By Karla Gabel, Office Of Supply Corps Personnel, Naval Supply Systems Command
The United Nations (UN) Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) was established to support political processes in the country and carry out a number of security-related tasks, helping to stabilize Mali. In 2017, two Supply Corps officers were selected for individual augmentation (IA) deployments in support of MINUSMA. Cmdr. Frank Kim served in Timbuktu and Lt. Cmdr. Tamara Sonon served in Gao. In this interview, Ms. Karla Gabel, with the Office of Supply Corps Personnel (OP), spoke with Cmdr. Kim about his experience.
Could you please tell me about yourself? Cmdr. Kim:
I’m approaching 18 years in the Navy. My first assignment was on the USS Valley Forge (CG-50). I deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom with the Constellation Battle Group. I then went to Naval Medical Center, San Diego and was attached to USNS Mercy (T-AH-19). I deployed with Mercy in lieu of the tsunamis that hit Indonesia and Thailand in 2004 and 2005. After my tour in San Diego, my wife and I moved to Sasebo, Japan where I reported to USS Essex (LHD-2). During my operational tour on Essex, I was selected for the 811 program and in 2008 attended the University of Kansas. Upon graduation in 2009, I was assigned to Fleet Industrial Supply Center (FISC) San Diego, which is now NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center (FLC) San Diego. In 2012, I was assigned to USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and in 2014, I was selected for a Training With Industry (TWI) fellowship at ExxonMobil. I was then detailed to NAVSUP Weapon Systems Support (WSS) in Philadelphia. It was during this current tour that I was selected for the IA to Timbuktu, Mali. Upon redeployment in November 2017, I returned to NAVSUP WSS and will be moving to COMLOG WESTPAC in Singapore later this summer. I have a wife who is a former Supply Corps officer. How did you find out about this assignment? Cmdr. Kim:
The IA assignment was advertised through the Supply Corps Detailers at Personnel (PER S) and passed to NAVSUP Headquarters to field the billet. NAVSUP WSS was selected to provide the personnel for the IA and, from there, I was on a short list of people qualified for the assignment.
Could you tell me about your predeployment training? Cmdr. Kim:
Induction was at Navy Expeditionary Combat Readiness Center (ECRC), and then Survival Evasion Resistance Escape (SERE ) School B in San Antonio, Texas. Upon completion of the ECRC and SERE Training, pre-deployment training was conducted in Winchester, Virginia. During the pre-deployment training, all personnel received extensive training on tactical driving, tactical combat casualty care (TCCC), and small arms weapons, including the M4 and M9. How did your career path prepare you for this job? Cmdr. Kim:
Operational and staff experience helped me to better understand my customer, and having a petroleum background helped tremendously. The biggest enabler for this job was my education and Joint Professional Military Education (JPME 1). I was deployed with a team of eight people in Timbuktu, and it was a Joint assignment. The team was led by an Army lieutenant colonel, but we also had people from the Marine Corps, Air Force, and Army. What did the job entail? Cmdr. Kim:
I was a logistics advisor, on paper. But, I was actually a consultant to UN forces. We trained, advised, and consulted brigade-level and battalion-level staff on plans generation and mission execution. Much of the training focused on execution of the military decision making process (MDMP). The UN has its own variant of this process called the Military Component Planning Process (MCPP). In my particular field, I was a logistics advisor, so I worked directly with the G4 chief (director) and I advised him on planning theater-level logistics support and execution of orders. How did the experience you gained on this job help your career? What did it add to your “toolbox?” Cmdr. Kim:
I added additional qualification designations (AQDs) to my toolbox, including a U6U (Military Observer Peacekeeping Operation) and a J4L (Joint Logistics). I also obtained a 919 AQD because my IA deployment was in excess of 180 days. The UN has completely different processes than the U.S. military, and I am attuned to those processes now because I had to deal with them throughout my deployment. What was the biggest “lesson learned” from this job? Cmdr. Kim:
As a community, we need to be prepared to deploy to austere environments. All the gear that I had was the stuff I carried with me from the United States. I had to learn how to sustain myself. I ate a lot of MREs and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for months on end. We didn’t have our own dining facility (DFAC) and we didn’t have a gym. We did have a small PX, which we used to sustain ourselves. Do you have any advice to help prepare future Supply Corps officers who take this assignment? Cmdr. Kim:
Joint education is a necessity for this assignment. The mindset and lexicon used is completely different from that of maritime logistics or maritime operations. Having reach back and a communication plan within the Supply Corps is absolutely essential. Supply Corps officers are known to be able to go anywhere, quickly figure out the lay of the land, move and react, and be able to fit in. That’s kind of what we’re known for.