KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan--The Retro Sort Yard on Kandahar Airfield is full of the hustle and bustle of different sights and activities. Soldiers and their civilian counterparts lift storage containers with cranes and forklifts, tractor trailers transport recent arrivals of equipment and supplies in and out of the yard, bins loaded to the brim are sorted to track an items origin, its destination or disposition, and where it belongs during its stay at the yard.

The web of moving parts at the Retro Sort Yard reveals a larger process going on across Afghanistan. The Kandahar yard is the centralized location for the majority of equipment and items from across several regional commands in the southern, central and south-western military footprint in Afghanistan. Its main purpose is to recycle, reissue, or return military equipment to a more appropriate location or mission set, or dispose of it in the most cost effective manner possible, potentially saving the American taxpayer millions of dollars.

For Soldiers on Kandahar Airfield, the Retro Sort Yard is the equivalent to buried treasure. Many hard to find items needed during the day-to-day mission while on deployment can be found there; items such as microwaves, televisions, or even an extra chair for the office.

Units in need of vehicle parts or communications equipment can request and procure lightly used items so new items do not have to be purchased through the Army Supply System.

"Maybe there were some parts you fell in on in theater and you don't need them currently," said 1st Lt. Petar Mostarac of the 133rd Quartermaster Company, 45th Sustainment Brigade CENTCOM Materiel Recovery Element, Officer in Charge of the Retro Sort Yard. "You can turn those in for other units to use and request other items you might need."

The most important function of the Retro Sort Yard is the return of military equipment back to the U.S. as the military prepares to transition Afghanistan. The Retro Sort Yard has saved the Army more than $850 million since its creation in December 2011. According to Mostarac, more than $75 million was saved in the past three months.

"The whole process is a lot of cost efficiency and analysis," said Mostarac. "A 10-year-old keyboard for example; it's dusty, it's old, and we're not going to send it back to the United States. But a vehicle part that's brand new in the box that we can use to service other vehicles back home, that's worth shipping back."

The journey of an item through the Retro Sort Yard typically begins when it is packed into a T.E.U., or 20 ft. by 20 ft. equivalent storage container, by a unit, said Mostarac. The container is then transported to the yard by vehicle.

When the container arrives, Soldiers do a quick estimate of the materials in it and separate what items will be sent to the Defense Logistics Agency or trash if the item is unusable. The DLA is the Department of Defense's largest logistics combat support agency, and provides worldwide logistics support in both peacetime and wartime to the military services as well as several civilian agencies and foreign countries.

Items that can be processed through DLA are immediately separated into different categories based on their condition and supply classification. The categories include consumables; items such as printer ink or computer monitors; ammunition, hazardous materials, vehicles and vehicle equipment, construction materials, and maintenance parts. Medical supplies are processed separately at another yard nearby.

Soldiers sort each item and check for its national stock number so it can be processed through the Standard Army Retail Supply System. Some parts are difficult to identify so research is done to ensure the part is correctly identified and categorized.

"This is probably the most important part of the process," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Lashana Taylor, a Senior Supply Systems Technician assigned to the 133rd QM Co. "Even if we can't identify or process a part through DLA, we have (a) record of the part in the supply system. We can send the part to other military agencies that process it and that monetary value is returned to us."
After items are sorted and identified, they are loaded into containers for shipment through the DLA to their final destination, said Taylor. There are many locations they can be sent, depending on the needs of the Army. Popular destinations include Germany, Kuwait, and the U.S.

Soldiers pack and load the containers appropriately and inspect them to make sure they are clean and ready for customs agents to inspect and approve for shipment to its destination.

"The main thing is communicating with your peers," said Spc. Jason Bayne, a handler and processor at the yard. Bayne is assigned to the 133rd QM Co. "We all do the same job, but we are in different areas and we have to communicate so we are not processing parts differently."

Bayne, who is on his first deployment, emphasizes the importance of the mission as he points out the different containers of equipment the yard staff use for sorting.

"It's cool to be part of a much bigger process like this," he said. "Our mission is historical and I feel like I'm making a difference for the Army as a whole."

The focus on "responsible retrograde" is only becoming more defined as deconstruction efforts continue on bases around Afghanistan. Soldiers of the Retro Sort Yard have a lot of busy days ahead of them, but their efforts are making a huge impact in efficiency operations for the Army.

Page last updated Wed July 30th, 2014 at 05:02