JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON – There are many everyday challenges with living and working in the Far North that can be attributed to one thing – logistics.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Logistics Activity team working in Alaska overcomes the constraints of time, distance, terrain and weather to support unique mission requirements across an area spanning 660,000 square miles.
From maintaining the buildings and grounds of the Alaska District headquarters’ campus to coordinating special charter flights to remote project sites, this small team of four stays flexible and ready to tackle any job in a tough arctic environment.
“The state is a huge place and far from the rest of the continental U.S.,” said Robin Norby, chief of logistics in Alaska. “With that comes difficulties, including the amount of time it takes to receive supplies as well as time-zone differences with the vendors we use in the Lower 48.”
Adding to the logistical hurdles of operating in the Last Frontier, the state only has about 14,000 miles of public roads, including inside national parks and forests, and zero miles of interstate highways. Compare that lack of infrastructure to the rest of the country and it is not hard to understand why airplanes and helicopters are necessary to operate in Alaska.
The project sites can be so far away from the organization’s headquarters in Anchorage that the delivery of logistical support can involve huge distances. With Alaska about one-fifth the size of the continental U.S., the distances from Utqiavik on the North Slope to Anchorage, and Anchorage to the Aleutian Islands can be the equivalent to traveling from the northern border of Minnesota to Missouri to the western coast of Southern California.
“We forecast our projects and team’s needs by knowing what challenges we have ahead,” said William Egeberg, facilities manager. “Planning is a critical part of how we maintain readiness to support the district’s missions.”
Specifically, chartered aircraft give the district’s project management teams and distinguished visitors greater flexibility with scheduling when accessing these remote sites. The state’s extreme weather can delay normal commercial transportation – an already limited commodity – for days, sometimes weeks. These special trips allow personnel to leave when the window of opportunity arrives and it is safe to do so.
“I used a charter flight from Anchorage to Unalakleet and had them sit tight as my team and I performed compliance inspections,” said David Williams, project manager in the Civil Works Branch. “Overall, it costs less than possibly charging thousands of dollars in labor waiting for the next flight out.”
Currently, Williams said he is coordinating a charter for about eight people to Akutan in the Aleutian Islands to conduct a planning charrette. With hundreds of projects located across the state between the environmental cleanup and civil works programs, the district needs a strong logistics team ready to deliver.
“Charter flights are critical to the successful execution of our fieldwork in Alaska,” said Maj Virginia Brickner, deputy commander of the Alaska District. “The logistics team does a great job of supporting our geographically dispersed teams and remote project sites.”
Beyond the logistical support provided away from the district headquarters, the staff delivers the same expertise around their home duty station. Many of Egeberg’s daily tasks involve the caretaking of a facility built in 1946. He and his team of contractors perform general maintenance, groundskeeping and office remodeling to ensure that this critical infrastructure will accommodate many future generations of employees.
“Personally, I like seeing a building from the 1940s survive and still be used for its original intent,” he said. “This old facility has been upgraded over the years, but it was built on a strong foundation.”
Whether transporting project equipment and supplies thousands of miles around the state, clearing snow from employee parking lots or giving an office a fresh coat of paint, the Alaska District can count on its logistics team to always be there to provide professional, quality services that ensure mission success.