Multifunctional noncommissioned officers transform in contact

By CourtesyMay 20, 2024

Noncommissioned officer’s professional and personal experiences continue to evolve with technological advancements. As technology continues to mature rapidly, NCOs are evolving with it to remain current and sustain confidence bestowed upon them by their officer counterparts. NCOs must be able to adapt to continuous updates in doctrine, policy, and techniques, tactics, and procedures. The more skills an NCO possesses increases the propensity organizations have to promote a culture of continuous learning and adaptation needed for readiness. Modern day sustainment NCOs must become multifunctional sustainers in order to develop the skills required to meet emerging challenges in large-scale combat operations, strengthen the profession through the reinforcement of continuous updates to doctrine, and the agility to continue transformation in contact.

Multifunctional NCOs, the NCO Vision, and Strengthening the Profession

A Soldier's proficiency in conducting versatile tasks and adapting to changing Operational Environments situations, and high operational tempos contributes to the organization's adaptability on the battlefield. An article authored by Lt. Col. Altwan Whitfield and Mike Crozier explained that “a multifunctional logistician as an NCO will possess the domain specific expertise and unit knowledge needed to intelligently advise their commanders on any given matter which is critical for sustainment operations across echelons,” (U.S. Army, 2022b). The COVID pandemic demanded sustainment NCOs to adapt their practices as they supported the Department Support of Civil Authorities operations on the homeland. During this crisis NCOs in different occupational skills worked in diverse capacities in field sustainment, medical facilities, and sustainment operations to strengthen and develop a resilient healthy military force. Soldiers with diverse skills can seamlessly transition between tasks, navigate challenges, and respond to complexities centered around mission requirements. Diverse OEs require multifunctional NCOs to collaborate, balance responsibilities and unpredictable situations, and coordinate efforts across multiple functions and locations (DA, 2012). Sustainment NCOs require agility, resilience, and versatile critical thinking skills.

Multifunctional NCOs who possess effective decision making and problem-solving skills are crucial to success in LSCO. In complex military scenarios, NCOs must be able to think quickly and seek out strategic solutions. Multifunctional NCOs with strong critical thinking skills can analyze situations, make informed decisions, and report correct information through the chain of command. The chain of command influences the NCO vision by establishing a hierarchical structure for directives, goals, objectives, and communication (U.S. Army, 2022a). Sustainment NCOs strengthen the profession by emphasizing leadership, professionalism, and expertise in logistic capabilities in multidomain operations.

Leaders who foster a culture of discipline, mentorship, and continuous improvement contribute to the overall effectiveness and cohesion of the NCO vision. Multifunctional NCOs play a critical role in translating the vision from the command into actionable plans and strategies for execution (U.S. Army, 2022a). The Army profession exemplifies core values that foster a culture of ethics and accountability. Leaders are obligated to reinforce readiness through effective leadership and guidance. A well-crafted vision outlines strategic objectives and inspires purpose, aligning efforts for decision-making. Imagine the sustainment NCO who not only master’s the logistical plan of action but also understands the impact on ground tactical operations.

The NCO vision requires a commitment to leadership, professionalism, and a willingness to care for subordinates. NCOs must be willing to lead by example, demonstrate integrity, responsibility, resilience, and strengthening the profession through Army values and actions (U.S. Army, 2022a). Multifunctional NCOs develop subordinates, emphasizing the roles of leading, mentoring, and executing tasks in diverse career management fields. Sustainment personnel equipped with various capabilities, experiences, skills, and perspectives, embrace diversity and creativity, enhance changes in doctrine, innovation, and modernization. Multifunctional NCOs influenced and motivated through service and the NCO vision, while simultaneously integrating diversity and inclusion understand the need for sustainment adaptability in transformation in contact. The future of sustainment in LSCO requires agile and versatile multifunctional sustainment NCOs.

Warfighting and Large-Scale Combat Operations

Warfighting is a strategic, operational, and tactical operation that encompasses planning, execution, and adaptation to strategic objectives (DA, 2012). Multifunctional NCOs must combine military strategies and tactics to maneuver elements of sustainment on the battlefield. Through efficient logistical processes, sustainers optimize the use of resources, meet evolving needs, and overcome challenges that contribute to the readiness of military operations. LSCO involves sustainment forces and resources, including multiple units and other service components, intensifying the scope and significance across the battlefield (U.S. Army Combined Arms Center, 2021). The scale of warfighting LSCO requires planning, command and control, and deliberate execution. Logistics displayed strong demands for the conflict in Ukraine when opposing forces required the ability to maintain the pace with the speed of war. Between the opposing forces, critical downfalls included the absence of an NCO corps to support sustainment requirements during contact. Ukraine has by empowered their NCO Corps through assistance of the U.S. and NATO.

