Katrina’s legacy extends to Afghanistan

Thomas Traaen, Commanding Officer, DLA Distribution

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By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor

As a team of over 40 civilians from the Defense Logistics Agency puts the finishing touches on packing up and getting ready to leave the solid, mostly air conditioned, comfort of their usual distribution centers for Afghanistan, Commanding Officer, Rear Admiral Thomas Traaen, told Federal News Radio this effort reflects a new way of thinking for DLA.

Fuel, medical supplies, construction material, food and water are literally stock in trade for the DLA, but the notion of being able to deploy an entire distribution center is new.

“This deployable capability actually was an outset from Katrina and Wilma during the Gulf disasters that we moved through earlier,” said Traaen. “A recognition that our hardened facilities, in some cases, may not be sufficient to meet a Joint Force Commander’s requirement when they’re in an austere environment, in this case in such a place as Afghanistan.”

Members of the team going to Afghanistan usually work at centers in Texas, California, and Pennsylvania, said Traaen, “but we do maintain the ability to be expeditionary and create this kind of capability in an environment like Afghanistan to serve that function.”

The ideas is that by moving equipment forward, DLA predicts they’ll be able to “reduce sustainment airlift by 38 percent.” According to Traaen, “That means that those aircraft can be used for other reasons to move other types of material. Most of this material will then be put on surface transportation, i.e. on the water, to be moved more economically and it’ll move across groundlines of communication up into Afghanistan and be positioned there.”

Once containers are in place, eventually warehouses will be built to “house repair parts such as kit assemblies, subassemblies, clothing, reparable consumable items required for equipment maintenance, as well as, construction materiels,” according to a DLA news article.

From this point forward, said Traaen, “as the Defense Logistics Agency works to be increasingly more expeditionary, certainly as hurricane season as it is upon us, should that situation arise, we have the capability to flex to meet that requirement as well. If something happened in another area of the world, we would also be able to move a capability like this into that area. Whether it’s in the Pacific, in Europe, that’s the whole point of this is to be able to flex to where the Joint Force Commander needs us.”

Containers are currently being put into place in Afghanistan, with an “initial operating capability” scheduled for the end of the month, “and our intention is that we will meet that initial operation capability date,” stated Traaen.