Pacific logistics chief honored for keeping commissaries supplied
FORT LEE, Va. (Mar. 24, 2016) – To say 2015 was a difficult year for supplying Pacific Area commissaries is an understatement. The area dealt with poultry embargoes from Japan and Korea, and West Coast port slowdowns among other issues. So it was no surprise when the Defense Commissary Agency selected the person in the middle of all those challenges, Jack McGregor, Pacific Area logistics chief, as the agency's 2015 Michael W. Blackwell Leadership Award recipient.
McGregor received the award during a DeCA Headquarters ceremony Feb. 1.
McGregor said winning the award was "a very unexpected and humbling experience. The team here in Sacramento, the headquarters management folks at Fort Lee, the central distribution center (CDC) folks in the Pacific and our distributor partners all played a role in the successes achieved this past year."
McGregor, a former Navy service member, began his commissary career as a warehouse worker at the Naval Base Pearl Harbor Commissary, Hawaii. In 1992, he accepted a position with DeCA's Pacific region at Fort Lewis, Washington, where he was a contract specialist. McGregor was promoted to chief, Pacific Overseas Processing Point, in 2003.
Today he supports eight CDCs, 24 CDC-supported commissaries, three direct-support commissaries and a U.S. Army-operated grocery store located in the Pacific. He also oversees ordering, shipping, product payments and container booking for all shipments to the Pacific and order processing payments to the CDC and all five commissaries in Alaska.
McGregor's experience was tested early. In January 2015, Japan and South Korea enacted poultry embargoes because of the presence of avian flu in some U.S. poultry products. The embargoes reduced product flow to commissaries in those countries. McGregor immediately worked with suppliers and distributors to find other sources to keep product arriving at the stores.
South Korea eventually relaxed some restrictions and McGregor worked to get more than 300 items, such as hotdogs and chicken tenders, back into the stores.
During the embargoes, McGregor realized that families stationed in these areas wouldn't be able to purchase turkeys for their Thanksgiving dinners. Seeking a solution, he located an Australian supplier that was not under the embargo and worked with veterinarians, category managers and contractors to get the supplier inspected and approved to send turkeys to the region.
McGregor also stayed current on the status of oceanic shipping. Finding one of two remaining U.S.-flagged ocean carriers was leaving the Pacific market, he coordinated with the U.S. Transportation Command and the remaining carrier, switching them in a seamless transition.
Meanwhile, a labor slowdown in West Coast ports was causing shipping delays and spoilage issues. McGregor quickly changed certain staple items over to airlift to fill shelves in the Pacific. The airlift lasted for four months, and must-have items were monitored closely to ensure costs were mitigated.
After port operations normalized, McGregor reduced the amount of items airlifted and shifted them back to surface shipments, while balancing shipping time with availability and shelf-life. During the port slowdown McGregor managed more than 5 million pounds of airlifted product, carrying a price tag of $19 million, while keeping the 27 stores in the Pacific at a 98-percent fill rate.
"Each of these situations caused unique challenges in their own way. I take it step by step and try to come up with the best possible solution in each situation," McGregor said about the issues he faced.
"This series of exceptional challenges required exceptional leadership and persistence to overcome," said Joseph H. Jeu, DeCA Director and CEO. "Jack McGregor and his team did just that every time, in keeping with the Blackwell award's central tenets: commitment to excellence, unswerving dedication and superior technical acumen."
"It's truly a team effort," McGregor said. "I try to do my small part to make sure our customers know we care by bringing them a touch of home. There's nothing like walking into a commissary in the Pacific and seeing a display of a good old USA item. That's the feeling I want our customers get when they shop in our stores, and it makes everything we do behind the scenes worthwhile."
The Blackwell award was created in honor of Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Michael W. Blackwell. He served with the Air Force Commissary Service before its consolidation into DeCA, and was the agency's senior enlisted advisor from March 1994 to March 1995. Battling cancer, Blackwell retired from DeCA Feb. 9, 1995, after 22 years of service. He passed away April 5, 1995, at age 44.
About DeCA: The Defense Commissary Agency operates a worldwide chain of commissaries providing groceries to military personnel, retirees and their families in a safe and secure shopping environment. Commissaries provide a military benefit and make no profit on the sale of merchandise. Authorized patrons purchase items at cost plus a 5-percent surcharge, which covers the costs of building new commissaries and modernizing existing ones. By shopping regularly in the commissary, patrons save thousands of dollars annually. A core military family support element, and a valued part of military pay and benefits, commissaries contribute to family readiness, enhance the quality of life for America's military and their families, and help recruit and retain the best and brightest men and women to serve their country.
Kevin L. Robinson
(804) 734-8000, Ext. 4-8773