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Gamble: Sustainers must rebuild expeditionary competency

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (June 04, 2015) -- Increased competence, within the Army sustainment community, can make better use of limited, but adequate capacity, the assistant G-4 said.

The Army spent nearly 14 years in Afghanistan and Iraq. Leaders in the Army sustainment community, who grew up in that environment, cut their teeth providing goods and materials through a relatively well-established distribution network that they fell in on, said Maj. Gen. Duane Gamble, during a Association of the United States Army sustainment conference here, June 3.

That model of sustainment, while important, is not on its own adequate enough to sustain a globally-deployed, expeditionary, regionally-aligned Army, which he said sends small units forward to places like Africa to conduct operations.

"I think we must rapidly develop a competency to support expeditionary operations with the required material readiness and distribution systems," Gamble said. "And we also must develop the competency to perform phase 0 'set the theater' tasks, such as theater opening, theater distribution, and theater sustainment."

Gamble said when it comes to materiel and distribution readiness, he considers capability, capacity and competency.

When it comes to capability, he said, the Army's modular sustainment structure, created for Iraq and Afghanistan, "provides a more than adequate foundation for sustaining our globally-responsive and regionally-engaged Army."

That modular structure includes the brigade support battalion, the combat sustainment support battalion, the sustainment brigade, the expeditionary sustainment command, and the theater sustainment command.

"I think they are all exquisite formations that provide us great sustainment capability," he said.

He said there is adequate capacity within the Army - across both the active and Reserve components, to meet the Army's needs. He added that the Army must find a way, however, to employ Reserve-component capacity and capabilities outside the overseas contingency operations environment.

"We simply don't have that muscle group," he said. "That's what is required for theater security cooperation."

Across the Army's modular sustainment structure, Gamble said, there is a "lack of conceptual unity in how we operate and employ our forces."

"I think that the 'ad hoc-racy' of how we employ the forces leads to shortfalls in materiel readiness and distribution readiness," he said. "It's not because we don't know how to maintain stuff. It's not because we don't know how to set up distribution networks. Arguably we can always improve. But I think fundamentally we make assumptions at each of these layers that the other person is going to do it."

With a shrinking Army, Gamble said, "we can no longer make up for lack of reflexive competence by adding more capacity. We can't throw units at the problem to make up for our inability to get it done right the first time."

An increase in competence, within the Army sustainment community, can be achieved in the short term through leadership, Gamble said, with little cost to the Army.

"In my opinion we can rebuild this expeditionary competency that is required for our Army, our globally-engaged, regionally-aligned Army, in the quickest manner, if the commanders at every level focus on their unique contribution," he said. "I think we have got to share a common understanding of our sustainment doctrine and how the structures at various levels come together and produce these desired effects. I think we also must be willing to broaden our doctrine to include how we build readiness at home station. I think it has to be part of our doctrine."