By Cmdr. Joe Symmes, Logistics Officer, Twenty Second Naval Construction Regiment Camp Frigaard, Trondheim, Norway
It’s 8 a.m. and still dark. Lt. j.g. Jordan Legaspi has been up for hours ensuring our fighting Seabees have the gear they need, the laundry is ready for pickup, and today’s allocation of meals, ready-to-eat (MRE) has been procured. Darkness doesn’t slow down operations in Frigaard, Norway. Light plants burn through the night, as the sun rises six minutes later each day this time of year.
Exercise Trident Juncture 2018 (TRJE 18) was an international exercise conducted across central and eastern Norway, and the surrounding areas of the North Atlantic and Baltic Seas, including Iceland and the airspace of Finland and Sweden. The exercise spanned three weeks, and incorporated 50,000 participants from 31 NATO and partner countries. More than 250 aircraft, 65 vessels, and close to 10,000 vehicles were used.
Seabees from Naval Construction Group Two (NCG 2) supported the Second Marine Expeditionary Force (2 MEF) under Second Marine Logistics Group (2nd MLG). Led by the staff from the Twenty Second Naval Construction Regiment (22 NCR), Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion One (NMCB 1), Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit Two Zero Two (CBMU 202) and Underwater Construction Team One (UCT 1) they performed basic camp support and project construction activities that provided valuable logistics response. TRJE 18 provided a chance for U.S. forces to exercise with NATO partners in a cold weather environment, while experiencing a beautiful country and reaffirming our long- standing partnership with our allies. The multilateral exercise solidified command relationships and refined command and control doctrine. For the Naval Construction Force (NCF), this was another chance to cement the long-standing partnership with the U.S. Marine Corps. When the Marines go downrange, Seabees are tasked with camp maintenance and habitability responsibilities. For Navy supply officers, this means working at the Echelon IV and V levels serving in the S4 at a Seabee battalion or in the R4 or N4 at regiment or group. These billets are an interesting blend of traditional Navy supply principles of inventory management and financial reports with unique NCF challenges like table of allowance management and class IV building materiel procurement. Deploying alongside their counterparts at the unit of action level, Navy SUPPOs support the Seabees both in the continental United States and on deployments overseas. It’s another cold and rainy day in central Norway. Legaspi is up early again, counting tire chains to outfit vehicles for a convoy later that day. As the R41 for 22 NCR and the senior officer for the regiment’s advanced party, Legaspi arrived in country a month before TRJE 18 kicked off. His primary duties consisted of coordinating camp maintenance and camp set-up onboard Vaernes Garrison and at Camp Frigaard. Legaspi put his naval expeditionary Supply Corps knowledge to practical use, helping manage camp layout restrictions. The coordination and logistics required to ensure camp utilities were laid out in a manner conducive to operations are a multi-sided problem, the nature of which Legaspi never had to tackle during his previous destroyer tour. Quite a bit different from the challenges of the afloat Navy, he learned first-hand that the “Seabees’ can-do spirit” is infectious and one of the most rewarding things about getting to work in this community. Logistics in an expeditionary environment is about relationships; working with host nation resources, combatant commands, other services, fleets, task forces, industry and even other government agencies who you know can make all the difference in this environment. Being able to effectively use these disparate resources to procure materiel and then knowing how to effectively leverage transportation assets are key to mission accomplishment. Good logisticians get ahead of many of these problems through detailed mission analysis. Getting involved early in operational planning efforts and making contact with key resource nodes are important. This community can be particularly interesting because of the non-traditional Navy supply chain challenges. Various classes of supply have to be sourced from places logistics specialists (LSs) don’t normally shop, and then the transportation plan has to be built to get those resources to the point of need. Out here, there is no combat logistics force coming to give you a hit. Responsible for all classes of supply, the R41 ensures his Seabees are fed, clothed, and supplied with enough building material to avoid a work stoppage. It isn’t easy planning— embarking, receiving, issuing, inventorying, storing, surveying, and disposing of this gear—all while simultaneously keeping the money flowing to support contracts that enable the Atlantic Coast Seabees to build and fight. For Legaspi, this means working side-by-side with his team of LSs to leverage his on-hand table of allowance inventory, the Navy stock system, the local Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) distribution center, or any number of other sources to procure what he needs. He then works with U.S. Transportation Command, DLA, and NAVSUP Weapon Systems Support to align the supply chain to distribute this materiel to the point of need. As the sun sets behind the mountain on the north side of Camp Frigaard, it’s only 3 p.m., and Legaspi still has a long night ahead. It might be snowing outside, but that doesn’t stop him from updating his logistics slide for the 2nd Marine Logistics Group’s commanders update brief later that evening. Later, he’ll meet with his LS2 to confirm their early morning logistics run to Trondheim for critical repair parts. The work is different from his disbursing officer tour on the DDG, but just as rewarding. At the end of the day, when he finally heads back to the berthing tent, he knows that for this camp, and these Seabees, he is their link to the Navy supply system and the primary way logistics requirements get filled.