The Navy may take the lead on getting bullets and beans out to expeditionary Marine forces, but a new initiative is showing a few gunnies can help get the job done better and faster.
Developed through Naval Logistics Integration, the project began last summer, when three logistics gunnery sergeants were deployed out to forward fleet logistics centers in the Navy's 5th, 6th and 7th fleets.
Centers in Bahrain, Sigonella, Italy and Yokosuka, Japan each received a gunnery sergeant, gapped from another logistics billet in the 3112 expeditor military occupational specialty. Their task: to act to act as liaisons between Nnaval logistics personnel and deployed Marine units operating in the region. expeditionary units, special purpose Marine air-ground task forces, and other Navy and Marine forward elements.
The idea, said Marine logistics planners at the Pentagon, was to provide a familiar point of contact to deployed Marine commanders and help the Corps better develop logistics practices and protocols, particularly in a constantly changing operational environment.
During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, "the Marines were so used to turning the lights off and shutting the door and flying into theater and having a pretty robust stationary supply chain, a logistics chain, if you will," said Roy Truba, deputy head for the Logistics Strategy and Vision Sections at Headquarters Marine Corps.
But for Marine expeditionary units and special purpose Marine air-ground task forces operating across more dispersed environments, the supply chain can be far more uncertain.
"Now with the MEUs and the SP-MAGTFS we're putting out here recently, that supply chain is, yYou don't know what it's going to be like the next day — it's very different," Truba said.
Beginning iIn 2013, the Marine Corps and Navy established a predeployment logistics curriculum to help the two services work better together to supply and sustain deploying MEUs. The foundation of the program included was three planning meetings:
- A Marine Corps-centric session describing the internal workings of the MAGTF from a logistics perspective, held 270 days prior to deployment.
- A Navy-focused meeting about working with MEU counterparts, held 180 days out.
- And a final session that incorporates personnel from within the deploying MEU's area of operations, held 90 days from departure.
Theis new initiative builds on that collaborative effort, providesing some consistency for Marine commanders in operational theaters with some consistency. It also aims to save money, said Truba said, by eliminating the need to send a Marine ashore on temporary orders to help with a deployed MEU's logistics needs as they arise.
Using the recent deployment of the California-based 11th MEU as a test case, Truba said the initiative showed early promise.
"We noticed that they've reduced their inventory or are starting to reduce inventory and manage the supply chain," he said. "We're trying to get the logisticians to think outside the MAGTF as opposed to just looking at a pile of inventory."
The choice of gunnery sergeants to fill these unique liaison positions was deliberate, said Lt. Col. Christopher Cox, an operations officer at Headquarters Marine Corps' Logistics Distribution Policy branch.
On the enlisted side of the Navy, there is a very big distinction between the E-6 and E-7 ranks. When a sailor you makes Navy chief, "you suddenly get chief wisdom or something and you become incredibly smart, intelligent and good at your job," Cox said. "So we wanted to make sure that the folks that we were placing on the Navy staffs got the credence paid to their ability and experience that we thought that they should."
The rank also was selected to ensure that the Marines would not be above getting their hands dirty and personally managing day-to-day shipping and logistics challenges, he said.
In the future, Marine officials are hoping the Navy reciprocates by sending Nnaval logisticians to key billets within the three Marine expeditionary forces to act as liaisons and assist with communication. If all goes well, they may also consider placing more Marines, such as logistics officers and ground supply officers, at key posts within the Navy's logistics chain.
The question, as always, is how to shuffle personnel already in high demand.
"There's a lot of entities out there that thinkg they're short-handed, so we have to compete," Truba said. "And the way we'd compete is to show the value of putting them there and then showing ... through throughput and managing of Navy staffs that we don't have to have that big footprint for lightening the MAGTF per what the commandant wants us to do."
Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford reaffirmed the need for blue-green collaboration in planning guidance he released in January, emphasizing the need for close coordination with the Navy both for exercises and MAGTF support.
With positive early feedback, officials are looking to make decisions about whether to make the program permanent around the end of this year, at the 18-month mark for the initiative. With growth to the logistics community unlikely in coming years amid a drawdown of forces, planners have decided to gap billets at North Carolina's Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, and Camp Butler, Japan, which all had multiple gunnery sergeants with the expeditor MOS in place.
Officials are now awaiting the redeployment of Camp Lejeune's 24th MEU. If post-deployment briefs confirm positive reports from the 11th MEU, planners will be able to make a strong case for the effort.
"We can go back and say, 'this looks like it's a good idea and this should be a permanent presence out there,'" Truba said.