BATTLE CREEK, Mich. –
The results of summer’s annual field exercise are in the books, and once again, DLA Disposition Services’ Overseas Contingency Operations Readiness Training allowed future deployers to hone important skills while affording local real-world military units a convenient opportunity to offload unwanted property and focus more on increasing lethality.
Brian Echtinaw led the planning of this year’s iteration, which welcomed nearly 300 visitors to two pop-up full-service disposal sites erected at adjacent Battle Creek-area bases in Michigan. He said exercise participants produced nearly 200,000 pounds of scrap and nearly 30,000 pounds of waste during 350 hours of incident-free training.
“Everyone was flexible. The teams really came together and meshed well,” Echtinaw said, noting that about 30 total agency personnel, including civilians from four geographic regions and reserve military members from four different support units, filled team roles. “No matter how prepared you think you are, you have to roll with the punches and execute. This team’s execution was excellent and that led to a successful OCORT.”
Prior to OCORT’s birth in 2014, agency civilians and its uniformed personnel had primarily separate deployment training pipelines. There was little opportunity to work and build trust together prior to arrival in a high-stress contingency environment like Iraq or Afghanistan. OCORT was partly meant to help build that necessary familiarity while helping people learn the new Expeditionary Site Set equipment packages. Echtinaw has assisted with the event since its inception, and he said exercise goals have evolved as deployers become more comfortable with the ESS concept.
“When we first started, it was really geared toward training on how to conduct site equipment and shelter set-up,” he said. Realism has steadily progressed to the point where real property turned in during training is now accounted for in the agency’s live system as participants handle it. “Now, we’re much more hands off. It has gone from a training to more of an evaluation event. It’s important that everything is accomplished according to the established standard operating procedures.”
Marcus Wierman serves as a disposal services representative out of the Norfolk site and he traveled to participate in OCORT for the very first time this year as an exercise site chief. Prior to joining the agency, he was attached to an expeditionary disposal team as a Navy reserve member for eight years before that, where he deployed to Afghanistan three times, so he has seen the challenges of DLA’s disposal mission from both perspectives.
“The job’s a little easier from the civilian side. We do the work every day, so a lot more has ‘clicked’ for me,” he said, noting that assuming the role of site chief had forced him to consider parts of the mission he hadn’t previously. “It has been an eye-opening experience. I never actually realized what goes on with upper management and good leadership and why it’s necessary to make sure we’re all following the standard operating procedures.”
Keith Catt has three years in DLA Disposition Services and currently manages eDocs for headquarters. He took part in OCORT for the first time as an assistant site chief and said he got a lot out of it.
“Great experience. It’s the first time I’ve ever been part of a field operation. Running materiel handling equipment was great for me. It was just interesting to see all the steps, from property receipt all the way to disposal,” said Catt, who typically works in an office environment handling property accounting. “It was absolutely worthwhile. You’ve got to come in and be ready to work. It was a nice break to get some hands-on experience.”
The participation of Joint Reserve Force personnel is central to what has made OCORT worthwhile the past five years. Navy Capt. Katherine Boyce, the current Joint Team lead who maintains oversight of the agency’s expeditionary disposal units, visited this year’s training and said she was grateful for “the openness of Disposition Services to create a more prepared and cohesive team to support the warfighter.”
“My nearly two-year tour has seen the evolution of the joint planning of training for both our reserve and civilian expeditionary team members,” Boyce said. “Brian Echtinaw and the OCORT planning team created a fantastic event this year. Joint reservists from our units in Columbus, San Antonio, and Hill Air Force Base have had the opportunity to work alongside their expeditionary civilian teammates to be better prepared to support the warfighter in the future.”