By Lt. Tam Colbert, Logistics Support Officer,
NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center Norfolk
In the NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center (FLC) Norfolk Logistics Support Center (LSC), we pride ourselves on integrating support services, moving workload off afloat units, and providing the afloat supply officer (SUPPO) with a shore-based surrogate. LSC personnel coordinate husbanding and material processing services for ships home-ported or visiting our area of responsibility.
The Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group’s recent deployment, where the ship returned to her homeport of Naval Station Norfolk, along with some of her battlegroup, for a five week “working port visit” presented a unique challenge.
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Alric Best, a logistics support representative from NAVSUP FLC Norfolk, discusses the on-load of material with members of the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) Supply Department.
Our goal is to be the “easy button” for ships and battlegroups we service, taking some of the burden off shipboard SUPPOs and enlisted logistics specialists during the build-up to the deployment and while the ship is underway. Thankfully, our team of nine personnel directly assigned to the battlegroup, along with the support of our entire 31-person team, was more than up to the task.
This deployment pattern is in line with a new defense strategy aimed at deployment patterns being “strategically predictable, but operationally unpredictable.” The challenge for us was that this unpredictability truly tested the flexibility and adaptability of my team.
Shortly after the carrier strike group left, we saw a couple of signs that this would not be a normal deployment. For starters, not all of the ship’s materiel was forwarded to her next port-of-call. We also noticed the fleet freight routing instructions were all different for the ships within the strike group.
Needless to say, this was not like what we experience with most deployments. Due to the Dynamic Force Employment (DFE) concept, the ship was unable to communicate with us that she would return to Norfolk earlier than expected and would only stay for a short time before getting back underway. We found out later than normal when the ship would return, which required increased flexibility on our part.
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Alaric Best examines the manifest for a parts delivery for USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) to ensure accuracy.
In addition to the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group, we had other responsibilities this summer, including support to other major operational events including the USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) Amphibious Readiness Group Marine Integration Group Exercise and the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) Carrier Strike Group Sail. Balancing workloads among our active duty and civilian personnel, we were able to meet customers’ needs up and down the waterfront.
This also required us to leverage our great relationships with our vendors. The volume of the orders and their size increased significantly. We alerted the vendors to the demand surge as soon as we found out. This allowed them to work with their suppliers and adjust their inventory accordingly. For the long lead-time items that wouldn’t be available until after the ships’ departure date, we communicated with the ships so they could order acceptable substitute items. During the time in Norfolk, we processed 102 provision orders valued at $3.7 million. Additionally, we coordinated the deliveries and on load of 1,835 pallets of food and more than 500 pallets of general stock material.
While this represented a change in how we normally execute, getting the ships ready for underway and deployment is what we do here day in and day out, so this was not a huge change for us once we knew what the requirements would be.
We learned after the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group returned to Norfolk that the second phase of the deployment would be very different from the first and “non-traditional.” We also learned that a small working group was working for months to establish a new logistics pipeline and concept of operation for how materiel would flow to the ships.
We worked with the group to fine-tune the details of the plan, such as establishing the ideal cut-off dates for freight forwarding; transporting hazardous materials; and other important factors and capabilities to consider as the group conducted the site survey of the different material distribution locations, organic and inorganic. Once the group returned from the site survey, we advised on the best course of action based on the resources available.
At the same time, we brought our logistic partners, the Priority Material Office (PMO) and Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) Distribution Norfolk, up to speed and worked with them to formulate the best action plan to support the carrier strike group with the newly established logistics concept of operation in mind.
For the Navy, the DFE concept requires flexibility. For us, flexibility has always been a major part of our DNA. Missions and schedules constantly change and for us to remain relevant and agile to the fleet, we have to be flexible to adapt and adjust with the requirements.
No two days are alike here at the LSC.
–photos by Jim Kohler