Navy logistics in a new joint world: N4 to J4 and back again.
In the European theater, Navy Logistics seamlessly transforms from N4 to J4 and back again in the blink of an eye depending on any number of circumstances to get operating units what they need, when they need it, in the right amount, and at the right time.
LCDR C.J. Mayer, a logistics planner stationed at 6th Fleet Headquarters in Naples, Italy, says his primary concern is anticipating future logistical support and figuring out how best to meet the demand. This is not an easy task when you consider that it was only a couple of years ago that 6th Fleet completed a major transformation--one that is still effecting business practices--merging two Navy staffs into one combined staff in a new location. The goal here, as with the rest of the DoD, was to create an organization that was lean and cost-effective. The result was a manning reduction from 1,500 to 500, while retaining all functions.
"Whenever you have that much change in an organization, there is a lot of pain," said Mayer. "You have to make adjustments as you learn lessons. We are always making improvements."
Logistics transformations across the board
One of the major lessons Mayer and his colleagues in Navy Logistics Europe learned was that to continue being effective, they needed to continually improve. That is, they needed to be changing and getting better every day. In fact, on the heels of the 2005 transformation, N4 is transforming and re-organizing again. To better support the DoD's newest combatant command, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), N4 is increasingly considering joint solutions to supporting military requirements.
N4 now works with non-Navy sources like Army and Air Force logisticians, along with a host of others, to provide the best solution to supply needs in the European theater.
"We need more than ever to rely on the resources and logisticians from all components and NATO allies to properly support naval forces in the AOR," said Mayer. "Before, we had the resources and people to use a strictly Navy solution to any problem; now we don't always have that luxury, but in the long run, logistics support will be better for everyone as we grow more comfortable working jointly."
Overcoming logistical challenges
Even though basic logistics or supply principles are the same everywhere, there are still significant differences between the services.
"Each component has developed their own processes and procedures over the years to provide their logistics services," said Mayer. "That is what is challenging when working in the joint logistics world."
To overcome these hurdles, N4 is working with the joint world to combine common processes into one standard, while still maintaining specialized procedures with the components.
"Navy officers will always be the best at supporting ships or submarines while at sea," Mayer said. "However, there should be no difference in how an Army, Navy, or Air Force logistician provides standard support items."
The vision is that by having a standard process, logisticians from any service can easily support a Navy unit attached to them.
"We are not there yet," Mayer said. "But it is improving bit by bit with every joint exercise and operation we do. We are always working to set the policies and continuously improve procedures, in place, to support the war fighter and operator as best we can."
Joint Successes in the Navy World
"Joint successes are huge for 'Big Navy' because historically it lagged behind in the joint world compared to our sister services," said Mayer. "From what I can see, this is not the case in the EUCOM AOR. In operations like Joint Task Force (JTF) Lebanon and exercises like Flexible Leader '07 and Austere Challenge '08, our Navy staff is maybe even ahead of the others when it comes to playing in the joint world."
Navy staff at Commander Navy Europe-Commander 6th Fleet (CNE-C6F) headquarters was the first staff in any AOR to certify as a Joint Task Force during JTF Lebanon, a live joint operation to move more than 15,000 displaced Americans and provide humanitarian relief in Lebanon during the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict in 2006 and re-certified as a Joint Force Maritime Component Command during exercise Flexible Leader in 2007. Most recently, during Austere Challenge 2008, held in May, the CNE-C6F staff re-qualified 6th Fleet as a Joint Task Force Commander.
MC2 (SW/AW) Rosa Larson, USN CNE-C6F Public Affairs