BATTLE CREEK, Mich. –
“At first, I was a little leery of the generators.”
Idaho Department of Lands Eastern Area Manager Pat Brown was recently perusing the Defense Logistics Agency’s online inventory of used and surplus military equipment, as he’s regularly done for the past ten years, when he saw a 143-item lot of Generac XD5000E diesel generators, supposedly new. The 350-pound engines were bulky and would cost a bit to transport, but on the upside, were originally valued at $5,618 apiece, and if in perfect shape, could be very useful out in the field.
Problem was, the accompanying photos just showed wooden crates bleached by the California sun. Brown had to trust that the DLA Disposition Services property disposal site near Stockton had correctly described the equipment condition. Brown reached out to Property Disposal Specialist Dan Callens, who handles Reutilization, Transfer and Donation for DLA and had assisted him with previous requisitions.
Callens, a retired Air Force master sergeant, said his Tracy Defense Distribution Depot-based office helped alleviate Brown’s initial concerns and supported two donation shipments of the brand-new, unused generators in mid-January. A semi-truck packed with 48 generators traveled just over 900 miles to Coeur d’Alene in the Idaho panhandle and another 48 units trucked a thousand miles to Idaho Falls, on the state’s eastern edge two days later. One online requisition, two shipments, $539,000 in equipment that Gem State taxpayers helped DOD buy.
“Just another RTD day supporting my customers,” Callens said.
Brown said 99 percent of the items he’s acquired – mainly for rural firefighting in the forested, sparsely-populated state – has arrived in the condition DLA described it. Of all those millions of dollars in vehicles and support materials, he said about 75 percent goes to rural fire departments “that don’t have much,” and 25 percent goes to Department of Lands activities. Most of the new generators will help with rural firefighting, some will go to incident management teams and some will go to a new fire protective district area near Idaho Falls.
“I like this program,” Brown said. “It’s been hugely beneficial to Idaho.”
After looking to DLA to steadily replace decades-old equipment, Brown said he now mainly searches for the versatile vehicles that are regularly added to DLA’s RTDWeb inventory. Like other users, he maintains a “want list” that will alert him if certain National Stock Numbers are uploaded into the system. He said the state has acquired a good number of M916A3 Freightliner semi-trucks through DLA that were converted to water tenders. They’ve received bulldozers, road graders – the farthest item, distance-wise, that he could recall procuring for the state – an airport crash truck that came all the way from a military installation in Norfolk, Virginia.
“I was on a hot streak for awhile,” Brown said, citing multiple ladder trucks he secured from DLA excess stock.
Not long ago, Idaho firefighters rolled an older Kenworth truck during a fire response call, according to Brown. Through DLA donation, they were able to replace it with an Army all-wheel drive Freightliner that the military paid $156,000 for and arrived with only 10,000 miles on it. Brown said he procured the vehicle and the district “ponied up for the tank and other stuff.” After retrofitting, it spent two months in the field near Salmon, Idaho, helping firefighters engage the Moose Fire, which burned more than 130,000 acres over four months in late 2022.
“Vehicle is probably worth a quarter million or more now,” Brown said, after firefighting equipment additions.
Brown said Department of Lands leadership is supportive of his use of DLA donation equipment and they encourage him to stay engaged. He, in turn, encourages the fire chiefs he works with to “make sure they let their legislators know what’s going on.” He said that if state leaders see the value and are aware of the impact used and surplus DOD equipment has on the state, they will hopefully continue to set transportation money aside to bring in surplus from the hundreds of DOD installations where it gets turned in by warfighters. Brown believes that the transportation cost is “a relatively small investment” compared to what Idaho gets.