Logistics & Transportation at the ‘Deck Plates’ – Readiness Challenges for Tomorrow’s Empowered and Agile Workforce

Dec 1, 2018 | Defense Transportation Journal

Panel Summary from the 2018 NDTA-USTRANSCOM Fall Meeting


CMSgt Matt Caruso, USAF, USTRANSCOM Senior Enlisted Leader


  • CMDCM Shaun Brahmsteadt, USN, Senior Enlisted Leader, Defense Logistics Agency
  • CSM Christopher Kepner, USA, Command Sergeant Major of the Army National Guard
  • CMSgt Sandra Scott, USAF, Traffic Management Career Field Manager, Headquarters Air Force
  • SgtMaj Anthony Spadaro, USMC, Senior Enlisted Leader, Indo-PACOM

CMSgt Caruso set the stage by telling the audience that improvement was needed to keep up with current challenges. “We must know that our adversaries are now highly advanced and they can easily challenge us in many mission areas. For us in the transportation business, it is a national imperative that we maintain our ability to deliver on time, anywhere around the globe at a time and place of our choosing. But we must be humble and honest with ourselves as we assess our own readiness in determining if we can deliver and sustain the force and decisively win a future conflict.”

Paraphrasing Defense Secretary James Mattis, Caruso continued by saying that DOD must not lose sight of the fact they have no God-given right to victory on the battlefield. “Victory for our country takes hard work and determination, it takes a strategic approach to looking at ourselves and determining where we must improve, evolve, invest, grow, mature, advance our capability, but most importantly, we have to grow and evolve our people and our workforce.”

CMSgt Caruso then referenced the National Defense Strategy (NDS) which he said guides an understanding of where our nation’s advisories can meet us head on, and what the future will require from our military forces to ensure victory and maintain our American competitive advantage. He recommended everyone in the room get the summary, read through it, and pull out their own American responsibilities to help support its vision.

The NDS, he explained, covers three large focus areas: 1) Building a more lethal force, 2) strengthening our allies and attracting new partners globally, and 3) reforming the department for greater performance and affordability. The panel was focused on lethality and how to ensure our workforce is prepared to meet tomorrow’s challenges. The NDS points out that the workforce of tomorrow—which includes both military and its industry partners—must be improved and shaped deliberately.

“We have to prepare for a complex environment,” he said. “Our people in logistics and mobility must be more agile, they have to be more educated, they have to be skilled and increasingly empowered from mission command down to the deck plates, so every man and woman working in our enterprise understands the guidance and intent of our leaders and strategic alignment of our organizations we serve. The NDS tells us we must cultivate workforce talent by emphasizing intellectual leadership, and military professional development advancements. We have to deepen our knowledge of our history and learn from it, while embracing new technology and techniques to counter our competitors and stay ahead of our adversaries in an ever-changing security environment.”

Today’s panel, Caruso concluded, aims to discuss and have a dialogue that helps us understand what the culture is in logistics and transportation workforce on both teams—military and in the commercial sector. That’s absolutely vital. We have to go together and we are going to go far. Further, the panel aimed to draw themes and messages for consideration by leadership as they create programs, plans, and funding lines that realize and bring to life the spirit and intent of the NDS, and how we will cultivate a more lethal and agile workforce of tomorrow.

CSM Kepner is the Senior Enlisted Advisor for the National Guard which he said is comprised of approximately 450,000 Airmen soldiers, 108,000 Air National Guardsmen, and 336 Army National Guardsmen. He said the National Guard is—and continues to be—quite busy. Currently, close to 40,000 Guardsmen are on active duty for support both in the United States and abroad.

SgtMaj Spadaro began by asking the audience to consider the depth and breadth of what they do—the Indo-Pacific Combatant Command covers 52% of the world’s surface, which can be seen as an opportunity or as a challenge. For the 377,000 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, and DOD civilians that support this effort he said—how are we going to ensure that the Pacific not remain as a position of consequence, but a position of opportunity?

With regard to these questions, he wanted the audience to think about whether or not they are expressing lethality in all they do. Lethality, he explained, not as a thematic concept, but an actualized concept where the civilian workforce aligns themselves as a Warfighter. If you think back to 1941, what was the civilian workforce thinking? It wasn’t “support” to the Warfighter. Even if they were back home, they considered themselves Warfighters tasked with defending the homeland. Today, our homeland is under attack, we are a nation at war, and we need to make sure that even our civilian workforce understands their role. “I don’t like to even call them a civilian workforce,” Spadaro continued, “they are a war fighting enabler and if they don’t do their jobs we won’t be able to do our jobs.”

CMDCM Brahmsteadt shared that during his time at DLA he had learned the true importance of logistics. “We can’t get those Warfighters on scene without logistics. That’s [number] one—getting them there, but [then] we’ve got to feed them, we’ve got to clothe them, we’ve got to care for them, we’ve got to deliver weapons systems for them, we’ve got to build the bombs for them to use…logistics plays an integral role,” he explained.

CMSgt Scott is the Career Field Manager for Traffic Management, responsible for the human capital strategy for 4,600 total force traffic managers across the Air Force Enterprise—a small portion of the logistics enterprise, but a very powerful one. She commented that visiting with other transporters in the room, one realizes that without transportation nothing’s going to get to the final destination so the focus must be on getting it right. Or, she continued, as MG Farmen, Commander Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command said in an earlier brief, “We have to get it right at the beginning to make it to the end, to the final destination.”

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