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NEWS | May 17, 2024

LARs go where the Army goes, keep the Army rolling along

By Michelle L. Gordon

Shortly before he left the Army in 1999, Jason Soto met “Mr. Bill'' at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Bill helped Soto’s aviation unit blend out damage on their weapons and taught the Soldiers how to complete additional repairs not found in the technical manuals. 

Unbeknownst to Soto at the time, Bill was a Logistics Assistance Representative. 

Now, 25 years later, Soto is a branch chief and career manager for LARs like Bill, who are stationed worldwide in support of the operational force.  

The Aviation and Missile Command has more than 200 LARs embedded with units across the Army to repair and sustain weapons systems on-site. Soto oversees approximately one-third of them, ensuring they are trained and ready to go when and where the Army goes.

“We’re called LARs, which stands for Logistics Assistance Representatives, but in actuality, logistics is just a small portion of it,” he said. “The primary function of a LAR is to assist and advise on maintenance issues, supply issues and really any issue you can imagine having to do with our equipment; we run the gamut. We are trying to save time and money and ensure that our warfighters have their equipment up and running in the shortest time possible.”

Although the LARs are civilians, they live and work with their assigned unit, even during deployments overseas and prolonged rotations through Army Combat Training Centers.

“Our units can depend on us and see us as one of them,” Soto said. “When the unit deploys, we deploy with them. The LARs sleep in tents, and they work out in the field.”

Soto said all of the current LARs are veterans, mostly Army, which helps with the mobile lifestyle and the knowledge base of the weaponry. He said recruiting can be a challenge. However, vacancies are announced internally before being opened to the public, allowing the LARs to move within the system on their terms rather than the needs of the Army — the biggest difference between them and their green-suiter counterparts. 

“We’re cut from a special cloth,” said Soto, who first became a LAR in 2006. “You sign a mobility agreement when you come on board, and you can expect to move at least once during your career. Now that I’m a hiring manager, that’s one of the discussions that I have with folks before I bring them on board. I want to make sure that they understand that it is part of the job. The only difference is you get to wear a blue shirt, and you can grow a beard. Otherwise, it’s just like being a Soldier again.”

The first 24 months of a new LAR’s career are spent in training, including several months at LAR University, located at Corpus Christi Army Depot in Texas, an AMCOM subordinate command and part of the Army’s organic industrial base. During this time, they learn about the large repairs and main issues LARs face. However, Soto said they also focus on the smaller items as well. 

“One of the big things we talk about is ‘the 100 little things,’” he said. “The 100 little things are when the LAR walks through the hangar or through the motor pool, and they look over and see a young Soldier struggling or doing something incorrectly. The LAR’s job is to say, ‘Hey, let me help you out with this.’ We spend a lot of time helping them understand how to read the literature — the technical manuals — and how to be more efficient and proficient with their tasks.”

Soto said LARs are critical to Army readiness because of their knowledge, as well as their ability to minimize weapons systems downtime.

“When you have a LAR working side-by-side with you with the knowledge and ability to provide airworthiness repair outside of the standard repair procedures, that’s a readiness enabler,” he said. “The LARs are a big part of the toolbox for any aviation and missile unit. Instead of sending that aircraft all the way back to Corpus Christi for repairs, your LAR can fix it right there on the spot. Now that aircraft gets fixed, it goes back into the fight instead of being gone for 18 to 24 months.”

Each unit typically has one LAR assigned to it, so they must possess a deep understanding of all of the equipment they support. Soto said it is essential for the LAR to not only earn the trust of the Soldiers in the unit but also teach and train them.

“Our rule is to try and train ourselves out of a job,” he said. “We're trying to train the Soldiers, so they are self-sufficient and don't have to rely on anybody. That's what we do.”