PHILADELPHIA, Oct. 4, 2017 —
When acquisition professionals at the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support received an emergency order to restock the galley of a Navy ship performing hurricane-relief operations, they raced against the clock to ensure the sailors had fresh produce to fuel their efforts.
The USS Oak Hill was operating in the Caribbean, ready to help those affected by Hurricane Irma. The ship was running low on fresh fruits and vegetables and would need to be replenished by the USNS Supply, a Military Sealift Command ship docked at Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia.
The USNS Supply was set to depart Sept. 9 on a mission to replenish several ships operating in the Caribbean, including the Oak Hill.
Larry Munoz, a field representative for the DLA Troop Support’s Subsistence supply chain, with the help of fellow Subsistence acquisition professionals, received and executed several emergency orders to stock the Supply.
But the order for the Oak Hill wasn’t submitted due to a communications error. By the time the error was corrected, only four hours remained before the Supply would close its cargo holds in preparation for departure.
Navy Lt. Tam Colbert, a logistics support officer in Naval Supply Systems Command’s Fleet Logistics Center in Norfolk, said she thought there wouldn’t be enough time for the vendor to make the delivery, but she placed the request anyway.
“To our surprise, Larry said ‘Send the order in.’" she said.
With no time to waste, Subsistence professionals went to work, trying to figure out how the crew of the Oak Hill could receive the fresh produce.
Dave Jolls, who manages Subsistence’s produce and market fresh division, said he had a vested interested seeing the order filled.
“I know how it feels to be on a ship and not receive those fresh fruits and vegetables,” said Jolls, who spent 24 years in the Navy.
Getting the order to the Oak Hill would prove to be a complicated process, Jolls said.
The primary vendor with an established Subsistence contract was unable to deliver the items in time. So Jolls had to coordinate with vendors in the Norfolk area who were capable and willing to coordinate with the vendor under contract to meet the requirements.
Jolls said he didn’t expect to be able to meet all of the Oak Hill’s requirements, but would try to fill at least some of the order.
“We weren’t looking for 100 percent, because it was last-minute, and you don’t know what the vendors have in stock,” he said.
It also proved difficult to find a short-notice delivery driver who could access the military installation with minimal delay.
Jolls and Munoz, also a Navy veteran, worked the phones, drafted contracting documents and fired off email after email in an attempt to accomplish their part of the mission.
“It was tough, but it was good,” Jolls said. “It was all hands on deck, the whole nine yards, all in the matter of a couple of hours.”
Their efforts paid off as the driver made the full delivery with no time to spare.
“It really, literally, made it there just on time,” Jolls said. “And to be able to fill 100 percent of their order, that’s the icing on the cake.”
Colbert said the merchant marines aboard the Supply applauded when they saw the last pallet coming off the truck, and that she appreciates Joll’s and Munoz’s can-do attitudes.
“The work they do behind the scenes allows us to do our job on the waterfront, which is taking care of our fleet and our warfighters so they can focus on the mission,” she said.
“It was a miracle that they pulled off,” she said. “They found ways to overcome many obstacles that day to replenish the Oak Hill with fresh fruits and vegetables.”
Jolls said that even though he’s now a retired sailor, it still meant a lot for him to be a good shipmate to those who were out at sea, supporting relief efforts.
“This is why we’re here. This is who DLA is, and this is what we do,” he said. “It was gratifying, absolutely gratifying. I actually teared up.”
The Subsistence supply chain team at DLA Troop Support has coordinated the procurement of more than $220 million in food supplies as of Sept. 29 for hurricane-relief efforts since Hurricane Harvey hit Texas in August.
The Oak Hill deployed to Puerto Rico, providing initial disaster relief. The Department of Defense is supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the lead federal agency, in helping those affected by Hurricane Maria to minimize suffering and is one component of the overall whole-of-government response effort.