Taking a rare look inside the Kentucky Army Guard’s centralized supply facility

Story and photos by Sgt. Paul Evans, 103rd Brigade Support Battalion Unit Public Affairs Historian Representative

Supply turn-in with the Kentucky Army National Guard

Staff Sgt. Steven Perry of Louisville, Ky. assists Staff Sgt. Chris Jarris of Ravenna, Ky., a Supply NCO with C Co. 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry Regiment with military equipment turn-in March 19, 2013 at the state’s Central Issue Facility (CIF) in Frankfort, Ky. Perry serves as one of a small number of supply technicians at CIF, which plays a key role in keeping equipment organized throughout the state’s Army National Guard. (Kentucky National Guard photo by Sgt. Paul Evans)

FRANKFORT, Ky. — “Forget logistics, you lose,” quoted Lt. Gen. Fredrick Franks during Operation Desert Storm over 20 years ago.

In the Kentucky Army National Guard, a small group of unsung heroes make sure its not forgotten today; issuing supplies to Kentucky Soldiers both at home and on the front lines around the world, while also making sure everything is accounted for when Soldiers decide it’s finally time to trade their Army boots for civilian shoes.

Founded in 2001, the Kentucky National Guard’s Central Issue Facility (CIF) in Frankfort helps make life easier on National Guard units in communities across the state by providing a centralized facility to coordinate the issuing of new military equipment and turn-in of old, broken, or obsolete equipment for individual Soldiers. With barely more than a half-dozen Soldiers, two of which are currently deployed, CIF takes on the large task associated with handling the logistics of more than 6,000 Soldiers’ gear.

Individual Soldiers’ equipment is just one of the many critical logistical elements the Kentucky National Guard must handle to maintain overall effectiveness serving the citizens of the Commonwealth that is often overlooked.

Sealing a box of supplies

Staff Sgt. Elgin Mershon of Campbellsville, Ky. prepares a box of supplies to be shipped to a Kentucky Army National Guard Unit at the Central Issue Facility (CIF) for the state’s Guard in Frankfort, Ky. March 19, 2013. Mershon has worked in CIF for about seven years and served in the military for a total of 25 years. (Kentucky National Guard photo by Sgt. Paul Evans)

“We issue out the gear the Soldier uses on a daily basis—well, on a weekend basis, mostly,” explained Staff Sgt. Elgin Mershon of Campbellsville, Ky., who serves as one of just a few supply technicians at CIF.“I don’t think they (Soldiers) could function without their gear. I think we do a pretty good job overall,” he added.

Sgt. 1st Class Robert Woolums of Frankfort, Ky., who serves as the CIF Manager, has worked there since its establishment in 2001.

According to Woolums, the CIF handled more than 10,000 turn-ins of equipment valued at almost seven million dollars in 2012 alone. In addition to those staggering numbers, they filled more than 8,000 orders for Soldiers needing supplies that year.

CIF also plays a critical role in mobilizing Kentucky National Guard Soldiers to serve overseas, ensuring each Soldier has the individual equipment they need for specific deployments.

“In 2011, we did the 149th (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade’s deployment to Iraq), which was about 1,500 Soldiers,” Woolums recalled. “Last year, we mobilized around 1,000 Soldiers.”

“It’s taking a lot of responsibilities off the supply sergeants (in individual Units) because…before CIF, excess inventory was stored in their supply room,” Woolums noted regarding the CIF’s contribution to the Kentucky Guard.

“Now they (supply sergeants) put orders into the system. We’ll go out and pull it (off the shelf), box it up, and ship it boxed by name with the paperwork of the items that are in it. I think that helps a lot,” he added.

As with any organization, Woolums expressed what he believed to be the greatest challenge of CIF’s daunting task: “not having enough people. That’s my biggest issue is not having enough manpower with all we do,” he observed.

“I’m very proud (to be a part of the CIF),” Woolums concluded. “I love my job. I wouldn’t go anywhere else. I’ve been here since 2001 and this is probably where I’ll retire from.”

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