Challenges and impacts on sustainment vary in logistical complexity and increase demand for resources and maintenance. Multifunctional NCOs must cross-train and learn to repair, communicate, and coordinate for security and humanitarian assistance in the event of a crisis (U.S. Army, 2022). Sustainment operations and support are vulnerable to enemy attacks, and commanders must emphasize robust security to protect supply lines and logistic infrastructure. Sustainment NCOs trained in more than one CMF minimize risk by collaborating and working together to coordinate efforts across theaters of operation to ensure support, logistics, and supply chains always remain open. Multifunctional NCOs must anticipate requirements and factor in continuous support for the deterioration of equipment during warfighting and LSCO.

Multifunctional NCOs must train and understand the duties and responsibilities of diverse CMFs, as the demand for fuel, ammunition, medical supplies, and other classes of supply strain logistical supply chains (U. Army, 2022b). Leaders accomplish learning additional skills and talents through proactive self-development and continuous learning. Embracing new challenges, extracting lessons from experience, and networking allows sustainment units to move freely through complex OEs, ensuring the timely delivery of critical supplies and equipment. Sustainers must plan for freedom of action to have greater flexibility in designing logistical plans, choosing optimal routes, and adjusting supply lines to adapt strategies based on the evolving needs of various warfighting and OEs (DA, 2019b). Warfighting and LSCO require sustainers to remain agile, responsive, capable, diverse, and dynamic through continuous trends, and innovations. Multifunctional NCOs apply knowledge and talent through practices and reinforce doctrine by adopting a proactive and intentional approach to changing Army transformations using character attributes.

Character Attributes with Continuous Transformation

Character attributes include leadership, integrity, loyalty, adaptability, responsibility, and professionalism (DA, 2019a). Leadership qualities are essential for multifunctional NCOs to lead and inspire subordinates to maintain discipline, contributing to the success of the Army. Responsibility reinforces accountability for equipment, mission tasks, and operational success, enhancing efficiency and reputation throughout diverse OEs. Professionalism sets the standard for conduct, discipline, and communication, strengthening the credibility of supply chains and logistical processes. Multifunctional NCOs provide a moral compass for ethical decision-making, cultivating strong networking relationships, and developing resources for warfighting and LSCO. The U.S. Army Quartermaster School led the charge in merging all sustainment occupations at the high-level of responsibility. This transformation increases the demands for logistical NCOs to broaden their knowledge of logistics progressively throughout their career and serve in broader capacities at the SGM level. SGMs will inculcate all other specialties in the Quartermaster Corps to diversify and bolster sustainment operations.

The approach that leaders must use to guide Soldiers reinforces innovative technical and tactical sustainment modernization strategies that build trust and contribute to the success of the Army. Strategic thinking equips leaders with tools to anticipate change, aligning strategic objectives with modern technology, business opportunities, and market trends. Multifunctional NCOs who continuously prioritize initiatives transform sustainability, adapting to Army strategies and conditions. Sustainment NCOs who effectively communicate and develop subordinates understand the importance of shared knowledge and execute strategic policy, prioritizing the modernization of capabilities, equipment, and structures. Multifunctional NCOs must continue to embrace advanced logistic technologies, such as data analytics and automation to streamline supply chain management while enhancing resource allocations.

Developing resilient supply chains that adapt to disruptions enhances reliability and credibility in warfighting and LSCO. Multifunctional NCOs must leverage external expertise to enhance logistical capabilities. To adapt to continuous transformation, sustainers must implement measures to strengthen logistical plans and adjust personnel and capabilities based on each unique OE. Embracing digital platforms for procurement, inventory, management, and communication supports logistical processes, reduces paperwork, and streamlines communication, further reinforcing transformation in contact.


In response to emerging challenges in LSCO, NCOs continue to evolve into multifunctional sustainers. This adaptation aligns with changes in doctrine, reinforcing the profession and warfighting capabilities and facilitating transformation in contact. Leaders mitigate risks by comprehensively understanding NCOs' and Soldiers' talents, skills, and lethality during warfighting LSCO. The movement of sustainment forces demands deliberate planning, coordination, and execution to prevent exposure to threats of logistics movements. The NCO vision standards foster leadership and promotes professionalism required to strengthen the profession of sustainment operations. A multifunctional NCO is essential for adaptability as they bring diverse skills, talents, and expertise for addressing logistical challenges. The ability to transform in contact ensures organizational flexibility, resilience, compliance, and relevance in the face of evolving challenges, contributing to overall success.

Article written by Sgt. Maj. Erica Lark, 16th Sustainment Brigade support operations sergeant major