Customer operations support extends to Fort Rucker

By Natalie Skelton, DLA Aviation Public Affairs

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The mission of supporting the warfighter through interagency sustainment has been embodied to the fullest by members of Defense Logistics Agency Aviation Richmond, Virginia’s customer service specialists.

Fort Rucker’s Training Base is home to more than 20% of the aircraft in Army Aviation inventory, and more than 25% of the entire Army’s total flight hours are logged there. A pilot shortage, as well as changes in operations tempo, underscored the need for the temporary duty initiative, which came about after conversations between U.S. Army Materiel Command’s Commander Gen. Gustave “Gus” Perna at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, and Aviation Center Logistics Command’s Commander Col. Richard Martin at Fort Rucker, Alabama.

To better engage customers and understand their specific needs, while supporting ongoing operations, several customer account specialists from DLA Aviation’s Customer Operations Directorate, Army Customer Facing Division, are spending 30-day rotations at Fort Rucker, Alabama, home of U.S. Army Aviation headquarters.

During their rotations, the specialists are supporting operations at Fort Rucker, which currently has just one DLA Aviation customer logistics site specialist. CAS staffers Calvin Lawrence and Brian Helton are in Alabama this month for their second temporary duty, having already served a rotation last fall. Other rotations have been served by CAS staffers Harry Mars, Victor Ruffilo and Michael McGraw.

Margie Harrison, operations branch chief, Customer Relationship Management Readiness Cell, DLA Aviation Customer Operations Directorate, Army Customer Facing Division said, “They have been rotating every 30 days because we want to allow more than one CAS the opportunity to see the operations at Fort Rucker as well as obtain that experience. Supporting the customer physically at Fort Rucker is a lot different than supporting the customer from back here at Richmond.”

Ruffilo spent the first three weeks of December at Fort Rucker, when the force was preparing to conduct maintenance over the Christmas break.

“For me, the biggest difference between working in Richmond and at Fort Rucker was the ability to focus on just one customer for three weeks, instead of the dozens of customers we deal with in a normal operation,” Ruffilo said. “I was able to learn more about the specific parts, the issues the customer was dealing with and the effect it was having on their mission.”

McGraw was there in January and found the biggest differences between working at Fort Rucker and Richmond were the ability to “execute deep dives on national item identification numbers and requisitions specifically for that customer. It gave me a clear understanding of how important we as DLA are to customer’s operations and readiness,” said McGraw.

McGraw added that he appreciated being able to see that the work he did was having a direct impact on the customer’s mission. “It motivated me to work harder for them,” he said. “As a matter of fact, I enjoyed working directly with the customer so much, I volunteered to go back in April to continue supporting them.”

Lawrence also appreciated seeing the direct effect of working on behalf of Army Aviation during his temporary duty at Fort Rucker.

“Fort Rucker is the tip of the spear when it comes to Army Aviation. Given the mission of training pilots, the aircraft sees a lot more flight time than an average Army fleet unit,” said Lawrence.

He said, in this environment, fleet maintenance personnel can identify and address issues well before the broader Army experiences them.

“This allows for the maintainers, supply chain professionals and program managers to work together for a solution prior to negatively affecting the complete Army Fleet,” Lawrence said.

Helton said they deal with the strategic level of operations in Richmond. As a result, he said he was able to look at aircraft tactically in Fort Rucker and see what parts were needed as well as learn the importance of what those parts do for the aircraft.

“I also made some personal connections with people down there, and I feel they have a better understanding of how hard we really are working to help them,” said Helton.

Mars found the lesson of quality over quantity being reinforced, particularly when it came to locating NIINS for customers. “It does matter when we ‘chase’ NIINS — not to see how many we can do in a month, but to get that NIIN well enough to support the force,” he said.

Mars saw up close how large contracts affect the hundreds of unit requisitions tied to them, he said. “I was able to see the contract being fulfilled and shipped; the material arriving to the end user; and the item put on the aircraft. This experience has helped me push harder at the contract (DLA) level knowing that the result will affect the mission.”

Army Col. Woodard “Buddy” Hopkins, III, chief, Army Customer Facing Division, Customer Operations Directorate, DLA Aviation said, “The voluntary rotation of our Army Customer Facing Division employees has enabled DLA Aviation to provide continuous support to our customer at Fort Rucker, Alabama.”

“These rotations are allowing DLA support to the customer while at the same time exposing our employees to this customer’s mission and their unique support requirements.” Hopkins said.

Future TDY assignments are possible, as DLA Aviation is committed to offering as much additional support as Fort Rucker needs.