A package the size of a matchbox that costs $7, supported 240 service members celebrating Ash Wednesday in Japan thanks to the Defense Logistics Agency.
Paul Diak, DLA Troop Support Clothing and Textiles supervisory customer account specialist described how nearly eight DLA employees and vendors worked together to replace a missing package of ashes heading to a naval base in Yokosuka, Japan prior to Ash Wednesday.
“We created a new order, coordinated with the vendor and [DLA Distribution Susquehanna, Pennsylvania.] consolidation point [employees] to let them know one ounce of ashes was coming in Friday, [March 1] to be there in time for Ash Wednesday, [March 6],” Diak said. “We had five to eight people involved for one order of ashes. That’s how much attention to detail we have, even to a $7 order.”
Diak used this example to illustrate the level of support his ecclesiastical team provides in support of religious holidays throughout the year, and especially Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, Passover and Easter.
Between the four holidays, C&T filled 185 orders, nearly 40 percent more than last year’s respective holiday season, due to more targeted marketing and outreach to customers, Diak said. The orders consisted of 2,028 bottles of wine or grape juice, 274,000 pieces of palm, 434 Jewish ceremonial Seder kits and 65 ounces of ashes.
In addition to C&T’s religious support, the Subsistence supply chain also provided approximately 1,046 cases of Kosher for Passover Meals, Ready-to-Eat to service members in the U.S., deployed and on Navy ships. Each case contains 12 meals including chicken, beef, salmon and gefilte fish menus.
Subsistence also provided approximately 1,692 pounds of salmon, 496 pounds of shrimp, and 947 pounds of pork, in addition to other food items including marshmallows, coconut flakes, almonds and fruit pies for Easter. Of the total orders C&T supported this year, 54 supported service members in the continental U.S. and 131 from outside the continental U.S., customer account specialist Christopher Gaudio said. Locations included Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait and the Philippines.
“Most of the people who need religious items come from OCONUS,” Gaudio said. “Sales are not as important as boosting morale to ensure customers can celebrate their [respective] holiday.”
C&T makes approximately $1 million a year in ecclesiastical item sales, Gaudio said.
“Our main mission is to get it there,” Gaudio said. “We’ll do whatever we have to do, whether it’s working on Saturdays, coming in at 4 a.m. to call [the customer] to make sure [the order] is correct. We’ll do whatever we can to get items where they need it.”
Gaudio physically went to DDSP in New Cumberland, Pennsylvania early April to count palm. The ecclesiastical team works with the DLA Chaplain Army Col. Robert Wichman and Religious Affairs Noncommissioned Officer Army Sgt. 1st Class Apollo Stoewer throughout the year coordinating and marketing to other military chaplains about DLA’s religious items support.
One of the challenges Gaudio and his team faced fulfilling customer orders included dealing with ever-changing customs rules at the various countries.
“Planning is a big issue with this program as customs regulations can change throughout the year,” Gaudio said.
Customer account specialist Christine McCann worked with the ecclesiastical team for the first time this year and witnessed how involved the process can be.
“People are very intent to get items where they need to go and are willing to go above and beyond, so I find that really impressive,” McCann said.
Closing out the holiday season of support, Gaudio thanked all the team members involved.
“Thank you all for your support this year, the customer really appreciates the dedication and countless hours spent, just to get them these items on time,” Gaudio said.