News | Jan. 11, 2018

Reservists help DLA expand exercise-planning capabilities

By Dianne Ryder

Training exercises are vital for the Defense Logistics Agency to maintain readiness for supporting military operations, disaster relief and humanitarian assistance. The DLA Logistics Operations directorate and Joint Logistics Operations Center have planned the agency’s participation in joint and national level exercises for years.

But in 2015, as the operations team members compiled their multi-year exercise plan and drafted the annual training and exercise guidance, they realized they could use help, said Jay Schaeufele, exercise and readiness team chief.

“Our dilemma was that when we added in all the planning events that required DLA participation  to successfully integrate with the combatant commands, we realized we didn’t have the manpower to prepare for and cover the events,” Schaeufele said. “Just covering the highest priority [combatant command] Tier 1 exercises was a challenge.”   

Schaeufele built on his close relationship with DLA’s Joint Reserve Force office and together they agreed there was an opportunity for the JRF’s reservists to be integrated into exercise planning.

“We previously had tried delegating a lot of the planning to the regional and major subordinate commands who participated where needed. However we realized you can’t reach out and designate somebody to participate in single exercise planning meetings without prepping them for it and maintaining continuity through all events,” he said. “[So] we came up with a proof of principle to utilize JRF reservists to see if this could work.”

The challenge in using reservists is their availability, Schaeufele said. Most of DLA’s reservists have full-time jobs, which limits their ability to work normal duty hours.

During the proof-of-principle project, DLA full-time employees paired with reservists to ensure their understanding of DLA’s role and requirements in the exercise.

“Then we’d let them take more lead to coordinate with the regional commands, subordinate commands, DLA’s liaisons and combatant commands,” Schaeufele said. “We began to see the relationship grow [and the reservists] understood more about DLA capabilities.”

The project began in 2016 with one member from each military service. When that proved successful, JRF leadership decided to continue the project in fiscal 2018, said Army Reserve Col. Julianne Kerr, the JRF Joint Team lead for DLA Logistics Operations.

Participating in exercise planning benefits the reservists by providing “an opportunity to capitalize on JRF members’ unique and diverse skills,” Kerr said. In addition, the joint effort promotes the new DLA Strategic Plan’s objective of greater JRF integration into DLA, she noted, as set forth under the line of effort “Global Posture: Prepared for Immediate Action.”

Schaeufele explained that each of DLA’s supply chains and logistics services have deployable capability, and there are significant capabilities the major subordinate commands can also provide when requested.

“It’s hard to find somebody within the agency that has that [overall] grasp of all of the different capabilities DLA can provide and the command-and-control process that enables DLA to rapidly meet emerging requirements,” he said.

Some JRF reservists have actually participated in an exercise beyond the planning phase. One is Army Lt. Col. Raymond (Matt) Longabaugh, whose first exercise was in U.S. Southern Command.

“You have to be flexible enough to possibly do more than the 14 or 15 days a year,” he said. “We volunteered to do that — and also three, possibly four weeks of annual training, so it’s a fairly large commitment of time.”

Gaining that knowledge and experience is a win for the reservists as well as for Schaeufele’s team.

“For me, it was the ability to leverage our team to train them up with the intent that they would come back, as they have this year,” Schaeufele said. “They’re ready to go, and that’s a huge benefit for my team and the agency.”

In addition, “through the relationship and engagement we built with them, they’re able to help define specific training requirements DLA wants to get out of an exercise,” he said.

Schaeufele explained what’s involved in an exercise event lifecycle and the organizations that DLA can support, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers, State National Guard, Military Services, and Combatant Commands.

“There’s a development conference that typically happens between 18 months to a year before an exercise; initial planning, mid-planning, development for the master scenario events list; and then there’s the final planning and the exercise itself,” Schaeufele said.

“We have to understand who the customer is and under what authorities [we’re operating under] and how tasking will comes to DLA — these drive our support and should be reflected within the agency’s concept of support plans,” he added.

While DLA has the capability to provide support, depending on the operation we may not always have the authority to provide it, Schaeufele said.

“Reservists are somewhat limited in their abilities if they haven’t worked under the particular exercise/operation authority,” he said. “Nobody’s an expert on all things DLA, but you have to understand the capabilities we have, understand the need of whoever we’re supporting and then ask the question to the right part of the agency.”

Longabaugh said his participation in exercises proved to be invaluable experience.

“You essentially become part of that working group or team that coordinates the DLA participation in that exercise. I would participate in meetings, provide my analysis, read through all the communication plans associated with that exercise and help develop exercise metrics for DLA,” he said. “It gives me more depth in my knowledge, understanding and my ability to help the commander make good decisions to support these contingencies.”

Longabaugh’s first exercise was a disaster-relief effort, but he also took part in Ulchi Freedom Guardian in Korea.

“UFG is a general war scenario — so it spans the whole spectrum of things that we could potentially respond to,” he said. “DLA has been moving continuously more and more into that field of supporting whole of government responses for these types of natural disasters and other humanitarian assistance.”

Although there are only about 200 uniformed personnel employed at DLA, there are 669 reserve uniformed personnel. Longabaugh said he highly recommends his fellow reservists participate in a DLA exercises.

“The stuff I have learned has been tremendous. I think it’s a huge win-win — for the reserve team and the JLOC planning and exercise team,” he said.

Schaeufele hopes the success of the program will encourage other reservists looking for a challenge to participate.

“Now that the initial team has a broader understanding of DLA operational training and exercise program, we’re able to better plug and play their skills when and where needed. I’d like to see this program grow,” he said.