Jon Hatch’s post in last month’s newsletter (“Back to the Basics: Defining the Similarities and Differences of Business Logistics and Acquisitions Logistics“) got me thinking about how I migrated into my defense logistics career.
I think I’m safe in posting that few children grow up dreaming about being a “Logistician.” Any child dreaming about becoming an “engineer” probably isn’t dreaming about “logistics engineering,” they’re more likely thinking about “NASA” engineering.
My own childhood ambitions were about someday riding submarines and seeing the world by sea. Which I did by joining the Navy right after graduating high school. I became an Electronics Technician (ET) which got me involved in a variety of maintenance tasks. As part of maintenance, I became involved with ordering spare parts, tools, and consumables (supply). I was involved in managing a library of paper-copies technical manuals (documentation).
Later in my career I was a technical instructor (training). I was also involved in defining billets and drafting job descriptions for future personnel (manpower). But I never associated any of those tasks with “logistics.”
First Logistics Assignment
My first involvement with “logistics” was during a tour with NATO Southern Forces as a Senior Chief. I had put in for an overseas assignment and was offered the position of “Assistant Chief Logistics” in Naples, Italy. After accepting the assignment I quietly asked some fellow chiefs what “logistics” was all about. After several mumbled non-answers I decided I would figure it out in Naples.
My job turned out to be managing southern NATO communication assets. A big chunk of our assets were self-contained broadcast stations located on mountain tops running the length of Italy. The logistics work was mostly infrastructure (facilities); everything from maintaining snow-removal equipment for our station in the Italian Alps to providing potable water to our station in central Sicily. Occasionally, I got to do some electronics maintenance work with our Naples valley communication assets.
By the time I transferred back to the US I understood what logistics was all about. But I didn’t consider it as a future career.
Early Post-Navy Career
I retired from active duty in 1996 after 22 years service, settled on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and went out looking for a job. My goal was a new career in network engineering and software development. However, I quickly discovered that 22 years as a Navy ET meant nothing to people offering computer jobs in Southern Mississippi. My undergraduate degree in marketing, awarded the year before I retired, actually worked against me as a “non-technical degree.”
By reason I couldn’t get hired doing anything else, I finally accepted a government contractor job managing deep-insurance spares for the US Navy’s Aegis Cruiser and Destroyer program. The warehouse facility was part of what is now the Huntington Ingalls Industry (HII) Pascagoula shipyard. My job mostly involved arranging ship-outs for large pieces of equipment and tracking returns. This was my first foray into warehousing (PHS&T) and I enjoyed the work. But I still wanted to get into computer networking and software development.
After two years of managing deep-insurance spares I moved to a job at a nearby Air Force base, working with a database team as software configuration manager. While the software configuration work was enjoyable, another aspect of the job – dealing with software developers – was not. After two years I quit and went back to HII Pascagoula Shipyard.
The Accidental Logistician
A logistics group at the shipyard hired me to develop a software application for tracking shipyard maintenance jobs. The hiring manager liked that I understood both logistics and software development. This was the first time I recognized my logistics background was worth something. From then on, logistics – and later configuration management – within the shipbuilding industry has defined my career.
I went from developing software tools for logistics projects to performing Product Support Analysis (PSA) on shipbuilding programs, and then into supportability engineering. In 2006 my wife and I relocated to the Washington, D.C. area and I took a job working logistics for a Foreign Military Service (FMS) shipbuilding program. From there I joined a major consulting firm, and have since provided logistics and configuration management consulting on a number of shipbuilding programs for the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard.
I don’t regret anything about my adopted post-Navy career. My logistics career has offered more opportunity and challenges then a career as network administrator ever would have. But my journey has made me sensitive to the fact that “logistics” as a potential career option is not well-defined and not well advertised.
Promoting Logistics As A Career
Part of CLEP’s focus is to promote logistics and logistics engineering as a professional career. Not many colleges define defense logistics as a career field or offer relevant degree programs. Which makes me curious how other people selected defense logistics as their career path.
So I’d like to end with a challenge to the logisticians out there; tell us your story.
How did you get into logistics as a career?
Feel free to email your story for publication. CLEP members can submit blog posts directly from their profile page after logging into our website. Or, CLEP members may also use the members-only forums to post their stories and comment to other members.
I look forward to hearing from you.