CAMP BONDSTEEL, KOSOVO –
DLA Disposition Services makes history this week as its civilian and military property disposal experts man a mobile expeditionary site abroad for the very first time.
The two-week deployment of personnel and property to Camp Bondsteel in the Republic of Kosovo represents the cumulative efforts of the agency’s planners and trainers over the past several years. Expeditionary equipment needs were methodically identified, tweaked and improved as personnel rehearsed the winning mix of downrange skills necessary to go serve the warfighter in potentially austere and far-flung environments.
In early 2019, one of the sub-command’s four Expeditionary Site Sets was pre-positioned in Germany. Another set was shipped to the Indo-Pacific region, while two sets remain in the U.S. The modular sets can be quickly deployed nearly anywhere and give a property disposal team the ability to erect a full-service site and begin accepting and processing defunct and unwanted equipment within 100 hours of arrival.
In June, the Germany-based ESS was transported to Kosovo, where DLA continues to support the U.S. Army and NATO-led Kosovo Force. A cadre of U.S. troops have remained in the Eastern European nation ever since the 1999 United Nations resolution authorizing a coalition peacekeeping response to the escalating humanitarian crisis that had threatened and displaced millions.
Jose Montanez recently served as DLA’s lead disposal representative for Europe and Africa. He said regional disposal reps provide the same high level of support and response to Camp Bondsteel as they do elsewhere, typically by arranging for hazardous waste removal from Kosovo or by advising on property shipments to one of the agency’s 10 permanent disposal offices in the region.
When it comes to the business of equipment redeployment, however, some items are just not worth the cost of shipping back. In January, he traveled to Camp Bondsteel to gauge how helpful it would be to deploy an ESS and team there for a short-duration disposal mission to process some of those accumulated low-value items.
“There’s a multitude of property classes and commodities [like] containers, electronics, power distribution and refrigeration equipment, tires and vehicle parts, appliances and miscellaneous Class IX and VII pieces,” Montanez said, noting that an ESS and disposal team offers all the tools and expertise needed to clear out unwanted materiel. “Inbound retrograded property is inducted, inventoried, documented, processed and will undergo destructive scrapping, mutilation or demilitarization. End phase is the removal of the scrap.”
Montanez said the decision to choose Kosovo for the ESS’ maiden mission was approved by DLA Disposition Services Director Mike Cannon in March after region personnel had evaluated cost, feasibility and life support factors and received an official Army request for agency support of the KFOR mission and U.S. Army Europe’s biannual Saber Guardian exercise.
Tina Maier directs DLA property disposal efforts throughout Europe and Africa, and she called ESS deployment preparation “a total team effort” between her staff, DLA Europe and Africa, Camp Bondsteel and the agency’s Joint Team military reservists.
“We really rallied to make this first-ever exercise deployment of an ESS possible,” Maier said. “It’s been quite a learning experience, working through all the details associated with planning for this. We are documenting the process and lessons learned to make planning for the next exercise much easier.”
Property Disposal Specialist Parry Miller made the trip all the way from Battle Creek, Michigan, to serve as site leader for the ESS deployment. Miller has been closely involved with the preparation and training of deployment teams and said he appreciated the opportunity to personally witness all of the hard work and preparation playing out in a field environment.
“The morale, skill and dedication of our team members is the key to this deployment’s success,” Miller said. “[The team’s] preparation, excitement and camaraderie as they started the build of the ESS kit was evident the moment we arrived. They continue to show pride and professionalism in their duties as we approach full operational capacity.”
Director Cannon addressed expeditionary trainees as recently as June 10 as they began a summer exercise dubbed Overseas Contingency Operations Readiness Training. That annual training prepares military reservists and civilians for the exact kind of real-world support their colleagues are simultaneously providing more than 5,000 miles away.
Cannon said deployable sets will remain dispersed and positioned for potential contingency, emergency and disaster response missions. But to ensure the hoppers, forklifts, excavators, cutting systems, portable shelters and other pieces remain in working condition, he said he wants the organization to identify more regional exercises across the globe, like Saber Guardian, where it can help warfighters while keeping its own people sharp and equipment ready.
“This is the first time we’ve gotten to test [the ESS] outside of Michigan,” Cannon told exercise participants. “We will try to do this regularly. … Next year, it may be you doing this out in the Indo-Pacific somewhere.”