On May 11, 2022, I assumed the roles and responsibilities of the 1st Theater Sustainment Command (TSC) senior enlisted advisor. Mission requirements have taken me to the farthest reaches of U.S. Army Central’s area of responsibility (AOR), including, but not limited to, Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve and Task Force Sinai in Egypt. I’ve observed how our noncommissioned officers and Soldiers at every echelon support missions around the world with a shared understanding that, at any given moment, we could be called to respond to a crisis or conflict on behalf of our nation.
I’m honored to serve and be charged with the responsibility of leading the Soldiers of the 1st TSC. As the senior Army logistics command in theater, I understand the command is a modular organization tailored to meet the specific requirements of the Central Command (CENTCOM) AOR, set the theater in support of the western sustainment network, and maintain support to troops in contact.
The 1st TSC has over 14,000 Soldiers, civilians, and contractors operating across 11 countries in support of Operation Spartan Shield, Operation Inherent Resolve, Multinational Force and Observers in the Sinai, and other U.S. security interests alongside our joint and coalition partners. Four strategic joint logistics enterprise partners and 11 subordinate commands encompass the complete spectrum of sustainment operations. The team is organized to maximize the 1st TSC’s ability to collaborate, confirm, execute, and validate across a full spectrum of operations, from humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to crisis and contingency operations. In a 2022 article, Maj. Gen. Michel M. Russell Sr. wrote that by “investing in our people first, and seeking innovative ways to satisfy wicked problems, identifying and leveraging opportunities along with proactive preparation for emerging challenges, 1st TSC continues to make significant gains towards optimizing sustainment throughout the AOR.”
My observations have given way to a clear understanding of the current leadership challenges across our vast formation. With the imminent challenge of resetting the theater after the withdrawal from Afghanistan, the movement forward of the western sustainment network, the effects of COVID-19 lingering within the organization, and remaining nested within the Army’s initiatives of continued optimization, I deduced the best way forward is addressing these challenges with collaborative and interconnected initiatives. I feel it’s important to capitalize on our collective strengths, mitigate shortfalls, and leverage opportunities to build interoperability within our vast formation. It’s my experience that this is best done by the process of collecting, analyzing, and reporting information pertaining to the performance of Soldiers, teams, and the organization.
The lasting effects of COVID-19 drove massive changes in society and impacted cultural change in the organization, forcing leadership to adapt. Gaps formed between the cohesiveness, readiness, and trust among our leaders, exposing weaknesses in our formation. I’ve established a clear picture of the periods of disruption, such as canceled training, exercises, and troop development, and I know we can make a difference. Comprehensive and consistent measures are needed in place to protect readiness, maintain the training pipeline, and enhance the quality of life for our Soldiers.
As an essential component of personnel and unit readiness, quality-of-life initiatives are integral parts of the Army’s major plans to improve the force. Quality of life for Soldiers and their families must remain the focus of ongoing investment in housing, healthcare, childcare, and employment opportunities for spouses. The 1st TSC and Army’s ability to retain talent is key, and success depends heavily on initiatives targeting these areas. The 1st TSC enhances the quality of life for 1st TSC Soldiers and families by using working groups to explore new programs and review existing ones. The goal is to enhance the well-being of Soldiers and their families, increasing readiness and retention.
As a leader, it’s my belief one must first determine how to lead a unit in its best capacity by first observing how the unit and its Soldiers perform. Maj. Gen. Michel M. Russel Sr., 1st TSC commanding general, seeks improvement over several areas within the formation: quality of life, standards and discipline, empowering the NCO Corps, and building cohesive teams. During my assessment of the unit, I identified areas that needed extra emphasis. We work to achieve results by initiating the 1st TSC senior enlisted initiatives program, comprised of a comprehensive and concentrated effort focused on developing our junior Soldiers and NCOs. Promoting emotional and physical well-being is critical. Quality of life is complex and difficult to measure.
The 1st TSC quality of life senior enlisted council discusses initiatives in line with the Army People Strategy and ways of enhancing our organization for Soldiers. As a guide for future decisions, our organization’s command sergeants major and sergeants major sync bi-weekly to propose and discuss ways of benefiting the organization. These bi-weekly meetings assist the efforts to improve Army housing, both barracks and Army-owned family housing, the permanent change of station move experience, healthcare, childcare, and employment for spouses.
