By Jon Micheal Connor, ASC Public AffairsMarch 15, 2017
Located in the "North Country" of upstate New York is one of the Army's coldest posts -- Fort Drum.
According to the National Weather Service, temperatures can reach minus 30 degrees in the winter. Watertown, located 4 miles southwest of Fort Drum, recorded minus 43 degrees on Jan. 16, 1994, local press reports show.
As for snow -- the area averages just more than 8 feet. Fort Hood, Texas, it's not.
With 10 miles of railroad lines, snow is a big concern during the long winter months. The season in which it is relatively likely for snow to fall spans from early November to mid-April.
"It's very challenging on the rail because if there's 3 feet of snow on the rail somebody has to clear that railhead," said Diane Scott, Plans and Operations chief, Logistics Readiness Center- Drum. "And then any kind of operation -- if it's the rail or if it's at the airfield -- the risk and the safety factor come in because it's slippery, it's snowy, sometimes you can't see."
Meeting these weather challenges and much, much more is LRC-Drum. This LRC conducts the base operations logistics support necessary to support this installation of 42,000 Soldiers, Airmen, family members and civilian employees.
This entails food service operations, supply support activities, ammunition management, equipment maintenance, hazardous material operations, property management, transportation, and mobilization and deployment support.
LRC-Drum is one of the 78 LRCs worldwide managed by the U.S. Army Sustainment Command, whose higher headquarters is the U.S. Army Materiel Command. This LRC reports to the 406th Army Field Support Brigade, headquartered at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
"So when we get a good lake effect snow, you can get 18 to 24 inches of snow," said Kevin Robinson, Heavy Equipment supervisor, Air Ground Support Equipment Maintenance Shop, LRC-Drum. "That's a lot and it normally takes about 12 hours to get there (accumulate).
"And they're constantly keeping that runway cleared. So their equipment is rolling and rolling. They have three shifts to operate that run the equipment. So some of that equipment can run for a couple of days, one shift after another, removing snow," Robinson said.
Overseeing the fuel operations to all aircraft and post vehicles is Glenn Larish.
"Our main thing is to make sure the fuel is good quality for both the aircraft and the vehicles," said Larish, a supply technician and responsible officer for fuels. "Ninety percent of the vehicles we get through here run on jet fuel, about 8 percent is diesel, and about 2 percent is gasoline."
Larish estimated that 3.3 million gallons of jet fuel, along with 400,000 gallons of diesel, and 79,000 gallons of gasoline are consumed at Fort Drum annually.
Sometimes because of the cold, equipment can run slower and switches can even freeze at the post's fueling station, disabling the pump, Larish said.
"The equipment seems to break down more in the cold … you have to do all the shoveling and maintenance," Larish said. "It still goes on, but it takes longer."
At the station, there are four pumps to accommodate three tanks: A 24,000-gallon tank for jet fuel; a 12,000-gallon tank for gasoline, and a 12,000-gallon tank for diesel.
Larish said it's not uncommon to burn through the diesel tank in two days. If for some reason two of the tanks go down, a work order will be submitted requiring them to be fixed within 24 hours.
"Cold climates obviously impact starting systems, and batteries," said Dominic Plant, chief, Material Maintenance Division. "We go through a lot of batteries on the tactical side."
In diesel-fueled vehicles, cold starting aids, like glow plugs, are also affected by cold weather, Plant said. The plugs are an important part in warming the vehicle's cylinders during cold starts, when engine starting is most difficult. Engine misfires, hard starting, and black exhaust smoke are all symptoms of failing glow plugs.
To increase productivity during cold weather, the technical shops operate four days a week, Monday through Thursday. Hence, there is one day less to have to start up everything and eventually clean up everything in the shops, Plant said.
"We actually gain production by doing that," he said.
Fort Drum is about 107,000 acres, or 25 square miles in size.
It's home to the famous 10th Mountain Division. This is a light infantry division, comprised of four brigade combat teams, that has been heavily engaged in combat operations since 2001.
LRC-Drum supports the mobilization, training, and rapid deployment of almost 80,000 troops annually, which includes supporting active and reserve units from all branches of service situated in 11 northeastern states and parts of Canada.
"You'll see that there's a lot of pride," said Ralph Martinez, chief, Ammunition Supply Point, LRC-Drum. "Employees take a lot of pride in their job and what they do and still want to contribute one way or another."
"And you'll see in some areas -- and I can vouch for this area -- probably the average age the person working out here is over 45. At one point or another they were in the military and they still want to contribute and they take a lot of pride in what they do," Martinez said.
Agreeing with him is Eric King, who is the former Installation Transportation officer, LRC-Drum.
"My transportation division is just really made up of a bunch of dedicated, hard-working employees that are really mission focused," said King. "If you know anything about transporters -- and we're not unique in this situation -- transporters like to get the job done. And my people are exceedingly good at it."
