DLA Distribution Oklahoma City demonstrates the “Oklahoma Standard,” keeping F-35 parts moving during COVID-19 pandemic

  • Published
  • By Jona Morrison
  • DLA Distribution Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Training Coordinator

Oklahomans have a long history of overcoming adversity, lending a helping hand to neighbors and always maintaining hope and resiliency, even in the most trying of times. It’s what they proudly refer to as “The Oklahoma Standard.”

Defense Logistics Agency Distribution Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, F-35 team is proudly demonstrating the “Oklahoma Standard” as they continue their no-fail mission to transfer 50,000 materials batches of parts and from Pratt & Whitney by the end of fiscal year 2020. Through project manager Cornell Green’s leadership, the team has actually increased week over week production despite the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Cornell, “The steps employees are taking to ensure this mission essential contract continues unabated, includes wearing gloves, masks, practicing good hygiene, and social distancing and true ingenuity and creativity with their [Do it yourself] DIY face coverings.

“The Oklahoma Standard” is a great strategy for dealing with the terrible events life often presents and was born after the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, recognizing those who came to help and a community outpouring of overwhelming strength, support and kindness. Rather than being defined by their worst experiences as a state, whether it be the Oklahoma City bombing, the May 3, 1999 tornado, or the killer twisters of last May, Oklahomans have chosen instead to be known by their positive response to events that could have brought out their worst.

That’s why it comes as no surprise that the dedicated men and women of DLA Distribution Oklahoma City have risen to the challenges presented by COVID-19, and are continuing to do what it takes to carry on with their mission and provide first-rate support to the warfighter, while at the same time maintaining a safe working environment for themselves and for the customer.

DLA Distribution Oklahoma City Director, John Northrup, praised his team for their dedication and work ethic, “For many of our folks, the term warfighter is abstract. The wars they understand -- take place in their communities, streets, schools, and homes. As I speak with folks across the distribution center, we discuss the oath of office that we took as public servants -- servants of the people. We emphasize that we are different from the outside world. We explain that we are fulfilling support roles to the military that once, and in some case are still being done by warfighters themselves. We are not just employees, but an extending support element to the greatest military in the world. Despite being scared and uncertain of the future, DDOO employees continue to report daily since the onset of COVID-19. They are willingly and collectively standing tall across multiple functions in support of warfighters all over the world. I am humbled and proud to be part of this fine team.”

Employees across DDOO have played a vital role in both mission and safety during these trying times. For example, employees from the Maintenance Department took the initiative to design, build, and install Plexiglas barrier screens in multiple high traffic work areas, such as the Truck Dock in Receiving and the Transportation Assistant office in Transportation. Transportation Officer, Jabari Giles, explained, “The reason for that is that we have over the road truck drivers coming in and out of there all day picking up loads to take to other bases. They have to come into the transportation assistant office to sign bills of lading and we also have customers coming in all day from all over the base to bring material in to be shipped out. The Plexiglas barrier protects our workers in that area from being directly exposed to any potential carriers of COVID-19.”

When Leadership challenged the team to find supplies, William Havle, a member of the DDOO Supply/Purchasing team, showed tremendous resilience in procuring sanitizing/cleaning supplies for the distribution center’s employees when they needed them the most. He had placed several orders over the preceding weeks for these supplies via GSA Advantage, only to have the orders repeatedly cancelled. Mr. Havle, displaying considerable ingenuity, decided to scour the city’s auto parts and hardware stores and found many supplies that his normal distributors could not keep in stock. He worked with his GPC/APO to ensure the purchases were properly vetted; always mindful of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) which drives his processes.

For three days, he drove around the city and found a multitude of sanitizing products. There was no business he did not visit. He purchased disinfecting sprays, wipes, and antibacterial cleaning solvents. He found enormous tubs of Gym Wipes at the Base Supply Store that were available after the gyms on base closed. These supplies had not previously been available, but Mr. Havle continued to call the stores daily to determine what was available. There was an audible sigh of relief throughout the work centers when the much need supplies were disseminated.

Halve could have been teleworking from the safety of his home, instead, he drove around the entire city to benefit the rest of us at the center. Without Mr. Havle’s perseverance, this could not have happened. He tore down barriers, working outside the box to find items that could not be found. He is the perfect example of a “team player” and we are proud that he is one of our teammates.

DDOO Leadership, in order to help prevent the spread of the virus, challenged existing paradigms by approving telework for all employees who are eligible, and encouraged supervisors to update employee eligibility to the fullest extent possible for those who were not previously coded as such. This expansion of the telework program to employees who generally wouldn’t be able to work from home, has greatly reduced the number of people onsite, while allowing many more employees to continue providing support to the Warfighter, DDOO customers, and fellow employees. Further, DDOO leadership, supervisors and area work leads are also participating in telework by scheduling alternating telework shifts to ensure adequate senior leadership on-site coverage, should anyone become sick. Diana Tow, Facilities Supervisor in Stock Readiness, explained how she and co-worker Deaundre Wilson had created a telework schedule, based on each of their required duties, to ensure coverage and maximize production. “We’ve found ways to match work the can be done from home into our alternating telework schedules that is actually improving overall capabilities.”

Leadership created a COVID-19 Team on March 13 and daily battle rhythms soon ensued. There is a daily communication plan designed to synchronize all information up, down, and across the organization. Ms. Tow for example explained her team’s new routine, “Each morning we go over current COVID-19 events to ensure everyone is kept up to date and continues to stay safe. We clean the common areas daily and use disinfectant to wipe down commonly touched items such as doorknobs and stair handrails.” Ms. Tow also said that she stays in close contact with her staff members who are out on administrative safety leave, by calling and checking on them weekly to ensure “we stay connected with our teammates at risk.”

DDOO has taken many steps to minimize on-site risk of its employees to include: No face to face meetings; Expansion of communication through IT tools, phone conferencing, skype, video teleconferencing, etc.; Adjusting start times, shifts, and break and lunches; and initiating a sheltering in place concept through minimizing/eliminating movement within and around the 60 plus buildings/work areas.

As a tenant agency on Tinker Air Force Base, DDOO has worked hand in hand with the base Emergency Preparedness team and base leadership, to ensure we remain up to date on operational changes and situational updates 24/7. COVID-19 Team Lead, Tonya Gore wears many hats at the DLA Distribution Center Oklahoma City and stressful situations are not unusual for her, but the recent emergency situation involving COVID-19 is proving to be an enormous feat. Nonetheless, Tonya has once again risen to the situation, selflessly monitoring all incoming Emergency Management messages and instructions; disseminating vitally important data to senior leadership on a daily basis. She is working non-stop to ensure all information is properly interpreted, constantly pivoting to reassess and address situations as they arise. Although these are herculean efforts on Tonya’s behalf, they are not unusual. She is trained to fight for our #1 customer, the warfighter, and now she is fighting to protect her teammates during this emergency; placing their safety above all else.

These unprecedented events have created a new normal, which DDOO employees have quickly adapted to, balancing mission and safety. They embody a purpose which is bigger than our problems. There is no doubt our civilian/military partnership is better understood and stronger than ever. I am proud to say I am working alongside a great team here at DLA Oklahoma City and our mission partners here at Tinker! They have shown a true example of The Oklahoma Standard.