Fixing the Expeditionary Logistics Instructor Program
Updated: Feb 13, 2019
UPDATE [13 FEB 2019]: Within 48 hours of this post being published, the 2nd MLG CG referred the post to the CO, MCLOG. Last week (4-8 Feb), I had the pleasure of a face-to-face meeting with Col Collins to discuss the substantial changes he had already implemented to the course. Below are some updates (mostly) binned by the headers in the original post:
Mismatch of ELI Production to IMLOC: Col Collins indicated that the creation of ELIs via IMLOC may not be the best match, but it's currently the present system. However, that system can still produce high-quality logisticians within the underlying intent of MCO 3502.8 (Marine Corps Logistics, Tactics, Training, and Education Program).
Student Population: MCLOG is now specifically limiting attendance to Marines who are or slated to serve in key logistics billets. Previously, open quotas were filled with any logisticians wishing to attend the course. Now, quotas are only granted to the target demographic to add value to the course, regardless of quota utilization (last course only 35 of 48 seats were filled). The result is more prepared students, who have been pre-screened for key logistics billets, to improve the value of the student groups and reduce the number of less-experienced Marines who can become OBE.
Pre-Course Preparation: MCLOG will use existing MarineNet courses as pre-requisites to IMLOC attendance to cross-level students and focus instruction on higher-level coursework. This will be a hard requirement that if not completed upon arrival, students will be sent back to their parent command.
Graded Events: Graded events have been reintroduced into the curriculum to provide a check on learning and feedback for instruction effectiveness. IMLOC now has an introductory exam to test students pre-course preparation. While not a mechanism to dis-enroll students, it provides objective feedback to students and instructors on their current knowledge. This is the first step to inject effective performance evaluation in accordance with the adult learning method (read: not the hokey multiple choice test we normally expect).
No Honor Graduate: Previously, IMLOC selected a course honor graduate and a distinguished graduate from each student group. Since these selections were completely subjective with no graded events, they have been disestablished until measurable performance indicators are implemented to ensure objectivity in selection.
Tangible Benefit: Overall, Col Collins envisions IMLOC as a discriminating factor for logistics unit command selection. As an entire cohort of officers approach the O5 command board, have had enough time to complete key O4 billets, and attend the course, the completion (or incompletion) of IMLOC will serve as a discriminator in the board room.
Overall, it was a great conversation with a commander who rightfully could have been stand-offish to the article's caustic tone. However, he recognizes that the course can be better. He is actively looking for hard-charging majors and lieutenant colonels to join the MCLOG team and be the mechanism for change.
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The expeditionary logistics instructor (ELI) program is another great Marine Corps Logistics idea currently in flawed execution. It targets the wrong demographic, has almost zero qualification standards, and delivers no tangible benefit to the Operating Forces or the Marine. But it doesn’t have to be this way. With a few simple changes that involve no additive structure and actually requires fewer resources, the ELI can become a powerful training tool for the Marine Logistics community.
ELIs are produced by the Marine Corps Logistics Operations Group (MCLOG) via the Intermediate MAGTF Logistics Operations Course (IMLOC). Per the MCLOG SharePoint site:
“IMLOC is billet-specific training for ELIs assigned as: MAGTF CE S4s, MAGTF CE S4 Chiefs, LCE OpsO, LCE Operations Chiefs (OpsC), MWSS OpsO/OpsC, Division G4 staff, Regimental S4s/Chiefs, CEB OpsO/OpsC, MAW G4 staff, MAG S4s/Chiefs, and selected billets in the supporting establishment in the ranks of Major through Lieutenant Colonel and Master Sergeant through Master Gunnery Sergeant. The curriculum is focused on certifying ELI with the MOS of 0477 in accordance with Marine Corps Order 3502.8 the Marine Corps Logistics, Tactics, Training, and Education Program. There are three courses per year with 48 seats per course.
That’s the ELI program in one paragraph. The success of Marine Air’s Weapons and Tactics Instructor (WTI) program is what drove the Marine Corps to setup MCLOG and its ELI program for combat service support and Marine Corps Tactics and Operations Group (MCTOG) and its Operations and Tactics Instructor (OTI) program for combat arms. WTIs are absolutely revered in the ACE and rightfully so; they are the culmination of the pilot training continuum due to the immense investment their unit’s must invest. Squadron commanders often must re-prioritize other pilot’s training to get a WTI candidate their requisite qualifications to attend the course; that’s how important they are to pilot readiness.
So, how did the Marine Logistics community take that great model and fumble its implementation?
Remember: this is an instructor. Now read the block quote above and focus on the billets and ranks of the current demographic. Go ahead, I’ll wait. You’re back? Great. Now you tell me which of those Marines has time to serve as an instructor. I know when I was a battalion OpsO, I barely had time to PT or get home for dinner, lest add formal instructor requirements to my portfolio. Targeting those billets–many of which are explicitly billet MOS’d for an 0477–does not make sense for an instructor.
Next, the grade. Targeting field-grade officers and senior SNCOs as instructors is also poor. In a standard CLB, MWSS, CEB, etc., there are two majors (OpsO and XO), one senior SNCO (OpsC), and one lieutenant colonel (CO). Why does this program target these already busy Marines? The difficulty filling seats at IMLOC proves this target demographic as flawed: there are frequently captains, lieutenants, and gunnery sergeants to fill the 48-Marine quota.
Lastly, the curriculum itself does not support this demographic. The vast majority of the curriculum is one of two things: rip-off Tactical Logistics Operations Course (TLOC) briefs and Marine Corps Planning Process. (TLOC was a course–of which I am a proud graduate–ran by the now disestablished School of MAGTF Logistics that targeted first lieutenants to captains) The only component that is grade/billet appropriate is the module of Defense Readiness Reporting System-Marine Corps, but that training is available at every MEF so it’s redundant.
