on their TLO. The problem set they faced centered on planning basing operations for a potential contingency event in the European Theater. Maxwell provided his valuable feedback and expertise to the students. In addition to mentorship from the senior leader, the students gain experience in briefing a strategic leader. Doing so in an academic and non-threatening environment allows students to build proficiency in briefing a senior leader, developing a critical skill they will need as they move forward into joint and strategic assignments. Students will continue to recall and reflect upon their interactions with senior leaders while in the JLC through their future assignments.
The JLC enables exceptional tactical logistics leaders to expand their scope and abilities into the strategic level. Throughout the course, they gain experience working with many joint, interagency, and multinational partners from across the JLEnt. They build relationships with their fellow students from sister services and the various stakeholders participating in the course. These relationships serve students well in the future. It is not uncommon for students to reach back to each other and the guest speakers after the course concludes to seek advice and draw on capabilities during real-world events. Students enter the course experienced in tactical logistics specific to their service and leave with their eyes open to the broader, more diverse JLEnt with an enhanced understanding of some of the factors that play a role in operating on a joint staff and insights into the considerations that strategic leader must keep in minds while supporting joint operations.
Lt. Col. Heath A. Mullins, is the Director of the Joint Logistics Course, Army Logistics University at Fort Lee, Virginia. He is a graduate of the Joint and Combined Warfighting School, the Army Command and General Staff College, and holds a Master of Art in Acquisition and Procurement Management.
Maj. Matthew D. Ferretti is an instructor with the Joint Logistics Course, Army Logistics University, at Fort Lee, Virginia. He is a Command and General Staff College graduate and holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration.
Maj. Michael D. Rajchel, USAF, is an instructor with the Joint Logistics Course, Army Logistics University at Fort Lee, Virginia. He is an Air Command and Staff College graduate and holds a Doctorate of Business Administration with a focus in Operations.
Capt. Matthew G. MacDonald is the course Director for the Supply Chain Management Course, Army Logistics University at Fort Lee, Virginia. He holds a master's in supply chain management from the Virginia Commonwealth University.
This content is published online in conjunction with the Spring 2022 issue of Army Sustainment.