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NEWS | June 23, 2016

Army Reserve, civilians work together

By Sgt. Anshu Pandeya 372nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

FORT A.P. HILL, Va. – Army Reserve Soldiers are working with Defense Logistics Agency Energy Americas during Quartermaster Liquid Logistics Exercise 2016.

The exercise, which began June 11, has Soldiers providing fuel, water, and other resources to the local population. The 475th Quartermaster Group has been coordinating with Defense Logistics Agency Energy Americas, which has been providing missions for Soldiers to deliver fuel to various locations. 

“DLA is the expert for fuel across the Department of Defense so we have a lot of prior military,” said Jason Christopher Exum, deputy director DLA Energy Americas, based in Houston. “We manage, stock, store, distribute, deal with contracting, acquisition, everything with fuel for the whole Department of Defense.”

Because the six-member team is largely made up of former military in the fuel industry, Soldiers are able to gain knowledge from them. DLA also supplies quality control and assurance specialists.

The arrangement is a mutually beneficial relationship as Soldiers get the training they need, while DLA’s fuel is delivered to its customers at different military installations. Soldiers are transporting jet fuel such as JP-5 and Jet A to Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, and Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina.

“Instead of us using our normal civilian contractors to push fuel, you guys do the mission for us, so not only does it give you training, but it saves us money so we’re not paying the money to that contractor to push the fuel,” Exum said.

“The crew who’s here right now, most of them are former military,” said Sgt. Maj. Larry Houston, support operations sergeant major with the 475th. “We all know each other, and we’ve built a good working relationship over the years doing this.”

“This year it seems we have a lot of young troops, and it’s good training and experience for them,” said Houston, from Mercer, Pennsylvania. “They get to do their jobs, where they don’t get to any other time.”

The Army has largely divested itself of the fuel mission and handed it to the Army Reserve, explained Exum. Soldiers can use the training they receive at QLLEX for when they are deployed to move fuel between locations. “QLLEX is you guys practicing to go overseas and do your mission and moving fuel, and we’re helping you practice that,” Houston said.

The mission hasn’t been without its challenges. 

“We had some concerns with customers cancelling missions, which was frustrating for us because it directly impacts your training,” said Exum. “So if we start cancelling missions on you, that’s less time your drivers are on the road, less time that your maintainers get to troubleshoot a problem on a vehicle or whatever. The less fuel you get, less training you get.”

As an Air Force Reserve lieutenant colonel and two-time squadron commander, Exum knows how valuable training is. 

“Any training you lose is a big deal because you don’t get to do this very often,” he said. “The team worked very hard to ensure we took care of those missions, brought in more missions to make sure you guys got as much training as possible. That was one of our main concerns.”

Some missions were cancelled due to weather issues when severe storms forced almost 500 troops with the 327th Quartermaster Battalion to evacuate Archer Camp, at Fort A.P. Hill, to barracks at Wilcox Camp, another area on post. 

“It’s not a big deal when missions get cancelled for us because we just turn on white trucks, which are usually doing the missions anyway so we can compensate,” Exum said. “It’s easy for us to shift gears and do that, but we also feel bad for you guys if you miss out on an opportunity.”

Houston said, “Our challenge with DLA was what they expected from us and what we could deliver coming to a happy medium together.”
“There’s been a couple situations that popped up, but it’s just something we had to work through,” Houston said. 

Even with these challenges, the sergeant major had nothing but praise for the civilians and working with them. “DLA has been great,” Houston said. “They’ve been fantastic. They’ve worked well with us.”

The feeling was mutual as Exum spoke highly of the Soldiers. “Overall, you guys have a tremendous group of dedicated Soldiers, who’ve done great work.”