By Lt. Josh Coffman, Logistics Officer, NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center Sigonella
With 50 countries and 24 languages in Europe alone, U.S. 6th Fleet is a unique theater with unique logistics challenges. Navigating logistics in U.S. 6th Fleet requires experience, leadership, and communication. The logistics support officer (LSO) embodies all of these qualities and is the primary logistics enabler used by NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center (FLC) Sigonella to ensure every port visit is a success.
LSOs have varying levels of experience and job scope depending on whether the LSO is a site LSO or headquarters LSO. The site LSO is typically a Supply Corps officer assigned to NAVSUP FLC Sigonella: Site Sigonella, Naples, Rota, or Souda Bay. He or she is responsible for tasking a division of Sailors and aligns local resources with ship requirements to ensure those requirements are met during port visits co-located with the FLC site. The site LSO also ensures materiel is properly flowing through the site using local assets to meet the ship in time for port visits in non-FLC site locations.
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The Operational Support Element (OSE) unloads pallets from trucks received from DLA Distribution Europe, located in Germersheim, Germany. The materiel was staged at RAF Mildenhall for further transfer. –photo by Lt. Mitchell Fuselier
Like the site LSO, the headquarters LSO aligns local resources with afloat unit requirements and provides training to site LSOs. The headquarters LSO is a subject matter expert (SME) in logistics support and typically brings anywhere from 10 to 20 years of logistics experience to the FLC. Many headquarters LSOs work in the NAVSUP FLC Sigonella Operations Department and have retired from prior service in a U.S. military branch. LSOs often travel to the port visit location, whether the port is located in proximity to an FLC site or not.
At the FLC site, the LSO voices the needs of the ship on a daily basis and coordinates installation organizations to meet these needs. Overseeing the movement of hazardous material (HAZMAT), cargo, mail, and food to or from the ship are all responsibilities of the site LSO. To accomplish these movements, the site LSO relies on the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) for trucks; Air Mobility Command (AMC) for flights; Air Cargo for aircraft loading and unloading; Commander, Task Force-63 (CTF-63) for scheduling and materiel movement; port operations for local pier space and material handling equipment (MHE) support; and public works department (PWD) for local duty vans and MHE.
Aside from leading materiel movements, the site LSO also trains Sailors to be logistics support representatives (LSRs) and ensures LSRs are qualified forklift drivers. The LSR is assigned to maintain communication with one or more ships and to report to the site LSO regarding the requirements of their assigned ships. The LSR follows the directions of the site LSO and can perform LSO functions in the absence of the site LSO.
Headquarters LSOs also act as trainers by publishing guidance and training site LSOs to help them overcome difficult logistics challenges. Mission accomplishment relies on good working relationships between headquarters LSOs and site LSOs as headquarters LSOs need to know who the LSOs at the sites are and what challenges the sites are experiencing.
Depending on the issue, headquarters LSOs will find an answer either by providing publication and experience driven logistics guidance, or support from another department (fuels, transportation, etc.). While port visits close to the FLC site are most easily supported, not all port visits fall into this category.
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NAVSUP FLC Sigonella Postal Operations Specialist Al Roque and Logistics Support Officer Vlad Narvaez deliver mail on their way to a port brief with the USS Forrest Sherman (DDG 98) team. –photo by Lt. Mitchell Fuselier
In cases where the port is not co-located with an FLC site, the LSO may need to travel to the port visit location to support the ship. Typically, the LSO travels to support high value units (HVUs) or support in locations where U.S Navy ships do not typically make port calls. In 2017 and 2018, Russia’s military posture shifted thefocus of ship operations and logistics support, as ships are operating outside the Mediterranean more frequently than in previous years. As a result, there is a steady demand for deployed LSO support to locations where there is no FLC site.
In fiscal year 2018, 125 of the 428 total port visits (29 percent) supported by NAVSUP FLC Sigonella did not take place at an FLC site. Of the non-FLC port visits, the United Kingdom was the most visited (46 times), followed by Norway (33 times). In fiscal year 2017, 80 of the 378 total port visits (21 percent) supported by NAVSUP FLC Sigonella did not take place at an FLC site. Of the non-FLC port visits, the United Kingdom was the most visited (49 times), followed by Norway (37 times).
When at the pier for a port visit, the LSO is not alone when working with the ship. There is communication that takes place with multiple SMEs. NAVSUP FLC Sigonella contracting officers (KOs), U.S. 6th Fleet contract officer representatives (CORs), husbanding service providers (HSPs), transportation specialists, embassy liaisons, and shipboard supply officers (SUPPOs) all have a part to play before, during, and after the port visit.
Routinely, the LSO is working alongside the COR and the SUPPO to ensure a variety of tasks are completed such as on-loading or off-loading mail, disposing of HAZMAT, scheduling crane services, inspecting receipt of cargo or fuel, moving MHE, liaising with the U.S. Embassy, and coordinating requirements with the HSP. A capable LSO is able to work through the nuances of each port visit and find in the moment solutions.