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News | Feb. 17, 2021

Winter storm no match for COVID-19 federal response team at DLA Distribution Susquehanna 

By Diana Dawa, DLA Distribution Public Affairs

The largest multi site distribution complex in the Defense Department is in central Pennsylvania, where winter weather is common. But when a foot of snow hits the grounds of Defense Distribution Center Susquehanna, it could have a huge impact on mission support.

Despite hazardous conditions, the COVID-19 federal response mission of receiving and shipping Moderna COVID-19 vaccines and ancillary supply kits to 21 DOD overseas locations continued during a recent multi day storm Feb. 1 – 2, 2021. The entire installation contributed a tremendous amount of effort to ensure mission success.

“DDSP’s support of the DOD vaccination distribution plan relies on all of our mission partners here at Defense Distribution Center Susquehanna,” said Army Col. Trenton Conner, commander, Defense Logistics Agency Distribution Susquehanna, Pennsylvania. “Our police force ensures the security of the installation and our critical supplies and ensures the safe and efficient movement of commercial trucks into and out of the installation.”

During the snow event, the installation was closed, but DLA Installation Management Susquehanna’s roads and grounds crew quickly plowed and treated the roads to allow safe access to the medical supply warehouse, enabling on-time vaccine shipments to overseas troops.

“Our medical supply team braved the poor road conditions outside the depot to pick, pack and ship COVID-19 vaccines,” said Conner.

The DLA police force supports the vaccine operation mission by making special arrangements to open the commercial vehicle gate and process vaccine deliveries during installation closures due to snowstorms.

“This required ensuring adequate staffing and coordination with Installation Support roads and grounds personnel to clear ice and snow from the access control point to ensure safe access for the deliveries,” said DLA Police Chief Douglas Schraeder.

The DLA Police are also tasked with monitoring the temperature readings of COVID-19 vaccine storage containers during non-operating hours, Schraeder said. The police work 24/7 on-site and are available to help outside of the normal day shifts, he added.

“The roads and ground team, with augmentation from facility maintenance and material handling equipment mechanics who were on-site to fix equipment, ensured access to the installation from the truck gate to the medical supply building was cleared and safe for travel during the storm,” said Jay Tilton, chief, Facilities and Equipment Maintenance Division for the installation. He added that DDSP also coordinated arrival times with police to ensure routes were cleared.

The site’s common access card office was also opened during the storm to accommodate a user whose CAC was blocked and needed to be reset. The blocked card disabled the ability to access the computer system and track data associated with the COVID-19 vaccine distribution.

“Waiting until Tuesday when normal operations resumed meant assigning the work to someone else over the holiday weekend or lose visibility of the essential data. As soon as the request was received, multiple employees volunteered to help,” Security Management Branch Chief David Koons said. “This incident highlighted the need for this support resource as schedules expand into second/third shift hours to support the mission.”

Working together in a great example of cross-organization teamwork, the DLA Police, Fire and Emergency Services, the installation’s road and grounds crew and the security management branch, ensured the mission was completed, Conner said. “It takes a total team effort to execute this vital mission.”