News: Norfolk distribution center assists in resupplying US base in Greenland
Story by Paul VanHoosen
NORFOLK, Va. - Defense Logistics Agency Distribution Norfolk, Virginia, once again played a pivotal role in the annual Pacer Goose operation, the surface resupply of U.S. Air Force military and contractor personnel at Thule Air Base, Greenland.
Thule Air Base is the U.S. armed forces’ northernmost installation, located 750 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Resupply for the installation by ship occurs only once a year, typically in the summer months when the ice around Thule thins enough to be broken up, allowing vessels to pull safely into port.
Working together with several organizations to orchestrate the operation, Military Sealift Command contracted a cargo vessel, the Ocean Giant, for a single voyage to Greenland. Crowley Maritime Corporation supplied a vessel and crew capable of navigating through ice “bergies” in the northern most reaches of the Atlantic Ocean, and the Canadian navy provided an icebreaker to escort the vessel through the icy waters. DLA Distribution Norfolk was in charge of loading the vessel with a year’s worth of sustainment freight, including freight that was too big or too heavy to fit into standard shipping containers.
The distribution center’s Intermodal Hub received Pacer Goose freight from supply centers and vendors across the country. The team then checked in the freight, stuffed the smaller items into shipping containers, loaded larger items into specialty containers designed to transport oversized cargo and vehicles, and placed enormous items on trailers. This year’s commodities included cable reels, fuel storage tanks, steel beams, drywall for construction, medical supplies, electrical distribution equipment, dry goods, and commissary and base exchange supplies, as well as frozen and chilled food items.
Over three days, more than 356,000 cubic feet of freight was loaded aboard – a 50 percent increase in workload from 2013 - including 153 containers, 24 flat rack trailers, four refrigerated trailers for transporting food, and a 30-foot-by-13-foot power distribution building.
The Ocean Giant was loaded by Norfolk’s Intermodal Hub stevedores, crane operators, blockers and bracers, riggers, motor vehicle operators, and distribution process workers, with augmentation from Naval Cargo Handling Battalions 10 and 35 personnel from Distribution Operations Team Norfolk reserve units.
Personnel worked two of the ship’s hatches simultaneously to minimize the time the Ocean Giant stayed on berth.
Once the Ocean Giant arrived in Thule, it discharged the freight and loaded used items, also known as retrograde, for return to the United States. Upon its return, the DLA Distribution Norfolk Intermodal Hub and the Naval Cargo Handling Battalion 10 team again collaborated to unload the ship as safely and quickly as possible.
Upon arrival, 57 containers, 28 flat racks, and four refrigerator trailers were unloaded and readied for follow-on movement to DLA Disposition Services facilities and locations throughout the United States. Included in the retrograde were two bulldozers weighing in at 62,000 pounds each, and a crane at 83,000 pounds.
“The Greenland winters appeared to have been grueling when surveying the equipment that had returned,” DLA Distribution Norfolk Commander Navy Capt. Scott Hawkins said.
“Together, the talented and experienced Ship Operations Team of DLA Distribution Norfolk and Naval Cargo Handling Battalion 10 accomplished the loading of the outbound freight in just 76 hours and the discharge of the returned freight in 36 hours,” Hawkins said.
The annual operation for resupplying Thule began in 1952, using U.S. Navy combatant ships to transport goods. DLA Distribution Norfolk Intermodal Hub has supported this operation in a ship loading capacity since 1997 as both a Navy activity and then as a DLA asset.