LT. CMDR. JIM JACOBS, LT. BLAKE FOUNTAIN, AND JESS WHARTON, Navy Supply Corps School
February 23, 2019, the Navy Supply Corps celebrates its 225th birthday. As we prepare for this significant milestone, we pause and take stock of our long legacy of producing preeminent naval logisticians and worldwide mission enablers.
Our rich history as a community started in 1795 with the appointment of the nation’s first purveyor of public supplies, Tench Francis. Since 1795, supply officers have provided critical mission support, supplying ships, aircraft, and facilities with fuel, food, transportation, clothing and services for the men and women of the United States Navy. Supply Corps officers create the conditions for mission success – afloat and ashore. These duties demand the dedication and expertise of highly skilled, highly trained naval officers, and the Navy Supply Corps School (NSCS) is one vital component of the training continuum.
The NSCS’s mission is to develop disciplined, ethically focused, and resourceful fleet-ready leaders by providing students with the personal and professional foundations for success. On a daily basis, NSCS staff and students demonstrate what “right looks like” through a culture that epitomizes integrity, excellence, teamwork, optimism and mutual respect.
Located in Newport, Rhode Island, since 2011, the origins of NSCS date back to 1905 at the Navy Department in Washington, where the Naval Pay Officers School was founded. However, the school closed after only three months. Following the closure, the majority of vacancies in the Supply Corps prior to 1917 were filled by college graduates and younger businessmen, who, after being authorized by the Secretary of the Navy to compete for appointment, were required to pass a rigid mental and physical entrance examination. After 1917, all appointments to the Supply Corps were limited to persons already in naval service, specifically, Naval Academy graduates, pay clerks, and chief pay clerks. With no formal school, only a two-month course held at different locations around Washington was available. In 1921, the Navy Supply Corps School of Application was established in Washington. This school discontinued operations three years later and, for a decade, supply officers developed their skills at sea through on-the-job training and correspondence courses.
The need for more standardized and robust instruction was evident, and in 1934, the Naval Finance and Supply School opened in Philadelphia. The basic course closely resembled the present day Basic Qualification Course (BQC) and consisted of 888 curriculum hours, similar to the 794 hours students complete today. In 1940, Reserve officers received instruction at the Supply Corps Naval Reserve Officers School established in Washington. These two schools merged in 1941 and moved to Harvard’s Graduate School of Business Administration in Boston, forming the Navy Supply Corps School.
In 1943, the Navy Supply Corps School for Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES) opened at the NSCS Radcliff branch. Female officers received instruction similar to their male counterparts in disbursing and supply procedures. This program closed in July 1945 after training 850 female Supply Corps officers. In total, NSCS graduated nearly 13,000 supply officers at Harvard to support the demands of World War II.
In March 1944, select courses moved to the Navy Supply Operational Training Center in Bayonne, New Jersey. The BQC moved to the redesignated United States NSCS on July 1, 1946, and continued until 1953 when the school transferred to its longest-serving location – Athens, Georgia.
NSCS was officially commissioned in Athens on January 15, 1954. Since then, the school has undergone significant and long lasting changes throughout its 56-year residence. In Athens, NSCS adopted the Navy Supply Corps coat of arms used by the Navy Finance and Supply School during the 1930s, and created a new emblem to represent the “Ready for Sea” motto. Additionally, the BQC was extended to 26 weeks, and the curriculum evolved to more closely resemble the training Supply Corps officers recognize today. The course grew to incorporate extensive use of case study analysis for training and educational purposes.
Numerous supply officer contributions and heroic efforts greatly influenced Supply Corps and naval history. Previous and current NSCS facilities named in their honor capture a piece of this enduring legacy. The first of note is Ens. Neal A. Scott for whom an NSCS Athens academic building was named in December 1967. Scott reported to USS Smith (DD 378) in October 1942, and died of wounds sustained during enemy action at the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands. After a torpedo plane crashed into the ship and flames engulfed the number two gun Scott commanded, he was carried below and encouraged his teammates, imploring them, “Keep the guns firing, men.”
Our current Newport, Rhode Island, complex is named after Vice Adm. Kenneth R. Wheeler, a former chief of Supply Corps and another individual whose actions capture our long-lasting legacy. During World War II, Wheeler became a prisoner of war (POW) for three and a half years, enduring and ultimately prevailing through unspeakable hardships. In December 1944, then Lt. j.g. Wheeler was among a group of POWs headed for Japan aboard the transport vessel Oryoku Maru, when the ship was torpedoed and subsequently abandoned. After assisting a seriously wounded Supply Corps shipmate to the beach, Wheeler, amidst significant enemy gunfire, swam back to the ship to rescue others, an action which earned him the Bronze Star medal. He was awarded a second Bronze Star medal for equally heroic and dedicated actions in January 1945, in the wake of an attack on a second prisoner ship, as well as a Purple Heart medal for wounds sustained.
On January 24, 2011, NSCS opened in Newport, Rhode Island. This new location enables significant collaboration with other Naval Station Newport tenant commands, such as the Command Leadership School, Navy Senior Enlisted Academy, Naval Justice School, Surface Warfare Officers School, and the Naval War College.
NSCS has a long tradition of producing highly capable logisticians; graduates are disciplined, resourceful, maintain high standards and are ethical stewards of the Navy’s resources. This is possible through deliberately incorporating leader and character development, using practical case studies and applications to reinforce fundamental leadership development. Additionally, students learn the history and importance of the Supply Corps and those who came before them. Through traditions such as heritage committee presentations and weekly “Lore of the Corps” presentations, students educate their peers and staff on notable Supply Corps officers and their legacy to the Corps. Knowing and appreciating our great history inspires graduates to pursue courageous excellence, choosing the harder virtue over easier vice.
It is because of people like Scott and Wheeler, and all those before and after them, that we can celebrate the great legacy of the Corps today.
The 225th Navy Supply Corps birthday celebration will culminate with the Navy Supply Corps Ball in Newport, Rhode Island on May 21, 2020. NSCS encourages and invites all Supply Corps alumni to celebrate this milestone with us. Additional information about the Supply Corps School and all upcoming events can be found on NSCS’s Facebook page at www.facebook. com/NavySupplyCorps School. Use hashtag “#225TH” to easily find information related to the birthday ball.