Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) Fleet Logistics Center Yokosuka Site Marianas functioned as the servicing Logistics Support Center for the annual Pacific Partnership mission from May 31 to August 7, 2013.
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Sailors inventory medical supplies aboard USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52) in preparation for Pacific Partnership 2013. (Photo by MC3 Tim Godbee)
Site Marianas deployed three Logistics Support Representatives in support of the USS Pearl Harbor’s (LSD 52) Supply department to extremely remote locations of the South Western Pacific islands. FLC Yokosuka Logistics Support Representatives (LSR) deployed to Samoa, Tonga, and the Marshall Islands.
The Pacific Partnership 2013 exercise commenced in Samoa and transitioned through six of the southwestern pacific islands, ending in the Solomon Islands. This year’s exercise was note worthy because of the austere environments, draught conditions in the Pacific region, the remote locations and the expeditionary mind frame. Adding to these unique challenges was the fact that the Military Sealift Command’s Combat Logistics Force was supporting Talisman Saber 2013, as well as supporting the Pacific Partnership 2013 exercise, so both exercises had competing priorities for scarce resources.
USS Pearl Harbor’s first replenishment at sea (RAS) could not be scheduled for more than a month after the first port visit. In essence, the LSR became the prime vendor.
Lt. Dave Couchman, Logistics Support Officer at NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka Site Sasebo, deployed to Tonga for the second port visit of the Pacific Partnership 2013 exercise and provided direct support to USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52) as the LSR under the operational control of FLC Yokosuka Site Marianas.
By sourcing local markets around Tonga, Lt. Couchman drove an approximate 94 percent fill rate for fresh fruits and vegetables (FFV). This involved face-to-face communications with dozens of vendors around Tongatapu Island. From open-air markets, convenience stores and indoor markets, Pearl Harbor S-2 leadership and Lt. Couchman scoured the island for the best combination of price and quality. At indoor markets, the team was able to speak with managers and tour freezers to inspect provisions with the ship’s force Hospital Corpsmen to ensure quality and freshness. Far from the traditional supply lines, payments were handled the old-fashioned way of cash on delivery through the ship’s Disbursing officer.
LSR joined the working party and properly crated the FFV for delivery. Since Pearl Harbor was anchored nearly 10 miles away, all deliveries were done via LCAC with assistance from the embarked 30th Naval Construction Regiment forklift operators.
While a Deployed Contracting Officer (DKO) handles the humanitarian assistance mission side, the LSR takes care of the ship. Defining these funding streams and clearly understanding the requirements from both sides can be challenging, but through robust communication with the leaders aboard Pearl Harbor, DKO, Mission N4, and the LSR were able to contribute to a successful and dynamic port visit. Lt. Couchman was able to add value in several untraditional roles, and had a truly positive impact on the Pacific Partnership 2013 mission.
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Lt. Dave Couchman, Logistics Support Officer at NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka, Site Sasebo, coordinates delivery of locally procured vegetables in Tongatapu, Tonga. He recently deployed to the FLC Yokosuka Site Marianas Area of Responsibility in support of Pacific Partnership 2013.
“We were able to add significant value in defining appropriate funding streams and aggressively meet the Pearl Harbor’s requirements in conjunction with the deployed contracting officer from Fleet Logistics Yokosuka and Glenn Defense Marine, the husbanding agent for Region Three,” Lt. Couchman noted.
The LSR also took on the material-expediting role from tracking TP1 material, to navigating the murky waters of customs clearance and realizing successful deliveries. The LSR had to be creative and responsive at all the ports. “Through persistent effort and sweat labor, we were able to realize 100 percent delivery of shipped items and clear a two-week backlog of material with the Tonga Defense Services and Immigration Agency in less than a day,” Lt. Couchman explained.
The relatively seamless process of mail delivery can often be taken for granted until applied to an absolute austere location challenged by the tyranny of distance. Through careful coordination with Joint Military Postal Activity, Pacific and the FLC Yokosuka Regional Postal Manager, Mike Arnold, the team identified a small window of opportunity to deliver mail prior to the ship’s departure from Tonga. A storm grounded flights in New Zealand denying our window of opportunity to ultimately succeed, however, this demonstrates the value added of the LSR forward deployed with ‘boots on the ground.’
“The challenge of mail delivery enabled us to create new and unchartered routes, face-to-face communications with New Zealand Air Cargo terminals, and a crash course in the Tongan postal system,” Lt. Couchman said. “We now have the lessons learned to integrate into future Pacific Partnership operations.”
“The Pacific Partnership endeavor was truly a grassroots logistics effort very unique to this mission and the Pacific area of responsibility,” noted Lt. Cmdr. Reed. “Through the combined knowledge base, experiences, and ingenuity of our respective FLC Yokosuka Sites, we were able to provide meaningful support to the warfighter where it was truly needed the most.”
By Lt. Cmdr. Charles “Med” Reed, Logistics Support Officer, NAVSUP FLCY Site Marianas
Lt. Dave Couchman, Logistics Support Officer, NAVSUP FLCY Site Sasebo