Despite COVID-19 delays, DLA delivers Seder kits to soldiers in Germany for Passover

By Michael Tuttle DLA Troop Support Europe & Africa

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Army Chaplain (Capt.) Joseph Pittano expected to receive three Seder kits in Vilseck, Germany, to distribute to Jewish soldiers there this week at the start of the eight-day Passover holiday.

He checked with the Defense Logistics Agency about the delivery status March 19. But on April 7, one day before the first Seder meal of Passover, he hadn’t received the kits.

DLA Troop Support provides materials to service members to help them practice their religion wherever they are stationed around the world. Among those materials are Seder kits, which contain a pound of matzo, boxes of grape juice, a white knitted yarmulke, two Kosher for Passover Meals, Ready to Eat, and other items for the Seder feast.

Pittano serves as the chaplain for the 2nd Field Artillery Squadron, 2nd Calvary Regiment at Vilseck’s Rose Barracks, about 30 miles west of the Czech Republic border. The rapidly deployable force constantly trains to maintain its readiness.

“We’ve learned the importance of enabling our service members to celebrate their religious traditions,” Pittano said. “Anything we can do to help them celebrate those traditions is very important.”

When Pittano checked about his expected order in March, it didn’t show up in the DLA system. Chris Gaudio, the lead customer account specialist for religious items at DLA Troop Support’s headquarters in Philadelphia, arranged for an order of the kits from a vendor’s emergency stock to be shipped.

The emergency order shipped March 27 and was expected to arrive March 30. Jamarys Diaz, a customer representative at DLA Troop Support Europe & Africa in Kaiserslautern, Germany, then took over the coordination to make sure the kits were delivered.

The shipment hit multiple delays, however, having to clear customs twice and then due to complications from the COVID-19 pandemic. At one point, the shipping company didn’t have enough drivers.

Diaz constantly communicated with the vendor in the U.S., the shipping company and Pittano, through phone calls, email and text messages, to push the kits to Vilseck in time for Passover.

Pittano said Diaz even reached him with one call while he was out running “four miles deep into the German wilderness.”

“The DLA reps were amazing,” he said. “We were in constant communication. They were turning over rocks I didn’t know existed to get the Seder kits to our soldiers.”

The kits arrived April 9, in time for the second night of Passover. But another Army chaplain in nearby Grafenwoehr gave Pittano some Seder kit items to help the Jewish soldiers celebrate the first night.

From Ash Wednesday through Easter, that one delivery was one of many DLA made to service members for recent religious holidays. DLA Troop Support provided nearly 90,000 pounds of ham, pork, salmon, shrimp and other food items around the world for those holiday meals.

In addition to the Seder kits, Diaz oversaw orders for ashes, palms and wine throughout Europe.

“Our soldiers put their lives on the line for us and I need to give more than my 100 percent,” Diaz said, “to make sure they receive whatever gives them comfort, relief, trust and maintain their faith, especially in these times we are living in.

“I have a strong faith and love for God,” she said. “And every need regarding our soldiers is as if it were my need. And in this case, they needed Seder kits.”