SINGAPORE (NNS) -- Millions of pounds of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) supplies are being processed here, in what has become the key logistics staging point in support of Operation Unified Assistance.
Commander, Logistics Group Western Pacific (CLWP) and the Naval Regional Contracting Center (NRCC) Singapore, with the support of other local Navy commands, are leading the effort to move HADR supplies to frontline ships and troops on the ground for distribution in affected countries.
Within days of the Dec. 26 tsunami that wreaked havoc throughout the region, Navy commands in Singapore were working 24/7 in support of the humanitarian effort.
"My goal was to rapidly establish a logistics capability that allows us to process much larger volumes of cargo than we normally do," said Rear Adm. Kevin Quinn, who commands CLWP, and also serves as U.S. 7th Fleet's Logistics Task Force Commander (CTF 73).
During the first two weeks of the operation, approximately 2 million pounds of cargo were processed here.
Already charged with the responsibility for Navy logistics throughout the region, Quinn had a robust at-sea logistics capability at his disposal, a number of logistics and operations experts on his own staff, as well as the expertise of the Naval Regional Contracting Center (NRCC) Singapore, Military Sealift Command (MSC) Office, Naval Oceanographic Office and others to get the job done.
Because the majority of the Navy organizations here already focus on the re-supply of ships at sea and during port visits throughout the region, the means existed for humanitarian assistance to begin flowing from Singapore quickly.
In the first days of the crisis, CLWP's logistics and operations departments immediately set to work analyzing the various possibilities for moving supplies to countries such as Indonesia and Sri Lanka, and to the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) Strike Group and USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) Expeditionary Strike Group.
Within days, representatives from all the military commands in Singapore, as well as experts from a variety of commands, who arrived here to support the effort, began meeting seven days a week to consolidate efforts under Quinn's leadership.
Meanwhile, NRCC began locally purchasing more than $250,000 in relief supplies, such as bottled water, rice and medical items for shipment via air and loading here in Military Sealift Command supply ships of the U.S. 7th Fleet Logistics Force, along with normal material required for at-sea operations.
The aid is being passed to ships of the strike groups operating in the Indian Ocean, for further delivery ashore in the disaster areas. All this is taking place in conjunction with the ships' normal replenishment cycle.
"It's a very efficient way of doing business," Quinn said.
Through the second week of January in Singapore, more than 2,000 pallets of relief supplies had been loaded in the combat stores ships USNS Concord (T-AFS 5), USNS San Jose (T-AFS 7) and USNS Niagara Falls (T-AFS 3), as well as the fleet replenishment oiler USS Tippecanoe (T-AO 199) for further delivery to the frontline ships.
"It's been an all-hands effort from our military, civilian and host nation staff," said Capt. David Fitzgerald, NRCC's commanding officer, who explained that his command is responsible for purchasing relief supplies, storing those purchased supplies and others received through military supply channels, inventorying, and then moving those supplies to the ships and aircraft that will deliver them to their ultimate destination.
Singapore was also designated as the Regional Mail Center for the operation, increasing NRCC's post office operations significantly. The volume of mail has skyrocketed, Fitzgerald said, from a norm of about 10,000 pounds of mail per fleet delivery, to 40,000 pounds. Help was quickly on the way for the post office staff of four, with 11 additional postal clerks eventually augmenting the staff.
Help arrived in other areas, as well. A number of logistics professionals from outside Singapore are assisting NRCC with those critical responsibilities, including personnel from the Defense Logistics Agency's Emergency Supply Operations Center, Naval Expeditionary Logistics Support Force, and the Fleet and Industrial Supply Center (FISC). CLWP's staff has also been augmented by FISC.
While NRCC leads the tactical supply effort, Quinn's CLWP staff focuses on strategic planning and coordination with the Combined Support Force 536 staff in Utapao, Thailand, to move the supplies into the disaster areas.
Quinn noted that the logistical expertise and capabilities that exist here, as well as Singapore's strategic location, made CLWP the natural choice to lead the logistics effort.
Along those lines, the day-to-day U.S. military presence here has played an important role in the ability of U.S. forces to respond to the disaster so quickly, Quinn said.
"Our strong working relationship with the Government of Singapore and its support has proven critical to this mission," said Quinn.
Sailors here are working with enthusiasm to keep HADR supplies flowing to the forces that are distributing them.
"We're working long hours with no days off, but it's worth it," said Storekeeper 1st Class Reiner Tumang, who works in NRCC's logistics support center. "We know the disaster victims really appreciate the help."
"I participated in the evacuation of the Philippines [following the 1991 eruption of Mt. Pinatubo]," Quinn said. "I was struck then by the sense of common purpose, of everyone pulling together to help their fellow human beings. I see that same sense of dedication now, and even more so by our men and women here in Singapore.
"The work we've been doing is a matter of life and death," Quinn said. "That's the motivation."
For related news on Navy tsunami relief operations, visit the Focus on Tsunami Relief Operations page at www.navy.mil/local/tsunami.
For related news, visit the Logistics Group Western Pacific Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/clwp.