I’ve had the desire to serve overseas ever since I began my Navy career. Deployments over ocean with experiences at famed straits and ports of call were events I looked forward to having. Deploying to a land-locked austere environment was the furthest thing from my mind, but I’m glad to have had the opportunity to serve in this capacity.
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A DLA Disposition Services contractor demilitarizing a MRAP vehicle, one of the services efforts DLA DS provides to support war fighter retrograde efforts from Afghanistan.
I currently serve as the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) Support Team’s Bagram Detachment (DST BAF) Commander. The DLA Support Team is comprised of deployed military and civilian personnel, and is an essential element in the vital logistics support partnership between DLA and its many customers in theater. The primary commands that DST BAF engages are the U.S. Army’s 101st Sustainment Brigade and the 401st Army Field Support Brigade (AFSB). Our team coordinates food, energy, barrier materials, and repair parts requirements for U.S. and Coalition forces throughout Regional Commands North and East.
While there has been a bit of a learning curve, the Sustainment Brigade has served as a great partner helping me quickly get up to speed. After several weeks, I was integrated as a fully-fledged member of the team. One of the biggest lessons learned is that the demand signal from the customer is extremely dynamic. Mission requirements, theater manning levels, and changes in Operations Tempo (OPTEMPO) routinely impact our customers’ needs and decisions with respect to logistics requirements.
Serving at DLA Headquarters as the Deputy, Stock Positioning before this deployment has been a cornerstone to successfully aligning DLA’s capabilities with customer needs. My DLA tour provided me a firsthand account of how the DLA claimancy uses its supply chain resources to support the warfighter worldwide. Additionally, deploying in this environment provided the opportunity to see the immediate and positive on-ground impacts that our supply chains have.
As the Army shifted its focus on commodity requirement levels during the fighting season, our team has acted as a liaison between the warfighter and the DLA supply chains. We are constantly engaging the customer, ensuring that we provide the right quantities of our wholesale assets with routine velocity. It’s a balancing act … one that DLA Aviation, DLA Troop Support, DLA Energy, DLA Land and Maritime, and DLA Distribution are providing consistently ahead of customer expectations.
Disposition Services are a clearly focused priority for our efforts here in Afghanistan. DLA Disposition Services serves as a foundational organization with respect to maintaining withdrawal timelines. Theater operations are run by Navy Supply Corps Cmdr. Darin Perrine, who stated, “The organization has been fully engaged with the customer and has created Hub Based Disposal Organization (HBDO) sites throughout theater. These locations allow our customers to turn in materials to sites closer to their locations for a more customer friendly approach.”
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Cmdr. Turner reviews Meals Ready to Eat (MRE) plans for future retail level deliveries with 101St Sustainment Brigade's CW3 Wisniewski. CLI (Food) is one of several commodities DLA manages to support warfighters in Afghanistan.
“We are prepared to support changes in material receipt velocity, tonnage, and disposition requirements,” he added. “DLA DS is fully engaged.”
The deployment has brought to light the difficulties of support in an active combat environment. Moving commodities in this environment is difficult. Being in an active combat zone requires that we take specific security precautions and risks. A convoy’s travels, which would take hours back home, take days, even weeks. The mountainous terrain, varied climates and kinetic activities drivers experience apply pressure and can affect our ability to support the customer. Still, our soldiers and the Afghan Nationals who serve as drivers on many of our convoys meet these challenges head on with great success.
DLA’s ability to overcome these obstacles and continue to meet customer requirements is impressive. One example is how DLA Energy Middle East’s Navy Liaison Officer, Lt. Cmdr. Eric Lockett, ensured 100 percent fuel flow and availability despite the intense challenges. “During periods of reduced ground lines of communication availability in the arduous environment of the Salang Tunnel, we were able to consume pre-positioned strategic stocks to ensure optimum fuel support throughout the CJOA-A,” Lt. Cmdr. Lockett said.
Our customers are impressive. During the course of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), the customer base has become educated about how DLA supports the war fighter. They have become very aware of what DLA offers, and how to best use our services and products to support their main efforts. Some of the senior leaders here have completed tours with DLA.
Deploying and serving in this capacity has been something I’ve wanted to do. The work here is very important, and it provides an opportunity to understand first hand not just how our sister services approach logistics problem sets, but why they approach them in the manner that they do. It helps to make us more well versed and well rounded Navy officers.
I’m appreciative of this tour and everything I’ve learned.
By Cmdr. Alsandro Turner, SC, USN; Commander, DLA Support Team, Bagram