UPDATED 14 September 2009

1st COSCOM, Fort Bragg, NC



"The morale of the Soldier is the greatest single factor in war"...

--Field Marshall Montgomery

Words can kill.

One word that does more damage to the morale and fighting spirit of the U.S. Army is the word "support" as included in the description of dozens of VITAL to VICTORY units in war. On the future, non-linear urbanized battlefield we will need EVERY SOLDIER'S complete thinking, seeing input as we will likely be fighting out-numbered in the 10-Division Army.

Here is a "horror" story from COL Hackworth's Dending America online newsletter about the mentality created when the word "support" is used to identify units.

"I entered the army as a combat arms officer in the Armor Branch. I was then detailed to the Ordnance Corps which I volunteered for during my officer assessment process. I envy my peers that I have left behind. My stories of my days at work do not deal with how well my Soldiers reacted to an NBC attack, engaged enemy targets with the .50 caliber machine gun, or applied first aid dressings. I asked all of them one day, 'Are you prepared to pick up your M-16A2 rifle and defend our supply convoys to the death, so that the supplies do not fall into enemy hands?' They looked at me like I'm crazy.

'Oh, I didn't join the Army to do that. That's the infantry's job!'

I reminded them that our primary mission is to support an armor battalion but, when the enemy overwhelms them, we become the infantry. We become killers. Again they said,

'Oh, sir, you need to get rid of that tanker mentality. You're not in the Armor battalion any more. You're in the rear with the gear.' "

-- A concerned U.S. Army officer

The solution is simple.

Change the "S" word to SUSTAIN.

Combat Service Sustainment (CSS) units. Sustainment units. 1st Corps Sustainment Command. The word "Sustainment" makes you THINK about its meaning, its not a derogatory term of being "second fiddle" as the word "support" implies. Whenever we get people THINKING its less likely they will be shooting their mouths from prejudiced emotions.

We have changed the way we view wars several times in the last few year, remember LIC, MIC and HIC? Why not a harmful word in our own unit descriptions?

It is time we change the "S" words in our awesome Sustainment units to tell the world that they are a Source of Strength, Special Talents and that they are SOLDIERS...who fight. So many times in our history its been Soldiers from Sustainment units that have picked up their rifles, grenades and rocket launchers and Saved the day. Now it is your turn.

We encourage U.S. Army Doctrine writers to make the change---to Stand up and be counted---to be like Anton Myrer's Once an Eagle----"Sam Damons"---not "Courtney Massengales"----to Strike the bad "S" word from our vocabulary from our minds once and for all. The men deserve this and they need it. Make it So.



A British Army Officer writes:

Support Versus Sustain

U.S. Army Logistician magazine, May/June 1999

"I can't tell you how refreshing it was to pick up your November-December issue at the British Army School of Logistics and read Mike Sparks' letter, "Sustainment, not Support Units." It seems ironic that our two armies are so diverse in some respects and yet so similar in others.

The Royal Logistic Corps has only been formed just over 5 years, but since its inception the motto has been, "We Sustain." While we too have followed the idea of service "support" units, with our sustainment motto (which we inherited from the Army Catering Corps), we hopefully maintain our focus on the vital lifeblood, which is army logistics.

Mr. Sparks is accurate in his assertion that "support" appears to be very much a second-fiddle concept, implying that logisticians rely in some way on the combat arms, whereas "sustainment" implies an indivisible umbilical cord between the two. Because we have learned to embrace "mission command" as an essential tenet of the maneuverist approach to warfighting, army logisticians can feel comfortable at all levels in using in the mission statement "in order to sustain X Brigade or Division."

The stated aim of the Royal Logistic Corps is "to sustain the soldier in peace and war," and it is a sound concept which we should endorse on both sides of the Atlantic."

CPT Matthew Dietz, RLC, North Yorkshire, England

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