Inevitably, whenever I tell people I’m a loggie, they ask: what’s that? If you’re one of those people, here’s the answer:
The term loggie is, essentially, short for logistics professional. You hear people call themselves (and others) this more often in the military, but I’ve also heard it used by civilian logistics folks. But then the less-spoken question is, what exactly is logistics?
The universe of military loggies includes supply clerks, fuelers, cooks, warehouse workers, parachute and air cargo riggers, water purification specialists, petroleum lab analysts, forklift and crane operators, truck drivers, ammunition clerks, mechanics, and a host of other critical jobs–and then all of the planners and managers who coordinate the supplies, transportation, data, contracts, and other fine-tuned resourcing and services needed to deliver the right things to the right place at the right time.
The term “logistics” came into use sometime in the 1800s, maybe from the French military, or maybe from the Greek word referring to counting. Either way, today it seems to be a fairly universal term: if nothing else I said translated well to the foreign troops I’ve worked with, saying I work in logistics definitely got through. “Ah, logistique!” said the Afghans, the Egyptians, and whichever French or Dutch or Polish soldiers I ever chatted with during my deployments.
Before the word logistics came into common usage, the U.S. Army founded the Quartermaster Corps in June 1776 as one of the original five branches (the others: Infantry, Engineers, Adjutant General, and Finance). These were the teamsters and, later, muleskinners who kept the supply trains going with needed food, water, ammunition, uniforms, and other supplies to troops fighting on various fronts. One of my favorite quotes from this era is attributed to Frederick the Great of Prussia:
Without supplies, no army is brave.
Regardless of terminology, logistics has been a discipline and profession essential to military operations going back at least as far back as Sun Tzu (around 500 b.c.), whose statement in The Art of War on the matter has been translated as,
The line between order and disorder lies in logistics.
And as any loggie can tell you, logistics is itself an art and a discipline that cannot be learned in a book; you learn by doing it, making mistakes, learning from your mistakes (and those of others), and refining processes to make them work smoother, faster, better, and, ideally, cheaper. When loggies aren’t brought into operational planning soon enough–or at all–things go catastrophically awry. Because the details WILL get you. Every time. Another great logistics quote (attributed to various U.S. generals) is:
Amateurs think about tactics, but professionals think about logistics.
But logistics isn’t just a military discipline; it’s essential to get logistics right if you want to succeed in any operation. People often cite the fact that the German army studied American circus logistics in preparation for World War I. The reality is that military innovations and civilian industry innovations are continuously influencing and borrowing from one another, and logistics is no exception. There may be lags in military logistics catching up with private-sector logistics (and sometimes vice versa), and there are plenty of things that go wrong when loggies can’t get their jobs done–but there are few things as glorious as when logistics goes off without a hitch for a certain operation. In my biased opinion.
In the U.S. today, commercial logistics is huge, and the intricate workings and processes that keep costs down and profits up while stocking grocery store shelves and shipping Amazon books to your doorstep are not simply a discipline–this is science. And then there’s the brilliant marketing explanation of this modern marvel of logistics: the UPS commercial from 2010, “That’s Logistics.”
I saw a while back that a military loggie, bemoaning the logistics that often go wrong (with rampant theft, mis-shipments, and so on) in places like Afghanistan, offered an alternate verse to the UPS “That’s Logistics” song:
When your food and supplies end up sold in Shanghai, that’s logistics.
Or maybe that’s just loggie humor. Which is a thing.