Removing unnecessary gear from Iraq: a crucial step in a responsible drawdown

CAMP AL TAQADDUM, Iraq  —Even before Feb. 17, when President…

CAMP AL TAQADDUM, Iraq  —Even before Feb. 17, when President Barack Obama announced his strategy for Iraq, the operational tempo for Marines and sailors within the 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward) in Camp Al Taqaddum, Iraq, was high.

Since the President’s announcement, the tempo at the 2nd MLG (Fwd) has elevated tenfold.  While they are in charge of the responsible drawdown of the Marine Corps’ logistical assets in Iraq’s Al Anbar province, they are also still required to support subordinate units who work with Iraqi Forces to stabilize the country.

From the outside looking in, the responsible drawdown of equipment may seem like a simple task to complete. But with more than 53,000 individual pieces of gear in the MLG’s inventory that still need to be processed for turn-in, the enormity of the overall mission can only be accomplished with precise, complex planning by leaders at the top and demanding physical labor by those in charge of carrying out the plan.

The process of drawing down equipment and weapons from subordinate units is a complex one; every single item and its components must be cleaned, inspected, and physically accounted for prior to being transferred to the Marine Corps Logistics Command (Forward), here.  MCLC (Fwd) receipts for the equipment and begins its own internal process for retrograde back to Blount Island Command in Jacksonville, Fla. Once the assets reach BIC, they are then forwarded to their respective depot level repair facility.  If the equipment meets the requirements of support for Operation Enduring Freedom, however, it is shipped to Afghanistan.  The job is not complete for the MCLC team after gear leaves the 60-acre lot – as soon as one unit transfers equipment to the command, another is coming through the gate to drop off more gear.

Master Sgt. Demetrius B. Jones, staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the MCLC (Fwd) Retrograde Lot, said to date, his team of 30 Honeywell contractors have processed more than 58,000 pieces of gear to include air and ground support material, administrative vehicles, electronics, tactical vehicles, weapons.  Since December 2008, when Jones first arrived to the lot, developments in the timeline of the responsible drawdown increased the need for more personnel.  In mid-March, more contractors were added to the staff to sustain the immense workload.  Jones said that many of the employees are retired from the military and therefore understand the importance of teamwork in order to accomplish such a hefty mission.

“These guys work together like a well-oiled machine,” Jones said. “Between receiving the gear and shipping it out, they have been working very hard to reduce the turnaround time [as much as possible.]”

Just as personnel on the ground are working together to accomplish the mission, those crunching numbers are just as deep in the process.  Staff Sgt. Dominique Giles, supply chief, 2nd MLG (Fwd) G-4, who is responsible for the overall tracking of equipment belonging to the group, said although most subordinate units are eager to turn in their gear as quickly as possible, when dealing with such a large amount of serialized gear, accuracy outweighs speed.

“Some items take longer than others [to transfer], and it’s best to take care of it all now instead of waiting until it’s time to leave and doing it in a hurried fashion, but  our priority is and has been accurate accountability.  We want the units to accurately account for their gear and to downsize equipment that isn’t being utilized,” she said.

Giles added that because subordinate units are still conducting daily operations in Al Anbar province, they have been asked to give up only 10 percent of their equipment.  If a unit is leaving the area and not being replaced, then they will turn in all of their gear.  So far, she said, the process is going very smoothly because of the cooperation from everyone involved.

“Units are excited about turning in their unnecessary gear, so I think as long as the units remain positive and willing to turn in equipment, things will continue to move smoothly.”  She thankfully noted.

As MLG (Fwd) and MCLC (Fwd) work toward meeting their own goal of decreasing the footprint of the military in Iraq, they are also working to achieve the President’s target date for the U.S. military to be out of the country.  While Iraq is rebuilding itself, the logistics team remains available to provide support to Iraqis and Marines even as they progressively take themselves out of the picture, one truck at a time.

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