BATTLE CREEK, Mich. –
First responders who frequently look to the Defense Logistics Agency to fill equipment gaps recently described how they are repurposing excess military gear to support their local pandemic response.
More than 8,000 law enforcement agencies – from rural, two-person sheriffs’ offices and state police to U.S. Customs and Border Protection – have received used military items through DLA Disposition Services’ Law Enforcement Support Office in the past two decades. Also known as the 1033 Program, LESO provides items as varied as office chairs, filing cabinets, helicopters and robots for organizations on tight budgets.
Popular items include Humvees that are repurposed by law enforcement and firefighters for responding to floods, blizzards and off-road rescues. Portable generators, all-terrain vehicles and golf carts, flood lights, storage containers and hard cases also stay in high demand.
Other commonly requested items are the field tents occasionally replaced in Army and Marine Corps units by lighter, stronger versions. Police Sgt. Harry Foltz from Ocean County, New Jersey, said his county sheriff’s office is using surplus tents as emergency vehicle decontamination sites and COVID-19 testing centers. After receiving an emergency request from a local hospital, South Carolina’s Clinton Police Department made its surplus tents available for use as a COVID-19 pre-check station, said Lt. Michael Addison. And Sheriff Jerry Goodin from Scott County, Indiana, shared three tents he acquired with National Guard units that needed them for training. One tent was later used as a potential county jail quarantine area cooled by an excess heating, ventilation and air conditioning unit also acquired through DLA.
“We want to be prepared for any possible needs we may encounter in the future due to the coronavirus or any other disaster that could hit us,” Goodin said of his rural county of less than 25,000 people. “It’s a lot easier to explain why we did something to be prepared than to explain why we did not do anything.”
In nearby Randolph County, Fire Chief Joe Bertram said the Humvee acquired by his mostly-volunteer fire department was placed onto the county’s roster of emergency ambulances as part of its COVID-19 response preparations.
“That gives us a total of eight ambulances available in the whole county,” Bertram said, adding Randolph County spans 400 square miles. Since it can be easily decontaminated, the vehicle is also available to the county coroner. It was originally requested to haul items and aid in rescuing motorists stranded in standing water.