The Non-Logistician, Logistician

Professional Content,
The Non-Logistician, Logistician

By: CPT Christopher Drisko

By the time that I have completed my tenure as a Battalion S4, it will have been three full years in the position between two Battalions; one for a M777 Artillery Battalion and one for a M109A6 Battalion. I am currently the Charlie Battery Commander for 1-41 FA, 1 ABCT, 3 ID stationed at Fort Stewart, GA. This summary is a small “how to” for other combat arms branched Officers that have the unique and rewarding opportunity to be the Battalion S4 with zero training provided to being a Logistics Officer.

The beginning. The first six months as a Battalion S4 will always be the most stressful. In addition to being a new position, you are now working directly with the bulldog of the Battalion, the XO, and you are in a much closer proximity to your Senior Rater, the Commander. These six months are the perfect example of what drinking from a fire hose is when it comes to information overload. Leaning heavily on your NCOIC will help you survive these six months and enable you to learn enough to begin making educated decisions and become a real asset to the Military Decision Making Process when your Battalion conducts it. Use the first week of your time as the S4 going out and meeting people. Introduce yourself as the new S4 and put a face to the name of all XOs, Supply Teams, POCs for all of the various outside organizations you will work with, and your Brigade counterparts. That will show that you care about the work you are going to conduct, and will help everyone remember who you are and be more willing to offer aid in the future.

Mindset. I will start by stating the most important mindset you will need in order to be successful as any type of staff officer. You work FOR AND IN SUPPORT OF the subordinate unit, they do not work for you. You work in order to facilitate their training and their care. They do not work in order to build your reports and your slide deck to present to the Commander. Showing up to work every day with that mindset will instill the motivation you will need to better your Battalion as a whole.

Account access. First thing to get yourself set up for are all of the accounts that come with being an S4. The bread and butter are GCSS-Army and whatever the new flavor is for the FLIPL management website (at the time this is being written it is eFLIPL). GCSS-Army AKA GCSS-A AKA G-Army is where the S4 can see information such as property serial numbers, what units have what property, dollar values of each property book, property book shortages, and so much more. It is a very powerful tool that I highly recommend any new S4 takes the time to actually DO the GTRAC training. eFLIPL is a very user friendly system that helps Units manage the FLIPL process. Managing FLIPLs becomes easier the more you do it.

Another hot topic that the Battalion S4 will handle are Turn ins and Lateral Transfers (TI/LT) or Proposed Sourcing Decisions (PSD). Being able to communicate the current status for each line item will get you in good graces with your Battalion XO and help your B/C/T XOs manage their property books. 

B/C/T XOs. Work with the B/C/T XOs to facilitate completing your tasks. As the BN S4, you are not the action officer for a vast majority of your tasks. Your job is to facilitate the systems put in place, plan as far in advance as possible, and to report progress. The B/C/T XO is your direct line of communication with the subordinate unit and will always be your best source of information. Having a great relationship with these XOs will make your life significantly easier as they will be much more willing to accomplish the tasks that you are needing to be done. I have seen, too many times, when the collective council of XOs do not like a staff member, they will play the rubber ball-glass ball game and immediately turn all of the tasks given by that particular staff officer into rubber balls meaning they will “drop the ball” knowing that the ball will bounce right back up. Building that rapport with the XOs will make many more of your tasks glass balls to them.

20%-80%. After the six month mark had passed, I still found myself not knowing all of the answers being asked of me. “What is the process of turning in this damaged equipment?” “What do I do if I want to initiate a turn in?” “How do I get this new equipment that is not on my Unit’s MTOE?” After three years as the S4, I still find myself not knowing the answer to every question. The most important piece of advice that I can provide in being a successful S4 is to know that this job is 20% knowledge and 80% people skills. Creating great relationships with everyone you work with is invaluable as you become the S4 and are back to being the brand new Second Lieutenant that has nothing but questions. I was a brand new Captain asking my NCOIC a “stupid Captain question” at least ten times a day. You have to accept the fact that you are no longer the SME and cannot be afraid to ask questions as well as ask for help. Someone knows the answer, you just can’t be afraid to ask the questions. Same goes for your Brigade counterparts and fellow Battalion S4s. We created a group chat titled “eFLIPL Support Group” and we would constantly bounce ideas and ask for help through this chat. It became a very useful resource. Creating these relationships will make it much more likely you will receive support when you ask and help you accomplish your Battalion’s mission. 

Get out of the office and meet with the Supply Teams in your subordinate units. They are the ones doing the daily groundwork and they have so much knowledge they can pass on to you as well as let you know what is actually happening in the supply systems that you are overall responsible for facilitating.

