News | Aug. 28, 2016

Crushing It in Europe

By Dianne Ryder

 

Most military exercises operate in simulated environments and use hypothetical requirements to test and sustain operational readiness. But for 10 days in June, a multinational exercise that encompassed 16 training locations throughout Poland tested the mettle of thousands of DLA personnel, both military and civilian.

Anakonda-16, a real-world exercise that ran June 7-17, brought together 12,000 U.S. troops and 13,000 coalition forces from more than 20 countries. It ran concurrently with two other significant regional exercises, Swift Response 16 and Saber Strike 16.

These exercises were the largest U.S. military mobilization of forces in Europe since the Return of Forces to Germany, or Reforger, exercises ceased in the early ‘90s, said Air Force Lt. Col. Jeffrey Lingens, acting chief of the Joint Logistics Operations Center’s DLA  Europe & Africa.

Army, active National Guard and Reserve forces were used to demonstrate speed of assembly and freedom of movement.

Lingens said DLA employed various supply classes in providing extensive customer support: rations; petroleum, oil and lubricants; and to a lesser degree, repair parts and construction materials.

DLA Disposition Services assisted with the drawdown of Anakonda-16 and requirements were gathered throughout the planning process,” he said.

“Anakonda-16 is a throwback to the Reforger exercises the U.S. Army Europe conducted to exercise and demonstrate to allies and adversaries our ability to deploy forces to Germany, if and when needed,” said Dimitrus Lowe, a property disposal specialist in DLA Disposition Services.

Lowe explained how the exercise attempted to make the current 30,000 troops in Europe function like the 300,000 troop presence during the time of Reforger.

“Disposition Services’ primary part in the exercise was the removal of hazardous waste such as used oils and contaminated fuel left behind in Poland as U.S.-based forces redeployed to their home stations,” Lowe said.

The exercise highlighted the importance of DLA’s strategic readiness and ability to meet the customer’s needs, said David James, a DLA Europe & Africa planner.

“The U.S. Army is working to strengthen partnerships and improve interoperability in Europe with our NATO partners and allied nations,” he said. “DLA has to be ready meet these increasing requirements.”

James, who participated as part of the agency’s rotation program, was tasked with gathering information for DLA Europe & Africa and recommending a support plan for Anakonda-16.

“In most cases, the [DLA primary-level field activities] were heavily engaged as well – [DLA] Troop Support and DLA Distribution worked closely with the Army on a plan for subsistence and successfully delivered over $1.2 million in rations in support of the exercise,” James said. “DLA Energy liaison officers were involved in the planning process from the very beginning and deployed in support of the exercise.”

DLA Europe & Africa warfighter support representatives assisted with building up stocks of repair parts as the units prepared to deploy in support of the exercise and Disposition Services played a critical role assisting the Army with cleanup, James said.

“There was a lot of great work done across DLA,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed seeing it all come together.”

James said he observed nothing that jeopardized DLA support but he reiterated that the exercise highlighted the importance of customer engagement during planning and logistics execution.

“No matter how good a plan is, things will change during execution,” he said. “Having people embedded at the key logistics hubs allowed us to respond and make adjustments as needed.”

Anakonda-16 was an exercise of unprecedented size and provided a unique opportunity to integrate U.S. forces and coalition forces, said DLA Energy  Europe & Africa operations officer Air Force Capt. Kristen Wolverton.

“We were able to form relationships with logistics professionals through the European theater that will prove invaluable as the theater continues to evolve,” she said. “Getting the chance to see how the Allied and partner nations work in this type of exercise was a new opportunity for me.”

In addition, Wolverton said the experience expanded her understanding of how other services plan and execute their operations.

“It’s something I’ll carry with me as a member of DLA and beyond.”

DLA Energy’s role in the exercise was not only to provide fuel to the warfighter, but also to hone their ability to more effectively plan and execute fuel support, Wolverton said.

“We always have a host of methods to choose from when it comes to providing fuel and we were able to prove multiple methods of fuel support in the exercise theater,” she said. “Analyzing how well that fuel support worked will help us develop as an organization and ultimately better serve the warfighter.”

Karin Jensen, a contract specialist and local national with DLA Troop Support in Germany, said her organization’s primary responsibility was to provide bottled water.

“Anakonda was quite a challenge,” she said. “It was the first time we had to deal with so many soldiers – about 31,000 soldiers and 24 NATO countries.”

Jensen’s planning began in April when she established a blanket purchase agreement with a vendor in Poland.

“I thought it was easier to get somebody right there in Poland, plus it was the only vet-approved source in the Poland area,” she said.

Two weeks later, Jensen said the vendor started making their first deliveries in preparation for the troops’ arrival.

“They delivered 12-15 truckloads a week,” she said. “They were running constantly, day and night. They had to produce so much water for this exercise – it was quite a challenge on them as well as on us.”

Lessons learned came in the early phases of the operation, Jensen said.

“The drivers from the logistics company only spoke Polish – they didn’t have any drivers who spoke English,” she said.

Because of the language barrier, Jensen said the trucks were delayed in their deliveries and she made many calls to coordinate with the vendor and the customers so there were no supply failures.

“After a while it got worked out,” she said. “They finally got a hold of some Polish soldiers who spoke the language, but the first couple of weeks were difficult.”

Another difficulty proved to be the terrain where Anakonda was held, Jensen said.

“At the beginning, the customers expected these trucks to drive in the woods where the exercise took place – and these were bumpy roads,” she said. “Sometimes the vendor didn’t have the correct address and had to drive an additional 15-30 miles,” she said.

But the trucks were re-routed and the deliveries made at no additional expense.

“The company handled it pretty well, I think,” Jensen said. “Most of these problems were solved quickly.”

When the request for final deliveries came in, the requirement was for larger containers of water. So Jensen had to contract with a vendor in Italy.

“Because the vendor in Poland does not produce these large bottles,” she said. “The customer requested 8-liter bottles for cooking purposes and washing dishes.”

In the end, the vendor delivered 1,484 pallets of water, or 747,936 1.5-liter bottles, along with numerous 8-liter bottles, in support of Anakonda.

“That’s quite a lot,” she said. “Everything worked out well with the contracts, and the customer received what they asked for — which is good.”