FORT BELVOIR, Virginia –
The final issue of Loglines magazine hits the streets this week. I thought staff cuts and new media trends would make it easy to say goodbye to a product I’ve toiled over for 11 years, but serving as editor of the September/October 2019 issue made me nostalgic. It reminded me why I chose to remain a writer as previous editors came and went: storytelling is my passion. Readers’ tastes are changing though. A recent survey revealed that much of our audience is turning to online resources for news. So like many newspapers and magazines that have ceased print production in the past decade, we’ve made the tough decision to refocus our efforts on DLA’s online presence. It’ll be an adjustment for me.
My heart has always been in the magazine business. As a young soldier fresh from print journalism training in 1989, I was sent to Taegu, South Korea, to work on the monthly Southern Star magazine for the 19th Support Command. Looking back, it seems God knew what he was doing starting me out on a publication highlighting a humdrum topic: logistics. I had a ruthless editor with a mighty red pen who painfully, slowly taught me the art of feature writing. “Clambering to the top of a 15-foot-high stack of boards in the Army’s largest lumber yard, more than wood can be seen. One can see a ‘Land of Logistics,’” began the first story I wrote as a soldier. While not a lead I’d write now, it was my induction into what’s become 29 years of writing for the Defense Department. And yes, that lumber is now bought and stored by DLA. My career has come full circle.
Korea is where I also held my first glossy copy of the Army’s flagship publication, Soldiers magazine. I envied those whose bylines graced its pages and made that my goal despite stiff competition. A mix of hard work and pure luck made it reality. Though no longer a soldier, I was a full-fledged staff writer by 9/11. My stories ranged from an in-depth feature on a military emergency-rescue unit that lifted lifeless bodies from the ruins of the Pentagon’s west side to a Medal of Honor recipient who joined the U.S. Army after surviving a German concentration camp. He later saved the lives of fellow troops when they were taken prisoner during the Korean War.
The stories I’ve told stay with me. And while I feared the ground for compelling topics might be barren when I took the job here at DLA, I shouldn’t have worried. My first issue of Loglines was actually its premiere, the July-August 2008 edition designed to mirror service publications like Soldiers and the Navy’s All Hands by informing employees, customers and industry representatives.
“Supporting America’s Warfighters” was the theme of that first issue, in which I wrote about how DLA planned logistics support for troops in Iraq before the first American boot touched ground. With an estimate of the force-structure size from DoD and input from component commanders on the quantity and timing of supplies that would be needed, agency planners bought and prepositioned bottled water, cots, spare aviation and vehicle parts, desert camouflage uniforms, medicine, concertina wire and so much more. What struck me most was the people who made it happen and employees’ willingness to deploy amid bullets and bombs for the sake of meeting customers’ needs on their turf – fully aware they could do the job from a desk here at home.
In a later issue, I painted a picture of eight women nicknamed “the flag ladies” who kept a dying art alive by hand-embroidering the nation’s presidential and vice presidential flags. The group still stitches flawless flags with each side clear of knots and stray threads, creating a mirror effect that new employees spend six months learning. Despite some of the less interesting topics I’ve had to cover – implementation of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure decisions took the prize for tedious and dull – the flag ladies taught me that DLA is full of people with unique backgrounds and talents.
There were stories on DLA’s scramble to supply up-armored kits that protected Humvee passengers from improvised explosive devices, new strategies to reduce material and operational costs, and unique missions like uniform support for fallen warfighters whose remains are processed for burial at the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations Center at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. In Loglines, readers have witnessed the power of DLA’s global operation as it helped Americans recover from hurricanes like Sandy and Matthew with direly needed food, generators and fuel, as well as how swiftly DLA employees arrived in Liberia to set the stage for an international fight against the deadly Ebola virus.
It’s a coincidence but no surprise that the theme of the last issue of Loglines is the same as the first: Supplying America’s Military. As always, the stories depict the hard work of DLA’s employees. National Account Manager teams and customer support representatives describe how they’ve helped troops overcome logistics challenges at the DoD-level and helped solve everyday problems like supply shortages and last-minute requirements at tactical levels. As I interviewed CSRs like Daren Campbell, it dawned on me for the 1,000th time that so many of DLA’s employees are former service members who waste no time getting to the bottom of troops’ supply problems because they’ve been there, done that, and they get why it’s so important. Those who haven’t served in the military are no less inspired; many are just as eager to volunteer to serve as DLA liaisons for troops in places like Poland or to join deployment teams that can be called to respond at a moment’s notice.
Loglines’ demise doesn’t signal an end to news and feature articles about our great workforce and the agency’s mission. Although the number of full-time writers in my time with DLA Public Affairs has gone from four down to one permanent and one temporary scheduled to end in January, we’ll continue to spread the agency’s story on dla.mil, as well as social media sites like Facebook and YouTube. Eleven years have taught me much about what DLA does and that will continue to evolve as the agency attracts new talent, even without Loglines gracing the newsstands. If you’ve got news worth sharing or know an employee who’s making a difference, drop me a line. DLA’s story will still be told, and you’re a big part of it.