The Battalion XO. While this individual may have been the scariest person in your Battalion as a Lieutenant, he or she will be your greatest resource for information and when in dire need, help. They will help you mature very quickly with plenty of tough love, but will never let you fall. Remember, if you fail, they fail and failure is not an option. While they are there to help and mentor you, they honestly do not have the time to figure out all of your problems because they are already too busy solving the rest of the Battalion’s problems. While you will be buried with a large amount of work of your own, it is of great value to be very observant of how your XO operates and the many duties and responsibilities they have. Doing this will enable you to learn what duties and responsibilities you should focus on and focus your time and effort towards. Additionally, it will give you a peek into the future as to what you should focus on when you become a Battalion XO.

Tips for the field. Like any other position as an Officer in the Army, always have a map. The map is your common operating picture with the operational side of your Battalion and will help you stay abreast to what is going on with your subordinate units. Keep the map up to date with unit locations as well as adjacent units and their support nodes’ locations. Just like in the Garrison environment, utilize your sister Battalions’ resources when it makes sense. Big analog board trackers are the easiest way to track all classes of supply. Either make them yourself, or utilize unit funds/ Training Aid Service Center (TASC) to make them for you. Tailor them to capture every element of the LOGSTAT that you will receive so that the data compilation will be that much easier for you when you are making your report for BDE.

Forecasting accurately. Another tip that will make you look like a rock star on the Battalion staff is to keep a journal of the consumption of your Battalion’s fleet. How much food and water does each unit consume? How much fuel does each unit consume during a certain training exercise? CL V is mandated for Table progressions, but at a CTC it is pertinent to dive into the books and find how much ammunition and what type of ammunition is used during a certain type of operation i.e. a breach, an assault, night time operations, the defense. Having a historical log will enable you to forecast the real world consumption of your people and your fleet and never have the awkward situation of Soldiers going hungry or a vehicle running out of fuel. A great tool to use until you have that historical log for CL III is the CL III Estimation Tool that is updated yearly by the Logistics schoolhouse. It has every type of vehicle and generator on the Army’s property book and provides the fuel consumption based on what  type of surface you are traveling on, for how long, and with how many hours were spent idling. The most important rule to being the S4 and is so easy to make happen, but will absolutely ruin your reputation if you fail is to NEVER MESS UP OR MISS A FOOD REQUEST. 

Doctrine. Like everything in the Army there is doctrine available whenever you are unable to come up with the answer on your own. If you are a pre-CCC Captain, I recommend purchasing or borrowing the MDMP Handbook. This goes step by step in how you complete MDMP and what your role as the S4 is for each step. ADP 4-0 is also the publication for sustainment that has all of the answers for how you should perform your Warfighting Function. AR 735-5 is the Army’s regulation covering property accountability. When you are faced with any lost, missing, or damaged equipment, reference AR 735-5 and it will give you a step-by-step answer to all of your questions. Another great resource of information is the Logistics Schoolhouse. They are more than willing to provide resources, tools, publications, etc. to anyone willing to ask for it. 

While being the Battalion S4 is always thought of as the worst job as a combat arms branched Officer, I believe it has been the most rewarding position I have held thus far. Understanding the logistics process of how the Army actually works has enlightened me and has tempered my expectations for receiving any form of supply. It has shown me the immense amount of work and coordination that is necessary to make any unit function. Additionally, it has put me in a very opportunistic position to work directly alongside the Battalion XO and plan with the Battalion S3. While you must be a leader in the role, you must also seize the opportunity to learn from these individuals.

About the Author:

I am currently the Charlie Battery Commander for 1-41 FA, 1 ABCT, 3 ID at Fort Stewart, GA. When the Brigade was activated to deploy to Europe in response to Russian aggression in Ukraine, I was the Battalion S4. I had the unique experience of being the BN S4 for a combined three years (one year at Fort Carson, CO with 2-12 FA, 1 SBCT, 4 ID and 2 years at Fort Stewart, GA) and have learned a lot being in the position for so long. I believe this experience gives me the opportunity to help other Officers that are thrust into the BN S4 position with next to zero logistics training succeed at their new position and best support their Battalion.

 As an S4 I planned and supported 2 full Artillery Table progressions, facilitated 8 Battery level Changes of Command planned the deployment of 2-12 FA to NTC, planned and facilitated the rapid deployment of 1-41 FA to Germany in support of OEADR, planned and facilitated the deployment of 1-41 FA to Hohenfels, Germany to conduct Combined Resolve 17, planned and executed the support logistics for Combined Resolve 17, and finally planned and facilitated the redeployment from Germany back to Fort Stewart, GA.