"One of the additional duties we have within the Supply and Services Division is I provide Department of the Army civilians to work on the airfield to push rapid deploying forces off the airfield in conjunction with the Transportation Division," said Tom Murphy, who was the Supply and Services Division chief, LRC-Drum at the time of this interview. He recently has been promoted to the director's position of this LRC.
"Additionally, we are then also the central receiving point for all supplies that come in to ready that force to go," Murphy said.
"We're talking all commodities of supply," Edward Wallace, supervisor and accountable officer, Installation Supply Support Activity and Hazardous Material Control Center.
This includes items like office supplies, construction material, repair parts, trucks and generators, Wallace said.
Wallace's team is responsible for processing supplies to get them on the shelves, or get back into the Army system, or send them to someplace else for repair or disposal.
There's also plenty of paperwork to keep track of the supplies. Wallace estimated about 30,000 documents are processed monthly, with many documents containing multiple items.
Helping to ensure Soldiers are offered nutritious food in the dining facilities is Paul Bursick, subsistence supply manager.
"That's the primary focus with the Army [regarding menus] is healthier meals," Bursick said. "So there's always a continuous change with updating the catalog, getting new products in."
Today's Soldiers, he said, are aware of the importance of being offered healthier choices.
"The Army's diet changed a lot lately," Bursick said. "You can see more people who are vegan, vegetarians, gluten-free. So you always have to change the menu for the Soldiers."
Another issue shared by many military dining facilities is luring uniformed personnel from commercial food establishments located on- and off-post and into the dining facility.
"Even though they get free meals at the dining facility, it's a battle we've had with Soldiers the past years of trying to get them in the dining facility," Bursick said. "Their time schedule is a little bit harder … sometimes they don't have time for lunch. So, they have to run to a fast-food place real quick, grab it, and go back to their office and eat."
Overseeing the outfitting to address the colder conditions at Fort Drum is Matt McCann, contract officer representative, Central Issue Facility. It's here where Soldiers get all their organizational clothing items and other individual equipment needs.
This is especially true for the often-deployed Soldiers at Fort Drum. But for those not going to Southwest Asia, there are different levels of cold-weather protection gear topping out for extreme conditions of minus 60 degrees, he said.
In January 2015, an arctic symposium regarding CIF equipment was held at Fort Drum. Things like vapor barrier boots, trigger-finger mittens, and other technologies were discussed to protect Soldiers in extreme conditions, McCann said. Not surprisingly, the tenets of force modernization -- quicker, leaner, sleeker, and faster -- were discussed pertaining to issued equipment.
"They want it smaller, less weight, to move faster, and operate longer," McCann said of the symposium's conclusions.
One thing about CIF -- every Soldier at Fort Drum and other nearby areas comes through, both to receive and to give back.
"It's a good mission," said McCann. "It's an important mission. We have some good folks [working] here. They do a good job at adapting to changing missions."
During 2016, McCann left the CIF and Althea Basnight now holds his position.
Another critical LRC mission is the work of people like David Kerley, a quality assurance specialist (ammunition surveillance). He makes sure the ammunition is safe and functional for Soldiers. To most units, he's known as a "QASAS."
"My biggest job is explosives safety," said Kerley. "I issue documents for units that want to draw ammo and make sure there's no suspensions or restrictions on the ammunition. I attach ammunition information notices if there are any specific requirements or warnings with that type of ammunition that they're (the units) going to be using at the ranges."
If something malfunctions, Kerley conducts an investigation at the range and submits his report to the U.S. Army Joint Munitions Command and then has the authority to suspend the ammunition in question right then and there.
"A QASAS exists to make sure the ammunition is safe and we perform periodic inspections on ammunition" in storage areas, Kerley said.
A QASAS moves periodically -- a permanent change of station -- like a Soldier. The career program requires mandatory mobility to keep things fresh and not complacent, he said.
"We're here for the Soldier. We want to make sure they're safe and do things safely while transporting or using the ammunition," said Kerley. "Any problems, report it immediately."
An average week at LRC-Drum consists of:
o Issuing and receiving 38 tons of ammunition
o Conducting 1,388 transactions in retail supply
o Serving 27,000 meals in five dining facilities
o Serving 436 Soldiers at the Central Issue Facility
o Completing 45 maintenance work orders along with servicing or repairing 130 items
o Processing 473 personal property customers
All of these supply, maintenance, and logistics functions are possible through management of five contracts valued at $1 million with an installation property book valued at nearly $353 million.
Latest figures as of fiscal 2014 show that Fort Drum's direct economic impact on the surrounding community was $1.3 billion.
Since 2003, Fort Drum's population has increased 36 percent. And keeping in step with associated increased services resulting from that population increase is LRC-Drum.