July 1, 2018 —
The Defense Logistics Agency’s strategic plan
emphasizes global posture
and strong partnerships
— tenets that members of DLA Distribution’s
Unit Materiel Fielding Point team applied to achieve the ultimate mission: putting the warfighter first — when the demand was great but time was not.
In early 2018, U.S. Army Security Assistance Command submitted a foreign military sales case to the UMFP valued at more than $6 million. The UMFP team faced the monumental task of shipping nearly 300,000 uniform items to the Iraqi security forces in a short amount of time.
Items included more than 43,000 sets of desert camouflage uniform tops and trousers, as well as combat boots, knit caps, undergarments and gloves. Clothing and textile vendors expedited a ground shipment to New Cumberland, Pennsylvania, for consolidation and onward movement for air shipment from Dover Air Force Base, Delaware.
Jay Lightner, a supervisory distribution facilities specialist and supervisor of the UMFP team, said the team, which acts as a freight forwarder for Afghanistan and Iraq, had supported the Iraqi security forces for several years but never before received such a high-volume requirement.
“It came down from USASAC about this large uniform buy,” he said. “They were able to provide us with the stock numbers and document numbers associated with this order. They let us know that this was going to be high visibility, high priority, and that everything needed to be sent on air pallets through Dover [Air Force Base].”
The uniforms were provided from existing stock and transported to New Cumberland for consolidation.
“Anything our foreign partners order through the supply system, whether it’s from the 26 depots or straight from the vendors, has to come through here; we act as their consolidation point,” Lightner said. “We had a very short lead time on this one for the Iraqi soldiers. As fast as it came in my door, it needed to go back out my door to them.”
Lightner said it took five days to receive the items from the vendor. Once his team consolidated, netted and processed the shipment, the operation was turned over to Bryan Flynn, chief of the transportation division.
“This was a coordinated effort with Bryan’s folks in transportation to move the trucks from here to the aerial port because there were set flights [to transport] this stuff.”
Shipments to Iraq must first enter Kuwait, which requires a slightly different configuration of air pallets because of the aircraft the foreign partners use.
“There were about 280 air pallets with specialty markings for them,” Lightner said. He explained that the Iraqi forces needed to be able to easily identify the shipment. “We sent them a copy of the placard to let them know to be on the lookout for it.”
From the vendor’s hands to the customer’s, the operation took just two weeks, Lightner said.
“With the missions they have in country, it’s imperative [they get these items],” he said. “Ninety percent of their stuff goes via air so it gets there more quickly.”
Once the mission was completed, USASAC’s case manager visited DLA Distribution and said the customer was “ecstatic” because the uniforms were delivered so quickly.
“We were ahead of their expectations,” Lightner said.
“A lot of the benefit with using us versus private industry is the tracking and traceability [aspect],” he said. “We can put everything into their systems, especially with the in-transit visibility with the radio frequency tags.”
Both Lightner and Flynn recognize how important their role is in saving the customer time and money.
“Very few people know that we actually perform this operation for these customers,” Lightner said. “Last year, I think we shipped about 5,300 air pallets to our foreign customers and 450 containers.”
“Consolidation saves transportation costs,” Flynn said. “Instead of a whole bunch of individual shipments moving to these countries, these guys are consolidating and putting them into a container or an air pallet.”
“We get to see the results of our work because we’re touching the freight; we’re consolidating the freight, we’re loading the containers and air pallets and seeing it depart,” Flynn said.
Lightner said he believes his team will continue to see the volume of requirements increase as U.S. military forces hand over more responsibility to foreign allied forces.
“We’ve had an uptick in workload due to the fact that we have to outfit the coalition forces with all the gear they need,” he said. “USASAC, along with the business development team, are constantly going to these FMS customers and shopping what we do in order bring in more freight-forward business.”
“FMS in general is seen as of secondary importance to our mission,” Flynn said. “But in the grand scheme of things, strategic partnerships are of critical importance to readiness and overall security for the U.S. The UMFP mission is just one big part of how we support foreign allies.”