MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, GA -- The Marine Corps' deputy commandant for Installations and Logistics repeated Tuesday the advice he gave the MCLB Albany community when he first arrived here as the Marine Corps Logistics Bases commanding general in 1996.
"Always question the status quo," Lt. Gen. Gary S. McKissock told managers and guests at a local Federal Managers Association lunch meeting.
Today's environment that makes tremendous amounts of information available to anybody, anywhere at anytime demands continuous change and continuous improvement, McKissock said.
"To understand where we are going, we first have to look at where we are now and where we have been," McKissock began, living up to his reputation as a visionary.
The Desert Storm military environment was based on the concept of mass Ð more equipment, more weapons, more software, more vehicles, the veteran logistician said.
"In Desert Storm, mass - or the guy who had the biggest pile of 'stuff' on the beach - won,' McKissock explained. "But getting the most mass in place takes a long time. And one of the problems with mass is that when you stack up enough stuff, somebody is going to knock it down.
"Military logisticians of the past were concerned with fill rate and 'Fuldgap,' or how they were going to fill the gap while they waited for more stuff or replacement stuff, "McKissock continued. "There were no metrics."
The new environment replaces mass with a distribution system that reacts quickly, or expeditionary logistics. Today's military leaders want a distribution system that gets their 'stuff' in place and in record time.
"And they dont want much of it till they need it," McKissock said, "because they don't want all their 'stuff' in one pile, and they don't need to worry about finding someplace to store it for future use.
The Pennsylvania native called attention to the high-tech culture of the 21st century. The average person has access to incredible amounts of information and knows how to use that information.
"When I first came to Albany or six years ago, I bought a green Jeep," McKissock said. "I went on line and ordered that Jeep. That is a huge change from only 10 years ago when I would have gone to the local Jeep dealer, who had a couple of hundred Jeeps in all colors and with various options for me to choose from - a vastly inefficient sales method."
McKissock continued his comparison by explaining that in the Desert Storm environment, the turnaround time for getting a piece of equipment repaired was usually a month or longer, and sometimes several months.
"Suppose I took my Jeep to the dealer to have the transmission replaced and he said, 'Fine, not a problem. It'll be ready in about 45 days.' It would be a bad day for Jeep because I'd be looking for a Ford or a Chevrolet," he said. "Likewise, today's military leaders are interested in OST [order ship time] and RCT [repair cycle time]."
The important thing to remember about today's ever-changing environment is that the customer is the king, McKissock said just before he asked his audience how many of them shop, pay bills, check their bank balances and perform dozens of other activities on-line.
"You can sign on to the Navy Fed [Navy Federal Credit Union] web site and see what your balances are and what interest rates you're earning in a flash," he said. "You must apply those same expectations to yourself and your work."
He also cautioned his audience not to underestimate the power of resistance to change.
"People become comfortable with the way they do things," McKissock said. "They feel like, 'I went to school to learn how to do this, and now you're going to change it.' It's difficult, but it's crucial.
"You know, it's kind of like white water rafting - you can see this calm, placid pool up ahead where everything is peaceful, and you think, 'If I can just get through this change, or this project, or this evolution, I'll be in that calm pool where everything is smooth as glass.'
"Well, I hate to tell you this, but it's never going to happen. That calm pool up ahead is just a mirage - it's white water from now on!"
McKissock explained his analogy by telling his audience that meeting and anticipating customers' needs will continue to be a challenge because today's communications systems have made ordering replacement parts or more equipment easier than ever for military leaders in combat situations. Getting that equipment to those leaders is also a crucial element.
"Limited resources are a fact of life," McKissock replied in response to a question from the audience, "and the best way the only way to make sure the Marine Corps is first in line for transportation resources when a contingency occurs is to continue being the best, the most effective.
"When the president gets a phone call at 2 a.m. that requires a military force to respond quickly, whether it's a military, humanitarian or rescue operation, he's going to call the guy who can do the job and can respond in a hurry.
"So always question the status quo," the Marine general officer repeated, "because that's the way to look for new and better ways to get things done. And you here at MCLB Albany are in the position of being able to make the changes the Marine Corps needs; to make sure Marines continue to arrive on the scene first, with the best equipment and the fastest distribution system on earth."
McKissock's visit this week was his last official visit to Albany before he retires in September. However, the 36-year Marine veteran will remain intricately involved in the business of the Corps when he continues service as a senior mentor with the MAGTF Training Program.