By Lt. Gen. Mitchell H. StevensonDecember 10, 2009
Remarks Prepared for Delivery
Lt. Gen. Mitchell Stevenson
Theater Logistics Studies Program Graduation
Fort Lee, Virginia
December 9, 2009
Good afternoon to all of you. Col. Richardson, thanks for that kind introduction, and thanks to the Fort Lee Band. You always sound great.
To the graduates, congratulations on a job well done. Nineteen weeks ago, you were sent here as very capable Soldiers and civilians, and we're sending you back as superior logisticians. Our Army -- and the Armies of the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Indonesia, Jordan, Korea, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Singapore, and Turkey -- are all better for it.
Before I get too far into this, I see in the audience some proud faces from an essential segment of the military -- our Families. The longer I serve the more it is clear to me that Army families are just as responsible for our successes as those of us who wear the uniform, or serve as Department of the Army civilians. So, graduates, please join me in giving those family members and friends in the audience, and those back home, a big round of applause.
I am especially glad to be here, because as you may have heard I played a role in creating this course. I envisioned this as the gold standard for logistics planners. I see the day, and it's coming soon, when Commanders about to embark upon a major operation, will say: "I need help. Get me a T-log grad."
In fact, I see T-log becoming the logistics equivalent of SAMS, the School of Advanced Military Studies at Fort Leavenworth. It won't happen overnight. It has taken SAMS 25 years to earn its reputation -- but this is only our fifth T-log class. Let me put this in perspective -- when SAMS graduated its fifth class, the course was so experimental and off the beaten path that they had to attract students by promising free laptops --and that was big stuff back in the 1980's. What made them successful was that the graduates took what they learned and started doing very well, in fact some of the graduates from that fifth graduating class today are three-star Generals, including Bill Caldwell, the Commander, NATO Training Mission - Afghanistan, and David Huntoon, Director of the Army Staff.
So as I look out at this class, I see your potential as unlimited. You are on the ground floor of what will be a big deal for logistics. Officers will be talking up this program; and people are going to realize what a great opportunity it is to study the profession under incredible instructors, and just slow down between deployments to really think about the finer points of what we do, in a great community. In years to come, you and other graduates like you will be the core of critical enterprise-wide expertise within the Logistics Officer Corps, which will enable us to provide Combatant Commanders a capability they have never had before.
We started thinking about offering this course after we saw the demands on logisticians in the early days of Iraq and Afghanistan. Those of you with multiple deployments are now old hands, but think about what the Third Army G-4 staff in the fall of 2002 and early months of 2003 went through. They were faced with planning the logistics support for the attack to Baghdad and beyond, going farther in less time than ever in the history of the United States Army -- where do you start, who do you go to for help' Just the challenge of setting the conditions that would enable us to fuel the Force was daunting enough. But, of course, there was also the need to plan for resupply of food, water, ammunition, construction materials, replacement combat systems, and on and on.
To be able to do that, you have to learn to think big, and you have to have a solid working knowledge of what our Joint Partners in the United States Transportation Command and the Defense Logistics Agency can contribute, as well as what our Allies can contribute. And you have to be comfortable with the subject of contractors on the battlefield, what they can contribute, and what they can't. Back then we were a much less experienced Army. About the only people who had deployed on an operation of that scale were those still in the Army from Desert Shield and Storm, with all 100 or so hours of combat, after which we left Iraq in about 30 days -- and an operation where logistics forces did not see much combat.
What we needed were experts who understood the global supply chain; who understood both distribution forward, and the criticality of timely retrograde; who could picture the support systems from end to end; who knew how to bring various elements of the Joint and Combined logistics enterprise together; and who knew how to leverage all the various information technology systems that we use to enable operations.
Those were serious requirements. But the graduates of this class and future classes will have even bigger challenges. We will need people we can count on, because all that stuff that went into Iraq for the past eight years now has to be pulled out as our Responsible Drawdown gets into full swing. The planners who have been working on this challenge figure that there are more than 3.4 million pieces of equipment, which will take 240,000 truckloads in 8,000 convoys to move it all, and it's not just a matter of moving it -- we have to also decide where it moves to. The job of fixing all that war-torn equipment and resetting it so it is ready to use again in battle is so big it will take two to three years to accomplish after we are all out of Iraq.
And on top of all that, none of this massive effort can drain resources or take away our focus from Afghanistan, where the President last week made the decision to deploy 30,000 additional troops, and to ask our partners in an International Coalition to also contribute additional troops. As I am sure you know, the situation in Afghanistan is very different than what we faced in Iraq, because of the austere distribution infrastructure there. Afghanistan is roughly the size of Texas, with only two percent of Texas's paved roads.
