By Staff Sgt. Neil W. McCabe
310th Expeditionary Sustainment Command
A Department of Defense Civilian deployed here with the Defense Logistics Agency's Kuwait support team was recognized March 29, 2021, as one of five honorees by Alexandria Celebrates Women.
Gee Hyun McNease, deputy commander of the DLA Support Team-Kuwait, was nominated for the award by a friend back home in Alexandria, Virginia.
"A friend of mine nominated me and I didn't know how to take it," McNease said. "There are so many other women in my hometown, who have volunteered, especially to help with the COVID-19. They deliver food to those in need, and there are so many great women out there."
McNease said the ACW organizers of the annual awards, held during Women's History Month, told her that one of the reasons she was selected is that ACW wants to highlight women deployed overseas. "It is humbling that I was the one they chose."
Pat Miller, the president of Alexandria Celebrates Women, said McNease is a remarkable woman and it is ACW's honor to celebrate her.
"Gee and her team perform the courageous work of ensuring the safety of all U.S. forces operating in the Middle East during the pandemic," Miller said. "She is described as ‘an amazing person who embodies the selfless service that this award represents. We are so very proud to have her as one of our award winners."
The Korean-born civil servant said DLA was the only federal agency she ever worked for.
"I grew up in DLA," she said. "I started at DLA 18 years ago, wow, almost 19 years ago. At the time, I was an Army spouse. We were PCS'd to Germany and that is when I started my DLA career, supporting DLA Europe at the Wiesbaden headquarters." PCS is the Army acronym for a permanent change of station or transfer.
McNease, who is assigned to the DLA headquarters at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, said she applied for her six-month assignment here for professional development.
"One of my mentors at DLA headquarters mentioned to me that I had been working in policy so long, it's time for me to get some operational experience," she said.
The mentor also told her that she would gain personnel management experience working with 15 military and civilian individuals working for the agency's support team in Kuwait, she said.
Her next step was to speak to Army Col. Michael F. LeBrecque, the commander of the 401st Army Field Support Brigade, which is forward headquartered here and is the higher headquarters for the DST-Kuwait. The 401st AFSB commands three Army Field Support Battalions operating in Afghanistan, Qatar and Kuwait, sustaining the warfighter throughout the entire U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.
After a positive interaction with LeBrecque, McNease said she applied to be the team's deputy commander, the highest Civilian position. “That is what got me here today."
McNease, whose tour ends in June, said she has learned a great deal about the DLA mission from being so close to the agency's customers.
"We fulfill orders for critical parts and items--even the tiny washers," she said. "In our office, we have to respond to customers, who ask: 'Where are my parts?' We expedite requisitions and reach out to the States to resolve contract issues."
Her office is also active in the refurbishment of equipment at the camp's yards and facilities, she said.
Another lesson McNease said she learned was a new appreciation for the work Army Reserve Soldiers contribute.
"The Army Reserve units are so powerful and strong," she said. "This is my first time I've been engaged with the reserve Soldiers." McNease works with Army Reserve's Indianapolis-based 310th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), whose Soldiers staff the 1st Theater Sustainment Command's operational command post here.
"I am impressed by both the active-duty and reserve military," she said. "Everyone was coming from different locations and home states, and they came together as, literally: One Team, One Goal, One Fight."
McNease said while she is in Kuwait, she is also working with the Army and other federal agencies to resolve environment issues in Iraq.
This priority has its roots in her other overseas assignment, when she worked environmental issues in Iraq in 2008 deployed to Camp Speicher, roughly 100 miles north of Baghdad, she said.
Because of her tour in Iraq, she went to a film festival in Washington to see a documentary about how the U.S. military treated the environment in Iraq.
"The picture was so bad," she said. "It showed dumping grounds and dangerous stuff, but the picture was totally different from what I saw."
It bothered her that the American public was getting a twisted version of the job she and other environmental workers did to protect the environment in Iraq, she said.
"It is part of the DLA mission to handle hazardous waste," she said. "From the DLA and DOD perspective, we were working to do everything right."
The mother of an Army chemist said she was proud of the work she did in Iraq, which she remembers as a very perilous tour of duty.
"It was a dangerous time to be in Iraq," she said. "I can still remember being on the phone with someone in the Green Zone--just having a conversation, when they said: 'Hey, I gotta go. I gotta duck,' because they were under a rocket attack." The Green Zone was then the compound, which served as the U.S. military and diplomatic headquarters in Baghdad.
"A woman doing the same job I was doing in Afghanistan had an accident, and she passed; and we still remember her," she said. "I felt like I could have died too."
More information about Alexandria Celebrates Women and the annual awards is available at: https://alexandriacelebrateswomen.com/.