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SDDC supports hurricane relief efforts

ALEXANDRIA, Va., (USTCNS) --- As the nation watched the wrath of Hurricane Katrina’s fury unfold, the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command went on alert. Its Command Operations Center at Fort Eustis, open 24-hours, seven days a week, was positioned for action.

Up in Alexandria, Va., Brenda German, chief, Passenger Programs Branch, received her first requirement to evacuate over 2500 Sailors and Marines from Naval Air Station Pensacola when the storm’s bulls-eye aimed at Florida. Sixty-one busses were ordered, and the servicemembers got to safe ground in Albany, Georgia.

“We were glad to support,” said German. “Little did we know at that time what would lie ahead.”

In the days following Katrina’s rampage across the Gulf Coast, SDDC personnel joined the DoD effort underway supporting FEMA to save lives, restore order and begin the long process of recovery and rebuilding. Working with DoD, federal, state and local agencies as well as our commercial industry partners to garner support, SDDC sprung into action.

Col. (P) Jim Hodge, SDDC deputy commanding general, is spearheading the TRANSCOM effort at Fort Gillem, Ga., where he is leading a team of TRANSCOM and Defense Logistics Agency personnel in the U.S. Northern Command Deployment and Distribution Operations Center (N-DDOC). In coordination with NORTHCOM, TRANSCOM has located the N-DDOC initially with Joint Task Force Katrina at Fort Gillem, and once aggregated with Department of Transportation and Defense Logistics Agency representatives, will forward deploy in the relief area of responsibility.

“Our mission is to coordinate the DoD deployment and distribution mission in support of federal relief efforts,” said Hodge. “We will be coordinating with FEMA, the respective Guard logistics staff, the federal troops logistics staffs and others identified by NORTHCOM (JTF) to deliver to forward distribution hubs.”

Back at SDDC in Fort Eustis, the Command Operations Center’s NORTHCOM team is supporting Hodge and has been working feverishly since the storm began. Team Chief Maj. Jamal Scott said his dedicated crew worked non-stop over the long holiday weekend to ensure requirements were met.

“Everyone pitched in to help,” said Scott. “I am proud of my team who stepped up to the plate to do what needed to get done. Teamwork is the key.”

Scott’s group is working around the clock to provide situation reports on a daily basis reporting on everything from road, rail and port status to requests for busses, equipment and refrigerated reefers and other relief supplies.

“Everything gets funneled through the COC to ensure there is no duplication of effort,” said Scott. “Once the request comes in, I contact the right folks to determine requirements and how we can best provide support.”

The Operations Support – inland traffic managers at Fort Eustis have remained busy responding to COC requirements assisting with rail and truck transportation requests for equipment and supplies to the disaster area. Their staff also provides special rating and routing information for oversize cargo.

“We’re negotiating rates for commercial carriers for DLA shipments of water and MREs as well as with officials at Army installations requiring truck and train movements to areas close to ground zero,” said Evert Bono, chief, Domestic Business Requirements Branch. “Requests are coming in from all over the country. One such DLA requirement is for 100 truck loads of water. That will help a lot of people.”

Bono says two of his employees stand ready to provide on-site support to Col. (P) Hodge at the N-DDOC to serve as liaison officers for all commercial inland movements requiring DoD support.

“Their job will be to verify all requirements and to watch the entire flow of the movements from origin to destination as the distribution process owner,” said Bono.

At SDDC Alexandria, the Passenger and Personal Property Directorate received a request for over 300 busses over the holiday weekend contacting all the bus companies, but according to German that request was cancelled by FEMA.

“We were spun up working that one contacting all the bus companies,” said German.

The Personal Property Division of that directorate is also geared to recover, identify, repair and repack servicemembers’ household goods as well as their automobiles damaged by the hurricane’s rain and wind according to Dinah Locklear Butcher, chief, Acquisition and Services Branch.

“The New Orleans Vehicle Processing Center remains closed,” said Butcher. “It will be a while before we can gain access to determine the extent of damage to the facility or the 73 POVs on-site. The service members are being contacted by the government contractor, American Auto Logistics, notifying them that their vehicles were located at their facility in New Orleans at the time of the hurricane and that they will be in contact with them when the damages are assessed.”

Butcher says there are also several warehouses in the affected areas that store our servicemember’s personal property.

“It is estimated that as much as 2.7 million pounds are stored in these warehouses,” said Butcher. “Our Regional Storage Management Offices are contacting the warehouse managers where possible to ascertain the extent of damage. Our folks will deploy to those warehouses once authorization is received to enter the area.”

Butcher says that once damage assessments can be accomplished, affected servicemembers will be notified and provided information on processing claims on their losses.

The relief effort underway along the Gulf Coast will probably be remembered as “the greatest disaster recovery effort in our nation’s history,” said Lt. Gen. Joseph Inge, U.S. Northern Command deputy commander, according to a Defense Press Service release.

Hodge echoes these comments.

“It is tough to see such widespread devastation; however, I am honored to lead an operation where I can facilitate all transportation requirements and position the right support, at the right time and in the right place, and thus hopefully make a difference in the lives of the proud people affected by this tragedy.”

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