Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support representatives discussed key industry topics with military clothing and equipment manufacturers that employ blind and visually impaired Americans Sept. 6.
Attending the National Industries for the Blind’s annual Textile Apparel Group conference was a strategic engagement for DLA Troop Support, said Steven Merch, Clothing and Textiles director of supplier operations.
“We look for the target opportunities where we can go out, talk to industry [and] have face-to-face conversations,” Merch said. “It’s not only a chance to interact and network, it’s also an opportunity to pick up on more of what’s going on in the industry.”
NIB and its associated nonprofit agencies employ more than 5,600 blind or visually impaired people a year, according to its website. C&T purchases various uniform and equipment items from NIB agencies for DLA’s military customers including first aid cases, t-shirts, pillow cases and gloves.
During the conference, Merch shared projections of upcoming military uniform requirements, including how C&T is supporting the Air Force’s transition to operational camouflage pattern utility uniforms.
DLA Troop Support Acquisition Executive William Kenny gave an overview about DLA Troop Support’s mission, and C&T acquisition and quality managers held a round table discussion to address industry queries. Attendees also met new C&T Director Air Force Col. Melvin Maxwell.
More DLA Troop Support employees were able to attend the two-day conference because it was held in Philadelphia, Merch said.
The conference was held here for the first time in 12 years and was the most attended, with approximately 160 participants, said Jeff Papalia, NIB textiles program manager.
“We have an annual event to gather all of NIB textiles staff, not-for-profit agencies, our customers like DLA and [the military] services, and our partner suppliers,” Papalia said. “We purposely wanted to have it in the Philadelphia area because of the presence and proximity to DLA Troop Support.”
In addition to presentations from DLA and industry representatives, attendees toured local NIB facility Bestwork Industries for the Blind, Inc. in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.