FORT LEE, Va. – The Combined Arms Support Command conducted its first Senior Sustainment Warrant Officer Forum Feb. 5 at the Army Logistics University here. Highlights of the event included remarks by the Army’s senior logistician, professional development sessions and branch-specific updates.
Maj. Gen. Rodney D. Fogg, CASCOM and Fort Lee commanding general, hosted the full-day forum at which roughly 100 senior warrants were present and countless others tuned in via teleconference from such locales as Korea, Kuwait, Hawaii and Germany.
The command presence was evident during a discussion panel that included Fogg and senior warrant officers from combatant commands, the Department of the Army, reserve components and various other entities. Also seated at the table were John Hall, deputy to the commanding general; Chief Warrant Officer 5 Jonathan Yerby, CASCOM CWO; CW5 Maria Martinez, Quartermaster Corps CWO; CW5 Danny Taylor, Ordnance Corps CWO; and CW5 Jermain Williamson, Transportation Corps CWO.
Chief Yerby described the significance of the forum that has been long in the making. He said it pulled together warrants in influential positions for the purpose of sharing initiatives; discussing tactics, techniques and procedures; highlighting best practices across organizations; and building technical depth and expertise.
Yerby also noted how it “filled a void” in CASCOM leadership conferences hosted here on an annual basis.
“When we looked at our strategic messaging campaign at CASCOM, we noticed we had several venues for commanders and command sergeants major, but we really didn’t have a forum dedicated to our sustainment warrant officers. So, a decision was made to organize a similar event and make it a recurring one.”
Gen. Gus F. Perna, commanding general of Army Materiel Command, offered his views via teleconference. The Army’s senior logistician answered questions and shared his thoughts with those gathered, often using anecdotes and his own brand of rousing outspokenness to strongly urge listeners to take greater initiative, exercise integrity in what they do and use available resources to support missions.
Yerby labeled Perna’s appearance as the most significant item on the agenda.
“The most important thing today was having Gen. Perna spend an hour with us to level-set what senior leaders expect from sustainment warrant officers,” Yerby said, “and to challenge us to meet those expectations.”
As he began his remarks, Perna shared the impact warrant officers had on him as a young officer.
“They were hard, technically capable, did not lower their standards and were accountable in execution,” he said. “If they didn’t know something, they went and figured it out. I could always count of them to say, ‘Don’t worry. I’ve got this. We’ll fix it.’ And damn if they didn’t drag me through the knothole to make sure I learned every bit of it. … They were not going to let someone they were responsible for not know what right looked like.
“Here I am 36 years later,” Perna continued, “and I remember those three warrant officers like I was having lunch with them today. That’s the impact they’ve had on my life.”
Pointedly, Perna asserted that warrants have gradually surrendered the power and influence they once had.
“Over recent times … we’ve collectively abdicated our responsibilities at many levels – at the commander level, at the warrant officer level, at the NCO level, and not to be faulted, at the Soldier level for maintenance and supply. So, what we’ve been working on the past three-to-five years is retaking the ground we’re … responsible for at each of these levels. I personally believe the lynchpin to our success is the warrant officer corps, with respect to maintenance and supply.”
Perna said his efforts to revamp the Warrant Officer Cohort in the sustainment community are centered on taking back the mantle of responsibility, pressing the warrants to take actions based on the powers granted to them.
“You need to be our technical experts and hold the force accountable to execution with and to standards with discipline,” he told the audience. “It’s an understanding of processes. It’s the ability to teach, coach and mentor leaders up, leaders down and Soldiers to do this. It’s not accepting anything less than perfection.”
By no means did Perna imply warrants are solely responsible for what ails the cohort. The need for more green suiters on the frontlines, and subsequently the need for more contractor support, is partly to blame. The result is a hollowed-out force, he said, and efforts to increase training, education and experience are the most appropriate responses.
“I’ve asked Maj. Gen. Fogg and the CASCOM team to get into the courses at CASCOM and get them right: What do we need warrant officers to know in leading us in maintenance and supply support activities? What are the technical requirements? … How do the processes work so we can influence them?”
Perna stressed to listeners not to take his comments personally but “as a challenge to move us forward.” He then went on to take questions, never passing up opportunities to share his opinions and encourage warrants to “roll up your sleeves” to support the mission. Lastly, he thanked them for their service.
Following Perna’s VTC, forum attendees were updated on the Department of Defense Activity Address Code Portability effort, which provides commanders the flexibility to train and deploy units by moving requisitions instead of cancelling them and having to re-establish orders.
“Using Gen. Perna’s words, it’s a game-changer that will benefit the readiness and deploy-ability of our Army,” said Yerby, adding it will allow the supply chain to keep pace with the deploying units and also “reduce the burden on Soldiers.”
DoDAAC Portability was implemented under the Global Combat Support System-Army in December.
The forum’s agenda also included a senior warrant officer discussion panel consisting of CW5 Yolondria Dixon-Carter, assistant executive officer, Chief of Staff of the Army; CW5 Teresa Domeier, Command CWO, Army National Guard; CW5 Hal Griffin III, Command CWO Army Reserve; CW5 Steven, Kilgore, Command CWO Combined Arms Center; and Yerby.
Enthusiastic about SSWOF’s turnout and substance, Yerby said the feedback he received about the event is positive. He added such occasions are critical to connecting the community and gaining feedback necessary to improve operations.
“Sometimes, we get stuck in our own little silos and miss some of the big-picture issues,” he said. “These events allow our sustainers to reset their azimuths from a warfighting perspective and allows us to concentrate our efforts on where we need to coach, teach and mentor Soldiers in our respective areas of influence.”
The day ended with breakout sessions on issues, initiatives and programs specific to the Ordnance, Quartermaster, Transportation and Adjutant General Corps.
There are more than 3,500 sustainment warrant officers on active duty and over 8,000 in the Total Army.