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News | Jan. 16, 2020

Career logistician emphasizes importance of DLA mission to joint military audience

By Lt. Col. Ed Shank, USAR, Defense Logistics Agency Public Affairs

To remain relevant and effective as the last remaining superpower it is essential for members of the U.S. military to remain as informed as possible on technology, processes and world events as they evolve. For that reason, reserve soldiers and sailors assigned to Defense Logistics Agency Distribution’s headquarters spent their January drill attending a joint training course.


According to Donnie Thompson, DLA Distribution J9 chief of deployments and training and course instructor, the importance of frequent training cannot be over emphasized.


“Every individual here either has deployed or will have the opportunity to deploy on behalf of DLA,” said Thompson to a class of more than 20 Army and Navy reservists. “The warfighter relies on logistics for food, weapons systems, fuel, medical supplies and more. As America’s combat logistics agency, DLA is responsible for making sure that soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines can focus on his or her job and not have to worry about where the supplies are coming from.”


As a retired Navy logistics specialist, Thompson has deployed both in uniform and out and is keenly aware of how unexpected issues can create havoc, requiring a logistician to react quickly using any and all resources available.


“A part can be manufactured in the United States without taking into consideration the climate differences between the U.S. and, say, Iraq or Afghanistan,” Thompson says recalling a specific issue the Army faced with mesh covers designed to filter dust and debris from radar equipment on helicopters in Iraq.


“The manual said the covers should be swapped out every 60 days. But they didn’t take into account the increased level of dust they would encounter in the desert, so maintenance was swapping the mesh every three or four days,” he said. “Before long, they ran out of filters, so soldiers started washing them by hand, but it wasn’t working and we ended up losing a couple aircraft because they didn’t have enough warning they were being fired upon.”


Eventually the problem was fixed, but the story serves as an example of how lives can be directly affected by the individuals in the class being good at their jobs.


Even holiday meals require a huge amount of planning, Thompson says, highlighting the fact that, in 2019 alone, DLA facilitated the shipping of more than 66,000 pounds of turkey, 80,000 pounds of beef, 44,000 pounds of ham and 44,000 pounds of shrimp.


“It’s almost mind-boggling if you think about it,” said Thompson. “Just imagine how far in advance you have to start planning something like that in order to get all of that food to several locations all on time. But we did it! In fact, we’ve been doing it since the Global War on Terror began more than 19 years ago. It’s what DLA does...and we’re really good at our job.”