Richmond, Virginia, March 31, 2017 —
Navy Lt. Traci Irby, Defense Logistics Agency Aviation’s former, F/A-18 weapon system support program manager for the Navy Customer Facing Division, said when DLA Aviation’s Deputy Commander Charlie Lilli offered a four-month assignment to temporarily backfill a DLA Aviation position at the Navy’s Fleet Readiness Center Southwest in San Diego, to address materiel readiness issues, little did anyone know it would end up being the catalyst for the implementation of permanent DLA Aviation military positions at all three FRC sites.
While at San Diego, Irby discovered a need for improved communication between the FRCs and DLA Aviation. She said there was a need to close gaps and connect the processes to reduce back orders and speed up the processes to get parts to the warfighter.
From October 2015 through February 2016, Irby wore two hats while on assignment. She continued to work [remotely back to Richmond] on the F/A-18 program, supporting its burn down plan and developing solutions to reduce Issue Priority Group 1 backorders for the F/A-18 E-model, Super Hornet landing gear. At the same time, early in the San Diego assignment, Irby provided compelling analytical evidence supporting additional hiring of buyers. She developed relationships and performance-linked initiatives, which helped drive work centers toward fulfilling command metrics and by doing this assisted in achieving consecutive months of meeting a 90 percent or better material fill-rate goal.
Irby said the experience taught her so much more than she anticipated. She said it’s important to see what a problem entails, collaborate and identify the communication problems and resolve the supply issues.
“We need to tie in exactly what we do here in Richmond, Virginia, with how the sites are doing business and then develop and set up relationships between Richmond and the FRCs to ensure they stay in place and connected,” said Irby. “Looking back, I don’t think I could have been as successful without going out to FRCSW.”
She said the plan going forward is to have a military junior officer assigned to each FRC. At FRCSW a junior officer is already in place and assigned as the deputy materiel management chief with similar responsibilities as Irby had. DLA Aviation’s leadership has plans in place to establish a junior officer position at the other two fleet readiness centers, one at FRC East, Cherry Point, North Carolina, and one at FRC Southeast, Jacksonville, Florida.
Irby who said one of the concerns in establishing this position was continuity and having the ability to pass on the knowledge base to the next military person rotating in. Navy Lt. j. g. Angeli LeGardye, began a three-year assignment in January 2017 as the deputy materiel management chief at DLA Aviation’s FRCSW at San Diego.
DLA Aviation at San Diego Commander Matthew Brickhaus said, Irby considered a seasoned, expert junior officer, spent two full weeks with Legardye, training and mentoring her to assist with her transition.
“As a junior officer I have only known the Navy perspective,” said LeGardye. “Working at DLA has opened up my supply chain knowledge and provided me an opportunity to understand how DLA supports all the services.”
LeGardye said junior officers don’t get the opportunity to learn and understand how these processes work, how the supply chain is linked, how to connect with the customer, how to document properly, how to communicate with the vendor, or how to develop an accurate contract. She said any of these things can slow down the processes, but understanding the processes can save time and money.
“I recently returned from a deployment and I can speak from experience when I say, when an aircraft is down in the Middle East and you need a part to get it back in the air, the urgency in getting the part is crucial,” said LeGardye. “Having someone in the process who can explain the processes, empathize with the urgency, and who will ensure the request is expedited and followed through is important.”
LeGardye said by being new to DLA she brings a new perspective and she will be asking questions and introduce ideas which will improve processes.
Brickhaus said that having a junior military officer permanently assigned at each of the DLA Aviation industrial sites supporting the Navy enables DLA and the rest of the Naval Aviation Enterprise to "grow" future military leaders with a deeper understanding of what it takes to deliver aviation readiness.
“DLA Aviation directly benefits because we have a military officer who comes directly from the fleet bringing with them important Navy and Marine Corps supply experience combined with a warfighter ethos and sense of urgency,” said Brickhaus.
He said the individuals selected were carefully screened and capable of learning quickly and navigating highly-complex supply chain maintenance, production, and engineering processes. He added, the selectee’s previous experience typically dealt with tactical and operational issues limited to their division or within the unit/ship, but they are now working across multiple Department of Defense organizations and with commercial industry partners to team-up and solve difficult material readiness challenges.
“Although directly supporting the depot, these officers also become more knowledgeable and experienced in intermediate and organizational level maintenance and supply because of the interdependencies,” said Brickhaus. “They are positioned on an aggressive path toward earning Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act Life-Cycle Logistics Level II certification, which complements other professional development in contracting and financial management.”
Brickhaus said these positions enable DLA Aviation to overcome barriers and achieve our mission of providing effective and efficient global airpower solutions to warfighters.
“Irby directly contributed to improving E-2C Hawkeye and C-2A Greyhound landing gear material readiness,” said Brickhaus. “She analyzed and coordinated with DLA, Navy, and the commercial vendor to update production lead times for over 300 consumable parts which resulted in adjusted procurement actions.”
Additionally, Brickhaus said, Irby identified an unhealthy supply pipeline for critical parts, developed and pushed through $10.2 million worth of parts buys to satisfy anticipated production demand. She also enabled process improvement in material support for the F/A-18. She brought together stakeholders from DoD and industry, established regular action-oriented meetings, removed barriers, improved communications and developed innovative solutions to speed up material procurements and deliveries.
“Irby quickly fostered trusting relationships and developed meaningful performance-linked initiatives, which help drive DLA Aviation at San Diego work centers to exceed command metrics,” said Brickhaus. “Another process improvement initiated by Irby was monthly detailed analysis of material shortfalls. Through this analysis, which is now standard, DLA Aviation at San Diego is able to quickly identify material readiness challenges and mitigate them. By doing this, this process improvement has contributed to DLA Aviation at San Diego achieving and exceeding material fill-rate goals for several consecutive months.”
Brickhaus said as with any position responsible for solving highly-complex problems with diverse stakeholders and processes, it takes time and experience to reach optimal levels of expertise. “Toward the end of a junior officer's tour, they are often considered experts and operating at maximum efficiency and effectiveness,” he said. “However, due to the nature of military duty assignments, that is usually the time when the experienced officer is transferred to their next assignment and is replaced with a less experienced officer.”
“Transferring the knowledge and experience will always be a challenge,” said Brickhaus. “To help with the transition, DLA Aviation is placing the incoming officers at the other Aviation industrial sites and they will attend DLA Aviation Academy, spend valuable time at DLA Aviation in Richmond, Virginia, very early in the tour and shadow the departing officer with over-the-shoulder and hands-on training.”