The 1st TSC elicits feedback from Soldiers via the strong Soldier council, which represents the voice of more than 400 Soldiers to inform senior enlisted leaders on enlisted force matters, including family, morale, and policy changes affecting the readiness of the enlisted Soldiers. The 1st TSC enlisted spouse seminar provides support for spouses of senior enlisted leaders within our organization by preparing them for leadership support positions within the military community.
NCO empowerment is job centric with a technological basis and includes the capability to develop the profession of arms in the enlisted ranks and increased competence and adaptability on the modern battlefield. Operating during COVID-19 revealed the need to build teams, communicate, create trust, and lead by direct example. Leadership done correctly creates empowered leaders capable of delegating decision-making to the lowest possible level.
The 1st TSC’s standard operating procedure (SOP) standardizes the counseling process, ensuring every Soldier, regardless of the component (active duty, Army Reserve, or National Guard), receives regular and purposeful counseling. Quality counseling explains the task, gives purpose, provides scope of duty roles, and requires preparation and time from both parties. A Soldier should leave a counseling session with a solid understanding of what they have done well, where they can improve, and how the leader and subordinate will work together to meet those goals while achieving the mission. Leaders should leave each counseling session with a better understanding of their Soldier’s concerns, problems, goals, successes, and expectations giving this standardization process a total force perspective. Most importantly, our SOP ensures counseling sessions occur regularly.
The 1st TSC junior enlisted professional development (JEPD) program derived from the Army’s “This is My Squad” initiative. Furthermore, the JEPD is nested within U.S. Army Central’s “strong sergeants build strong Soldiers” campaign. The JEPD trains, educates, and develops Soldiers to instill Army Values, understand Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention and equal opportunity policies, increase suicide awareness, and develop compassionate leaders increasing overall combat readiness. The JEPD assists with developing and leading Soldiers and units in a complex and challenging multidomain environment.
The 1st TSC NCO professional development (NCOPD) program reinforces essential knowledge for our leaders, consisting of formal and informal training programs, one-on-one groups, coaching, and instruction and is fully integrated into the overall training program. The 1st TSC believes NCO development is achieved through a progressive sequence of local and Army-level education, unit and individual training, and assignments of increasing scope and responsibility. NCOPD sessions also support the commanding general’s priorities and Army Central Forces Command lines of effort.
The 1st TSC senior enlisted leader seminar (SELS) is held quarterly to educate and develop sustainment senior enlisted leaders through open dialogue and interactive training. We do this by hosting a two-day event. Senior leaders across various sustainment commands provide insight into current and ongoing initiatives. 1st TSC senior enlisted leaders receive the opportunity to understand the visions, priorities, and intents of commanders and the U.S. government. SELS entails a joint senior enlisted seminar serving as a forum to review best practices for enhancing multidomain operational effectiveness through collaboration between all branches of service. Senior enlisted leaders start with professional relationships that develop into effective collaboration, an important aspect in building interoperability, with the end goal of greatly improving the ability of all senior leaders to advise commanders while leading organizations across the Army.
My goal is to assist the team in the continued effort to drive the 1st TSC into the front line of innovation and to continue improving the quality of life, standards, and discipline, empower the NCO Corps, and build cohesive teams. I’m establishing team-building programs within all my initiatives and within the organization that have a direct impact on the establishment of trust.
Command Sgt. Maj. Albert E. Richardson Jr. currently serves as the senior enlisted advisor for the 1st Theater Sustainment Command, Fort Knox, Kentucky. He has served as command sergeant major of the 299th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kansas, and command sergeant major of the 23rd Quartermaster Brigade. He has served in posts across the United States and in overseas assignments, including Korea, Italy, Germany, and Poland. He has also deployed to Iraq. He has an associate’s degree in applied science from Columbia Southern University, Alabama, and a bachelor’s degree in business from Excelsior College, New York.
This article was published in the Summer 2023 issue of Army Sustainment.