An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

News | Nov. 5, 2018

Commentary: Preparing for command the DLA way

By Army Lt. Col. Sherdrick Rankin, commander DLA Troop Support Europe & Africa

The phone rang while I sat at my desk at U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Florida at the end of a busy workday in the summer of 2017. My assignment officer at Army Human Resources Command called to tell me I would take command of DLA Troop Support Europe and Africa the following summer.

The phone rang again just after that call ended. This time it was then-DLA Troop Support Commander Army Brig. Gen. Charles Hamilton who called to congratulate me on my selection. It was during this conversation that I began to realize just how little I knew about the mission and function of the Defense Logistics Agency.

Fortunately that call was also the start of a journey through which DLA and the Army prepared me for this privileged mantle of command, the charge to lead a team committed to supporting the warfighter in 121 countries over 50 million square miles throughout Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

I was later invited by current DLA Troop Support Commander Army Brig. Gen. Mark Simerly to attend Troop Support Academy in Philadelphia in October 2017, as well as meet the leaders from each of Troop Support’s supply chains: Subsistence, Clothing & Textiles, Construction & Equipment, Medical and Industrial Hardware.

More than 150 new employees assembled for the three-day course and gained a broad perspective of the Troop Support organization and its impact on our primary customer – the warfighter. The course included presentations on each supply chain’s mission and a field trip to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey to see some of the items Troop Support procures for the warfighter in the hands of those customers.

Troop Support Academy was the most important course of my entire pre-command education. Not only did it provide much needed context, awareness and an understanding of what each supply chain does for the warfighter, but it provided the opportunity to meet the leaders that would be supporting the Troop Support arm in Europe and Africa.

My journey then took me to the Army’s Senior Officers Legal Orientation Course in Charlottesville, Virginia, a great refresher as I had not been involved with company or field grade UCMJ actions since my time as a company commander 10 years earlier. During the five-day course, I learned about the legal responsibilities and issues that are commonly faced by installation, brigade and battalion commanders, and by those commanders assuming special court-martial convening authority.

The DLA Military Supervisory Training Program at DLA Land and Maritime in Columbus, Ohio was also a big help in preparing me to lead a workforce that is 80 percent civilian. Through this course I gained a clear understanding of the civilian hiring process and the Defense Personnel Management Appraisal Program. It also increased my understanding of the workers union and other facets of working with government civilians.

I then attended the Army’s Sustainment Pre-Command Course at Fort Lee, Virginia. There I participated in meaningful discussions on recent doctrine changes in the Army and built relationships with other battalion and brigade commanders that would be serving during the same time out in the force. Our class was also able to hear from the commander of the Combined Arms Support Command to glean the latest from a Training and Doctrine Command perspective, as well as sustainment initiatives and lessons learned from the field in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was also during this course that Brig. Gen. Simerly briefed students on the capabilities that DLA brings to support the warfighter.

This course was followed by a three-day visit to Letterkenney Army Depot in Pennsylvania to see the daily workings of an ammunition depot and the Class V commodity support it provides to warfighters across the globe.

My journey then brought me to the first edition of the DLA Senior Leader Orientation Course at DLA Headquarters in Fort Belvoir, Virginia. This course was truly an exciting and dynamic three days of dialogue with the J-code staff, chief of staff, leaders from each of the major subordinate commands and previous DLA commanders. All of us new commanders had the opportunity for meaningful discussions with these leaders and gain more perspective and context on the latest DLA initiatives.

DLA is a truly unique assignment for any service member, and especially for one assuming command. All of the courses I attended throughout my preparation for command were invaluable. So when I took command of DLA Troop Support Europe & Africa on July 12, I was ready to help keep this warfighter support machine moving. And now the journey really begins.