COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. –
Before most Americans had heard of COVID-19, Defense Logistics Agency Liaison Officer Ralph Laurie was coordinating the return of thousands of passengers stranded on cruise ships arriving from regions where the virus had already started ravaging populations.
Laurie has spent most of his 19-year DLA career at the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command Headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado, which is responsible for global coordination of pandemic influenza response. In late January and early February, Laurie assisted in identifying lodging at military installations for quarantined cruise ship passengers upon the Defense Department’s approval of Department of Health and Human Services’ requests for lodging support.
While NORTHCOM planned how to repatriate those coming in from global hotspots like Europe and Asia, Laurie said it was clear that the United States was becoming a hotspot. He helped ensure both commands were linked to DLA Troop Support for critical items like personal protective equipment and coordinated efforts with DLA’s Agency Synchronization Operations Center.
DLA also supplied the USNS Comfort with over $14 million in personal protective equipment, pharmaceuticals, medical supplies, fuel and food when NORTHCOM deployed the ship to New York City March 30. DLA even supplied mobile hospitals in the city.
“Sustainment requirements were changing constantly,” Laurie said. “We were trying to make sure those units had everything they needed, and of course the big thing early on was PPE.”
Tracking the ever-changing demands was challenging, Laurie said, but he and his on-site DLA Energy counterpart, Gregory Knowles, supported each other by mixing telework and in-office time to ensure a DLA rep was always in the office.
Laurie also credited his supervisor, Executive Director of Operations David Kless, for recognizing the importance of his work.
“I really feel like [Kless] took value from what I was seeing and hearing here and that’s not always the case. Sometimes liaison officers end up being like protocol people,” Laurie said. “There’s a small cadre of people in the ASOC and DLA Troop Support who spent months just getting crushed every day, and a lot of those people probably won’t get recognized.”
NORAD and NORTHCOM leaders honored Laurie’s dedication by presenting him an Army Civilian Service Commendation Medal Sept. 1.
“There was never a time in more than four months of high tempo operations that the NORTHCOM team could not get hold of Ralph and coordinate actions or get answers to important requests for information,” NORAD and NORTHCOM Deputy of Logistics Plans and Operations Craig Dickinson wrote in an email. “We were starting to wonder when he actually slept.”
Laurie added that he believes NORTHCOM values its partnership with DLA.
“DLA is a very trusted partner and that makes what we do a whole lot easier,” he said.