The Army School of Logistic Operations (ASLO) has recently changed the structure of the Suite of Logistics Officers Courses (SOLOC), which consisted of Logistic Officer Basic Course (LOBC), Intermediate Course (LOIC) and Advanced Course (LOAC). The letter ASLO Training Transformation Update June 2020 released by CO ASLO details the plan to remove LOAC from the SOLOC curriculum, merge elements of LOAC into LOIC and to reduce the residential requirement for LOIC by moving considerable quantities of coursework (87 periods or approx. two weeks) to online training.
I contend that this change doesn’t prepare logistic officers for the tasks they are likely to conduct or the advice they are asked to provide; fundamentally it does not enable them to enhance capability in a Ready Now, Future Ready mindset. Logistics is a massive and growing area; it needs smart, focused training to ensure our personnel are able to provide the support and advice the capability needs. The removal of residential logistics courses does not nest with the increases in this area and may even undermine support to operations.
Based on my experience progressing through the SOLOC, the simple solution to training reform would be to delete the LOIC I attended completely from the curriculum. The COAC phase was useful from a networking perspective and could be retained in LOAC; however, LOIC for the most part was a repeat of LOBC where all assets were three times bigger (CSSB instead of CSST, Coy instead of Tp) with minimal new information imparted. LOAC I attended provided an excellent view into strategic logistics, Army future plans and governance considerations for future appointments; it was, without doubt, the best GSO course I have completed in my time in the Army. While this is the simple solution, it is based on my likely outdated experience, is reductionist and doesn’t seek to actively improve capability or prepare logistic officers for the challenges identified by the Chief under Army in Motion.
I propose a slightly more complicated solution, based on my assessed training needs of logistics officers, which sees the continuation and restructure of three logistic courses in the SOLOC. My aim is to bring these courses up to a level that meets contemporary policy and legal requirements and prepares logistics officers to excel at both command and command support.
The SOLOC structure I propose consists of:
- LOBC – Foundation skills. I do not seek to make any changes to the course as it currently stands. The aim must remain to take a fresh RMC graduate, provide them with generalist logistic training and understanding, but more importantly teach them in detail the requirements of their corps specific trade and how to function as a LT as part of a logistic sub unit. They must become well versed in their corps, and have an understanding of others.
- LOIC – General Logistics. LOIC should be conducted as a last year LT or a first year CAPT, it should be a gate. It should be aimed at a LT with two to three years of experience performing the specific function of their corps. The course should provide them with a robust understanding of the policy and procedures associated with the other CSS corps (logistic and medical) so that they can provide accurate and timely command advice and contribute to CSS planning. They do not need to be an expert in CSS, but they need to be able to talk with authority and confidence. The statistics raised in the training transformation update letter indicate 25% of CAPTs are employed in roles where they have input in battle group sustainment activities. This focus shift would assist that 25% remarkably, but more importantly would assist everyone employed in a CASG, Headquarters or a training establishment role. CSS makes the Army move, a thorough knowledge of it can never be a bad thing.
- LOAC – Strategic Knowledge and Contemporary Governance. My version of LOAC should be conducted immediately prior to SUC. The aim of this course should be to elevate the logistician from tactical planning support to command support and strategic understanding. Governance requirements are ever evolving, increasing in volume and complexity and not taught anywhere in the Army as a consolidated body of knowledge. This fact is recognised and widely agreed upon amongst my peers; however, only recognised in writing by Sub-unit Commanders Handbook, which identified a common problem for OCs a lack of knowledge surrounding governance policies and legislation. This handbook continues to say the unit HQ will be the “safety net” in this regard; based on my experience, the CSS SUC is utilised as a safety net by RHQ for advice on policy and governance across all spectrums. Further, most governance is log related; stocktakes, heavy vehicle management, land and air engineering, etc. The SOLOC should prepare logisticians for this role, they already perform it, and it will better allow them to enable the CO’s vision in a safe and supportable manner.
I contend we need to increase the overall level of logistics and governance training we provide our people. We operate in a space ever increasing in complexity, demonstrated in the following examples where governance and planning considerations have increased in recent years. Governance is a command function, granted; however, the prime users are logisticians and will be commanded by a logistician to provide an effect to a manoeuvre commander.
- Since 2013 we require high risk work licenses under the WHS Act – predominantly a logistics problem.
- The introduction of L121 vehicles has us permanently operating oversized overweight vehicles as a matter of course – while utilised by logisticians and warfighters alike, the majority of users are in the logistics space.
- Regulations regarding the quality management and safety management of fuels have increased – stored, distributed and managed by logistics.
- The storage and usage of ammunition is subject to higher levels of scrutiny – stored, distributed and managed by logistics.
- Our land material is increasingly coming under configuration management requirements akin to aviation platforms – predominantly a logistics issue.
These governance requirements are topics not addressed in sufficient detail within doctrine for its use as a reference source. They are continually evolving requirements and can fundamentally send people to jail if they get them wrong. We, as an Army, should be better preparing our logisticians to work in with these regulations, to know where their freedom of operation exits and to understand the pitfalls, which are to be avoided at all costs. In this way we could better support command decision making, enable greater flexibility in plans and ensure the safe conduct of military training and operations, preserving the land force.
I contend, the reduction in residential Logistics courses is not a good thing. This doesn’t mean the previous generation of courses were fit for purpose, or an efficient and effective use of time; rather, the contemporary operating environment has evolved to a point where the Army needs to re-identify the role logisticians play, and better prepare them for this and future requirements. Logisticians are ready (enough) now. Though a well-tailored training suite and a command culture which accepts the requirement for continual, centrally managed, logistic professional development will see the profession move from being simply Ready Now, to Future Ready force multipliers offering commanders freedom of action and creativity in planning.