BATTLE CREEK, Mich. –
The Defense Logistics Agency Disposition Services Europe and Africa team held its own through a unique 2020, as its reverse logistics specialists continued to meet the ongoing needs of U.S. and friendly nation warfighters, from Scandinavian forests to the sands of the Sahara, and all the places in between.
Like many of DLA’s property disposal locations around the world, the E&A team was forced to persevere through staffing challenges as the local impacts of a global pandemic repeatedly raised and lowered threat levels for U.S. military installations throughout Europe. Despite site closures, and periods where no one, or next to no one, was physically reporting to their work site, E&A notched quite a few successes for the year. Among the major highlights is the agency’s ongoing support for the Marine Corps Prepositioning Program-Norway.
The U.S. Marine Corps has stored vast amounts of equipment among mountainous caves in Norway since 1981. The equipment stands ready for use during a potential NATO response, or to help defend Norway from attack – the agreement is a win-win for all. The amount of material there is purposefully unknown but thought to be enough to outfit multiple Marine Corps brigades during a conflict.
Much of the equipment stored there in the ‘80s was used during the 2003 invasion of Iraq and replenished during the mid-2000s. Around six years ago, equipment modernization efforts gained steam at the sites, and DLA Disposition Services has played a key role in the retrograde of usable equipment, like generators, water purification systems, floodlight sets, explosive ordnance disposal search kits, maintenance equipment and tools, antennas, tires, fuel tanks, power distribution panels, weapon parts and accessories, tents, space heaters, air conditioners and computer equipment.
In 2019, E&A property disposal specialists Zeke Graham and Courtney Aubrey traveled from their home site in Germany to multiple Nordic caves to help DLA take back 30 shipping containers filled with $3.6 million in surplus equipment. At the time, Graham called it “the tip of the iceberg,” and estimated there was another 150 to 200 containers of items that still needed to be retrograded for the Marine Corps to remain on track with its modernization goals.
The pandemic of 2020 may have shut down a lot of the world, but there would be no pause when it came to ensuring the material readiness of the Marine Corps. From July to October, the Marines conducted 16 shipments of roughly 1,100 line items worth $8.5 million to Defense Logistics Agency property disposal receipt sites in Germany. The experts at DLA E&A helped them purge even more property than the previous year, despite personnel travel limitations, through steady distance support and process mentorship.
Graham said Disposal Service Representative Danny Gregory, from DLA Disposition Services at Stuttgart, Germany, coordinated and planned the retrograde via weekly teleconference calls with his Marine Corps counterparts, and he cited a handful of dedicated Marines who provided “boots on the ground” assistance in Norway.
“The shipment coordination went through [me] for all inbound property and any issues that arose during the retrograde,” Graham said. “Any issues encountered were handled in a timely manner at the lowest level for resolution, which allowed all parties to focus on the retrograde mission and processing of received property.”
As of mid-November, about $400,000 of equipment turned in had already been claimed for reuse by other customers. If project estimates prove correct, 2021 will require more DLA assistance and expertise as the Marines draw closer to completing their equipment modernization goals in Norway.