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Karen Delivers For The Troops
9:30 p.m. on a Wednesday evening and “The Food Lady” (aka)
Karen Rondino, Director Air Product Americas Region for Agility Logistics
at JFK Airport, is giving directions to a “NYC road-challenged”,
long haul truck driver who needs to get from the Brooklyn Queens Expressway
to a frozen storage facility at JFK.
Her cell phone rings – most probably
her husband Ray – again - wondering when she’ll be home.
The twenty tons of veal steaks originating
in the Midwest, are wandering aimlessly for more than an hour on NYC highways,
and need to be palletized with dry-ice and thermo-wrapped prior to moving
by charter to Kuwait, scheduled for Thursday afternoon.
Forty tons of green beans from Atlanta have
already arrived for the flight as have the twelve tons of mayonnaise from
Twenty five tons of frozen fish will be
delivered in the early morning, but the five hundred kilos of salt are
nowhere to be found.
“Just another walk in the park,”
proclaims Karen, as she packs up her laptop and gets ready to leave for
her home in Nassau County.
The Midwest driver has finally made it to
That night Karen will sleep restlessly wondering
about the salt, waking up early enough to pack off her two children, Kate
aged sixteen (going on twenty) and Nick aged eleven, off to school, before
beginning another challenging day in airfreight.
Even before she arises, husband Ray Rondino
has been up and gone for hours to his job, protecting the NYC Water Supply.
The Rondino’s feel blessed in a way,
that their differing schedules provide a good amount of parentally guided
home life for their children.
Ray will be home by four in the afternoon
and Karen some hours after that.
Karen is a twenty-six year airfreight veteran
– though to look at her, you’d wonder if she spent her high
school years cutting air waybills.
She began her forwarding career at Daniel
F.Young prior to a twenty plus year stint at Panalpina.
She was initially employed as a Sales/Customer
Service Rep and moved through the Panalpina Organization in a number of
roles, closing her career there as Assistant Vice President of Operations
Nearly three years ago, Karen left Panalpina
and accepted a challenge at GeoLogistics, (now Agility), and soon after
Agility’s buyout of GEO, became heavily
involved in coordinating the activities of twenty five to thirty food
vendors who ship their goods by air to Agility’s Prime Vendor Warehouse
The shipments are part of Agility’s
contract with the U.S. Government to supply over one million meals per
day to sustain USA troops in Iraq and the Gulf area theater.
The vendors ship everything from fresh corn-on-the
cob from Oregon to Ready-to-Eat meals (MREs) from Texas for the troops
in the field of operation.
Calling the salt vendor from the road on
her way in to JFK, Karen realizes that the salt cannot possibly make the
Although this will not be considered a service
failure on Agility’s part, she detours to COSTCO a food wholesale
warhouse open to the public and purchases 1,000 pounds of salt that is
quickly loaded into her SUV.
The fish have already been delivered and
are in the process of palletization when she arrives at JFK with the salt.
Karen returns to the office and listens
to many messages including one about a shipment of 330 tons of processed
eggs that will be delivered on Friday. Meanwhile, the Thursday charter
flight leaves on time and arrives in Kuwait early Saturday morning, as
The Prime Vendor Project is but one of the
many challenges and functions that Karen delivers with precision and professionalism.
The vendors rely on her expertise from handling
the stringent documentation requirements necessary in delivering a seamless,
expedient clearance and delivery to the staging warehouse site. Within
days, the food will be delivered by convoy to the many mess halls throughout
Going the extra mile is the norm for Karen
Rondino, rather than the exception.
She is truly a remarkable Air Cargo person,
and even better a wonderful human being who proves every day that women
are not only up to the task, but are vital members of the air cargo industry.
(Mike is Senior Vice President for Air Products at
Agility, the new name for GeoLogistics based at John F. Kennedy International
Airport in New York City. www.agilitylogistics.com.
Mr. Kearns penned this piece in response to our call for stories
about exceptional women in air cargo. Our readers worldwide are invited
to submit stories for publication).