News: UDC continues to set standard for deployment processing
Story by Erickson Barnes
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Deployment Center (UDC) continues to grow and improve as it sets a high standard for deployment preparation and processing centers throughout the federal government.
An ever-expanding customer base consistently places 50-60 people per week in UDC classes. The center, located at the Middle East District (MED) headquarters, is a one-stop facility providing supplies and training to government personnel preparing for deployment to contingency operations.
The deployment center is another means by which MED supports the Corps of Engineers’ goal to be ready for all contingencies – providing well-trained and prepared people ready for combat, stability and disaster operations. In the past year, the UDC has prepared people for deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan, and those contributing to operations following natural disasters in Haiti and Pakistan.
“We have been very successful in our mission,” said Keith Frye, UDC manager. “So successful, in fact, other agencies are sending their personnel here for us to train. We now have more than 20 support agreements with other government agencies.”
During fiscal 2010, the UDC processed nearly 2,500 people from the Corps of Engineers, Army Materiel Command (AMC), contractors and other federal agencies, including Department of State, various Department of Defense agencies, Forward Engineer Support Teams (FEST), and Environmental Support Teams. Outside of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, AMC is the main customer and even has three liaison personnel on the UDC team. The center also processed nearly 2,000 people for return to the U.S.
Frye says they are “on track to meet or exceed those numbers” during the current fiscal year. “We began in May 2005, and deployed just over 600 that year. Now, we are deploying and redeploying far more than that every year.”
In addition to the personnel processed at the main facility, the UDC simultaneously conducts off-site training classes when necessary to accommodate the demand from contractors and Department of Defense organizations.
“We have a great team that makes this place run,” said Frye. “I am biased, of course, but I think we have some of the most dedicated people in the district, if not the Corps. It takes a total team effort to make us successful, and it is truly an honor to be a part of that team.”
“It is definitely the quality of our team that makes it happen,” added Master Sgt. Joe Longinotti, the UDC’s non-commissioned officer in charge. “We have fine-tuned our process so that it is easy for deployees. Everyone here is cross-trained to do each other’s jobs, so the mission never stops. We put more people downrange more quickly.”
Longinotti points out that it is not just about moving “a number” through the UDC, though. It is about training people properly so they are prepared, confident and capable when they arrive at their duty location. That requires a dedicated staff and the ability to adapt to an ever-changing environment and mission.
“We prepare and qualify personnel for deployment according to Army regulations, just like a CRC [CONUS Replacement Center]. But, like dealing with IEDs [improvised explosive devices] on the battlefield, we attempt to adjust ahead of what’s coming – always prepare and improve,” said Longinotti. “The main difference between our UDC and most CRCs is that the Corps of Engineers is dealing with multi-million dollar projects, so we have to get these people on the project quickly and efficiently, and they have to be ready to immediately engage when they get there.”
“This is a less stressful deployment process,” said Cora Swain, a warehouse technician. “We are friendly and we build confidence in the deployees because they know what to expect when they get downrange – they are informed and feel like they have been taken care of. We do after-action reviews and receive mostly positive feedback. Prior CRC deployees usually tell us they are especially appreciative of this place and process.”
The Administrative Personnel Processing Office (APPO) is also an important piece of the deployment process. The APPO staff work with individuals selected for deployment to ensure they meet all pre-deployment requirements before arriving at the UDC. The APPO initiates travel orders, processes travel vouchers, and provides administrative support to more than 3,000 deploying and returning personnel annually.
“The two are attached at the hip,” said Tom Jankiewicz, chief of Plans and Operations, which oversees both sections. “The APPO is integral to the overall UDC process. It is a complicated and cumbersome process, so we have consolidated the professional expertise for deployment within USACE.”
The office is separated into three main teams: vouchers, orders, and pre-deployment. According to Jankiewicz, these focused groups help identify and resolve issues more quickly and at a lower level. It is another example of streamlining their processes for maximum impact and efficiency.
“The process has evolved to a point where it remains effective regardless of the information coming through,” said Jankiewicz. “It is a versatile package that can be taken anywhere. We can apply it in any AOR [area of responsibility], and it is flexible enough to be adapted for almost any contingency worldwide.
“We are constantly evolving based on requirements,” he said of the entire deployment operation at MED. “It is a fluid process; one we will adapt to comply with guidance as it changes. We will update and change, and we will continue to improve as we strive to be the best deployment processing center in any government organization.”