BATTLE CREEK, Mich. –
Expeditionary property disposal doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It requires well-trained civilian and military specialists who can handle the challenges that inevitably crop up when they take responsibility for the used equipment turned in by warfighters in distant and austere environments.
The Defense Logistics Agency Disposition Services Contingency Operations Readiness Exercise, or COREX, provides an annual two-week window for its specialists to consider questions like what happens when a generator cuts out or a vital piece of equipment is delayed in transit. It also provides an opportunity for the other pieces of DLA that they will inevitably partner with downrange – like DLA Distribution and DLA Information Operations – to better prepare for collaboration when the nation calls.
“Every aspect of what you would need at a deployed location is here,” said Keith Catt, who served as the 2022 COREX Site 2 chief for the exercise team deployed at Michigan’s Fort Custer in July. Like the annual “OCORT” exercises that came before it, Catt said COREX mimics all the requirements and challenges of quickly starting up disposal operations in a brand new environment.
“We deal with both real-world challenges and ‘injects,’” Catt said, including property turn-ins from the military services and an adjacent DLA Distribution expeditionary warehouse. “We’ve been able to work through both.”
Catt said the exercise demands that disposal personnel interact with other DLA elements multiple times daily. He said that, on the technology and communications site, DLA Information Operations representatives had been present and responsive throughout.
“They’re in our morning team huddles, we they even provided us with Dish Network for breaktime entertainment,” Catt said. “Service has been good. Anything we need, they’ve been able to accommodate.”
Karina Ponce works as an information technician for DLA Information Operations out of Tracy, California. Her 14 years with the agency are split between DLA Disposition Services, DLA Distribution and DLA Information Operations. She and deployment partner Terence Perry drove one of DLA’s new Mobile Emergency Response Centers, or MERCs, all the way from California to Battle Creek to support the exercise needs of Site 2.
She said a MERC can be deployed just about anywhere, and it gives expeditionary DLA personnel all of the connectivity they would expect at their office desk: 300-foot local area network connections with internet link via satellite, a printing and copying station, commercial and DSN phones, property label printing, scanning and uploading, encrypted personal radios for local communications, secure video conferencing capability, and the ability to create a secure space for classified communications via SIPR if a mission requires it.
Ponce said the site team had also expressed appreciation for the MERC as a place to sit and cool off in some air conditioning while setting up their property receipt site, and a quiet spot for site leaders to get some work done while site shelters are being erected.
“This [MERC] is just more friendly,” Ponce said, comparing it to previous DLA field communications sets that relied on tents and shelters. “This one has space inside.”
Perry agreed and said the new version was informed from the feedback of field technicians, who provided input on what they liked and didn’t like about previous expeditionary packages. Perry said the current concept took about a year to make and field, and it was just the second exercise deployment for the units at COREX.
“I was a customer before,” Ponce said. “The MERC seems more organized and it’s quicker to set up. As a technician, it feels more controlled.”
Site 2 team member Sgt. Darlene Ewing serves DLA as both a civilian material handler and identifier at Hill Air Force Base and in an Air Force reserve role as an automated logistics specialist for the agency’s expeditionary Disposal Support Unit 3. She took part one of Disposition’s early deployment readiness exercises in 2014 said she noticed some of the changes and improvements that have been made over the years, including the communications improvements and the involvement of DLA Distribution.
“It’s a lot bigger and there’s a lot more to it,” Ewing said. “It’s nice to see the interaction between the DLA components.”
Having another DLA major sub-command take part in the exercise could potentially make things more hectic, but Catt said his team’s interactions with DLA Distribution have been “pretty seamless” and informative.
“Whenever material disposal requests come, we receive, consolidate, and take the items to the Disposition Services site,” said DLA Distribution Facilities Specialist Supervisor Benjamin Boone.
Boone is one of 34 DLA Distribution exercise deployers who set up a Theater Consolidated Shipping Point for COREX adjacent to Site 2. The TCSP is a sprawling “air beam shelter,” essentially a mobile warehouse. Participation in COREX allows DLA Distribution a chance to “exercise its capabilities,” Boone said, by handling and transporting disposition request orders in a deployment environment.
Boone said that like Disposition Services’ Expeditionary Site Set, or ESS, the DLA Distribution has fielded a similar, modular “DSS” since 2006 that includes tools, equipment and shelters they need for contingency support. Boone said deployment field training happened regularly for years and, while the frequency of the training waned some, he believed that the sub-command was “looking to make it annual” once again.
“The deployment experience is new for probably 80 percent of the team,” Boone said, calling the COREX interaction with another part of DLA a positive for his team. “Seeing the Disposition Services process and how they do things is beneficial. It’s helpful to get the pieces of the agency intertwined and working together.”