Transporters tackle new mission in Afghanistan
May 3, 2012
KANDAHAR AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (May 3, 2012) -- If there's one thing Soldiers of the 233rd Transportation Company know, they definitely know how to get heavy equipment from one point to another in austere environments.
Whether it involved Soldiers being out on missions ranging anywhere from days to weeks, the 233rd's Soldiers took on the retrograde mission of moving Soldiers and equipment out of Iraq when it deployed to Kuwait in July of 2011.
That is until a few months ago, when they received a change of mission.
The heavy equipment transport company, with platoons based at Fort Knox, Ky., Fort Benning, Ga., and Fort Stewart, Ga., took on a retrograde mission of a different sort earlier this year.
Spread throughout several combat posts in Afghanistan, members of the 233rd Trans. Co. have moved from the driver's seat to more of a management role as they work in the various redistribution property assistance team, or RPAT, yards.
With the Iraq war drawdown completed and the Afghanistan drawdown closely approaching, the 233rd's assistance in the mission will be important to the successful completion of the president's surge recovery.
"In the RPAT yard, we're responsible for theater retrograde of the Army's equipment, essentially getting it from here in country to repair and redistribution centers in Kuwait or the U.S. for repair and redistribution," said 1st Lt. Brandon Schwartz, an operations officer with the 233rd Trans. Co. currently working at the 401st Army Field Support Brigade RPAT yard at Kandahar Air Field.
Schwartz said the RPAT process is important because it allows the Army to replenish old, used and battle damaged equipment from both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
"The importance of the RPAT mission is that it allows us to get equipment out of theater and to Soldiers who can use it," said Schwartz.
The retrograde mission involves many processes, several of which are spearheaded by Soldiers of the 233rd Trans. Co. The company has Soldiers who ensure equipment is properly accounted for, cleaned and free of hazardous materials and munitions. After these processes are completed, the equipment is then shipped to its various destinations.
Though the 233rd's new mission doesn't necessarily mirror what it normally entails, its Soldiers have adjusted well. While many have admitted they would much rather be out on the roads moving equipment, they understand their role and its importance.
"The adjustment here has been tough, having to learn a new job in a new environment," said Staff Sgt. Anthony Jackson, an operations noncommissioned officer with the 233rd Trans. Co. "It's been difficult at times not doing what you're used to, but we've made the most of it."