It's getting real: annual exercise adds complexity

By Jake Joy DLA Disposition Services

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Rows of stainless steel industrial refrigerators gleamed in the sun, silently awaiting their destruction. Nearby, more rows of broken treadmills, aging rowboats and dilapidated FEMA-issued travel campers used by displaced victims of weather emergencies all queued for the same fate.

This seemingly random collection of property had been amassed by the Michigan National Guard for a final mission: to be removed from its property books and disappeared from the Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center by the Defense Logistics Agency and its expeditionary civilian and military reverse logisticians.   

DLA Disposition Services personnel have come from all over the world to Michigan’s Camp Grayling and Fort Custer as part of the 2018 Overseas Contingency Operations Readiness Training, or OCORT, combining agency readiness needs with real-life customer turn-in opportunities for two weeks in June.

Camp Grayling Garrison Commander, Army Col. Ed Hallenbeck, and Command Sgt. Maj. John Engel said they wanted to personally witness the scrapping process at their base – the largest in the entire National Guard – and arranged for a tour of the exercise site.

“I think the support is fantastic. It helps us out a tremendous amount, so we’re not adding to the waste stream, and the ability to put some money back into DoD is a good thing,” Hallenbeck said. “We’re very happy this came together for Camp Grayling and Fort Custer.”

The two installation leaders visited the exercise June 14, where they were briefed on DLA Disposition Services capabilities and witnessed firsthand as their unwanted property was crunched, torched and shredded into scrap that will fund installation accounts through a local scrap sales contract.

“Normally, a customer wouldn’t get to see this. It’s a unique opportunity,” said Camp Grayling Site Chief Eric Ray, a West region environmental office monitor out of San Diego who took part in his first OCORT this year. “Some of this property has been really difficult for [the garrison] to get rid of.”  

He said most of the exercise participants he was supervising at Grayling had previous deployment experience and “they’re very capable.” Exercise planners expected to cater to all the branches of the armed services, the U.S. Coast Guard and federal organizations during OCORT ’18.

“It’s been a team effort,” Ray said. “The best thing about it has been how well the civilians and military have worked together. It’s been one mission, one team, one focus from the beginning.”

Loren Ringo, the DLA Disposition Services disposal support representative who covers Michigan bases, said exercise planners wanted to up the stakes in exercise realism by adding an OCORT site three hours away from where it was previously held. Trainees had to receive and account for expeditionary site components, set up a full-service disposal yard, and lodge in barracks to emulate the field conditions that could occur on a contingency deployment.  

“The reason we reached up [to Grayling] was geographic location, and they had a lot of property up here. It saves them a lot of money and it tests our capabilities by having to ship our stuff,” Ringo said. “Every year, it’s getting better and better. It’s more realistic to have it up [at Grayling] because you can’t say ‘I forgot this, I forgot this.’”

Navy Logistics Specialist 1st Class David Freeman, a member of Disposal Support Unit 2 out of Anniston, Alabama, has deployed multiple times for the agency and attended his fourth OCORT iteration at Grayling. He said the exercise his consistently grown stronger.

“OCORT planning and execution has become a lot more smooth,” Freeman said. “A real-world scenario with real customers adds to it, and this base really needs our services, so it’s really great that we can get out here.”  

The DLA Disposition Services Joint Team Lead, U.S. Navy Capt. Katherine Boyce, visited the Grayling site June 15 to see how the exercise was progressing and how personnel from her six deployable disposal teams were faring. She received various briefs on equipment, facility and communications capabilities and took questions and recommendations from participants on training and deployment practices and policies.

“I like seeing my [team members] out here, in action, in a non-classroom environment. Hooyah!” Boyce said.

OCORT ’18 will end June 23. Next year’s exercise may further increase the complexity level, with preliminary plans to stage an exercise site outside the continental U.S.