PHILADELPHIA, Feb. 2 Getting the USNS Comfort stocked with needed supplies before it steamed out of the Baltimore harbor and headed for earthquake-stricken Haiti was a high priority for logisticians and acquisition specialists at the Defense Logistics Agency's supply center in Philadelphia.
For Navy Cmdr. Lawrence Coleman, chief of DLA's Subsistence Customer Support Division in Philadelphia, and Michael O'Connor, a planner for DLA's Medical Troop Support stationed at Fort Detrick, Md., the support and preparation for the Navy hospital ship's departure was even more intense. Coleman and O'Connor were selected to deploy with the ship in support of Operation Unified Response.
Both were given a day's notice of their deployment, so in addition to working to fulfill orders, they were also making preparations for their quick departure.
"I was notified Thursday afternoon, Jan. 14, and I was on the ship in less than 20 hours ready for duty to provide support to the physicians, nurses and medical technicians on the ship," O'Connor said.
"With only one day's notice, there was little time to actually do much personal preparation," said Coleman. With sea bag packed, orders cut and a train ticket to Baltimore, Coleman quickly left Philadelphia to board the ship before it set sail for Haiti.
According to Coleman, shortly after the earthquake hit, the ship's supply department immediately dropped hundreds of requisitions through DLA's Philadelphia supply center for food items to arrive at the pier to be loaded onboard the ship before it departed on Jan. 16.
"The local prime vendor in Baltimore filled as many orders as possible and all other requisitions were diverted to the prime vendor in Norfolk for fulfillment," Coleman said. "The prime vendors have been outstanding in providing superb service and high-quality products."
Six-thousand cases of ready-to-eat meals and 100 pallets of bottled water were also loaded onto the ship on the last day for the ship's crew that would be going ashore during the deployment.
DLA's medical supply chain personnel worked with prime vendors and suppliers to expedite fulfilling requisitions for pharmaceuticals, vaccines and medical and surgical products. Expedited deliveries were arranged to ensure products would be delivered and loaded onboard in time for the ship's departure.
Coleman noted that distribution networks for food and medical supplies are being developed and modified rapidly to meet the evolving scale of support coming from the continental U.S. as it reaches Haiti and the ship. Operations personnel aboard the Comfort are making transportation plans for many supplies, he said.
O'Connor said building a responsive supply chain for medical material is challenging because of the unique nature of the products since narcotics must be protected, some material have a short shelf life and other items can only be stored under the strictest of temperature controls.
"It is more complicated than people realize. Our commodity has to be secured, is perishable, requires intensive cold chain management procedures and hazardous material factors must be considered," he said.
Both Coleman and O'Connor said they are honored to take on an active role in support of Operation Unified Response.
"Obviously, this is a very challenging and exciting humanitarian opportunity for me personally. I have deployed to many different countries around the world, including a recent DLA assignment to Kazakhstan and Tajikistan in support of the Northern Distribution Network, which is a supply route, into Afghanistan," said Coleman, who will report in June for his next assignment as the supply officer onboard the Comfort.
O'Connor, who served 24 years in the Air Force as a hospital administrator, said helping during this humanitarian mission is an experience he will never forget.
"I'm on this magnificent hospital ship in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, serving in an awesome role in our nation's critical diplomatic humanitarian mission that truly has the potential to change the world we live in," O'Connor said.
As the Department of Defense's combat logistics support agency, DLA is responsible for providing the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, other federal agencies, and joint and allied forces with a variety of logistics, acquisition and technical services. The agency sources and provides nearly 100 percent of the consumable items America's military forces need to operate, from food, fuel and energy, to uniforms, medical supplies, and construction and barrier equipment. DLA also supplies about 84 percent of the military's spare parts. The agency has a history of supporting humanitarian relief operations both in the United States and overseas.
DLA is headquartered at Fort Belvoir, Va., and has 25,000 employees worldwide. DLA's business
revenues were nearly $38 billion in Fiscal Year 2009. For more information about DLA, go to www.dla.mil. For more information about Defense Supply Center Philadelphia, go to www.dscp.dla.mil.
SOURCE Defense Logistics Agency