So, graduates, we will need your skills and your innovative ideas. Sure, we're all better logisticians today than we were eight years ago, at the start of the war. We have to be. We have reset more than 470,000 pieces of equipment in the last eight years. We have cut by more than half the time it takes to get equipment back from Iraq. We have figured out how to make a commercial distribution system effectively support our Army in one of the most austere locations in the world, to some places where convoys can't even reach.
But it is the talent in this room who must take the U.S. military and that of our Allies to the next level. I can see it coming. The hundred plus previous T-log alumni are doing very well. They are being called on for their planning expertise in Afghanistan and Iraq. Their advice is being welcomed by their field commanders -- for the most part. (We still have to train all the field commanders to properly value the counsel of their staff logisticians. A few of them still think like Alexander the Great, remember him' He's the guy who once said: "My logisticians are a humorless lot ... they know if my campaign fails, they are the first ones I will slay.") But for the most part, the alumni are making a big difference right now in the fight, and I am so very proud to see that.
One day, when you are in some headquarters out there, and being asked to draw up plans, you will come to realize that all those things you dreaded most about this class are what will help you most. Nineteen weeks ago, I suspect you didn't much like being pulled out of the tactical realm -- you were undoubtedly more comfortable with logistics operations at that level, that you all had come to understand very well, and that you were very good at.
But you made it through the awful "Vulcan Test." I think some of the instructors are still waiting for my answer to the Vulcan test, to see if I could pass. Remember when you evaluated that gasoline distribution plan and made recommendations to make it more effective' And then you learned that you didn't have all the information required to solve the problem. Welcome to the real world of Army Logistics. When a Combatant Commander calls and says we're going into combat, we need x and y and z, you won't have all the information, or the information may be ambiguous or wrong -- but that is the life of a logistics planner.
Some of you have had the very valuable experience at Fort Bragg, with the 1st Theater Sustainment Command, working on real-world problems. And others worked on the Caspian Sea case, where you saw how logistics shapes maneuver planning. I understand you briefed under the critical eye of BG(R) Halstead, and conducted a ROC Drill for MG(R) Fletcher -- two very experienced, absolutely top notch logisticians -- just the fact that you satisfied them is, to me, an indicator that you must be pretty talented.
And then this 19-week ordeal culminated with your finals, spending two hours in front of a panel answering one of 25 questions. I've seen the questions, and they aren't easy. I noticed two in particular: "what lessons can we learn from OIF and OEF'" and, "You have been assigned to the 1st TSC planning team responsible for planning the withdrawal of U.S. Forces out of Iraq -- what strategic partners would you expect to be part of the planning team and why'" If anyone has a good answer to either, send me an e-mail -- I can use some help at the Pentagon.
Seriously, though, what I hope you learned from those questions is that each initial question, leads to follow on questions, and to get through, you need more than rote memorization -- you need to think. When I make decisions up on the Army Staff, I ask lots of questions that some people might think are in the weeds for a guy at my grade. I'm not trying to tell people how to do their jobs -- it's just that the business of logistics is about details, and thinking through the second and third order effects of what we are doing. In the logistics business you need to see the entire system before you make changes, because those changes can have ripple effects that you often don't anticipate.
Operational logistics is no place for a "big hand, little map" approach -- our business requires good, old-fashioned competence. And so now you are the leaders who are going to start asking those tough questions to improve our operations. You are the future and the key component in making logistics seamless to the warfighter.
And as I wrap up, a word for our Allied students: 19 weeks ago, I know that some of you had no experience with the United States, and now, after nearly five months of study here, we hope that you better understand the way we think -- I can assure you that the U.S. students have a much better understanding of your countries -- and that is very important. Today, our engagement in coalition operations throughout the world is crucial to the cause of peace and security. One day some of you in this room may be planning and conducting operations side-by-side with our Soldiers, or Soldiers from any of the countries represented here, and your time at Fort Lee will make the task easier.
So as you go forth from this learning institution, with the skills we have taught you and your fresh ideas, I charge you all to do great things for your Army and the Nation you represent. Because in the end, with all the sophisticated equipment we have in our inventory, with all the smart munitions and embedded electronics, with all the fancy technology available in the military and the Army today, it still always comes down to people -- to Soldiers and Army civilians, men and women who can lead, who can act, and more importantly, who can think.
At a press conference last week, Admiral Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was asked about getting Forces and equipment into Afghanistan, given the terrain and the restricted lines of communication. And as he was answering, he stopped himself, mid-sentence, to say that we often focus on combat troops, but those who don't get credit, are the logisticians. And he said: "I want to give a plug to a bunch of unsung heroes. The logisticians have been magnificent." All of you who call yourselves logisticians should be very proud.
Thank you all very much for your service. May God bless you and all of our brave men and women in uniform, especially those in harm's way, protecting us all, and our way of life.