"Trimming the supply Chain Fat" in anticipation of RABUs
By Staff Sgt. Erich B. Smith, 162nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published January 12, 2013
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Tech. Sgt. Stephen Marsh's days as a supply technician at the Clothing Retail Sales shop here are filled with logistical jargon and industry terms, such as expendability and recoverability codes to Just-in-Time inventory strategies and controlling costs measures.
As the Clothing Retail Sales store noncommissioned officer in charge, Marsh's ultimate goal in navigating logistical terrains is about "trimming the supply chain fat."
"We have to be more efficient with less," said Marsh.
With the pending arrival of the Rip-stop Airman Battle Uniforms, Marsh said he will make the supply process leaner by using the Individual Equipment Element, an approach similar to other supply chain management techniques that are part of the logistical evolution of purchasing, shipping, receiving, storing and issuing.
"Temperature wise, the RABUs are cooler and lighter than ABUs," said Marsh. "The manufacturer decided not to dip them in a permanent press solution - so now they are five ounces lighter."
Because of Arizona's dry and warm climate, Marsh said the RABUs were field tested in the Grand Canyon State. Ultimately, results of customer surveys confirmed one, seemingly obvious conclusion for Marsh: "110 Degrees is just too hot for the ABUs."
Though RABUs will be standard issue beginning Jan. 31, Staff Sgt. Mia Torres-Gomez, supply technician, said 162nd airmen should not expect to get new, lightweight uniforms if their current ABUs are in good condition.
"Trying to turn in uniforms just to get new ones can be considered fraud," she said.
Air Force regulations state that unit members must show wear and tear on their uniforms in order to receive replacement ones; otherwise, airmen will have to visit military clothing sales at Davis-Monthan and purchase the newer style clothing items from their own funds.
"We won't issue RABUs right after you got the heavyweights (ABUs)," said Marsh. "I would have to see the damage first."
According to directives from the National Guard Bureau, unit members cannot mix and match ABU and RABU uniform pieces, though Marsh said the wear policy will remain unchanged.
In managing the issuance of uniforms and other gear, Marsh said that Clothing Retail Sales could serve as a microcosm of the entire 162nd Logistics Squadron's cost saving initiatives, which involves the materiel management, vehicle maintenance, deployment and distribution and fuels management flights.
In an example of cost savings, Marsh pointed to a practice of accepting serviceable excess uniform items and essentially turning them into cash.
"As long as they (uniforms) are serviceable and purchased in the same fiscal year, we can turn them into stock and reissue them," said Marsh. The practice allows supply to transfer money into a MILPERS account to purchase other items without increasing expenditures, teetering on the edge of budget limitations or tapping into monetary reserves.
Recently, members of the logistics squadron renovated the clothing retail sales shop by doing the grunt work themselves, saving the Air Guard $3,200 - further proof of the section's commitment to saving money.
But cost savings and streamlined processes aside, the role of logistics in military contingencies and deployments can never be overstated.
"Napoléon and Hitler lost their battles because they had grown the supply lines so long the supply chains were cut off and the troops didn't have their cold weather gear, and they froze to death," said Marsh, referring to past invasions of Russia.
With the 21st century Air Guard, however, Torres-Gomez said that the relevance of supply extends to its new, unofficial motto of "Jets Can't Fly Without Supply."
In ensuring 162nd Fighter Wing members meet their military clothing requirements and other logistical needs, Torres-Gomez said that supply is the "backbone of every military base. Whatever a base might specialize in, it can't be done without supply."