Northern unit serves as 'gatekeepers'
March 13, 2009
- Northern unit serves as 'gatekeepers'
HABUR GATE, Iraq - Since March 2008, the mission of the 609th Movement Control Team's at Habur Gate is to ensure supplies get to their destination in a timely manner.
Located on the north border of Iraq, Habur Gate is the U.S. Army portion of the Iraqi Customs Facility which functions as an inspection point between supply shipments destined for Coalition forces, and supplies for a variety of other uses. Overall, the inspections are part of the 3d Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) mission of providing logistics and distribution management anywhere, in any environment, and against any adversary.
Along with a strong Kurdish presence, the 609th MCT, an active duty unit from Fort Bragg, N.C., validates, receives, stages, manifests, and monitors the movement of cargo entering and leaving Iraq.
Headquartered at the Ibrahim Khalil Customs Facility, commonly known as the "Marble Palace" by the personnel assigned there, the 609th MCT controls the flow of class 1 (food) and III (fuel) supplies moving from Europe and Turkey into Iraq, which is distributed to Coalition forces throughout the country.
"Of all of the supply trucks entering Iraq from Turkey, roughly 10 percent of them are for Coalition forces," said 1st Lt. Eric Hart, the 609th MCT operations officer in charge and Baton Rouge, La., native. "Once they enter Iraq, they go through a number of inspections and from there our mission comes into play by making sure we filter and validate shipment expected for Coalition forces."
For drivers transporting goods to Iraq, the process they follow is a lengthy one. They are led through a validation process determining whether their shipment is meant for Coalition forces or not, while working closely with workers from the Iraqi Customs Facility.
Aiding Kurdish inspectors, the 609th MCT Soldiers make sure their standard is being enforced.
"What we do when drivers come through our facility is ensure that they are following the rules, and are operating equipment [trucks] that are safe," said Staff Sgt. Leroy Cain, the 609th MCT transportation managing coordinator /day-shift staging yard noncommissioned officer in charge and Wilmington, N.C., native. "We put them through a process of various inspections in order to make sure they are able to safely operate their equipment once they move forward from here."
When drivers arrive at the Habur Gate staging yard, they receive inspections for proper vehicle operation documents. This includes, but is not limited to check their driver's license, and if it matches the type of equipment they are operating.
From this point, 609th MCT Soldiers and Kurdish inspectors check with the drivers for a cargo movement request. The 609th MCT Soldier then validate shipments with a stamp, which is recognized by customs and border patrol agents who handles a driver's passport.
Hart explained that while the process usually runs smoothly, there are times when drivers try to take advantage of operations. In the past, drivers have attempted to travel from Turkey to Iraq with falsified documents showing their shipments are for Coalition forces, when it is really not. While Hart described this as being a rare occurrence, it would be wrong to say that it hasn't been attempted. These attempts are usually caught during the validation process and are fairly obvious to those working at the site.
During inspections, Soldiers and Kurdish inspectors also check the driver's truck for leaks, damage, worn tires, drugs and other contraband. They check the driver's load, making sure it is secured properly and is safe to move forward into the country.
A contraband item commonly taken from drivers during an inspection is siphons, which are used to steal fuel and alcohol.
Driver who violate the guidelines are added to a restricted list, which denies them future access to the Habur Gate facility. The driver's company is then notified of the violations, and a new driver is requested.
Once the 609th MCT has trucks in its staging yards, it reports to its higher authorities, particularly the 330th Trans. Battalion and 3d ESC. Depending on the needs of the forward operation bases and sustainment brigades, trucks will either stay within the staging yards for a few days or continue to transport the goods to its final destination.
The amount of trucks moving into Iraq and what classes of supplies depends on reports from sustainment brigades, For example, trucks carrying class I supplies don't stay in the staging yards as long as class III because food is more likely to spoil before it reaches its destination.
The 609th MCT's process of inspections is important because it helps drivers do their job effectively. As a result, it allows supplies destined for Coalition forces to arrive in a timely manner.
"Putting drivers through the inspection process can be uncomfortable for them, but it is very necessary," said Hart. "If drivers are not able to perform their jobs safely, it could have fatal results, and cause delays in sustainment operations."
STORY BY SPC MICHAEL BEHLIN, 3D ESC PUBLIC AFFAIRS.
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