Soon after accomplishing the mission to supply troops around the world with food for traditional Thanksgiving meals, the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support in Philadelphia starts planning for the Passover and Easter holidays.
This year, Passover starts on April 15 and Easter Sunday is April 17. The Subsistence and Clothing and Textile supply chains at DLA Troop Support started planning in November 2021 to make sure service men and women around the world would have the religious items and traditional foods to observe these holidays.
These efforts resulted in 200 orders for religious items for Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, Passover, and Easter, as well as 12.5 tons of food for holiday meals.
This year, the Subsistence supply chain shipped 951 cases of Kosher Meals, Ready to Eat for Passover. Each case contains 12 accessory kits, 12 entrees including chicken, beef, and gefilte fish menus, one box of matzo, and two bags of heaters for the entrees, with four heaters per bag.
DLA Troop Support met with vendors, DLA Distribution, and the regional DLA locations in Europe, Africa and Indo-Pacific to determine the best air shipping method for each order, which is either military aircraft or commercial air, according to Joseph Zanolle, with the Subsistence supply chain at DLA Troop Support.
Vendors started shipping Passover orders outside of the United States about 60 days before the holiday, he said. Orders within the U.S. are shipped by vendors about 30 days before Passover, he said.
Zanolle also tracks those orders and confirms delivery with customers.
“Vendors will give me all the tracking information,” Zanolle said. “I will track with the aerial ports for MILAIR and track commercial air online. Once I get a confirmation of delivery from the shipper, I will contact the customer and have them confirm receipt.”
More than 25,000 pounds of food sent were sent out for holiday meals including:
• 9,048 pounds of pork
• 2,536 pounds of lamb
• 5,638 pounds of beef ribeye
• 2,577 pounds of salmon
• 4,968 pounds of shrimp
• 520 pounds of ham
• 801 cases of various cakes and pies
The Clothing and Textiles supply chain provided nearly 800 religious items of wine or grape juice, palm, orthodox palm, seder kits and ashes to military service customers domestically and abroad, said C&T customer account specialist Kevin MacKenzie.
Most international orders came from European Command versus Central Command in previous years due to the Afghanistan withdrawal, said Chris Gaudio, supervisor of the religious support team.
Religious item orders this year included:
• 288 bottles of wine/grape juice
• 43,500 palms and Orthodox palms
• 341 Seder kits
• 93 ounces of ashes
One of most challenging orders the team completed this year was an order of wine for customers in Poland, which came in after C&T’s order deadline of Dec. 15, 2021, said MacKenzie. The religious support team shipped the wine via MILAIR and tracked constantly until arrival.
“We tracked it from start to finish, and it did get to its intended destination before the holiday,” MacKenzie said.
Determining which carrier to use to ensure on-time deliveries is one of most challenging aspects of completing orders, MacKenzie said.
Like the Subsistence supply chain, C&T began preparing for the Spring religious holiday season last November, when they first reached out to customers to place orders. The team then worked towards planned shipment dates, including shipping palm two weeks prior to Palm Sunday, MacKenzie said.
Some orders were placed after the deadline, including a seder kit order received April 11, which the religious support team overnighted to a domestic customer, customer account specialist Christine McCann said.
“We always have things in place so that if there’s an emergency or urgency for an order that we can hopefully get it where it needs to go in time,” she said.
Even though this was a very rare case, MacKenzie explained the C&T team ensures safety stock is available at third party logistics warehouses for any last-minute orders.
While the religious support team amasses less than $1 million annually in sales, the team’s mission goes beyond sales numbers, said Gaudio.
“This a 100 percent morale-based program,” he said. “Ultimately there’s a person at the end of it waiting to celebrate their holiday, and if they don’t get it, that’s a big morale bump.”
Prior to Palm Sunday, MacKenzie and Gaudio visited DLA Distribution Susquehanna for a quality assurance check on seder kits and palm. MacKenzie said it ‘felt good’ to see the items he orders in person.
“From my perspective, this was my first year of supervising this program, as opposed to working the actual numbers, and it was great to see the work that we put in over the last five or six years come to fruition,” Gaudio said. “Major kudos to Christine and Kevin for making this work pretty smoothly.”
“This process and the way it’s set-up has been worked on for so long, it’s almost seamless, although I would say there’s a hiccup here or there mostly because an order comes in late or something like that, she said. But we have connections and people here, our vendors, our 3PLs as well as our DLA connections in Europe that all work together. It’s a really big team effort to get everything to where it needs to go, but it’s the process that’s been put in place that works really well and it’s a well-oiled machine it feels like at this point.”