This edition of the Supply Corps Newsletter focuses on the global logistics network. What exactly, is the global logistics network? Joint Pub 4-0, “Joint Logistics” gives us a very thorough description of the Joint Logistics Enterprise – another name for this complex network of Department of Defense, interagency, nongovernmental, multinational, and industrial organizations working together to project and sustain the Joint Force. I won’t try to compete with JP 4-0 and I recommend you give it a read if you haven’t looked at it recently; but what I would like to do is give a recent, real-world example of the global logistics network in action that we experienced here in Defense Logistics Agency (DLA).
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Service members board an Air Force C-17 Globemaster III at Roberts International Airport, Liberia, during Operation United Assistance. DLA employees were on the ground orchestrating logistics support before most troops arrived in country. Photo by Air Force Staf f Sgt. Gustavo Gonzalez
On Sept 16, 2014, as President Obama was announcing plans for Operation United Assistance (OUA), the U.S. response to efforts to contain the spread of Ebola in West Africa, DLA Europe & Africa Commander Army Colonel Elizabeth Delbridge-Keough was already on a plane to Liberia with U.S. Army Africa Command officials. A trip that was originally supposed to be a two-day reconnaissance party quickly became the advance detachment of a Joint Task Force (JTF), and Col. Keough found herself as the DLA Support Team (DST) Commander for what would eventually surge to a 40-person DLA team. The logistics support effort in OUA was a resounding success. A tight-knit collaboration between many participants across the logistics enterprise - AFRICOM, USTRANSCOM, JTF-OUA, DLA, and USAID, just to name a few.
From the outset of the operation, the theme of the response was speed. Even as the JTF was taking shape, DLA began leaning forward–anticipating what supplies would be needed on the ground and pushing the initial shipments of food, water, tents and cots. DLA Distribution began pre-positioning materiel, much of which was consolidated at Defense Distribution Depot Europe in Germersheim, Germany. In addition to providing sustainment for forces deployed in support of OUA, DLA needed to provide support for the 17 Ebola Treatment Units that were planned for construction across Liberia. DLA contingency contracting officers began purchasing building materials from local vendors to speed the acquisition of materiel quickly and efficiently.
The DLA Joint Logistics Operations Center (JLOC) was already operating on a 24/7 battle rhythm in support of operations and exercises around the world, and they quickly incorporated DST-OUA into their efforts. Unity of effort was enabled through the DST Commander, who was embedded with the JFC Commander. Col. Keough was able to identify requirements in near real time and communicate those requirements quickly across the Agency via the JLOC. In addition to their contact with the DST, the JLOC also maintained close contact with other partners such as USAID and the Army Corps of Engineers. At the same time that DLA was deploying its personnel, TRANSCOM was also deploying Joint Task Force – Port Opening (JTF-PO) to provide strategic distribution capability within the theater.
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DLA Troop Support made sure service members deployed to the Barclay Training Center in Monrovia, Liberia, had more to eat than standard ready-to-eat meals. Troops there and at other locations throughout Liberia began receiving hot meals by early November. Photo by Army Staff Sgt. Terrance D. Rhodes
The DLA field activities were also engaged in the effort. DLA Land and Maritime and DLA Aviation identified common repair parts for forward movement before the actual units deployed. DLA Troop Support led what became literally a global effort to source, produce, and ship medical protective gear. DLA Distribution established an expeditionary depot capability, complete with satellite connectivity, to the Distribution Standard System, DLA Distribution’s warehousing system. Even DLA Disposition Services played a role in the effort establishing regulated waste disposal capability through contracts in western Africa.
Throughout the operation, logistics were never the constraint on the JTF Commander’s operations, which is as it should be. By leaning forward and anticipating the need rather than waiting to react to it, the logisticians were able to stay ahead of the requirements.
So what were the lessons learned from DLA’s experience in OUA? Successful employment of the global logistics network is a team effort, there is no one activity that can do it alone. It requires the capabilities and skills of many players – coordinated and aligned towards a unified objective. When properly engaged and energized, the global logistics network provides tremendous capability; giving the Joint Force Commander with freedom of operation and serving as a true combat multiplier.
By Capt. Doug Noble, SC, USN, Executive Officer, Defense Logistics Agency