BLACKSTONE, Va. – Securing more than $3,000 of issued military gear and equipment at homes can be a challenge, but for 2,400 Soldiers across the Virginia Army National Guard that’s about to change.
As part of the $1.2 million dollar statewide effort to reduce property loss, more than 150 ventilated equipment lockers were installed March 18, 2015, at the Blackstone Readiness Center, Blackstone, Va.
The Va. Guard’s Fort Pickett-based Directorate of Logistics began installing 2,418 lockers in January, beginning in Gate City, Va., and moving east to install anywhere from 50 to 200 lockers in 19 different facilities across the Virginia Guard.
“A few months ago we put a call out to the field and asked what units needed lockers,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Renate Long, special projects officer with the Directorate of Logistics. “We did a space assessment at each of the unit’s armories and then looked at what types of units were assigned there and how many Soldiers would need lockers.”
There are two different sized lockers, a half-sized 36” deep, 36” tall and 30” wide and a full-sized 36” deep, 72” tall and 30” wide, each averaging just over $500 a piece.
“Some of the armories are just too small and we couldn’t fit all the lockers in,” said Long. “But if they had enough space, they got all the lockers they needed.”
For the Soldiers of the 3647th Maintenance Company, 529th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group these lockers satisfy not only a security need, but a practical space solution.
“Soldiers get to keep their gear here instead of at their house,” said Staff Sgt. Tory J. Clayborne, supply sergeant assigned to 3647th Maintenance Company. “The government gets to keep a little better control of it too! I’ve heard too many stories where Soldiers store their gear in their cars and then their windows get smashed and people steal helmets or body armor, sleeping bags and ruck sacks.”
Adding these lockers to readiness centers provides a way for Soldiers to secure their issued equipment, clothing and other gear at the Soldiers’ duty station and reduces the likelihood that government property is misplaced, stolen or damaged.
“Losing equipment means that we have to buy new gear—it’s just not a good use of our limited resources,” Clayborne said.
As a whole, the National Guard has struggled to retain possession of OCIE when Soldiers retire, reach the end of their enlistment or for any other reason that Soldiers leave the military and fail to return their equipment.
“When you think of the original cost of the lost, damaged or stolen equipment, then factor in the cost to replace that equipment, we’re looking at twice the cost for the same piece of equipment,” Long said. “This adds unnecessary stress to an already stressed budget situation.”
To determine a Soldier’s financial liability for any lost or damaged equipment, logistics professionals with the G-4 have to complete a Financial Liability Investigation of Property Loss. Investigations can take upwards of one to two years and even after the determination of liability, the Va. Guard still has to replace the lost equipment. The average OCIE FLIPL is just over $1,500 per investigation and the G-4 processes about 250 of these investigations annually.
If Soldiers are liable for property loss, the depreciated cost of the equipment is recouped and is submitted back to the federal government. The G-4 then replaces the equipment out of its operating budget. The G-4 is not reimbursed by the federal government, nor does the G-4 recieve any portion of the recouped funds.
“We picked these particular lockers with supply sergeants in mind. These lockers are made of really high-quality steel and are ventilated in the front,” explained Long. “Supply ergeants can walk by the lockers and see when equipment is put away dirty or when there’s items missing. They can then contact the Soldier’s first line leader and can take care of the problem.”
The statewide installation is an ongoing challenge, explained Long.
“Units have regular business to do; there are a lot of moving parts to ensure that the installation is synchronized with the unit’s schedule and the contractor’s availability,” said Long.
The G-4 took future budget considerations and force structure into account before beginning the installation.
“We started the process last fiscal year,” explained Susan Quinn, contracting officer with the United States Property and Fiscal Office – Virginia. “We awarded the contract back in August and it was about 180 days until the manufacturering was complete; but the G-4, especially Chief Long, did a lot of this work to get this project off the ground.”
Contracts include design, layout and manufacturing benchmarks prior to getting pricing and making the award, explained Quinn.
“This was a pretty standard contract, except for two things,” said Quinn. “First off, the dollar value of the contract was pretty substantial and the second one is the number of locations that were involved. We had to coordinate manufacturing, delivery and install with each of the 19 locations and then write that up in the contract.”
Part of the design specifications included tensile strength of the material, performance requirements and required features.
“What’s really neat is that these lockers are portable,” said Long. “If we need to move a unit or relocate an armory, we can bring these lockers with us and they are incredibly durable; all of the parts are guaranteed for life, so if we ever need to replace anything, we call up the manufacturer and we get it fixed.”
All equipment storage lockers are estimated to be installed by the end of August.