I was honored to celebrate – along with the Supply Corps Association of Hawaii – the 215th birthday of the Navy Supply Corps last week. It was a blast.
Led by Rear Admiral (Select) Jonathan A. Yuen, the Supply Corps officers in Hawaii showed me true Hawaiian Ho‘okipa, and I was impressed by the spirit of camaraderie that everyone there seemed to share.
They were celebrating the birth of their specialty, dating all the way back to 1795, when the nation’s first Purveyor of Public Supplies was assigned the duty of supporting six frigates for the young country’s Navy. Since then the Supply Corps has matured into the incredible logistics machine that it is today.
When a catastrophic event like a hurricane, tsunami or earthquake strikes somewhere in the world, in many cases the first to respond is the U.S. Navy. We are warmed by the images of children being carried out of harm’s way in the arms of an American Sailor or Marine. We see Naval medical personnel treating the injured. We watch as tons and tons of supplies are provided to the victims.
But behind every inspirational photo is a hard-working team of Supply Corps professionals who ensured that the materials needed to sustain and save lives were delivered where they needed to be, on time, and in good condition. They play as important a role in relief efforts than those who hand out the supplies or apply the IVs.
Their efforts during wartime have been no less effective. Operating in a joint environment, the Supply Corps has shown itself capable of shifting from peacetime to a wartime footing literally overnight. Weapons, fuel and parts that are required for sustained operations have to be replenished – and quickly.
One only needs look as far as Operation Iraqi Freedom to see the evidence of how effective they have become in the modern era of rapid deployment and asymmetrical warfare. In a massive air and sealift effort, the Defense Logistics Agency (a joint command) succeeded in delivering the supplies necessary to arm, feed and equip a military preparing to go to war – all in the space of about three months (Jan-Mar 2003). To get a feel for the incredible scope of just one part of the logistics picture during the first few years of OIF – the Military Sealift Command’s efforts – read, “Sealift in Operation Iraqi Theater.” The last paragraph of the article puts it in perspective: “By April 2006, from the beginning of the Global War on Terrorism and operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom, the Military Sealift Command had moved more than 88,634,187 square feet of combat equipment for troops in theaters worldwide. That is equal to 932,991 SUV’s, which, if lined up bumper-to-bumper, would stretch nearly 2,800 miles from New York City to Los Angeles. The command’s ships had also delivered more than 8,808,380,000 gallons of fuel. That is enough fuel to fill the Empire State Building nearly 32 times.”
A well-supplied and well-fed military translates to success on the battlefield, and the Navy Supply Corps plays a key role in both. The men and women of the Supply Corps have come a long way since 1795, and the Navy – and military in general – are better for it.
Happy Birthday, Supply Corps! You’re our heroes of the week.