CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait –
Many Defense Logistics Agency civilians choose deployment to excel in their careers, expand their knowledge and get out their comfort zones, but most don’t volunteer to deploy during a global pandemic.
“Ever since my mentor recommended that I experience and learn about DLA's operations as well as policy management, I’ve inquired about deployment opportunities,” said Gee Hyun McNease, a sub-process owner lead who works in DLA Logistics Operations.
Before working at DLA Headquarters, McNease worked at DLA Disposition Services but wanted a more holistic view of DLA operations.
“I jumped at the chance to gain more operational and leadership experience while supporting the warfighter in a forward deployed environment,” she said. “DLA Support Team-Kuwait is one of the best places to engage and learn, and I’m finding out it was the right choice in terms of knowledge growth.”
After attending pre-deployment training at Camp Atterbury, Indiana, McNease deployed to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, for a six-month deployment as DST-K’s deputy commander. She supervises nine employees while implementing policy and leading culture/climate discussions, safety training and performance evaluations.
The team comprises 16 military and civilian professionals who represent various DLA business functional areas and supports the fourth largest foreign U.S. military presence behind Germany, Korea and Japan. They monitor DLA’s supply chains across the region, managing multiple supply classes as well as contracts and services in the U.S. Central Command area of operation, with primary customer support to the CENTCOM component commands.
CENTCOM forces support three primary named operations: Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan; Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq; and Operation Spartan Shield on the Arabian Peninsula. DLA’s static customers in the region include the 1st Theater Sustainment Command, 36th Infantry Division, Task Force Spartan, and area support groups in Kuwait, Qatar and Jordan.
“The DST-K team is responsible for all facets of sustainment to these formations, ranging from repair parts to coordination with primary vendors for subsistence,” McNease said. “Most of our customers need assistance maintaining the operational readiness of their critical fleets.”
McNease and her team assist customers by monitoring repair parts using tracking systems to identify backorders and critical parts. The team’s warfighter support representatives and universal customer account specialists are also embedded with customers so team members can understand the units’ priorities.
“We attend maintenance meetings, standard battle rhythm events, rehearsals and operational back briefs,” she said. “Our intent is to anticipate the requirements of those we support before they ask for it.”
Additional support from DLA CENTCOM and U.S. Special Operations Command allows the DST-K team to proactively meet customer needs, McNease said.
“While we’re forward deployed, DLA is a team of teams focused on supporting the warfighters as far forward as possible. Whenever we encounter an issue, the breadth and depth of the DLA enterprise is only a phone call away,” she said. “We’re all focused on the same goal and have the same desired end state – supporting and improving our customer’s readiness on a daily basis.”
Commander of the 401st Army Field Support Brigade, Army Col. Michael LaBrecque, said the team has been a reliable and invaluable partner.
“The DLA DST-K team is always there serving as the combat logistics support agency and managing the global supply chain down to the tactical point of need,” he said, adding that he and his team routinely works with McNease acquiring parts for Army prepositioned stock in support of theater contingency plans and emerging operational needs.
“Her dedication to the mission and efforts to support DLA customers deployed forward in theater are critical to the success of the multiple combat formations,” he said.
Due to the ever-changing and classified nature of the mission, McNease said telework has not been an option for her team during the pandemic.
“We are in a theater where service members are actively engaging with our nation’s foes,” she said. “We’re ensuring U.S. presence and support to our allies is maintained.”
The team adheres to COVID-19 protocols such as social distancing, mask-wearing, working in shifts and meeting with customers remotely.
“It’s been difficult, but the customer sees our faces and knows we’re always there, ready and willing to do whatever we can to support them,” McNease said.
The team is also supporting the agency’s vaccine distribution by daily monitoring and reporting shipments from the U.S. to the CENTCOM theater.
“The true power of DLA was brought to bear in this effort,” she said. “From the point of manufacture to shipping and distribution, the entire logistics enterprise ensured service members and civilians received vaccinations, including all 15 members of DLA DST-K in Kuwait. It was a truly phenomenal effort on everyone’s part.”
McNease was recently recognized by Alexandria Celebrates Women, a non-profit organization in Virginia, for her contributions to DLA’s pandemic support and volunteer efforts with organizations like the Korean War Veterans Memorial Foundation and the Korea Defense Veterans Association.
“McNease brings this energy to everything she does, whether she’s helping units with long lead time parts or volunteering with various organizations at home,” LaBrecque said.