BY LT. JESSICA CHAMBERLAIN, SC, USN
ASSISTANT OPERATIONS OFFICER
NAVSUP FLEET LOGISTICS CENTER JACKSONVILLE
In Aug. 2017, Hurricane Harvey made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane with winds near 130 miles per hour, catastrophically impacting the Texas Gulf Coast region.
While NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center (FLC) Jacksonville site directors were assisting in recovering base operations at Naval Air Station (NAS) Corpus Christi, NAS Kingsville, and NAS Fort Worth, Texas, they faced the increasing demands to support the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s operations in the region. This demand signal, coupled with another hurricane (Hurricane Irma) developing right behind Harvey, prompted the decision to activate a NAVSUP enterprise logistics response team (ELRT).
[caption id="attachment_7578" align="aligncenter" width="500"]
Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) with ELRT members in Key West. Front Row: LSC Genedine Cabrera, CNO Adm. John Richardson, LS1 Geronimo Jimenez, LS2 Regina Leuty. Back Row: Lt.j.g. John Waurio, LS1 James Wade, LS2 Joseph Clugston, LSSN Jeannette Rangel, and LS1 Steven Morones.
What is an ELRT? An ELRT is a team of trained personnel who can be activated from another NAVSUP FLC to enhance NAVSUP’s global reach by providing supported commands the leverage to source capability and capacity without overtaxing the local workforce. NAVSUP FLCs San Diego and Puget Sound became the supporting commands providing personnel to form an ELRT in response to Hurricane Irma. A total of 26 people were tasked to aid NAVSUP FLC Jacksonville. Both NAVSUP FLC Puget Sound and NAVSUP FLC San Diego deployed 13 each to support the affected bases.
On the evening of Sept. 11, NAVSUP FLC Jacksonville Commanding Officer Capt. Matt Ott officially activated NAVSUP’s first ELRT. By Sept. 13, the ELRT personnel were at NAS Jacksonville where they received an indoctrination, assignments, gear issue, and area of responsibility awareness briefings.
ELRT members assisted with getting base and supply operations reconstituted at NAS Key West. Originally seven members went to Key West to help the supply mission essential personnel, but due to the amount of assistance required and severity of damages, four more personnel were quickly dispatched. At one point, the ELRT accounted for more than 55 percent of the Key West supply department staffing.
Six members traveled to Naval Station (NS) Mayport to assist with the emergency outfitting and warehouse operations. Three members remained in Jacksonville to supplement and support the contracting, operations, and regional watchstanding responsibilities.
Another six members went to NS Guantanamo Bay to assist with the logistical support with the increased number of U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard vessels.
[caption id="attachment_7579" align="aligncenter" width="500"]
ELRT members LS2 Joseph Clugston, LS2 Steven Zybert, LS2 Christopher Edmondson, and Lt.j.g. John Waurio palletizing a shipment of meals in a hangar bay at NAS Jacksonville. –photo by Lt. Jessica Chamberlain
The ELRT contracting officer was subsequently transferred to NAVSUP FLC Norfolk to support emergent recovery efforts in the Caribbean region due to Hurricane Maria.
As NAVSUP FLC Jacksonville began tracking Hurricane Irma, the storm quickly escalated into a Category 5 hurricane as it passed over Puerto Rico, Cuba, and eventually making landfall in the Florida Keys Sept. 10. Three states declared a state of emergency, the President signed a Federal State of Emergency, and thousands of people throughout Florida evacuated. Many bases reduced staff to mission essential personnel (MEP) only and sites like NAS Key West started to evacuate all personnel, including MEP.
Hurricane Irma severely damaged NAS Key West, with less severe damage at NAS Jacksonville and NS Mayport. NAS Jacksonville was back open for normal business on Sept. 13 as it was less affected by the hurricane, and NS Mayport was back to normal operation by Sept. 18. NS Guantanamo Bay became the support base for more than twenty displaced U. S. Navy and U. S. Coast Guard vessels operating in the Caribbean waters.
ELRT is not a new concept within the supply community, but its limits, capabilities, and capacity to support the mission had not been fully tested. As the first operational activation, ELRT was tested in ways no exercise would ever be able to mimic.
ELRT members can deploy within 72 hours in support of a dynamic, evolving operation, with each member providing their own capabilities, skillsets, and prior humanitarian experiences to the team.
The team had to overcome challenges with communications and adapting to all the moving pieces. The operational environment was constantly changing due to the majority of communication channels being down, facilities damage, and the influx of people moving between the different areas. Ensuring the ELRT had current information and establishing command and control with a group working together for the first time in four different physical locations was a challenge, but the team quickly came together.
With power down in many areas, and less affected bases receiving evacuees and their families, all available assets were being used. Everyday tasks such as arranging lodging and transportation were more complicated. Defense Transportation System (DTS) played a bigger piece than anticipated. Though various locations may be authorized, knowing how to change orders to include specific locations was important. With rental cars, larger vehicles needed to be authorized to ensure members and extra baggage could be moved when government vehicles were not available. Going into an area affected by intense storms, team members may not be berthed in the same barracks, building, or hotel and they may not have the expected amenities.
The ELRT members quickly adapted to the arduous environment in the wake of Irma. Their ability to use on-hand materials and equipment proved vital in finding the needed solutions to keep the Navy supply operation active and responsive. ELRT is a key ready and responsive resource that proved its value and will be used again in the future to meet NAVSUP mission of “providing supplies, services, and quality-of-life support to the Navy and Joint warfighter.”