Second DLA ball promotes pomp, purpose, people

By Dianne Ryder DLA Public Affairs

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Defense Logistics Agency employees’ and guests’ sparkling outfits rivaled glittering chandeliers at the Waterford Reception Center in Springfield, Virginia, during the second annual DLA Ball, Nov. 1.

The event theme, a maxim DLA Director Army Lt. Gen. Darrell Williams often uses to describe DLA’s people, was “The secret sauce of warfighter support — our people.” Williams invited friends, family members, former DLA employees and dignitaries to enjoy an evening of entertainment, history, fanfare and military traditions.

The director said the event centered on the agency’s employees and how well they support warfighters and partners worldwide, including those impacted by hurricanes in Texas, Florida, North and South Carolina, Puerto Rico and Virginia, as well as wildfires in the west.

On behalf of himself and his wife, Myra, Williams extended a special welcome to the guest speaker, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment Robert McMahon and his wife, Hope, along with Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord, attending with her husband, Geoff.

The director said though McMahon and Lord could be doing “a thousand different things,” he was happy they chose to spend the evening at the DLA Ball.

The general also acknowledged his sister and her husband, who were visiting from Florida. He expressed appreciation for DLA Vice Director Ted Case, who couldn’t attend due to illness. Williams thanked DLA Senior Enlisted Adviser Navy Command Master Chief Shaun Brahmsteadt and his wife, Tina; former DLA Director and Hall of Fame recipient retired Vice Adm. Keith Lippert and wife, Linda; former DLA Deputy Commander Maj. Gen. Robert Gaskill and his guest, Shirley Bryant; and former DLA Vice Director Mae DeVincentis and husband, Dan. He also thanked leaders from “sister agencies,” and all DLA leaders, including those from the agency’s major subordinate commands.

Williams presented a video that highlighted important milestones in DLA history, including the 100-year anniversaries Defense Distribution Center Susquehanna and the Defense Supply Center Columbus celebrated this year. He encouraged the audience to view commemorative plaques that would be mailed to the MSCs after the ball.

The general thanked all those responsible for planning the event, including DLA Chief of Staff Kristin French, the ball committee members and DLA protocol team, the Military District Washington for providing the honor guard, vocalist Chaletta McCoy and DLA’s Minor 7th Band, the agency’s chaplain and the Army Brass Quintet.

Following a series of toasts honoring DLA’s military and civilian members and partners, the DLA chief of staff drew the audience’s attention to the Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Table.

“The table occupies a place of dignity and honor — it is set for one, symbolizing the fact that members of our armed and civilian forces are missing from our ranks,” she said. “We call them comrades; they are unable to celebrate with us tonight, so we remember them for their sacrifice and devotion to a grateful nation through the many symbols on this table.”

French explained the meaning behind each item in the honors ceremony — the table, the tablecloth, the single red rose in a vase tied with a yellow ribbon, the slice of lemon, dash of salt, tilted chair and lit candle.

“We will never forget their sacrifices. May God forever watch over them and protect them and their families,” she said, and led the audience in a silent toast. 

The evening took on a lighter tone during the punch-bowl ceremony, when DLA leaders from headquarters and its major subordinate commands contributed their own special ingredients to the “DLA Special” elixir. Brahmsteadt sacrificially volunteered to sample the brew and determine its suitability for Williams’ consumption. After the director took a sip of the punch, he encouraged all to partake.

DLA’s Minor 7th Band provided entertainment during dinner and the elite Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team thrilled the audience with precision drill performances showcasing their discipline and teamwork.

Air Force Maj. Gen. Mark Johnson, director of DLA Logistics Operations, introduced the guest speaker, noting that McMahon is the first assistant secretary of defense for sustainment after the division was renamed.

McMahon said although the new name might indicate a reduced focus on logistics, DLA’s mission is no less important than it has ever been.

Whether logisticians are civilian or military, they are “a holistic team, a total force whose job is to support and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” McMahon said.

“Whether you are holding a weapon in your hand, or sustaining those who do … a multitude of people rely on what we do each and every day for their motivation and more importantly, their existence,” he said. “The sun never sets on the work that you do, and where our people are.”

McMahon said when he sees the acronym DLA, he considers the “D” to represent dedication and determination. The “L” makes him think about DLA’s leaders and that it is a lean organization. He considers that the “A” stands for agile.

“As we continue to reform and make a difference, it isn’t about getting good, it’s about getting greater,” he said.

The assistant secretary closed by saying he knew he was the only thing standing between the audience and the dance floor. He also quipped that it was a well-kept secret Williams went to college on a “disco scholarship,” and “majored in the Electric Slide.”

Williams denied the latter, but invited the “No. 1 logistician and acquisition professional in the Department of Defense” to say a few words.

Lord commented on the “incredible sense of community,” talent and dedication of the DLA workforce.

“I want to remind everyone that you are making a difference to your community, to your country and to all of our partners and allies,” she said. “We so appreciate all you’re doing — and I hope to be back next year.”

Williams concluded the official portion of the event by encouraging another round of applause for those who provided the entertainment and helped to make the ball possible. He thanked all agency employees and reiterated that DLA could not perform its mission without them.