Universities.com names over 250 colleges and universities in the United States, that offer degrees in Logistics, Materials, and Supply Chain Management. This a huge field. Everything bought and sold, must be packaged, transported, stored, inventoried, accounted for, and distributed. For those systems to operate smoothly, they must be closely managed, at every level. Visible examples are Walmart Distribution Centers, Lowes, Home Depot, Menards, the big grocery chains, and now, of course, Amazon.
The Air Force has Material Managers, and the Navy has Material and Maintenance Managers. US Army soldiers who do those same jobs in the Army carry the very mundane title of “Unit Supply Specialist”. That title may conjure up images of sitting in a supply room handing out boots and bed linen, but there is nothing dull or mundane about this Army job. The Army MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) 92Y is Unit Supply Specialist, one of the most important and sensitive jobs in the Army.
This is an update and consolidation of two previously published stories, “Army Supply”, and “Army Enlisted Logistician”, so don’t look for them – they are here. I changed the title in an attempt to attract more readers to army supply. It is one of the best, most respected jobs in the Army. It’s not an easy job, it is busy, brainy, and interesting – makes time fly.
Property accountability is one of the most sensitive subjects in the Army. Funding the military is a big deal and whether the item is a 9 million dollar tank or a 6 million dollar helicopter or a $200 set of tools, it represents money. The basic unit in the Army is the company. Every soldier, regardless of rank or position is assigned to a “company”. A company normally has 100 to around 200 soldiers, and is usually commanded by a Captain, with a senior enlisted First Sergeant. All equipment, material, weapons, fuel, food, etc, is assigned to a company. Every non expendable item “owned” by a company is recorded in that unit’s property book (now automated). Army Company Commanders are personally responsible for everything “owned” by that company.
When an officer assumes command of a company, there is a complete inventory of all equipment, material, weapons, and vehicles, everything in the company that does not breathe and eat. When that officer leaves that command, another inventory is conducted, and if there are any items missing, that simply can’t be accounted for, that officer may have to pay for them, at the very least. Possibly a bad mark on his or her officer efficiency report, and in the worst case may be charged with dereliction of duty, or theft. The individual in that officers’ company that manages all material and equipment is the Supply Sergeant. When the Supply Sergeant requests an item, he or she is spending money.
During my time in the Army, I was in many different companies, infantry rifle companies, battalion headquarters companies, a division headquarters company, personnel company, signal company, Army headquarters company, Special Forces training Group company, Special Forces company, and basic training companies as a drill sergeant. In all those companies, the most important and sensitive position, after the First Sergeant, was the Supply Sergeant. The Supply Sergeant in most companies is a Staff Sergeant, with five to ten years in service. The Supply Sergeant also has a Specialist assistant, which is often the first job to which a newly trained 92Y is assigned. The Army’s official description of the specialist assistant position is that he or she is an assistant to the Supply Sergeant, not an Assistant Supply Sergeant. In reality, as soon as that person has a grasp of the operation, and know what they are doing, they become the Assistant Supply Sergeant. For the past few years, 92Y’s have been making Sergeant in two to three years.
The nine week AIT (Advanced Individual Training) for 92Y covers basic procedures, but a 92Y is a 92Y and can be assigned to an infantry company, or aviation, or signal, or chemical, or medical, or anything, anywhere from a basic training battalion at Fort Leonard Wood to a Special Forces company where ever they may be, to a Garrison company at Fort Meade, Maryland (Washington, DC). Learning to be a supply specialist just starts with AIT. Everything in the Army that doesn’t breathe, flows through the supply system. Everything! Socks, boots, hand grenades, tanks, helicopters, rifles, bolts, nuts and bacon. It has to be requested, stored, issued, and much of it returned. The volume and the value of all that “stuff” is mind boggling.
In the past few years, the Army has gone from a multitude of supply procedures to the Global Combat Support System – Army (GCSS-Army). It is one program that allows everyone in the system to “see” everything, items and money, from factory to foxhole. To do that, the Army has gone to commercial SAP software. SAP is a huge and, can be, complicated system. There have been instances where large civilian companies, implementing SAP, have had to completely cease operations, during the implementation process, because they didn’t anticipate the time and learning curve necessary to implement SAP. The Army has accomplished this incrementally, over the past several years.
AESIP = Army Enterprise Systems Integrated Programs
The Supply Soldier who is on top of everything and has it under control and keeps everyone supplied with what they need is the unit hero, if not, he or she is in trouble. Supply people in some companies, such as Armor or Aviation, manage material and equipment valued in the tens, and sometimes in the hundreds of millions of dollars. There have been incidents of supply soldiers going to prison, for stealing from the government, because they were handling all that expensive material, and they thought they were smart enough to steal and cover it up, so that no one would find out, but they do find out.
