Retired Army Lt. Gen. Kathleen Gainey said she was surprised and awed to be nominated as a 2016 Defense Logistics Agency Hall of Fame inductee.
Before Gainey served as DLA Distribution’s commander from June 2002 to June 2004, when the organization was known as the Defense Distribution Center, she knew little of DLA’s mission.
“I was amazed at how parts, equipment and supplies that we needed always showed up,” she said.
“I never understood the role of DLA until I deployed to Albania with Task Force Hawk and never fully understood the span of responsibility until I got into DLA.”
As commander, Gainey established new standards for performance and direct support to the warfighter during the initial surge of troops into Iraq.
“We just became overwhelmed in the DDC,” she said. “I’m proudest of how we got 300 more people to meet surge requirements in time to get the new workforce trained up and ready. Because you can’t just hire people and say, ‘OK, now go to work.’”
It was at this time DLA Distribution’s formed emergency essential program, which enhanced the organization’s ability to deploy civilians in contingencies.
“We had a group of people willing to go and wanting to do the right things,” she said. “We did have to look more carefully at the medical side, to make sure we were sending people capable of going into austere conditions.”
Regarding the quality of the people, their willingness to serve and desire to work hard, Gainey said there was no difference between the civilians and military members who deployed.
Providing distribution support in theater and in a “non-doctrinal manner” was extremely challenging, Gainey said.
“There was not a distribution point forward in Iraq to send to — or a fully enabled group of people capable of receiving and doing the distribution,” she said. “The organization that was there was very much a shell organization and not a trained [group] that had been working together historically.”
Gainey established a combat theater distribution platform in Bahrain, which allowed forward positioning of critical inventories and direct delivery to allied units engaged in combat. This innovation saved money and time and freed up aircraft to supply emergencies.
“We had to change how we were moving supplies forward; we didn’t have a really good central site to move them forward into Iraq,” she said. “We created the mixed pallet and pure pallet to try and speed the throughput process.”
Gainey said that process afforded DLA Distribution to respond more quickly and provided a more efficient method of shipping aggregated supplies to the right unit.
“We changed the metrics to meet the requirement,” she said, explaining how instead of measuring how fast they could move one part, they consolidated items to send in bulk packages.
Gainey defines her success by the number of people who have told her that she and her team made a difference during her time as DLA Distribution commander. She also credits many coworkers and supervisors with improving her performance as commander.
DLA Distribution’s former deputy commander, Phyllis Campbell, was soft-spoken, but a “powerhouse,” Gainey said.
“She was very authoritative and articulate, but only spoke when she had something to say,” Gainey said.
“She was just a wonderful example of leadership and making things happen.”
Gainey also spoke highly of a fellow DLA Hall of Fame member, former DLA Director Vice Adm. Keith Lippert.
“He was very much a person who empowered me — who gave me guidance when I needed it and never made me feel stupid but always challenged me,” she said. “He made me understand the role of metrics and how they can either direct right behavior or wrong behavior.”
Selecting the right people, putting them in the right job and empowering them to do those jobs are elements Gainey said are hallmarks of great leadership — things she was able to accomplish during her time at DLA Distribution.
Gainey even attributes her many honors and awards to the efforts of her coworkers and various “unsung heroes,” especially her Hall of Fame induction.
“It’s a recognition of the incredible workforce at the DDC that just gave their all,” she said. “They were some of the most helpful, hardest-working people I ever was associated with — military or civilian. It was an honor to work alongside them.”
The induction ceremony will be Sept. 21 at 10:30 a.m., in the auditorium of the McNamara Headquarters Complex, Fort Belvoir, Virginia.