A continuous stream of equipment and supplies leaves the port of Blount Island
Command, in Jacksonville, Fla., to support Marine Corps operations around the
world. In addition, equipment arrives from overseas conflicts to be repaired,
reconstituted, regenerated or replaced.
“We preposition enough equipment and supplies on each squadron to support
14,403 Marines and Sailors for 30 days of sustained combat,” said William
H. (Chip) Newton, deputy director of Blount Island Command. “When you
combine the three squadrons you get a very formidable combat capability.”
Blount Island Command focuses on the maintenance and support of all Maritime
Pre-positioning Ships. It also provides technical assistance to Marine Expeditionary
Force commanders for all aspects of planning and deployment.
Col. Carl D. Matter, commanding officer of Blount Island Command, said that
“maritime pre-positioning allows us flexibility and permits us to project
power during a crisis anywhere in the world. With the Third World in crisis
situations and the global war on terrorism, that is essential.”
Blount Island is a subordinate organization of the Marine Corps Logistics Command,
headquartered in Albany, Ga. Led by Maj. Gen. Harold Mashburn Jr., the command
supports the operations of the Marine Corps in every country in which forces
“We are ready to handle the regeneration of equipment, both that which
remained behind in CONUS (the continental United States) and the equipment coming
in from the back-loaded ships at Blount Island,” said Mashburn.
The Logistics Command supports the Marine Corps concept of Expeditionary Maneuver
Warfare, or EMW, to be able to respond rapidly to critical situations worldwide.
That means getting to the fight by land, sea or air and supporting the Marines
in battle with activities such as rapid acquisition and sustainment.
“Our job is to make sure the Marines are supplied with the equipment
they need and then re-supply them when they are redeployed to meet the enemy
in a new area,” Mashburn said.
Watching the loading and unloading of ships on Blount Island, logistics experts
usually can tell whether a piece of equipment has returned from Iraq, Afghanistan,
Liberia or elsewhere.
The Marine Corps pre-positions supplies and equipment in four areas—Norway,
the eastern Mediterranean, Guam in the western Pacific and Diego Garcia in the
Indian Ocean. From those four locations, the Corps can deploy anywhere in the
world on short notice. The fleet consists of 16 ships that rotate through Blount
Island over a 36-month cycle. The equipment and supplies from those 16 ships
are downloaded and undergo maintenance and stock replenishment and then return
to their designated location.
Maintenance centers in Albany, Ga., and Barstow, Calif., play a significant
role in taking equipment from the field and rebuilding or repairing it to go
back out to the field. The depot in Albany primarily supports Marine Corps forces
east of the Mississippi River and the Atlantic Fleet. The Barstow depot primarily
supports the Marine Corps forces west of the Mississippi, the Far East and Asia.
To shorten the repair cycle, the Marines have applied modern management techniques
and business practices. The results have been dramatic, officials said. For
example, the repair cycle time for the MK-48 logistics vehicle went from 162
days to 59 days, and the repair cycle time for the LAV-25 armored vehicle went
from 212 days to 121.
Cultural changes have been the toughest, said Mashburn. Continuous improvement
is now the norm.
The money saved by shortening the repair cycles now is being applied to modernization
efforts. For example, the Marine Corps was able to add 30 MK-48s to the fiscal
year 2002 budget, in addition to 10 MK15 trailers, four LAV-25s, two refurbished
LAVs and four MK17 trailers.
Albany has reduced repair cycle times by at least 50 percent for most production
lines, and cut down the number of assets in maintenance by up to 50 percent,
officials said. Many within the Department of Defense system now are benchmarking
Trent Blalock, deputy commander of the Albany Maintenance Center, said things
have improved so much that “in the last year, there hasn’t been
one grievance...morale is good, and union relations are excellent.”
Safety is the number one priority. Since the changes have been made, mishaps
are down 26 percent, and lost time accidents are down 42 percent.
Marty Huisman, of the Maintenance Directorate, describes the center as “the
weaving of a web to support the war fighter.”
The Supply Chain Management Center plans, organizes and manages wholesale and
selected retail supply chain activities to meet Marine Corps requirements. It
also maintains a supply chain consisting of weapons systems support contractors,
retail supply activities, distribution depots, transportation channels including
contracted carriers, wholesale integrated materiel managers, weapon system product
support integrators, commercial distributors and suppliers. The supply chain
operation is the “lifeline for Marine Corps operations.”
Logistics Command expertise plays a major role in Iraq. Several command representatives
are in theater, helping solve problems and managing logistics operations. The
Supply Chain Management Center sent a liaison team to link with the logistics
operation in theater. The Maintenance Center sent a team to Kuwait to assess
vehicle status and decide which vehicles needed to be sent stateside for repair.
Priority systems for repair and support include the M1A1 tanks, AAVs, LAVs
and howitzers. Under the so-called “Remain Behind Equipment Program,”
the command wants to ensure that the equipment lost in combat is replaced. The
Maintenance Center expedited more than 4,000 requests. LAVs, M-16s, Aardvark
mine clearing vehicles and M198 howitzers have all been expedited.
The Albany Maintenance Center also developed BA5590 battery replacement kits,
which were urgently requested from the field.
“LogCom really has one main strength,” Mashburn said. “It’s
our people. They make things happen. As long as they remain engaged, we’ll
be fine—regardless of the changes we’re undergoing.”
The Marine Corps Logistics Command recently was formed out of two command structures
to integrate the global Marine Corps logistics, maintenance management, supply
chain management, distribution management and strategic pre-positioning functions.
Reporting to the new Logistics Command are five subordinate commands: the Marine
Corps Logistics Base Albany, the Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, the Blount
Island Command, the Albany Maintenance Center and the Barstow Maintenance Center.
Sheila R. Ronis, Ph.D., is president of The University Group, Inc., in Birmingham,