Fort Shafter, HAWAII— Over the course of two months, the 402nd Army Field Support Brigade implemented the Army’s latest initiative to support Soldiers with the establishment of Modernization, Displacement, and Repair Sites in Hawaii and Alaska. Also known as MDRS, these sites contribute to Army modernization in the Indo-Pacific Region.
The MDRS initiative, announced last fall by the Army Material Command, supports the Regionally Aligned Readiness and Modernization Model, or ReARMM. The goal of establishing a regionally located MDRS is to give Soldiers an easier, more efficient way to turn in outdated equipment and equipment that needs to be divested because it no longer aligns with a unit’s mission. With MDRS, units are procuring the equipment they need as the Army modernizes to refocus on large-scale combat operations.
“MDRS is an operationalized effort to support strategic equipping requirements,” said Maj. Dave Paddock, the deputy support operations officer for the 402nd AFSB. “The primary workload is owned by the battalions, who are being manned and resourced to support the requirement, and have the enduring relationships with the supported commands to provide the responsive support required.”
The establishment of an MDRS in regions across the Army’s footprint enhances the ability of AFSBs, such as the 402nd, to increase the support of material readiness by creating a predictable modernization environment. MDRS is a single location dedicated to receive the excess equipment, said Paddock. The MDRS functions as a one-stop shop that receives, accounts for, and repairs, if necessary, the equipment prior to transfer.
“We were officially tasked around the beginning of February 2021 to create our MDRS,” said 402nd Army Field Support Battalion-Hawaii’s chief of supply and services Wendy Galloway. “The concept of this operation isn’t much different than what we already do for units. We just had to figure out the best location and processes needed to transition from All Army Excess (AAE) to MDRS.”
The battalions relied on relationships with both U.S. Army Hawaii and U.S. Army Alaska in order to secure additional motor pools and warehouse buildings, which would give them the necessary space to receive, account for, and repair the anticipated influx of equipment.
“While the battalions focused on the day-to-day aspects of getting their sites up and running, at the brigade level, we assisted the units in establishing the accounts, manning requirements, and coordinating support, as required,” said Paddock. “Our goal really was, and continues to be, giving the battalion commanders the flexibility needed to support the initiative in the most efficient manner possible.”
The creation of a MDRS is not a one-size-fits-all solution, according to Paddock. The site in Alaska is going to have a different set of challenges than the MDRS in Hawaii.
“A common term in the sustainment world is the ‘tyranny of distance,’ and Alaska is a perfect case study,” said Maj. Jake Elders, the support operations officer for the 402nd Army Field Support Battalion-Alaska. “While other MDRS locations support a single installation, the Alaska MDRS supports all of U.S. Army Alaska across multiple installations. This requires a centralized command and decentralized execution approach in everything from supply and maintenance activities to transportation coordination.”
The 402nd AFSBn-Alaska established their main MDRS hub at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, the location of the battalion’s headquarters. However, there is over 350 miles between JBER and Fort Wainwright, where excess equipment is also turned in.
“Currently, the AFSBn is partnering with USARAK to utilize the convoy operations from 109th Transportation Company, commonly known as the ‘Polar Express,’ to move equipment to JBER without incurring additional costs to the Army,” said Elders.
The MDRS in Hawaii functions as the single site for the Pacific, with challenges the sites on the continental U.S., or CONUS, do not have to account for.
“Two of the biggest challenges we face in Hawaii are corrosion and trans-oceanic shipment requirements,” said Paddock. “The timeframe of trans-oceanic shipping is increased due to the difference in requirement for each class of equipment. These delays can result in items turned in to sit for months before finally being sent to their final destination.”
When the shipment of equipment is delayed, Paddock says, the gaining unit may receive equipment in a condition not in accordance with the transfer directive.
“The brigade is continually working with our battalions in Alaska and Hawaii in order to address any new challenges as they arise. We are in a perpetual learning process, always striving for a more efficient solution for our warfighters,” said Paddock.
When a unit has equipment that no longer aligns with their mission, they set up an appointment with the MDRS and ensure they have all the proper paperwork needed to transfer the property accountability.
During their appointment, which takes around fifteen minutes if all the paperwork is correct, a member of the MDRS team reviews the paperwork and inspects the equipment to ensure it is in the proper condition for turn-in. Once the forms are all processed, the property book officer at the MDRS signs the forms, indicating the transfer of ownership from the unit to the MDRS.
“Once a unit turns-in their excess equipment, the MDRS is then responsible for preparing the equipment for the final destination,” said Reese Fontenot, AFSBn-Hawaii’s property book officer. “The equipment we get at the MDRS could be transferred to another unit within the same Army command, or ACOM, transferred the equipment from one command to another, sent to the local Defense Logistics Agency for disposition, or sent to an Army depot.”
By having the turn-in, repair and disposition services in a single location, the MDRS will increase the velocity of excess equipment offloaded, according to Paddock.
“We know that there are currently over 3,800 excess pieces of equipment in Alaska that will need to be moved out through the MDRS,” said Elders. “To date, the Alaska MDRS has received about 800 pieces of equipment in the less than two months our site has been operational. Roughly twenty-five percent of the equipment received through MDRS has been shipped out to their directed destination and we continue to work with units to organize and execute bulk turn-ins. We anticipate receiving an additional 350 pieces of equipment by the end of May through bulk turn-in events.”
Putting the processes in place to achieve a high velocity is going to be the key to the success of the MDRS, says Paddock.