DLA Disposition Services helps the Army remove mounds of scrap from a remote Pacific island
By Tim Hoyle
DLA Disposition Services
Oct. 26, 2018 —
In January 1944, soldiers and Marines battled together in the Marshall Islands to liberate Kwajalein Atoll. More than 74 years later, soldiers serving there have a new ally in the Defense Logistics Agency, as they drive away a new threat — 6 million pounds of scrap.
For more than six years, the Army garrison on Kwajalein has been planning to rid the atoll of the unwanted metal, with the help of DLA Disposition Services. In 2012, the garrison’s transportation officer contacted Wayne Tisdale, area manager for DLA Disposition Services’ site at Guam, asking for DLA’s help. However, declines in the global scrap metals market and funding levels, along with the atoll’s remote location in the Marshall Islands, prevented the agency from offering a contract to remove and dispose of the scrap.
Tracy Hart, director of acquisition for DLA Disposition Services, said an improved world market on scrap sales and sufficient customer funding made 2017 the right time for DLA Disposition Services to award a service contract. Hart praised the contracting personnel, staff from DLA Disposition Services Pacific region, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and local leaders for their teamwork and “herculean efforts” to complete the task.
Faron Cordrey, DLA Disposition Services’ Pacific region director, recalled that when he first saw the piles of scrap, he didn’t know where to start.
“The scrap volume was not only massive, it had been there so long that some of it had become embedded as part of the landscape, as well as protruding past the shoreline into the water at some points,” Cordrey said. “Additionally … it was very difficult to assess — just too vast, and the scrap so varied.”
Scrap material is normally segregated by type for easier sale or recycling. But the different types collected on Kwajalein were piled together for more than 40 years.
Jon Mitsuyasu, DLA Disposition Services’ operations chief/program manager for the region, and Daniel Schuemann, a contracting officer, were on Kwajalein before scrap removal began. Mitsuyasu provided training on scrap recognition to the contracted employees. Schuemann provided guidance on the terms of the contract.
As preparations continued, Bernie Solovey, chief of the Acquisition Hazardous Division, took over from Schuemann and worked on the contract language to help ease challenges in performing the work.
“It became apparent that some [contract language] was impeding progress and the contractor asked for some changes that would allow him to hire a subcontractor with experience working on the atoll,” Solovey said. “As contracts are a partnership between the government and the contractor, it was decided to accept these changes at no cost to the government.” Those changes helped the contractor remove the scrap more effectively, he said.
Wallan Hashimoto, a DLA Disposition Services contracting officer representative, helped prepare for the start of the removal process. Hashimoto said one of his big challenges was “to marshal the resources available from our customer, the U.S. Army and their local Department of Public Works.”
As the contractor continued to segregate the scrap, a subcontractor arranged for barge removal. That happened in late spring, when the rainy weather made it even harder to load and transport the scrap, said Arthur Yri, a general supply specialist for DLA Disposition Services.
“If I was able to avoid the rain showers, the high humidity still resulted in soaked clothes,” Yri said. “The 4-mile round trip to the scrapyard was mostly completed on foot at least twice a day, but sometimes four times a day. The scrapyard had no electrical power, phone or restroom, and only had a small covered area for the workers to get out of the weather.”
Operations Specialist Johnny Lee said the wet weather made loading the second barge just as hard.
“Most days I worked 12 hours with varying extreme-weather conditions,” Lee said. “It was either 90-plus degrees or torrential downpours.”
Hart complimented the professionalism and resiliency of those involved as they dealt with pressures, bad weather and uncertainty. Cordrey said it helped that the workforce was dedicated from the beginning.
“To make this happen, there was total buy-in from the entire DLA team to ensure success,” he said.
Yri and Lee said the soggy treks across the scrapyard let them gather their thoughts, and enjoying the scenery helped them stay resilient. And that scenery isn’t just beautiful; Kwajalein and its neighboring islets of Roi and Namur were the first of the Marshall Islands to be captured by U.S. forces as they advanced toward the Philippines and the Japanese islands. “I had no idea the part Kwajalein played in WWII,” Yri said. For those visiting Kwajalein, he recommended a walking tour of the battle sites.
After great effort from a lot of people, Yri and Lee saw significant amounts of scrap leave the island. The first barge departed Kwajalein June 3 with almost 1 million pounds of scrap. The remaining 5.1 million pounds left on another barge July 9. Although the amount of scrap, the weather and other challenges made the removal a big task, “the challenges just motivated the team even more,” Cordrey said.
“One thing that never wavered was DLA’s commitment to making this happen and to support the warfighter,” he added. “In this situation, we, as DLA, proved ourselves as the experts in scrap removal. And throughout the evolution, that level of knowledge proved invaluable in allowing us to help the customer.”
Hashimoto also noted the relationships built with the people on Kwajalein — the active-duty service members who were the customers, the representatives of the Marshallese people and the staff at DPW — were critical to the final result.
“I would especially like to single out Mr. Walter Gordon of DPW … who worked tirelessly to connect me with the people on island who could make things happen for our prime contractor,” Hashimoto said. “Mr. Gordon went above and beyond what would be expected to help Disposition Services help our contractor in getting his scrap removal operation started.”
The scrap removed on the two barges will undergo further sorting and then recycling in Majuro, also part of the Marshall Islands. Hart said the removal eliminated a “mountain of scrap for residents and subsequent generations.”
With mountains of metal gone, Cordrey said the next step is for DLA personnel to train the garrison staff to recognize certain types of scrap so they can segregate it before it’s removed for further disposal. Recyclable metals are shipped to Guam’s scrap contractor for sale.
“In a nutshell, we’re working with the garrison to train them on how to manage and establish a scrap yard,” Cordrey said. Explaining the benefits of the proper controls make disposal more efficient, saving time and money, he said.
DLA Disposition Services has also supported Kwajalein with other services, such as receiving and reusing property. The DLA Disposition Services site at Guam provides those services to Kwajalein, and its staff routinely receives usable items and other material from the atoll. Tisdale, for example, worked with Kwajalein personnel during the summer to arrange for five firetrucks to be shipped to Guam for potential reuse.