BY CMDR. MICK WILSON, COMMANDING OFFICER, LOGSU-2 AND CAPT. JONATHAN HAYNES, COMNAVSPECWARCOM N4
It is hard to believe it has been 15 years since Naval Special Warfare Group ONE Logistics Support Unit (NSWG-1 LOGSUPPU or more simply LOGSU-1) and Naval Special Warfare Group TWO Logistics Support Unit (NSWG-2 LOGSUPPU or LOGSU-2) were commissioned. The wheels were set in motion through Naval Special Warfare’s (NSW’s) re-organization called NSW 21 in 1999-2000. Directed by Adm. (ret.) Eric Olson and executed by Capt. (ret.) Gerry Harms, all combat service support personnel were detached from the SEAL Teams on both coasts and placed under the umbrella of the LOGSUs. This created efficiencies and economies of scale by breaking down duplicative processes to more effectively fight in the 21st century.
Like most change, it was met with resistance. However, the country faced another challenge that far surpassed an internal community re-organization – the September 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S. homeland. A steely-eyed conviction and common goal quickly replaced any internal strife. We were at war and NSW would play a part. This became a collective effort and the LOGSUs quickly adapted to meet all NSW requirements levied upon them. As the years drew on, NSW slipped into the “long war” battle rhythm. Both East and West Coast SEAL Teams deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq, and both LOGSU-1 & 2 grew in size and responsibility to provide critical combat service support enablers for the fight.
Building upon the success of LOGSU-1 & 2, Naval Special Warfare Group THREE Logistics and Support Unit (NSWG-3 LOGSUPPU or LOGSU-3) was commissioned in 2011 in Hawaii as NSW’s undersea mobility logistics and maintenance support activity. LOGSU-3 directly supports SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team ONE (SDVT-1) with training, deployment, and augmentation of NSW undersea platforms, most notably the MK 8 SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV). LOGSU-3 uniquely sustains its own Fleet Maintenance Activity (FMA), which is responsible for the repair and overhaul of multiple support equipment platforms ranging from outboard motors to the dry deck shelters that house the SDV on board submarines. Noteworthy among not only the LOGSUs, but the Navy as a whole, LOGSU-3 accounts for 55 percent of the Navy’s total diving force due to the nature of the missions assigned to SDVT-1.
Now, in 2016, LOGSU-1 and 2 are celebrating their 15th anniversaries, while LOGSU-3 celebrates its fifth. The Chief of Supply Corps has invested in the importance and utility of the LOGSUs and today all three commanding officer (CO) positions are screened and selected through the Supply Corps Operational Command Ashore sea slate process. A LOGSU CO reports directly to their respective Naval Special Warfare Group Commodore alongside the SEAL Team COs, who are their peers. Of note, each LOGSU has two unit identification codes (UICs), with personnel assigned to either the ashore UIC or the much larger afloat UIC. The LOGSU CO billet, which is assigned to the ashore UIC with the CO wearing the command ashore pin, is also assigned a Navy Officer Billet Classification of 9235 – Commanding Officer, Afloat (Commander) – which is also documented as CO AFLOAT CDR on the CO’s Fitness Reports, Officer Summary Record, Performance Summary Report, and Officer Data Card.
Similar to the other Services, the very nature of the CO position is rooted in the charge of command. It carries with it a steep responsibility of upholding tradition, standards, and executing a vision through a command philosophy. The CO will rely on accumulated experience to effectively lead his or her command to success. It is the absolute pinnacle of O5 field grade expeditionary command. Every LOGSU CO attends numerous command schools en route to taking command. The common theme, whether addressed by the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) Commander, NSW Commander, or at the Navy Leadership and Ethics Center, is that every job held by the officer up to this point has prepared him or her to lead in the Joint Expeditionary environment, mentor junior officers, and carry out the mission. Leadership is priority number one.
The CO is ultimately responsible for the health, welfare, and success of the entire command. Whether in garrison, ensuring SEAL Team training is supported throughout CONUS, or on deployment to austere and hostile areas, the CO is charged with ensuring the seven core Joint functions of logistics are provided in a timely and efficient manner. The deployment and distribution of weapons, ordnance, engineering, diving and parachute operations, logistics services and supply chain management for proper equipage, maintenance of all associated expeditionary equipment, oversight and execution of operational contract support, and health services are all major factors to ensure mission success.
