Sometimes, the Army needs the right military occupational specialty (MOS) for a particular job. In other cases, it is more important for the right leader to be in place to oversee the job. To this end, the Army created officer immaterial codes for specific positions inside organizations. The most common example is the coding of a headquarters and headquarters company (HHC) commander position as 01A – Officer Generalist instead of trying to figure out which of the functions of an HHC is best suited for that command position. Department of the Army Pamphlet (DA PAM) 611-21, Military Occupational Classification and Structure, justifies these codes because positions exist where “the job description does not correlate directly with a specific branch or FA (function area). These codes permit flexibility with force structure and inventory changes, allowing more accurate coding to fulfill requirements.” The Army created 13 flexible codes covering multiple warfighting functions, but one code should exist and does not: 04A – Sustainment Immaterial. The Army needs to enhance the Army Talent Alignment Process (ATAP) by opening the aperture for key developmental sustainment positions to find the right sustainment leaders. This would allow officers to seek new positions, leveraging their unique experiences and perspectives within the sustainment warfighting function. The 04A position would encourage better communication and collaboration across the sustainment community.
Why would the Army need to provide flexibility for sustainment immaterial positions? The answer is linked to multifunctional sustainment units like the division sustainment brigade (DSB) and the brigade support battalion (BSB). These formations leverage multiple elements of the sustainment warfighting function, including logistics, personnel services, financial management, and, in many cases, health service support. Critically, when no functional sustainment formations are dedicated to a specific sustainment element, commanders and staff in multifunctional formations act as the sustainment integrator, synchronizing and implementing comprehensive sustainment support. Many of these key positions are currently coded for the 90A logistician, which is understandable but does not maximize the ATAP. ATAP capitalizes on officers’ individual knowledge, skills, behaviors, and preferences, enabling units to acquire the right leadership. By limiting positions that integrate and synchronize sustainment in multifunctional sustainment formations to a single MOS, ATAP is generally limited to finding talent inside that MOS. The same lack of flexibility impacts the Command Assessment Program (CAP) for sustainment officers. By coding key developmental multifunctional sustainment positions as 04A, the Army can look across the breadth and depth of available talent and align the right leaders with the right organizations to increase the quality of support to the warfighter.
The sustainment warfighting function straddles two centers of excellence, sustainment and medical, and the geographically separate Soldier Support Institute, responsible for personnel services and financial management. Providing opportunities to cross over elements internal to sustainment through the 04A code helps grow more capable leaders who bring different perspectives and experiences to formations that support each of the multiple elements of sustainment. At the same time, allowing all sustainment specialties to compete for 04A billets increases the connective tissue between various sustainment institutions. The institutional arm of Army sustainment must overcome necessary bureaucratic obstacles to increase collaboration, and applying the 04A code creates a need for a broad degree of competence across all sustainment fields to staff these multifunctional positions adequately. Each specialty can and should maintain its area of expertise, especially when needed in functional sustainment formations above the division level. Still, each specialty can also invest in the general application of sustainment at the tactical level by ensuring officers in that specialty can integrate and synchronize across the breadth and depth of the sustainment.
By opening the aperture for these types of positions, officers across the sustainment warfighting function would no longer be constrained to specific billets or positions. As an example, a non-logistics sustainment officer with a depth of experience supporting tactical formations may, in some cases, be a more appropriate choice for a division sustainment support battalion (DSSB) commander or support operations officer than a logistics officer who has primarily served in echelon above division formations. Sustainment formations at the division and below are generally multifunctional in nature, and even if they do provide specific functionality, they are still nested with a multifunctional sustainment formation and coordinate daily with sister formations in the division to provide holistic sustainment. The 04A code allows for a wider pool of officers to be considered but does not obligate the ATAP or CAP processes to select individuals solely because they are unique. In most cases, it may still make sense to choose a logistics officer for a DSSB command or a DSSB support operations officer, but the 04A – Sustainment Immaterial code would provide flexibility when ATAP or CAP processes indicate a better fit could be an officer from the adjutant general (AG), finance, or Medical Service Corps (MS). The same example could apply to the division sustainment troops battalion (DSTB) or the BSB. If the division structure evolves to include certain kinds of medical units, it could also apply to multifunctional medical battalions (MMBs). With the implementation of 04A positions, officers falling across the sustainment warfighting function may find themselves more inclined to understand and apply other elements of sustainment outside of their primary field. A brigade or division benefits when sustainers of all branches understand their role and how to integrate their capability and capacity within multifunctional sustainment formations.
