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    TMERC celebrates successful first year of logistics reform: From cargo planes to kayaks, DTRA logisticians are making CBRN moves easier, cheaper, safer

    DTRA/NNSA mission to bring irradiators back into the U.S.

    Courtesy Photo | DTRA logisticians worked with the U.S. Air Force and the departments of Energy and...... read more read more



    Story by Daniel Gaffney 

    Defense Threat Reduction Agency

    “If someone says ‘I need to move something extremely sensitive, extremely secret and extremely hazardous,’ we can say ‘We can do that,’” said Josh Smith, a transportation manager in the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA). “Because if you go anywhere else with that mission, they’ll say ‘We can’t help you, there are other people who do that.’ Well, DTRA is those ‘other people.’”

    Smith is one of a handful of people at DTRA who handle the sensitive, special, and sometimes secret moves of materials associated with chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) threats. Smith’s team – the Transportation Mission Execution and Requirements Cell (TMERC) – was formed in January 2019 to provide support for those specialized logistical activities in support of DTRA’s counter-weapons of mass destruction (CWMD) mission.

    The TMERC’s first year has saved time, money and headaches.

    “One DTRA program manager was looking at a million-dollar contract to do a pure logistical task,” said Smith, who is now being brought into CWMD- and CBRN-focused missions six, 12, or even 18 months out. “The TMERC ended up doing that same task via military channels, and with some clever planning – and a willing program manager – we did it for about a quarter of that, a savings of about 75%. That’s a huge savings.”

    The TMERC concept is a new, innovative and more effective way of doing business for DTRA’s logisticians, and they don’t just do it from the comfort of DTRA’s headquarters building. Like many of the other CWMD-focused teams that DTRA uses to support the U.S. and partner nation forces worldwide, they go to the warfighter. TMERCs are highly specialized, have the necessary security clearances, bring vast CWMD and CBRN experience, are trained to deal with specific arms control treaty requirements, are HAZMAT certified, and are trained for Joint operations.

    By bringing in a TMERC at the beginning of a project or mission, logisticians have the knowledge and tools they need to navigate the challenges of shipping such dangerous cargo. Most of the items a TMERC assists with will have international shipping restrictions. Certain countries have rules about where and how such hazardous items must enter or leave the country, and there are plenty of other practical matters involved in getting something from “Point A” to “Point B:” Does it meet or exceed military or industry standards? Is specialized equipment needed to load or unload it? Does it need to be secured, or stored in an environmentally controlled structure? Are the roads and bridges at “Point B” even capable of handling the items or the vehicles moving it? Are there even roads that get to “Point B?”

    The answer to that last question is sometimes “no,” but having a dedicated logistician on site can save the day. Smith was recently supporting a DTRA mission on Wake Island – a tiny speck of land in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. A sensor that detects remote nuclear weapon explosions, along with half a ton of concrete and multiple other quarter-ton packages, needed to go to a smaller, nearby island with no roads. The only bridge was destroyed long ago. Smith had to figure out how to get everything to the right spot with limited resources. In the end, he ended up taking some of the more delicate equipment over on a kayak.

    “The purpose of the TMERC is to take a rock out of your ruck sack, and that rock is the transportation planning, coordination, execution, mobilization, or demobilization of whatever your mission is,” said Smith, who deploys frequently to global hot spots and hard-to-reach places. “That way, your program managers can understand ‘Oh this is awesome, I can focus on developing and deploying my widget, and not have to worry about actually getting it to the target… I can focus on setting it up and operating it.’”

    “There was period in time when people thought we were limited in our capability,” said Billy Pierce, DTRA’s Chief of Supply and Transportation. Pierce floated the idea of a specialized cell back in 2017 after seeing a lot of short-notice requests for complex moves that had a CBRN aspect. He said that while the TMERC is still growing and slowly being incorporated across DTRA, he wants to see the teams involved in more missions.

    “I’m fortunate that I’ve got a group of highly motivated individuals that want to be involved and roll their sleeves up and get the job done.”



    Date Taken: 12.11.2019
    Date Posted: 12.12.2019 13:55
    Story ID: 355303
    Location: FORT BELVOIR, VA, US 

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