FORT BELVOIR, Va. –
Behind the Defense Logistics Agency’s 26,000 employees are 667 reservists providing daily mission support that translates into warfighter readiness. From tracking military operations around the globe and deploying alongside troops to filling backorders for critical spare parts, members of the DLA Joint Reserve Force are more than just extra hands. They’re vital.
“We would have definitely been buried without them,” DLA’s cold chain management expert, Dana Dallas, said of reservists helping receive and process monitors that track temperature for some of the 300-plus refrigerated items DLA Troop Support manages.
“With the base restrictions for non-essential personnel and civilians forcing us all to work from home, having the ability for our reservists to physically be in the office for base mailroom receipt of physically returned TempTale temperature monitors allowed us to maintain our critical daily operations during a very challenging time in staffing and ops tempo,” she said.
It allowed her and the one other employee assigned fulltime to cold chain management to focus primarily on supporting COVID-19 vaccines. Reservists’ collective help in fiscal 2021 equaled 575 workdays in cold chain management alone.
In the same timeframe, DLA reservists provided 39,000 workdays of mission support in areas like the Agency Synchronization and Operations Center, where they pull 12-hour shifts on nights and weekends maintaining a current operating picture of DLA’s global posture.
“They’re connected with the desk officers at each of the geographical combatant commands and pulling information from a variety of sources to build real-time summaries used to update agency leaders each day on the status of DLA’s support,” said Army Lt. Col. Frank Washington, the JRF’s plans and mobilization officer.
At DLA Distribution centers, reservists helped conduct 100% inventory checks and validate expiration dates of supplies on the shelves. They also sorted through material placed in litigation, or “condition code L,” for reasons ranging from missing inspection signatures or paperwork to disparities between the quantity in the box and what’s listed on the invoice. Their work minimizes the amount of non-issuable material and reduces backorders.
The JRF team at DLA Land and Maritime helped make $571,000 worth of line items available for the nuclear enterprise through the Backorder Reduction Initiative.
“Through their in-depth research into our logistics systems, Navy reservists are able to find items that are mislabeled or classified incorrectly in our inventory and reclassify them. It’s made a big difference in our support to the Trident Missile Program,” said Army Col. Jennifer Kostic, JRF Directorate Chief at DLA Land and Maritime.
Her crew also reduced National Stock Number fraud by $2.7 million by investigating purchases for items without NSNs to determine if they were for legitimate needs. Though non-NSN items are sometimes ordered in emergency situations or because the item has diminishing availability, such purchases can signal fraud, she said, especially if they’re ordered repetitively by the same customer.
“It could mean the customer is potentially buying something they’re not reporting receipt of on their property books or they’re selling the item,” Kostic continued. “We share any suspicious activity with legal experts so they can look into it further, and it’s clear that our work helps prevent fraud.”
Even efforts to avoid counterfeit microchips is supported by reservists who do administrative tasks for the Counterfeit Detection Avoidance Program. Fraudulent microchips can cause weapons system failures and are an increasing risk with manufacturing challenges brought on by COVID-19.
An average of 25 to 30 reservists were deployed at any given time in the previous fiscal year, Washington added. Though many supported the drawdown of equipment in Afghanistan, some spent six months or more in Kuwait processing excess equipment for demilitarization and disposal or in Africa at a DLA Distribution center at Camp Lemonnier, Africa. Army Staff Sgt. William Walker is one of many, he said, who volunteered for multiple deployments when fellow troops or civilians couldn’t due to family or work circumstances.
“We have some very motivated service members – so much so that when we canvas the community for volunteers to step in, we get immediate responses each and every time,” Washington said.
Karen Dean of the ASOC’s Deployment Support Branch said reservists provide essential continuity and are a mainstay in distribution and disposal operations as well as hurricane relief efforts.
Regardless of their branch of service, reservists make up a more ready force than ever before, Washington added.
“We used to be one weekend a month and two weeks a year, and that was our whole requirement,” he said. “But reservists have been conditioned over the last 20 years to be ready and trained to go into a new position at a moment’s notice.”
DLA’s use of reservists in joint environments that include civilians, active-duty members, and numerous services and federal agencies results in a force that’s well-rounded and skilled in various functional areas, he continued.
“That means we have people who have system access and knowledge, the proper clearances and training to hit the ground running when you need them the most.”