364th ESC Makes History in the Middle East
October 1, 2012
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait -- History was made when the 364th Expeditionary Sustainment Command cased its colors here July 18.
The 364th ESC, a U.S. Army Reserve unit from Marysville, Wash., returned from its overseas deployment in late July, ending a yearlong mobilization that saw the unit grow in size from less than 70 to more than 275 Soldiers.
"This is truly an historic day for the 364th ESC's Soldiers," Brig. Gen. Jonathan Ives, the unit's commanding general, said at the time. "They have met the test, brilliantly performed the job they deployed for, and most importantly, gotten American Soldiers back home."
The 364th wasn't scheduled to deploy for some time when it received its mobilization orders in March 2011. However, with the looming drawdown of forces from Iraq, the Army saw the need to get an expeditionary sustainment command on the ground in Kuwait to oversee the operation.
The 364th ESC's mobilization date was set for July 28, just four months after its alert. At that time, the unit was at about half the authorized strength it would need for deployment. Human resources managers at the 364th went into action, searching personnel rosters from units across the country to find soldiers with specialties the unit would need to fulfill its historic mission.
The biggest challenge was in finding personnel not only qualified for the duty position, but also had recent or actual hands-on experience," said Col. John Sweeney of Seattle, the 364th's personnel officer.
After mobilizing, the 364th spent six weeks training at Fort Bliss, Texas, before arriving in Kuwait on Sept. 16, 2011. Once on the ground, the unit fell under the 1st Theater Sustainment Command, an Active Army headquarters overseeing sustainment operations in the Middle East.
Maj. Gen. Kenneth S. Dowd, commanding general of the 1st TSC at the time, said the 364th ESC was specifically deployed to Kuwait to assist in the sustainment mission and drawdown from Iraq.
In an October 2011 interview with Military Logistics Forum, Dowd said, "We now have the right amount of manpower at the right place to support the upcoming historic drawdown of soldiers and equipment from Iraq."
Once established in Kuwait, the 364th ESC took charge of the responsible drawdown of forces from Iraq. A second command post was established at Camp Virginia to handle the thousands of convoys bringing troops and equipment through on their way home.
On Oct. 21, 2011, President Barack Obama announced that all U.S. troops would be out of Iraq by year's end, and 364th operations shifted into high gear. Working around the clock, the unit's Soldiers tracked every piece of equipment that came over the border at Khabari Crossing.
Dozens of convoys, going north and south, in and out of Iraq came through the crossing almost daily. The 265th Movement Control Team from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., had the job of verifying that everything was correct for all cargo, trucks and drivers going between Iraq and Kuwait.
"We track the convoys as they come north and south," said Sgt. Daniel Long, of Nashville, Tenn., a movement non-commissioned officer with the 265th MCT, "and we help facilitate the paperwork up to our higher so that they are aware of what convoys are coming through."
As October rolled into November and December, the 364th's Soldiers quickened their pace. With the deadline approaching, there were still thousands of troops and pieces of equipment left in Iraq. Although the President had set a Dec. 31 deadline, the 364th wanted to finish quicker, and Ives issued a directive.
"Get 'em home for the holidays," Ives said.
A big part of getting Soldiers home was the theater gateway personnel assistance team at Camp Virginia, which was led by 1st Lt. Jill O'Dell.
"We have the best mission in theater," O'Dell said last fall. "We get to send Soldiers home to their families every day. We are reuniting families. I honestly do not know of a better job in theater. My Soldiers work with pride, because they know that we are making history and they are a part of it."
As a subordinate element of the 364th, the gateway helped move more than 68,000 troops and other personnel home from October to December.
In the early hours of Dec. 18, 2011, the last military convoy from Iraq rolled through Khabari Crossing, closing an almost nine-year-long chapter of American military history. The Soldiers of the 364th Expeditionary Sustainment Command helped make it happen -- two weeks ahead of schedule.
During the closing months of Operation New Dawn, the 364th ESC planned and executed the largest logistical operation since World War II. By land, sea, and air, the unit's Soldiers helped set the stage for the future of sustainment operations in the Middle East.
The 364th's efforts helped save the American taxpayer millions of dollars, Ives said.
"Just by curtailing units, we saved more than $22 million in payroll alone from January to March of this year," he said.
When the 364th got back to the states on July 16, Ives said his Soldiers had validated the Army Reserve's goal to be an operational force.
"This is truly an historic day for the 364th ESC's Soldiers," he said. "They have met the test, brilliantly performed the job they deployed for, and most importantly, gotten American Soldiers back home.
"I'm incredibly proud of them," Ives added. "Now, we're all looking forward to getting home to our families. We couldn't have done this without their love and support."
Sgt. Christopher A. Bigelow and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Rosalind Bush contributed to this report.