The race to save supplies, equipment

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Magen M. Reeves
  • 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

The 325th Logistics Readiness Squadron recently vacated the unit’s warehouse, which was permanently damaged by Hurricane Michael last year.

The warehouse held 500,080 items that needed to be moved as quickly as possible to save from damage by the elements. 

“The LRS unit had a lot of damage after the hurricane,” said Master Sgt. Hillary Kelly, the asset management section chief. “Items had to be removed from the warehouse and accountability of those items had to be maintained as they were shipped out to other bases that could have used the product.”

The initial timeline for the process was estimated to take seven years. The 325th LRS, however, finished the task in seven months.

“We had a lot of Airmen working this project, roughly 60 people in total,” Kelly said. “Everyone here had a hand in this.”

The 325th LRS typically focuses on logistical priorities including ordering parts for customers, maintaining listings of ordered parts, Air Force equipment accountability, flight services, and a comprehensive inventory of unit-owned items.

“We serve most of the units on base, with maintenance being our biggest customer,” said Kelly.

After the hurricane, the squadron began the task of ensuring accountability of items not lost to the storm and then began gathering them into groups to be shipped out.

“With us being able to ship so many items we were able to help save the Air Force money,” said Kelly. “We made sure that assets that were able to get used by other bases who could utilize them were received.”

The 500,080 items from the warehouse needed to be rehomed after Hurricane Michael because the previously used structure could not be repaired. The building had massive holes and damage, leaving its contents open to weather and other physical damages.

The squadron’s various sections banded together to empty the warehouse as quickly as possible, including material management, asset management and the traffic management offices being the main partners.

Material management and asset management gathered the items and decided which locations were going to receive them. TMO prepared the shipment and ensured the items were properly received.

“By shipping the items, we were able to help fill supply shortages at other bases,” said Kelly. “Our Airmen were able to learn this process and each section pulled resources among the squadron to make this transition a success.

“For me, the most impactful part of this whole experience was seeing how well the unit superseded expectations, drafted different plans to see what worked and what didn’t work, and came together as a team,” she continued.

The squadron was able to compile enough resources and managed the work requirement by adapting the challenges of the environment and authorizing alternative duty hours for the Airmen.

“Our Airmen switched to a 3 p.m. to midnight swift so they wouldn’t have to be hindered by the heat of the day,” said Kelly. “We were also to get them authorized to wear the new Air Force flight-line shorts so they were able to work as efficiently and safely as possible in the high temperatures.”

Other challenges the unit faced included rain and lightning.

“The most challenging thing, I would say, was working in the warehouse during inclement weather,” said Staff Sgt. Anna Garcia, 325th LRS shift supervisor. “In some places the roof and bay doors were gone which caused flooding, forcing us to stop working and go into shelter. However, at the end we succeeded.”

Communications issues with computer systems also caused hindrances in production.

“ILSS (Air Force Integrated Logistics Systems-Supply) is our computer system that indicated what items were scheduled to be pulled, and so when that was down, we had to think of alternative ways to still accomplish our task on time,” said Kelly.

According to Kelly, 600 items could be pulled per shift to meet the mission’s expected timeframe.

“We tried really hard to be as efficient as possible by getting items shipped out as soon as possible,” Kelly said. “We would have had to move the product somewhere, so our mindset was to move it only once.”

When systems were down or weather was bad, the unit would adjust as much as they could to compensate for the time lost while still taking care of their Airmen.

“The whole experience has been fun, especially the people,” said Garcia. “Our team is one big family. We all volunteered to come here and we all came from different bases so we all bring something to the table. With everyone coming here to help with Hurricane Michael recovery efforts, it’s just this amazing feeling.”