FORT KNOX, Ky. – Twenty five recently-commissioned, second lieutenants are learning and working alongside Soldiers of the 1st Theater Sustainment Command and receiving their first lessons in the Army and in logistics after graduating from Cadet Summer Training here.
“This is a unique, internship-style opportunity made available to the new officers who remained on Fort Knox while waiting for their start dates for their branch-specific Basic Officer Leadership Courses,” said Lt. Col. Joe D. Caldwell, assistant chief of staff in the G-4 section, 1st TSC, who spearheaded the initiative.
Caldwell went on to explain how he previously saw success with a similar program between Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadets at Kansas State University and units in the 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, Kansas.
“We partnered KSU cadets with an active duty unit within their branch so that they could start getting exposure being around Soldiers, shadowing lieutenants, and talking to leadership about what would be expected of them once they’re commissioned and join units within the Army,” Caldwell said.
Knowing that there was CST on post, he wanted to see 1st TSC offer a similar opportunity to the Army’s newest leaders, and especially to the logistics officers. Caldwell reestablished this program to bring recently-commissioned 2nd lieutenants to the 1st TSC for familiarization with the Army and logistics.
As a sustainer, Caldwell told his contact at Cadet Command that the 1st TSC would ideally like to mentor future logistics leaders – any officer training in the Ordnance, Quartermaster, or Transportation Branches.
Then he offered to receive future leaders from any branch. “We still have other specialty areas in 1st TSC, like operations, planning, and the surgeon cell.
“We have Soldiers, and we can expose them to a higher-level command than they will actually work in right away, but it helps tie certain aspects of their job together down at the tactical level - understanding the operations and strategic levels that we work in here,” Caldwell explained.
The new officers are limited as to what they can do here, and are mostly observing, assisting, or conducting research. They helped at the M9 and M17 pistol qualification range and were given the opportunity to familiarize themselves with weapons they’ll be using at their future units.
They have also been sitting in on 1st TSC battle rhythm events, including U.S. Army Central Command briefings, operations and logistics meetings, and the 1st TSC commander’s update briefs. They were able to ask questions to learn more about meeting topics.
“I’ll prompt them during the meetings and additional questions are spurred,” Caldwell said. He also helps them learn both Army and logistics-specific acronyms.
“This isn’t something that lieutenants get to do often - to sit in on two and three-star level command meetings, and hear what’s being discussed at these higher levels,” he said.
Several second lieutenants are working at Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Special Troops Battalion, 1st TSC, where they’ve been shadowing Company Commander Capt. Marco Lara and Executive Officer, 1st Lt. Derek Thomas.
There they learned about the Uniform Code of Military Justice, monthly counseling, Article 15s, and leadership at the company level.
This level of immersion was beneficial for 2nd Lt. Matthew Le of San Jose, California. “I enjoyed observing, learning, and developing on the people part of the Army here at the company level.”
Le recently graduated from the University of Oregon in Portland with a degree in history. He was glad to see how easy it is for people of diverse backgrounds, ethnicities and cultures to integrate in the Army which he said provides a very accepting atmosphere.
Many of the lieutenants discussed the advantages to having a diverse Army and how it is good for decision making and providing a true, accepting team environment.
Additionally, they participated in a leader professional development session hosted by Maj. Gen. Michel M. Russell Sr. where he spoke to them about the fundamentals of leadership.
He discussed several leadership topics which he believes are important for all officers regardless of grade or experience and emphasized diversity in the formation. The commanding general also spoke about the importance of empathy and the critical role that people play in accomplishing the mission.
Russell introduced his command team and other leaders who work at 1st TSC. This group of officers, noncommissioned officers, and civilians answered questions and provided a more holistic viewpoint of leadership and the realities of serving in the Army.
2nd Lt. Kevin Luna Torres of Framingham, Massachusetts, already possesses hands-on experience, having served as an enlisted infantry Soldier with the 181st Infantry Regiment in the Massachusetts National Guard, which is the oldest combat regiment currently in the U.S. Army.
He was activated several times while serving with the 181st. One of his final deployments with the unit was providing support at the last Presidential Inauguration in Washington, D.C.
“I’m grateful that I served there and was able to be a part of history,” he said.
He knows how important it is to develop Soldiers, because he was provided many growth opportunities in the past. These include being encouraged to participate in ROTC and earn his commission.
“With this rank comes respect, but more importantly it gives me the opportunity to also help develop Soldiers to grow,” Torres said.
2nd Lt. Dawson W. Yates of Jupiter, Florida said. “I didn’t know what to expect when we were assigned here after finishing our roles in training. It is really eye opening, because I had no idea how much enlisted Soldiers do.”
Yates recently graduated from Wake Forest University in North Carolina and will continue his training to become a field artillery officer. He knows that his first duty assignment will be at Fort Stewart, Georgia.
2nd Lt. Yasmin Camacho-Perez completed her studies at Georgia Southern University. The Statesboro, Georgia native is continuously learning people skills and how to communicate with Soldiers of various backgrounds. She believes this will help her lead diverse groups of Soldiers.
She has spent much of her time at 1st TSC observing in the Support Operations section where she learned why and how decisions are made and who makes them.
“I decided to lead so that I can be more independent and the Army provides opportunity and that financial independence I’m looking for,” Camacho-Perez said.
2nd Lt. Alexandria Woodward appreciates this chance to learn about sustainment and how the 1st TSC supports all of the operations overseas.
The Virginia Military Institute graduate from San Antonio, Texas said that she knew she wanted to lead, because not leading is boring to her.
“I learned a lot about myself even while being a part of Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps in high school,” she said.
Woodward wanted the benefit of having her college paid, along with a stable financial income which she did not always have.
Most importantly, she wanted to be challenged. “After talking with people who made a career out of serving in the Army, I knew this was a good place for me full time,” Woodward said.
Her experiences being a new female leader have proven to be positive as well. “I’ve never been treated differently by any of my peers.
“It’s like any other community. As long as you put yourself out there and are willing to take the challenge then good superiors know that you’re just as much of an officer, just as much of a sponge, and just as moldable as a female leader,” Woodward said.
In addition to all of their training with Soldiers at 1st TSC, Caldwell said, “They get to make a whole bunch of connections here, and they understand where their [logistics] support is coming from– especially for infantry and armor officers.”
Caldwell hopes that this collaboration will ingrain in the Army’s newest leaders to include their sustainers in their plans, so that the sustainers know what they need done; and that their plans include the capabilities of their sustainers while still being able to accomplish mission on time.