This proposal is not revolutionary; exceptions to the norm occur regularly across the Army. Logistics officers have served in key developmental AG billets inside the DSTB. MS officers have commanded BSBs in 90A positions. Such crossover occurs, but the current structure, defined by its specificity, acts as an impediment rather than an enabler to the ATAP/CAP process. If the right leader of the wrong MOS can add value to an organization without detracting from other requirements, it is the Army’s responsibility to consider all ways to enable its talent management processes.
The maneuver and protection warfighting functions have already applied this logic in the form of the 02A – Combat Arms Generalist and the 01C – Chemical/Engineer/Military Police Immaterial positions. Internal to sustainment is a 05A – Army Medical Department Immaterial code and a 01D – Financial Management/Adjutant General Immaterial code. These codes still have a purpose but do not address the holistic need for a true sustainment immaterial position and are not present to the degree needed in multifunctional sustainment units. The 04A code, on the other hand, could apply to key developmental positions in the DSB, DSSB, DSTB, and BSB or could be expanded to units like the MMB. Additionally, these formations have support operations officer, executive officer, and operations officer positions, which coordinate across the sustainment warfighting function daily and would benefit from the 04A code. Many of these key positions are coded based on the prevailing sustainment element in the formation (e.g., DSSB focusing on logistics positions), but the Army needs truly multifunctional sustainment formations. Due to a division’s importance in conducting large-scale combat operations, the focus remains on multifunctional sustainment capability and capacity at the division level. Multifunctional sustainment formations employing leaders with experience and backgrounds in all four sustainment elements would facilitate coordination with other supporting and supported units. Individual officers can and should leverage their interests and talents, regardless of MOS, to compete for 04A positions. DA PAM 600-3, Officer Talent Management, acknowledges the challenges of the future battlefield: “Multi-domain conflict is anticipated to be complex and unpredictable, requiring diverse talents to respond to threats in a rapidly changing environment.” The Army should do everything in its power to maximize the impact of the right sustainment leader to integrate sustainment across the battlefield.
The 04A position provides the Army flexibility and does not create an additional burden on sustainment formations. The 04A position does not constrain or limit the ATAP/CCP processes; it enables them. A high-performing logistics officer may still be the best choice for a DSB commander, but there needs to be a current mechanism in place to evaluate the suitability of candidates from other specialties. It is in the Army’s best interest to broadly assess sustainment leaders across the four sustainment elements for certain positions to ensure the best fit is not hidden from sight. Sometimes, the Army does need a particular MOS for a specific position. However, some positions place more emphasis on leadership and holistic sustainment. In those cases, the right leader is more important than the right MOS. In the Winter 2021 issue of Army Sustainment, Retired Gen. Ed Daly, former commander of Army Materiel Command, states ATAP is designed to enable officers to detail their knowledge, skills, behaviors, and preferences (KSB-P) so commanders can match them to the right positions. The 04A – Sustainment Immaterial code opens the aperture, allowing qualified sustainers across the spectrum to maximize their KSB-Ps to access previously constrained positions and to enable the Army to select the right leaders for the right jobs.
Maj. Dennis A. Vinett is currently a student at the Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. A Medical Service Corps officer, he has served as a medical platoon leader, deputy support operations officer, medical company commander, division medical planner, and force development officer at the Combined Arms Support Command. His military education includes the Army Medical Department Basic Officer Leader Course and the Logistics Captain Career Course.
This article was published in the Winter 2024 issue of Army Sustainment.