Soldiers search for shipping containers in Afghanistan
September 5, 2012
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait (Sept. 5, 2012) -- One of the 113th Sustainment Brigade's command messages is that Soldiers need to be "ready, proactive and flexible." Two Soldiers from the 1452nd Transportation Company were ready to test that message as soon as they arrived in Kuwait.
For Staff Sgt. Tyler Isenhour and Spc. Jeffrey Brewer, both North Carolina National Guard Soldiers on their first deployment, their new mission was nothing they had trained for, or expected. The mission was to deploy to Afghanistan and support Joint Sustainment Command - Afghanistan's Mobile Container Assessment Team, or MCAT, program.
MCAT consists of dozens of Soldiers in locations throughout Afghanistan. The MCAT mission is to locate lost shipping containers (commercial and government) and reduce unnecessary spending and detention fees paid by the U.S. government to commercial carriers.
Since 2001, thousands of commercial shipping containers have been delivered to Afghanistan in support of U.S. and allied forces. Unfortunately hundreds have been lost and/or not returned to their commercial owners, causing the U.S. government to have to pay "detention fees" on those shipping containers.
"A detention fee for a shipping container is like a late fee on a movie you rented. Every day or month that passes without returning the movie, you are charged a fee," explained Isenhour.
Brewer was tasked to work closely with the Massachusetts National Guard, 26th Maneuver Enhanced Brigade, in Kabul, Afghanistan, and Isenhour with Regional Command - North for eight months to track down and account for missing commercial shipping containers.
"We have seen some interesting uses for these containers," said Brewer. "They have become small shops, bridging material and bridges themselves, showers, latrines, offices, perimeter barriers, living quarters and the list goes on."
Once they have located a commercial container and determine if it is returnable, meaning not damaged or modified to the point that it cannot be shipped safely back to its owner, the team empties its contents into a government-owned container and processes the carrier-owned container for shipment in a timely manner. In some instances the containers, having been detained for many years, are now the property of the U.S. government, due to years of paying detention fees, in which case it is put back into service.
"Our priority was to find missing containers and to reduce the government's container detention fees of non-government containers, and we accomplished that during our tour here," Brewer said proudly. The two Soldiers recovered 82 commercial containers that were previously unaccounted for and worth more than $1,245,000 in government property and detention fees.
With ready, proactive and flexible Soldiers like Isenhour and Brewer, it may not be long until all commercial containers in Afghanistan are accounted for and on their way back to their owners.