Having to convince your wife and five kids to leave a familiar place to go to an unfamiliar place may seem like a daunting task. For one Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support employee this one decision led to one of his most gratifying experiences being selected as the 2018 Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support Leader of the Year.
“I was working in Puerto Rico in the airlines industry and I took the day off to attend a job fair,” Roberto Santana Irizarry, an intern turned contracting officer representative in the Subsistence supply chain said. “One month later, they called me for an interview and offered me a position in either Columbus, Ohio or Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.”
Irizarry made this hard decision when economic crisis hit his home in Puerto Rico in 2007. A split second decision that gave him a unique opportunity to provide for his family while supporting the warfighter in Philadelphia and later, Afghanistan.
After accepting a position in Philadelphia within DLA Troop Support’s Industrial Hardware supply chain, Irizarry completed his internship and despite having no military experience at all, volunteered for a six-month civilian tour to Afghanistan in 2012.
“In the first week, I asked myself what am I doing here,” Santana Irizarry said. “I was expediting supplies for the Army’s airborne and the special forces units. It was a very unique and demanding job working 10-14 hours a day. But very gratifying to see the soldiers get the parts that would typically take months to receive, obtain the parts in a matter of weeks.”
Santana Irizarry said the six months went by very fast but considers the experience rewarding. He returned home to Philadelphia for three months before a friend in Germany asked him to consider a 24-month position in Afghanistan in the Subsistence supply chain with DLA Troop Support Europe and Africa.
He accepted the offer in June 2013, and his tour of duty was extended to 30 months. Irizarry returned home for another three months prior to returning to Afghanistan again where he completed a total of five years in country in 2018.
“This position provided me a promotion, where I was responsible for an $8 billion contract and served as the eyes and ears for the contracting team in Afghanistan,” Santana Irizarry said. “I served as the face of the government and made sure that the contractors were doing what they were supposed to do based on the terms of the contract.”
Having worked within the Subsistence supply chain for less than a year, Irizarry was selected for Employee of the Month in May of 2014 and the 2014 Employee of the Year for all of DLA Troop Support. For his dedication to duty and the mission, he later received three Superior Civilian Service Awards, Meritorious Civilian Service Award and at the end of 2018 he was selected as DLA Troop Support Leader of the Year.
“Mr. Santana Irizarry’s dedication to the mission during his time at the ANHAM facility in Afghanistan played a vital role in ensuring that the warfighters needs were addressed,” said Lester Harper, chief, customer operations, DLA Troop Support Europe and Africa. “He spent countless hours ensuring that shipments of [subsistence] material were tracked and received in to the facility at ANHAM in a timely manner. His ability to provide to the minute information made him a valuable asset for DLA in a very challenging environment.”