Zero Qualification Standards
So you’ve made it to IMLOC and read the assigned pre-reading: congratulations, you’ve done too much. Unlike the WTI course, there is no introduction test to ensure that you have come prepared. Actually, there are no tests or graded events at all in the course. There’s only a single teach-back–on the planning process, not on logistics–to ensure you can serve as a LOGISTICS INSTRUCTOR. In taking the adult learning method to far, there are no graded standards, just fill out your daily journal with something…literally anything. I was specifically told by an instructor that the only way you could fail to graduate was to get a DUI or be so aggressively belligerent about doing zero work. These are the standards by which your “instructors” are held.
No Tangible Benefit
So what do ELIs provide to the Operating Forces? No seriously, I’m asking and I’m an ELI. I truly don’t know. I offered a solution to this in the October 2017 Gazette for a Career MAGTF Logistics Operations Course run by ELIs at home station that went nowhere; I did not get contacted by anyone. So I ask again, what do these OpsO/OpsC majors/master sergeants with company-grade knowledge provide to the commander? The answer is none.
Ok, so what’s it do for the Marine? Is there a civilian equivalent qualification? No. Does it help with promotion more than traditional billets and high performance? Nope.
Okay then…so how do we fix it without adding structure or getting non-existent money? Five steps:
1. Target captains, lieutenants, gunnies, and staff sergeants
2. Send the best…regardless of billet
3. Have a robust pre-reading list, hold an introductory exam, and send home failures
4. Add robust evaluation standards
5. Create a take-home curriculum and execute periodic refresher training
Captains, Lieutenants, Gunnies, and Staff Sergeants
These are the Marines that will benefit the most from the IMLOC curriculum and are on the front lines to serve as ELIs. These Marines are in billets that are action officers within OPTs, have Marines assigned to them to mentor, and are less crushed by OpsO/C duties and the individual augment requirements that decimate the field-grade ranks. Additionally, these Marines can use this knowledge now and mature into better field-grade officers than the current crop now since they had better tools earlier in their careers.
Send the Best…Regardless of Billet
Drop the 0477 billet MOS from the OpsO/OpsC billets and send the best to serve as ELIs. Some of the “assigned” ELIs by billet may be horrible instructors; they may be terrible logisticians. Let our commanders make the decision to pick their best and brightest Marines with the most potential to return to the unit and serve as the commander’s primary instructors. Those commanders can balance the ELIs primary duties with the collateral instruction duties better than HQMC.
Have a Robust Pre-Reading List, Hold an Introductory Exam, and Send Home Failures
If I told a battalion sergeant major that I was going to send an overweight Marine to Corporal’s Course, he or she would have a heart attack because that Marine would get weighed in and sent home. Then, the sergeant major would get a call from the regimental or group sergeant major for sending an unqualified Marine. But that is exactly what we do with our ELIs…well almost, IMLOC doesn’t bother to “weigh them in” with an introductory exam. (Ironically, there is an actual weigh-in at IMLOC, but no tests, we joked that it was the only evaluated event. I can’t make it up.) WTIs are required to read hundreds of pages of pre-reading, then have two shots to pass the entrance exam. Fail twice and you go home; no exceptions.
I’ve been told that they can’t do this because of something with Training and Education Command and the process of changing the formal curriculum. I say this: have the moral courage to hold the students to a standard and take the face-shot if higher headquarters says you can’t do that. If the general officer in charge of MAGTF Training Command is willing to say that he/she is okay with no standards and put it on record, then that’s a different story. I suspect that the MAGTF-TC CG wouldn’t correct a good idea that’s executed elsewhere in his/her command (MAWTS-1).
Add Robust Evaluation Standards
Dovetailing off of the introductory exam thread, IMLOC must include robust evaluation standards that are relevant to the duties of an ELI and logisticians in general. Certainly, the hackneyed multiple choice MCIs aren’t the answer, but a journal is not a way to check for knowledge and the ability to instruct juniors, peers, and seniors. Add evaluations back into the curriculum, whether they be graded group work, multiple teach-backs, individual effort projects, and traditional final exams. ELIs could take those projects–operations orders, annex Ds, concepts of support, etc.–back to home station and have a ready template from which to operate. We can’t say our premier logistics professionals were tested by a journal and lack of in-course DUIs.
Create a Take-Home Curriculum and Execute Periodic Refresher Training
Give the instructors something to take home and teach. A re-birth of the Tactical Logistics Operations Course was an idea I proposed. What MCLOG doesn’t provide is a take-home curriculum. As of my IMLOC experience in 2016, the slide decks used looked unprofessional compared to the MAWTS-1 aviation ground support curriculum with some of the same spelling errors from TLOC in 2009. Take the time, design a set of leveling briefs and a problem set from the ASSURED RESOLVE or TREASURE COAST training scenarios, and send them to the ELIs. Let commander’s dictate when to run these courses and how to modify them for operational challenges they face.
Lastly, execute periodic refresher training similar to the WTI “Re-black.” This is another idea direct from MAWTS-1 where they bring previous WTIs and commanders back to Yuma to be updated on new tactics, techniques, procedures, and threat intelligence. This way we can ensure our ELIs are teaching the latest and greatest information to our logisticians.
We’ve accepted the ELI program in its current form for too long. If we are serious about providing commanders a tool worth six weeks away from their units, then we need to make some common sense changes to the program. And the best part: it doesn’t cost any more people or money.