Warrant officers in the field of sustainment are regarded for technical expertise within the broad areas of quartermaster, ordnance, and transportation. This expertise is in high demand as command and staff leaders hold great expectations for a warrant officer’s ability to analyze data and provide trustworthy counsel. This sentiment resonates among the Army’s technical logisticians with decades of competence and valuable advice. Still, it is fair to be concerned about what it takes to maintain this legacy and not take success for granted.
Technological advancement and modernization impact the ways the Army trains and fights. Further, rapid developments may require warrant officers to develop beyond the horizon of technical specialties and become more familiar with all sustainment warfighting functions. This development is imperative for all sustainers because expanding awareness enables logisticians to communicate more effectively and operate more freely outside their comfort zones. Without effective communication and a broad awareness of all sustainment functions, one’s vision remains limited and self serving.
Quartermaster, ordnance, and transportation warrant officers spend years developing their skills and knowledge through operational and institutional initiatives and experiences. All this culminates in solidifying technical expertise and mastery. The proficiencies required to function as a technical expert formulate the identity of a warrant officer.
Sustainment can be a very fragmented and complex puzzle that leaders are required to piece together. Preferably, many specialties work with each other rather than alone. The working dynamic that develops between a warrant officer and a support operations officer, an S-4 officer in charge, or even a brigade support battalion commander becomes a question of whether the broad logistician can narrow their vision to understand the technicalities of a warrant officer’s craft or whether the technical expert can broaden their vision of sustainment and translate it to broad terms. Both directions are beneficial and serve an overarching goal of communicating more effectively, yet some leaders tend to project the responsibility to bridge this communication gap onto others. Ideally, all logisticians in the sustainment field can benefit from understanding a little more about what other people do.
This is the juncture in the communication process when one might see why it is important to have some conceptual awareness of what’s going on outside of our specialty. For example, there are moments when command and staff leaders must decide which class of supply is the priority during operations. One might notice Class VIII in the 5th order of priority and misinterpret the context to assume Class III and Class V are more important to a commander if these are top priorities. This is contextually false. The order of supply is less important and more about the strategic positioning of assets and resources.
Misinterpretations are more likely to happen when a technical expert cannot recognize what is taking place outside their area of responsibility. While this can result in apathetic mindsets among leaders, some might feel the logistical picture must change or adjust to accommodate one’s requirements. This vantage point is most likely to result in an ineffective sustainment approach. When a technical expert has enough fundamental knowledge to recognize broad sustainment concepts and applies a fair level of knowledge about support operations, there is more clarity regarding the reasoning behind what is taking place. The logistical picture is recognized well enough to see how their specialty area must adapt to everything else to meet the commander’s intent. From here, there’s a sense of a greater, overarching purpose to enable the support effort. With all of this in mind, it is then fair to assert how competition and self-serving decisions can negatively affect support and teamwork.
The Support Operations Course is arguably one of the best educational opportunities for any warrant officer to take advantage of because it enhances one’s understanding of a wide range of sustainment functions without jeopardizing any current developments in one’s primary specialty. For example, a property accountability technician might get the opportunity to learn from scenarios involving fuel resupply, which would increase their awareness of another warrant officer’s specialty and might help one learn more about a commander’s priorities and why certain decisions are made. This instance of shared understanding does not require a technical level of expertise, nor does it require a lengthy time of study or repetition. Much can be gained in just a few rigorous days of concerted effort and research on different sustainment topics.
Without attending the Support Operations Course, another viable approach to learning more about other sustainment areas might begin with some research on the Force Management System Website (FMSWeb). The ability to identify sustainment assets and review how authorizations are distributed among each battalion in a brigade combat team or a sustainment brigade provides insight into various areas of consideration that would benefit any logistician. FMSWeb might be a common system for some warrant officers. Still, those who do not use the system to perform daily operations could easily uncover a wealth of information about unit capabilities and equipment. The research option is not just limited to FMSWeb, either. The Combined Arms Support Command website has excellent resources that anyone can navigate, including the Sustainment Virtual Playbook or the Sustainment Resource Portal, which contain many resources and tools that could enhance anyone’s knowledge.
Technical developments among the warrant officers of today and the future will require a disciplined initiative to develop, not just in one’s primary specialty but also beyond the comfort zone of one’s area of expertise. This is the answer to gaining mastery in the craft. As frustrating as it may seem to commit efforts toward areas that might not directly apply to one’s daily tasks, the awareness of how a specialty relates to other areas of emphasis is where all the magic is. Through this vision, everyone learns to have more respect and appreciation for what others do, as sustainers have much more in common than not. The means to support the mission might be different, but in the end, warrant officers support the mission by supporting each other.
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Timothy K. Sprague serves as a Warrant Officer Advanced Course (922A) instructor and course manager for the Technical Logistics College at Fort Lee, Virginia. He previously served as Senior Command Food Service Technician for the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, and graduated from Warrant Officer Candidate School at Fort Rucker, Alabama, in 2009. He holds a Master of Business Administration from the University of Phoenix.
This article was published in the Winter 23 issue of Army Sustainment.