Agency employee becomes first woman to lead NATO codification

By Tim Hoyle Logistics Operations

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While some prepared for summer to begin, Elaine Chapman, international logistics data program manager for the Defense Logistics Agency Logistics Operations, began her new duties as she completed her first official act as chair of the Main Group for Allied Committee 135 when she opened some codification training courses in Luxembourg. 

Chapman has long served as the U.S. representative on the committee, which oversees the system that allows NATO members and sponsored nations to share information on the millions of items they all use. In May; however, she assumed added responsibility as the leader of the committee, becoming the first woman from any member nation to assume the post.

“While it is important that I am the first female, it is more important that the United States is respected as a leader in the community, regardless of whether a person is male or female,” Chapman said.  “It’s been some time since we have been Main Group chair and had the leadership role.”

Rick Maison was the last American to serve in the position from 2003 to 2006 while he also led DLA’s Defense Logistics Information Service. The only American chair before Maison was a man named R. Moore who led the committee from 1985 until 1987. Before assuming the post herself, Chapman chaired the Budget and Strategic Planning Subcommittee for four years.

“It’s good that we are back with high regard,” Chapman said.

The main group comprises the National Directors on Codification who run the National Codification Bureaus in their respective countries. Together, they oversee the NATO Codification System that captures the data collected by the bureaus. It is the NCS that offers access to the NATO Stock Numbers that identifies and describes the items of supply used by members. The data provides an internal logistics language to share materials for allied operations.

The committee also ensures the NCS can be used by logistics products and services that allow the data to be researched and shared. They also offer training to understand codification and how it is applied through the NCS through opportunities like the NCB College. Chapman kicked off the courses that feature a week-long session for managers and two weeks for codifiers, which ended June 28.

“The sessions I attended went really well,” Chapman said. “There were directors from a number of nations who had been before and were doing refresher training while there some brand new directors.”

Chapman said it was her first time attending the courses in Luxembourg, since the Unites States teaches its own courses. She said it felt like a different type of group with the attendees there, which made it more relaxed.

“The Main Group and the Panel A are so formal that you don’t get to talk to everyone to the degree that you can in a small group,” Chapman said. “It was really nice for me.”

Chapman said the terms for being a chair are two years long, and a person can chair a single committee for two terms.   There are four committees in AC/135, and she said allied countries can -- and currently do -- chair Panel A and Transformation Steering Working Group.  The challenge that Chapman faces now is maintaining the separation between her role as main Group chair and as the director of codification for the United States.  

“My voice as chair of the Main Group is for all of the countries,” Chapman said. “My voice for the United States is more specific to U.S. issues.

Dividing NATO-related actions with her colleague, Mike Coykendall, is something Chapman said would help make it clear when something is being offered as a comment on behalf of the Main Group or when it is a view from the U.S. perspective.

“We’ll have to be careful who posts what,” Chapman said. “My role on Main Group is clearly for all 63 countries, while his is in the role of the United States.”

Additional information on DLA’s role with NATO codification is available on the International Cataloging page of the agency website. More information on AC/135 can be found on the NATO Codification page.