Bracing for the storm: Exercise helps Troop Support prep for 2018 hurricane season

By John Dwyer III DLA Troop Support Public Affairs

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To prepare for the June 1 start of the hurricane season, the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support conducted a two-day exercise simulating the impact of a category four hurricane on the mid-Atlantic coast.

After a devastating 2017 season, Troop Support senior leaders and key personnel who supported last year’s relief operations knew that incorporating lessons learned would be crucial to planning for the 2018 season.

“This exercise is a great opportunity,” Taylor Frazier III, DLA’s Rapid Deployment Team operations officer, said. “We can take all of the successes and the lessons learned and capitalize on them to improve on our coordination, processes and procedures and set DLA up for success going into the 2018 [hurricane] season.”

Last year, DLA supported the Federal Emergency Management Agency and U.S. Northern Command with approximately 88.1 million meals, 738 lines of pharmaceuticals, 1,264 generators and hundreds of thousands of gallons of water, according to the DLA liaison to FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Xavier Villarreal.

And predictions by Colorado State University hurricane researchers are forecasting more storms for 2018 than initially predicted this time last year for the 2017 season.

The exercise began with a review of the 2017 hurricane season, as well as briefings from U.S. Northern Command and FEMA liaisons. The briefings emphasized the importance of each organization working together.

“The key element of success in this area of operations is cooperation,” according to Ralph Laurie, DLA’s liaison to U.S. Northern Command.

After the review, representatives from Troop Support’s supply chains involved in disaster relief operations – Subsistence, Clothing and Textiles, Construction and Equipment, and Medical – responded to the fictional “Hurricane Cora” making landfall over the mid-Atlantic coast.

“We chose this area based on where a real possibility of landfall would coincide with a mix of Troop Support’s vendors and warehouses are located,” according to Army Lt. Col. Latrina Lee, Troop Support’s chief of current operations and one of the exercise planners. “We wanted to make sure it was realistic and challenging to reflect what this year might bring.”

Based on the scenario’s impact, Troop Support exercise organizers said their intent was to challenge supply chains with multiple issues, such as:

  • Can current contracted companies fulfill obligations in support of the disaster and ongoing warfighter support?

  • Are there sufficient levels of stock to support the initial hurricane response?

  • Is there a plan to support additional and/or new contract requirements?

  • How will competition for resources effect ongoing warfighter support?

According to Christopher Mullen, a logistics system analyst for Subsistence, the relationships the supply chain has with its industry partners enables effective support.

“With our widely based prime vendor network and the relationships we have with them, we are well poised for this type of event,” said Mullen. “It all comes down to early and often coordination with FEMA and DLA Distribution to make sure the right stuff gets where it needs to go when it needs to be there.”

During the exercise summary discussion, the other supply chain representatives echoed Mullen. Lee was pleased with the outcome.

“I think that the players did a good job in assessing the scenario and addressing the requirements,” Lee said. “Every disaster is different, but with last year’s experiences and the relationships Troop Support has with USNORTHCOM and FEMA, I think we’re as ready as we can be.”