Supply Center Stocked Comfort for Haiti Voyage
By Diana Stewart
Special to American Forces Press Service
PHILADELPHIA, Feb. 1, 2010 Stocking the USNS Comfort hospital ship with supplies before it departed Baltimore en route to Haiti was a top priority for the Defense Logistics Agency's Philadelphia Supply Center.
One of DLA's primary level field activities, the Philadelphia Supply Center is responsible for the agency's medical, subsistence, construction and equipment, and clothing and textile supply chains.
Navy Cmdr. Lawrence Coleman, chief of the center’s subsistence customer support division, and Michael O'Connor, a planner for Medical Troop Support stationed at Fort Detrick, Md., deployed with the Comfort.
According to Coleman, the ship's supply department immediately submitted hundreds of requisitions through the supply center for food items to arrive at the pier in time to be loaded on board the Comfort before it departed Baltimore early Jan. 16.
"The local prime vendor in Baltimore filled as many orders as possible and all other requisitions were diverted to the prime vendor in Norfolk for fulfillment," Coleman said. "The prime vendors have been outstanding in providing superb service and high-quality products.”
Six-thousand cases of ready-to-eat meals and 100 pallets of bottled water, Coleman added, also were loaded onto the ship for the ship's crew that would be going ashore during the deployment.
Meanwhile, medical supply chain personnel worked with vendors to provide pharmaceuticals, vaccines, medical/surgical products and laboratory items. Expedited deliveries were arranged to ensure products would be delivered and loaded onboard in time for the ship's departure.
Logistics personnel work closely with U.S. Southern Command and the Defense Department's joint medical logistics community, Coleman said. Building a responsive supply chain for medical material slated for Haiti is challenging, O’Connor said, because of the unique nature of many medicines and other products.
Logistics “is more complicated than people realize,” O’Connor said. Many medical items slated for Haiti, he said, must be secured or may be perishable and thus require strict temperature controls.
Coleman and O'Connor said they are honored to play active roles in the Haiti humanitarian support mission.
"Obviously, this is a very challenging and exciting humanitarian opportunity for me personally," Coleman said, noting he’s slated to be assigned as the Comfort’s supply officer in June.
O'Connor, who served 24 years in the Air Force as a hospital administrator, said he’s similarly honored to be part of the Comfort’s deployment to Haiti.
"Being a medical professional is who I am and what I feel each and every day,” he said. “To me, protecting and serving our nation while also being in the healing profession is truly the best of both worlds. I consider my profession more a calling than employment.”
O'Connor recounted the first day's activities aboard the Comfort as the ship reached Port-au-Prince.
"Just up the hallway from my tiny little office is the emergency room teeming with desperately injured, critically wounded Haitians [being] cared for by American medical staff,” O’Connor recalled. “Many of these wounded would have died if we Americans did not respond.”
(Diana Stewart works with the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia public affairs office.)