Camp Taji depot to supply Iraqi Army
June 20, 2009
CAMP TAJI, Iraq -- A refurbished supply depot at Camp Taji, north of Baghdad, will serve as the Iraqi Army's new central distribution point for everything from vehicles to clothing.
A partnership between U.S. Army Soldiers and their Iraqi army counterparts, here, has not only renovated warehouses at the Taji National Supply Depot but has brought the latest inventory control techniques to the Iraqi military.
"This is their national level logistics center," Col. Tim Fucik said. "We're helping to build their capacity."
Fucik, an Army Reservist from Indianapolis, Ind., the senior commander for Joint Depot Team, serves with the 3rd Joint Headquarters Army Assistance Training Team. Fucik's team of fewer than 20 Army Reserve Soldiers, who specialize in logistics, has spent the past year working to renovate the massive storage and distribution site at Camp Taji. The team celebrated the grand opening of a new depot headquarters building, May 30. The headquarters was established in what had been one of the complex's many badly-deteriorated 1940s-era warehouses.
Fucik said the depot is nearing self sufficiency with Iraqi soldiers taking the reins of the day-to-day operation.
"We're buying a lot of equipment for them. We've invested a lot. It's basically finished now," Fucik said. "We're here to help bring processes and procedures."
Fucik said opening the new Depot Distribution Center is probably the biggest accomplishment of his unit's year-long tour. He added that the unit has also developed a five-year plan for more efficient warehousing.
The mission of the depot is to pre-stage supplies that are to be picked up by IA units. Soldiers working at the depot have inventoried supplies and streamlined the offloading of materials arriving by convoy. 1st Sgt. Robert Griffith, of Luray, Va., is the unit's heavy material and vehicle adviser to the Iraqis. He said the receiving process of heavy materials has progressed to the point where he now answers questions from his counterparts by saying, "How would you do it'"; encouraging Iraqis to further take control.
Griffith said when a convoy of new vehicles rolls into the depot, the Iraqi soldiers are ready for them and work until all the vehicles have been offloaded and staged. JHAATT Soldiers said other than dealing with the language barrier, the biggest challenge has been to make it clear to Iraqi soldiers that they won't learn a new method of doing logistics overnight.
"It took the Army 234 years to get where we're at," said Staff Sgt. Robert Reinhart, of Butler County, Pa. "They're in year four."
Still, Reinhart agreed that the depot's Iraqi soldiers have gotten their program in place to the point where, "Now they're doing most of it and we're just advising them," he said.
Reinhart's first mission when he arrived at the depot in August was to set up a Central Receiving and Shipping Point yard. Reinhart, normally with the 412th Engineering Command, based in Kittanning, Pa., said that the three-week CRSP task was the precursor to other supply work as all supplies come through the CRSP yard.
Sgt. Oscar Anderson, a reservist from Corpus Christi, Texas, agreed that the IA Soldiers running warehouses at the depot are "more on the same page now." Anderson, the noncommissioned officer in charge of weapon supplies, said the Iraqi army colonel in charge of his section loves the way things are going and doesn't want the current American unit to leave. But Anderson said the Iraqi soldiers involved are ready to stand on their own.
"If we were to pull out today, [the weapon supply section] would be ready to go," Anderson said.
Perhaps none of the JHAATT Soldiers appreciates the critical role the Taji depot will play in the Iraqi army's future more than Lt. Col. Willy Turner. Turner, of Atlanta, Ga., is General Depot Command's deputy senior adviser and is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the depot. Turner reported nearly $50 million has been spent renovating warehouses and improving the depot facility.
"We're setting them up for the future," Turner said. "We're actually rebuilding the structures from the ground up. They'll be used to store various classes of supplies."
Turner explained that the depot is one of the first stops for new Iraqi army units. After units complete their basic training and advanced individual training, those Soldiers come to the depot to receive the equipment related to their mission.
"When a unit completes its training we then marry them up with their equipment in a unit set fielding," Turner said.
Turner said 3,000 vehicles have come through the CRSP yard with another 5,000 on the way. Those vehicles include tow trucks and transport trucks as well as ambulances. To put the depot's size into perspective, Turner noted that the facility includes 35 warehouses just for tools.
Turner said his Soldiers were fortunate to work at JHAAT during this exciting phase of the rebuilding and noted that several of those Soldiers have extended their tours to complete projects. Turner said the goal is to set up the Iraqi army, as well as the next American unit, for success. Turner said he's met many "very motivated" Iraqi soldiers.
"They want to see this country succeed," he said.