The CO must ensure Combat Service Support Troop commanders assigned as SEAL Team N4 department heads are ready to support in the Joint environment. Critical to this is an understanding of the theater logistics provider organizations and key leadership. It starts with building relationships and trust with organizations such as the Geographic Combatant Commander (GCC) Theater Special Operations Command (TSOC) J4s, Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) representatives, numbered fleet N4s, Combined Joint Task Force J4s, Base Operating Support-Integrator service executive agents, and Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) Fleet Logistics Centers (FLCs). These relationships are key to developing and executing logistics concepts of support that nest into the operational context and framework of a GCC TSOC security strategy. LOGSU COs emerge from a two-year command tour with a greater understanding and appreciation of the human dynamics associated with leading multi-faceted, high performance organizations. Furthermore, they have honed their skills of team building, problem solving, conflict resolution, strategic partnering, resource management, manpower management, Joint operations, and the operational art of logistics. These skill sets provide the Chief of Supply Corps significant flexibility in detailing post-command LOGSU COs to O6 level assignments throughout the Navy and Joint Logistics Enterprise.
Back to Big Navy or Joint
The skills acquired while in command, combined with previous experience in acquisition, supply chain management, financial management, and other Supply Corps core competencies, make former LOGSU COs well suited for the gamut of leadership roles at the O6 level. Former LOGSU COs have excelled in a variety of senior Navy staff positions at all levels, from the Echelon I level at the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OPNAV), to the Echelon II level at Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet and NAVSUP, and the Echelon III level at Naval Expeditionary Combat Command and NAVSUP Global Logistics Support. Furthermore, many former LOGSU COs have also gone on to be selected for major command and used their previous command experience as the cornerstone for making positive impacts on Fleet operations while in command of NAVSUP FLCs, Naval Sea Systems Command Logistics Center, or in the Joint environment at DLA’s Defense Distribution Depots.
Returning to NSW or SOF
Although extremely limited in number, there are opportunities to return to NSW and Special Operations Forces (SOF) as an O6. The senior Supply Corps officer within NSW is the Assistant Chief of Staff for Logistics, Combat Systems, Maintenance, and Engineering (N4) on the staff of Commander, Naval Special Warfare Command (COMNAVSPECWARCOM), an Echelon II command that reports directly to both USSOCOM and OPNAV.
The N4 leads a staff of 67 military, civilian, and contractor personnel in providing policies, plans, programs, oversight, and resources for logistics, weapons systems, and engineering support for current and future NSW operations. Unique additions to the N4 portfolio include managing tactical ground mobility equipment, transportation, civil engineering support equipment, maintenance and life cycle sustainment of NSW maritime surface combatant craft and surface support craft, life cycle sustainment of NSW weapons and weapons accessories, and management of more than $1 billion of military construction and facilities master planning programs for NSW.
Other current O6 billets within the SOF enterprise include the deputy director of logistics (J4 deputy) at USSOCOM and the director of logistics (J4) at Special Operations Command Pacific, the TSOC for the Pacific area of responsibility. These two strategic level positions draw significantly upon a wide breadth of comprehension of the Joint Planning and Execution System and Time Phased Force Deployment Data, operational planning, Joint collaboration as to theater logistics contracts, how TSOCs and other Service SOF components operate, budget execution, and POM cycles.
While the LOGSUs have successfully navigated and supported 15 years of sustained warfighting efforts, the focus is on the future. How will the LOGSUs organize and support the fight through 2030? That is the challenge. However, rest assured, with the positive gains already made and numerous current initiatives to enhance NSW logistics, NSW is well positioned for success with the LOGSUs. The SEAL Team N4 department heads from the past several years and those serving today are poised to take the mantle of leadership in the years to come. They will become absolutely stellar LOGSU COs who lead the men and women of NSW’s Combat Service Support and will assuredly go on to do great things in follow-on tours throughout the Navy and Joint Enterprises.