Since September 11, 2001, Naval Special Warfare (NSW), under direction from both U.S. Special Operations Command and the Department of the Navy has nearly doubled its personnel, tripled its budget, and quadrupled its capability. Both NSW and Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) have supported two land wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and conducted numerous high visibility operations around the world in the maritime and land environments. Dating back to World War II, the Supply Corps Reserve component logistically supported the expeditionary community with pride and professionalism. Now, the active component has made significant strides in supporting expeditionary forces in similar fashion, which has culminated in the Supply Corps’ newest warfare device, the Navy Expeditionary Supply Corps Officer (NESCO).
Both Active and Reserve component Supply Corps officers provide logistics support to SEAL Teams through NSW Logistics Support Units (LOGSU) and officers directly attached to Special Boat Teams, SEAL Delivery Vehicle Teams, and Naval Special Warfare Development Group. Supply Corps officers’ roles have increased within NECC’s multiple subordinate units as well, to include Explosive Ordnance Disposal Expeditionary Support Units (EODESU), Coastal Riverine Force, Navy Construction Force, Expeditionary Warfare Development Center, Expeditionary Combat Readiness Center, and Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Group. Uniquely, the LOGSU and the EODESU, one on each coast, are led by Commander Operational/Ashore Board screened Supply Corps commanders (O5s). The command leadership triad is comprised of a Supply Corps ashore commanding officer, SEAL or EOD executive officer, and command master chief.
Adm. William McRaven, former Commander, U.S. Special Operations Command, recently mentioned in his retirement speech in August that “today, we are unequivocally the best special operations force in the world, and I would argue the best fighting forces the world has ever seen. This is the golden age of special operations. Each of you who wears a Trident, a SWCC pin, or who supports those who do wear these devices has every right to be proud of what the community has accomplished.” He was citing special operations troops’ work around the globe, to include NECC forces in the expeditionary environment fighting “barbaric” militant groups, stabilizing conflict areas and championing human rights.
These unprecedented years of war have been formative years for expeditionary Supply Corps officers who have been forged by demanding requirements and a high deployment operational tempo to austere locations. And for the first time, NSW and NECC are included in the Naval Supply Systems Command Commander’s Strategic Guidance “to develop a strategy to ensure the Naval Support Network is providing the appropriate level of support to Naval Special Warfare and Expeditionary Forces.”
As Supply Corps officer roles have matured over the past decade, the NESCO qualification device recognizes and validates the significant contributions former, current, and future officers have made or will make in the expeditionary environment.
Today, NSW and NECC N4s (SUPPOs in expeditionary speak) work directly for a SEAL Team commanding officer or an NECC subordinate commanding officer; just as a department head afloat works for a surface, aviation, or subsurface skipper. In addition, over the years, a handful of N4s have won the prestigious Vice Adm. Batchelder award for their significant contributions to the logistics readiness of our operating forces. The vast majority of them have promoted and gone on to serve in various commands throughout the Navy, bringing their valuable expeditionary experience and insight with them.
Since January 2015, more than 50 NSW and 278 NECC Supply Corps officers have received their NESCO warfare devices. NAVELSG has the largest number of Supply Corps officers, active and Reserve, eligible for NESCO. Retired Rear Adm. Patty Wolfe, former COMNAVELSG, was the Flag lead for the NESCO warfare qualification and coordinated efforts between NSWC and NECC N4 staffs, bringing it into reality.
Along the way there have been many officers who paved the way to make NESCO a reality. One of these officers is Capt. Doug Rose who passed away in April 2012 from a hard fought battle with leukemia. Shortly before his passing he was awarded a prototype of the NESCO device.
After the device was approved by OPNAV this past spring, Rose’s wife, Linda, was officially presented with his NESCO device and certificate by Rear Adm. Brian Losey, Commander, Naval Special Warfare Command. Capt. Rose deeply believed in the need for quality Supply Corps officers to provide logistics support to NSW and the expeditionary community and advocated increased involvement at a time when it was not a proven path to promotion. His multiple tours in NSW helped shape those he mentored and he was instrumental in facilitating the NESCO program into the proper Navy uniform board channels for approval.
The origins of NESCO started with an idea: a desire for Supply Corps officers in the expeditionary community to be recognized as experts in their field just as their traditional Fleet counterparts are. Today, there is a formalized process for those officers, active and Reserve, to proudly wear their hard earned NESCO qualifications. For further information regarding the NESCO program, contact either expeditionary Type Commander.
By Cmdr. Mick Wilson, USSOCOM NAVSOC and Lt. Cmdr. Chris Worthy, NECC