June 28, 2010
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait--The responsible draw-down of U.S. forces in Iraq takes a combined effort across the branches of the military. The 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team was handed an important piece of the puzzle for the withdrawal.
Their mission is to facilitate the movement and security of Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected MAXX Pro vehicles from Iraq and into the surge in Afghanistan, where the vehicles are needed for continued operations.
To accomplish the mission, the IBCT entrusted the Soldiers of the 62nd Chemical Company from Fort Lewis, Washington, who are under operational control of the IBCT in Kuwait. The tasking to the 62nd is not a standard mission set, but is one the company is carrying out with success.
"This mission gives me a chance to see the bigger picture," said Pfc. Jordan Surett, a chemical specialist with the 62nd. "This is something different and out of the ordinary."
Their tasking started early in the year and has been a constant part of their daily operations and planning. To ensure safety and keep up with other operational tasks the 62nd rotates the mission through their platoons. Each platoon goes through a red cycle, where they are responsible for the escort mission. The remaining platoons not on the red cycle conduct training and maintain a full Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear response effort that a chemical company would normally perform.
According to Staff Sgt. Althea Clarke, the senior squad leader for 2nd platoon, a schedule is made so the Soldiers know when they will have a mission. They receive advance notice of their missions, but are supposed to be ready at all times. Mission times can change due to technical difficulties with the aircraft or the weather, so while on cycle Soldiers may receive a week's notice of mission or only a few hours. "You have to be flexible," said Clarke.
Typically a mission begins early in the morning where the Soldiers meet with the air crew and go over the flight manifest. The vehicles are then received and loaded into the cargo hold of the aircraft under the supervision of the Soldiers. Once all the vehicles are secured and ready for flight, the Soldiers seal the cargo hold and await take off.
Flight time varies depending on where the vehicles are headed in Afghanistan, but usually takes an entire day. After arriving at their destination the vehicles are accounted for and received by Air Force personnel and unloaded from the plane. At this point, the Soldiers journey is only half way done.
Soldiers are then transported from the flight line to the air transport terminal where they have to arrange a way home. Depending on where they are in Afghanistan they may have to catch several small connection flights in order to get to a terminal that will fly them back to Kuwait.
Once they return to their home base, they fall back into the mission rotation schedule of the platoon that may have changed depending on any delays. They continue the process until their time on the cycle is over and they pass it on to the next platoon.
The 62nd Chemical Company took on a mission that they are not used to performing, but are more than capable of completing and are doing so with great success. "I enjoy being here and doing this mission," said Surett.