In July 2020, a supply professional who had worked himself up to becoming a Supply Technician, a Chief Warrant Officer, was sentenced to 25 months in prison, and ordered to pay $250,000 in restitution to the government, after he was convicted of stealing from the government. Over a two and half year period, he stole 43 night vision goggles, valued at around two million dollars. He was selling them through government surplus outlets, and deleting them from the unit property book, forging signatures, and adjusting the inventory, but with GCSS-Army, they were still in the system. When CID discovered the items for sale, they were identified.
If you are not a smart, hard-working, 100 percent honest individual, don’t pick this job.
Things are not as tightly controlled in combat, where everything is expendable. When I went to Vietnam in 1966, I, as did every soldier arriving in country, processed through the 90th Replacement Battalion at Long Binh, about 20 miles from Saigon. The Supply Sergeant of the 90th Replacement Battalion, Staff Sergeant (SSG) Britt, had been the supply sergeant of a company I had been in at Fort Bragg. His houch area (a houch was a tent, usually a medium (16’ x 32’) with pallet flooring (concrete if lucky), and sand bag walls outside, was much nicer than any around it. He had a full size refrigerator, a stereo and a table with a hot plate burner. I ask where he got all of that stuff. He said; “You remember Specialist Smith that was my assistant at Bragg, well he went to flight school and became a helicopter pilot. He walked in here one day and asked if I could get him some jungle fatigues and boots. I told him that I could get them, but it wouldn’t be easy, I ask how many he wanted. He wanted three sets of jungle fatigues and two pair of jungle boots, then he asked what it would cost him. I told him it would cost him that grease gun (small .45 cal machinegun) on his shoulder. I was kidding, but he just handed it to me. I traded the grease gun for a .357 magnum revolver, I traded the .357 to a guy at the docks for two 21 cubic foot refrigerators, I kept one and sold the other for enough to buy the rest of this stuff.” That is not exactly how it works, but that was then.
Another war story. A great man I once worked for, Command Sergeant Major John Pearce, had a reputation, with those who didn’t know him, as being dumb and loud. He was loud, he was certainly not dumb. He is the only individual ever to be Command Sergeant Major of the 82nd Airborne Division twice. After his first term as the Division Sergeant Major, he was sent to Vietnam as a Battalion Sergeant Major in the 1st Cavalry Division. There was a supply problem in his battalion. Replacement uniforms and boots weren’t getting to the troops in the field, they were in rags. He went to the Battalion S4 Sergeant to find the problem. The Supply Sergeant told him that they were being requested, but sometimes higher headquarters claimed that they didn’t get the request and they would have to send it up again. CSM Pearce said; “I told him that he had three weeks to fix it or I would send him to the field with a rifle company and his assistant could be the supply sergeant. He told me I couldn’t do that. Three weeks went by and nothing happened. I went back to the rear and put him with his gear on my helicopter and dropped him off with a rifle company. In less than three weeks the uniforms, boots, and replacement personal gear started flowing. I left him out there over a month, and when I picked him up he didn’t really want to leave, he told me that moving with a rifle company in a combat area was less stressful than supply. He said that he now had a much better appreciation for his job. We didn’t have any more supply problems during the rest of my tour with that battalion.”
So, what jobs, other than a company supply clerk, may a 92Y perform, in the Army? I recently discovered a great example. Shantae Gordon, of Glen Allen, Virginia, was 19 years old when she enlisted in the Army in September 1997. She enlisted with a 92Y Unit Supply Specialist contract. She went through basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, then attended 92Y AIT at Fort Lee, Virginia. Her first assignment was to Germany, as a supply clerk. She apparently enjoyed what she was doing, because she became one of the almost 20 percent of enlistees who spend 20 or more years and will someday retire from the Army.
Back in the states, at Fort Stewart, Georgia, she became a Supply Sergeant. After a couple years, she was back in Germany, as the Supply Sergeant of a Military Police Battalion. Upon returning to the US, she was assigned to the 1st Infantry Division, at Fort Riley, Kansas, “The Big Red One”. In February 2008, she became a Sergeant First Class, a Senior non-commissioned officer. As a Battalion Supply Sergeant in Iraq, at Christmas 2009, she was quoted by Specialist Shantelle Campbell, in the “War on Terror News”; “As my mother would say, [Christmas] is a time to remember the reason for the season,” said Sgt. 1st Class Shantae Gordon, of Glen Allen, Va., and the logistics noncommissioned officer in charge for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4-1 BSTB. “It’s a time to celebrate Christ and [His] birth.” “We have a lot of activities [planned],” Gordon added, “and it’s my job to ensure that all of the Soldiers are taken care of and to make sure they’re not inside feeling left out.”
Along the way, one of her assignments was the Whitehouse Communications Agency – yes – she worked in THE White House.
In Kuwait, she was the Logistics Sergeant Major for Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, from Kuwait to Fort Gordon, Georgia.
I don’t think her official photograph does her justice. Watch her story on her five minute video. She is a cool lady, loving her work.