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News | Jan. 13, 2021

Disposal property specialists help meet needs for critical pandemic supplies

By Beth Reece

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of stories highlighting individual and team contributions to DLA’s pandemic support.

From personal protective equipment for sailors aboard Pacific-based aircraft carriers to tents for state testing sites, military and federal agencies responding to the COVID-19 pandemic have benefited from over $40 million worth of excess property distributed through Defense Logistics Agency Disposition Services’ Reutilization, Transfer and Donation Program.

Property disposal specialists at DLA Disposition Services Headquarters in Battle Creek, Michigan, and field sites throughout the world began freezing new and like-new medical items in what’s known as Federal Supply Group 65 in March for distribution to the COVID-19 response. Today only five items – masks, ventilators, gowns, gloves and human remains pouches – are on hold for customers involved in pandemic efforts, but Property Disposal Specialist Carol Fix said employees continue receiving scarce supplies and making them available to 17 major agencies.

“When we look at quantity and dollars, our largest group of customers has been state agencies looking for surplus property for things like local testing. People don’t realize how much our police and firefighters depend on us to fill needs for vital supplies, and the response we get from them is always so appreciative,” she said.

Fix and Property Disposal Specialist Jennifer Lobello shares weekly lists of excess medical material with DLA Troop Support to determine whether items can be used to fulfil back orders. Lists are then shared with other customers and material is distributed on a first-come, first served basis except for critical items like masks that are first approved by the Agency Synchronization Operations Center in partnership with the Defense Department and Department of Health and Human Services.

The team is now working with officials at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to provide tents, exam tables, beds and other supplies for makeshift buildings that will be used to pre-screen patients receiving COVID-19 vaccinations.

Despite the initial rush to locate and issue surplus medical supplies, DLA continues receiving new excess items weekly, Fix said. Human remains pouches and masks were turned in as recently as December, and property disposal specialists are constantly working with turn-in customers and manufacturers to verify the nomenclature and condition of items.

The work is a team effort that’s involved the entire DLA Disposition Services staff.

“The volume has been so big we’ve had to train people that never worked orders before to help out, and we worked sometimes until midnight,” Fix said. “This is our typical pace during disasters like hurricanes, but this pandemic will go on until the vaccine has gotten around.”

DLA Finance employees also worked quickly early in the pandemic to create transportation codes allowing customers to receive property without paying normal shipping costs, Lobello added.

“And our field site reps are doing the physical work, bending over backwards to screen the items they receive and reaching out to local customers,” she said.

Lobello and Fix agree that DLA’s disposal property specialists offer crucial equipment to troops as well as local authorities like sheriffs and other first responders.

“We do this all the time, and it’s a great joy to be able to help. I just wish the public was more aware of what DLA does as an agency every single day to supply everything from food and fuel to medical supplies,” Fix added.