The Exchange’s ability to serve those who serve in Europe, Africa and Southwest Asia hinges on operations at the Germersheim Distribution Center in Germany running smoothly.
That’s why, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt everyday life across the region, it’s critical that business continues as usual at the 420,000-square-foot distribution center—a challenge the Germersheim team has more than met.
“Schools are out, so we’ve had twice as many people calling out than we normally do,” said Regional Distribution Manager Jacinta Crim. “Almost immediately, we had members of our team coming in early and staying late to help out.”
With the pandemic, Germersheim has also seen an increase in air shipments from CONUS containing high-demand items like soap, household cleaners and hand sanitizers. To ensure product keeps flowing into the warehouse, team members—some of whom do not normally work in receiving—are coming in on weekends to unload shipments of up to 50 pallets.
Crim said while most of Germersheim’s associates are local nationals, some are children of former military and have firsthand knowledge of the Exchange’s importance to military families.
“I am proud to lead such a dedicated team at a time when there is so much uncertainty,” Crim said. “The landscape is changing so fast, and much of the staff is concerned about the safety of their families here and around the world. I don’t know how to express my gratitude and appreciation for their commitment to the mission.”
The quick pace of operations means the Germersheim team must work closely with sister exchanges and other Department of Defense agencies to maximize capacity and ensure goods are transported to where they are most needed.
“Germersheim’s central location means the Exchange and its partners can help each other maximize truckloads and expedite goods,” said Morgan Meeks, Vice President of Transportation Operations. “These partnerships have been essential to operations continuing to run smoothly during the pandemic.”
Germersheim is also one of three terminals for the Exchange’s European fleet, with trucks regularly rolling out to Poland, the Netherlands, Belgium and other destinations. Despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic—some drivers have experienced delays at the border or had trouble accessing installations—Exchange drivers are eager to hit the road.
“We let them know what to expect—‘you know, you might get stuck at the border,’” said Regional Fleet Manager Ronald Willis. “But there’s no argument, no complaints. They just say, ‘We will get the mission done.’”
To keep drivers safe, Willis said the fleet is no longer operating in a state of “continuous dispatching,” or sending drivers back out on the road as soon as they return from a delivery. Drivers are also now equipped with gloves, masks, thermometers, MREs, water and hand sanitizer. All deliveries into Italy are now being transported by commercial rather than Exchange drivers.
“We are constantly educating them on what’s going on and how to protect themselves,” Willis said. “We tell them to take all the information we give them home, too, because if a driver is thinking about what their family is doing at home, they won’t be able to focus on the mission.”
Willis said both teams’ ability to keep cool in a crisis is a testament to Exchange leadership, who have fostered an environment in which both drivers and distribution center workers know the Exchange has their back.
“It’s like the saying goes, one team one fight,” he said. “When it comes down to getting it done, we don’t say, ‘You’re transportation, we’re operations.’ It’s all the Exchange. It speaks to the dedication and heart of the people we have here.”