Photo Information

U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Kenneth T. Mellan, a supply administrative specialist assigned to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, closes a package after checking its contents aboard the USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) at sea, May 26, 2013. The 26th MEU is a Marine Air-Ground Task Force forward-deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility aboard the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group serving as a sea-based, expeditionary crisis response force capable of conducting amphibious operations across the full range of military operations. (U.S. Marine Corps photograph by Cpl. Kyle N. Runnels/Released)

Photo by Cpl. Kyle N. Runnels

Supply keeps it running

31 May 2013 | Cpl. Kyle N. Runnels 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit

The highly expeditionary nature of a Marine Expeditionary Unit is an irreplaceable asset for the United States Marine Corps, but high mobility can come at a price: limited storage space, few replacement parts and the ever stalking Murphy’s Law, waiting for a chance to strike in the most inopportune moment.  

Fortunately, it is possible for the Marines of the 26th MEU to carry on with their daily routines and maintenance during their 2013 deployment because of the supply administrative specialists assigned to the S-4 Shop.

This ‘day in the life of’ feature is part of a series showcasing the different working aspects of the 26th MEU and how their efforts come together as a whole to make the unparalleled force operate.

“MEU supply is primarily responsible for managing a budget of more than $10 million; accounting for over $500,000 worth of serialized principle end items; acquisition of high priority parts; and equipment, and asset tracking throughout the supply chain,” said Staff Sgt. Ryan J. Ardoin, a Cameron, La., native, and 26th MEU supply chief. “Additionally, supply is responsible for ensuring all armory assets are correctly listed on the Crane Small Arms Registry, all unit issue facility equipment is properly accounted for, and all mission essential repair parts throughout the MEU are on order with a valid status. The supply section also ensures that all elements of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force receive the proper support they require.”

Lance Cpl. Kenneth T. Mellan, a supply administrative specialist with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit command element from Buffalo, N.Y., explained nearly anything that could possibly be ordered has a National Stock Number. He said no two NSNs are the same. Even different sized flight suits have different NSNs. This number is used when ordering items through a specified military vendor.

“If the [communications] shop needed helium for their observation balloons we would start out by finding how much they need,” he said. “We then look to see if it has an NSN. If it has one it makes it easier to purchase that specific item. If they don’t have an NSN for an item needed, we go through outside vendors that tailor better for our specific needs. For instance, our flak patches. We can’t make those or order those through certain government agencies so we have to go through civilians.”

With the seemingly unpredictable routes taken by the USS Kearsarge, keeping accountability on ordered equipment is combatted by one of the best ways to learn preventative measures, studying the past.

“Being aboard ship does require innovative techniques for ordering and tracking assets,” said Ardoin. “To counter that problem, we analyzed the experiences of past MEUs and determined distributing our personnel across the CENTCOM area of operation provided the maximum ability to achieve our goals. As a result, we have expediters and acquisition specialists strategically located who provide essential support to the entire MEU. Furthermore, our supply officer and contracting officer rigorously travel to each training area to ensure demands are met and training goals are reached.”

Another unavoidable difficulty for the supply Marines is crossing into different time zones while traveling in international waters.  

“I have to catch their time zone instead of ours to make sure I can get in contact with the vendors I need to,” said Cpl. Hanna S. Roberson, a supply administrative specialist with the 26th MEU from Laurinburg, N.C. “If I didn’t get the equipment ordered nobody would have wire for field operations, paper to print on, or even TVs for briefs.”

Proud of the hard work put out on a daily basis by his Marines, the supply chief left off with a proud message.

“To sum it up, we pretty much have a hand or two in every aspect of logistical support provided to the MAGTF,” said Ardoin. “Our team is made up of absolute all-stars. There isn’t any room for junior varsity performance at this level.”