BATTLE CREEK, Mich. –
Defense Logistics Agency hazardous waste and property disposal support for rotational U.S. troops in Poland has grown significantly during the past five years as joint military exercises like Atlantic Resolve become the norm in Eastern Europe.
The DLA Disposition Services directorate responsible for Europe and Africa began offering regular support for rotational troops at as many as 14 sites in Poland starting in mid-2015, according to region leadership. That support has included hazardous waste removal, scrap recycling, property reuse training and equipment turn-in opportunities for troops retrograding back to the U.S. from theater.
In-country hazardous material disposal support has been particularly valuable. In fiscal 2018, DLA arranged for disposal of at least 180,000 lbs. of waste for troops there. That number grew to 332,000 lbs. in 2019 and is already higher for 2020 as steady support continues despite pandemic-related delays in training.
“I don’t see it dropping off,” said DLA Disposition Services Environmental Specialist Michael Lapine, who is based out of the agency’s property disposal site in Grafenwoehr, Germany, and is currently on his fifth trip in the past year to Poland to provide hazardous waste removal oversight. “As we do more large-scale exercises and bring more and more soldiers through, mechanized units generate a lot. If they’re performing regular maintenance, they’re generating waste. It’s a constant. Then units will rotate out, turn in their property, and new units will arrive and step right into the game.”
Lapine’s current trip includes visits with warfighters at seven dispersed Polish field locations to help mechanized units dispatch used material like waste fuel, oil filters, antifreeze and lead acid batteries. The removal visits include a large, two-day effort at the Drawsko Potoski Training Area, where Lapine said thousands of vehicles and soldiers regularly participate in events like June’s DEFENDER-Europe 20 Allied Spirit event that included 4,000 U.S. soldiers and 2,000 Polish counterparts conducting a division-sized river crossing.
While in the field, agency reps like Lapine work hard to ensure warfighters understand the scope of used and excess equipment that the agency offers for use and try to prepare them for seamless property turn over. In Poland, soldiers are essentially living in forward deployment-like conditions. There is no support infrastructure for bringing families. Amenities are slim. Lapine, a former Army infantryman, said some rotational soldiers are living in tents on former Cold War Red Army bases. He said unit logisticians regularly work with the agency to outfit and improve their living and workspaces with wall lockers, furniture and exercise equipment that gets turned in at DLA sites in Germany.
“When I get out there, I’m dealing hand-in-hand with these soldiers,” said Lapine. “It’s not uncommon to see them later at [Grafenwoehr] with a rental car to pick up items for reuse.”
Jose Montanez has served as the lead customer field representative for the region. His role – and that of disposal services representatives throughout the enterprise - is to help ensure that the agency’s customers are getting the specific answers they need and the unique services they require as quickly and efficiently as possible. He said that with Poland, there’s a never-ending dialogue with the supply and sustainment units that roll through the nation about their troop needs.
“There are myriad exercises going on at any one time,” Montanez said. “With expedited and increased presence during active major exercises, DLA Disposition Services addresses a much needed and specific niche in Poland. We work hand in hand finding disposal solutions, from the routine turn in to hazardous waste removal spanning multiple regions. We are able to support through our services and our internal inventory which allows the warfighter to focus on mission. DLA Disposition Services Europe & Africa leverages flexibility with resources management to best support all of its customers.”