DLA Aviation “purple” reserve forces answering the call

By Leon Moore DLA Aviation Public Affairs

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Maj. Randy Gabriel has spent close to two decades serving in the U.S. Marine Corps.

After graduating from Villanova University in Villanova, Pennsylvania, Gabriel was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 2003. He went on to serve on active duty for seven years before transferring to the reserves, where he has served nine years and counting. The last four years, he’s been attached to Defense Logistics Agency; three years with DLA Distribution and this past year with DLA Aviation. 

Gabriel is one of two Marines assigned to the 34-member DLA Joint Reserve Force unit in Richmond, Virginia. It’s made up of officers and enlisted members from all four branches of the U.S. military, with each having a service specific lead. Many within the military community refer to these types of integrated service units as “purple” units.

Defense Logistics Agency Joint Reserve Force is headquartered at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. According to its webpage, more than 670 reservists like Gabriel - soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines – are assigned to nearly every DLA organization across the United States, including Hawaii, and Europe.

Led by Navy Rear Adm. Deborah Haven, its mission is to provide DLA with a trained, ready and available joint force for contingency operations, operational support, surge support and contingency planning. The unit’s objective is to develop highly skilled, multi-functional, joint logistics professionals who understand all aspects of DLA operations and customer service.

Gabriel is currently on the tail end of a three-month deployment in support of Marine Rotational Force-Darwin in Darwin, Australia, serving as the DLA Indo-Pacific liaison officer to all exercise and operations going on in that area of responsibility.

He said this deployment has come with some unique circumstances.

“Some challenges of being the single face of DLA in Darwin, Australia, have been bringing the full DLA capabilities to the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin while being a team of one. A lot of the Marines here have asked me very specific questions about [DLA’s major subordinate commands]: Distribution, Energy, Disposition, Troop Support, Aviation and Land and Maritime. The challenge has been to find the right people within DLA to help answer these questions while being 9,000 miles away,” he said.

But Gabriel said those same challenges have made the deployment extremely rewarding.

“One reward of being the main DLA point-of-contact for this large of a deployed force is that I get to work across the entire spectrum of DLA. Even though it has been a challenge, being exposed to all of the capabilities that DLA can bring to the warfighter has broadened both my military knowledge and also help me with my civilian job,” Gabriel said.

Gabriel is a logistics program manager at Naval Air Systems Command at Naval Air Station, Patuxent River, Maryland.  He is currently serving as the assistant program manager for logistics on the AIM-9X Sidewinder Missile Program. He’s been a civil servant for eight years.

Air Force Lt. Col. Rebecca Schultz is the joint team lead as well as the Air Force service lead for the JRF in Richmond.

She said over the past year, along with providing personnel like Gabriel to support military exercises around the world, reservists attached to JRF Aviation played a vital role in DLA Aviation’s support of the warfighter, including researching close to 7,000 national stock numbers and expediting the emergency buy process for Navy assets, providing full-time customer logistics site specialist support to the Army Customer Facing Division, working to decrease unfilled orders and researching over 2,500 national item identification number toward those fills.

“We are a diverse and experienced group that is here to be an integral part of the mission,” Schultz said.

Gabriel has taken this “can do” attitude to a whole different level in Australia, providing critical support, not just to the warfighter, but to man’s best friend as well, on his off time.

“While deployed to Darwin, I spend my Saturdays volunteering at a local animal shelter where I help walk, feed and take care of the dogs. It has helped me to deal with a little home sickness of being away from my wife and our three dogs,” he said.