FORT HOOD, Texas - It happens all over the world from time to time.
Closets, drawers, garages and attics get purged of unnecessary, unused and broken items; and the
3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, has been long overdue for a bit of housekeeping.
"3rd Brigade is doing a brigade-wide excess turn-in of equipment," said Maj. Michael Spears, the 3rd ABCT logistics officer.
The push to purge the unit of excess equipment was jump-started when Soldiers from the 6th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd ABCT, laid out of all the unit's equipment, to include the excess, in the motor pool. At the time, Gen. Robert Abrams, U.S. Forces Command commanding general, was visiting and saw firsthand the excess equipment problem.
When a family is cleaning house and organizing, having extra items hanging around isn't always such a bad thing. An extra toothbrush here or an extra pair of flip-flops there could come in handy.
But in the 1st Cavalry Division, it's a problem.
"It is far beyond that," Spears said. "You're looking at instead of having a couple extra boxes of nails and a couple extra hammers, having a [shipping] container full of nails and a [shipping] container full of hammers. That's kind of the scope of it."
Spears said excess equipment creates more work for the Soldiers who are accountable for it, because often they must lay out and inventory those items on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis.
Then if those items require maintenance, that costs that Soldier even more time, and it costs the Army money to purchase parts, repair and maintain items that aren't even needed.
The sheer scale of the amount of excess got the attention of the powers that be, and Brig. Gen. Steven Shapiro, logistics, chief of staff of the Army, came to get a look at the problem.
Shapiro expressed his full support in the mission of turning in excess equipment and provided enablers in the form of Defense Logistics Agency Distribution Services personnel dedicated to the support of this endeavor, said Spears, a native of Colorado Springs, Colorado.
With that, the plan was put in motion and the Turn In/Lateral Transfer operation got underway in support of an Army-wide directive to rid the units of excess. TILT was a month-long mission to rid the brigade of all excess equipment from March 1 to 31.
The 3rd ABCT had amassed a huge amount of excess for a number of reasons, including absorbing equipment from 4th Brigade Combat Team when it deactivated in 2013.
Additionally, the brigade has undergone four Army-directed changes in personnel and equipment within the last 10 years, which created a need for more equipment to support the surge in personnel.
Now with the drawdown, that equipment has turned into excess - excess that has been put into shipping containers, in some cases, and has remained there until now.
The shipping container has become the attic of the Army, said Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth Banks, the brigade's senior supply sergeant. When Soldiers come across excess equipment, they are often told to put it in the container, he said.
When the doors of the "attic," were opened, however, it was revealed that the magnitude of the excess was way beyond the scope of what a supply sergeant could handle.
"Some of the talk prior to this operation was that supply sergeants weren't doing their job, and that was the reason why so many brigades throughout the Army did not have their excess equipment turned in," said Spears.
To the contrary, Spears argues that the volume of excess was never at a level that a company supply could manage.
"Well, you have one supply sergeant per company, so you're looking at roughly 100 to 200 personnel, and you have one supply sergeant."
Having representatives from the civilian agencies that normally handle logistics operations and turn-ins dedicated and on-site made for a smooth easy process that saved the Soldiers time and made an initially daunting task that much more manageable.
"We're saving on fuel and man hours, because supply sergeants aren't having to drive over here to turn in one item and then drive back over there to turn in this other item," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Major Alexander, the brigade property book officer. "It's all consolidated in one location. All the partners on post came to us. It allows for a smoother, more effective process."
Much of the process to turn in equipment was streamlined and the need for a lot of the paperwork and "red tape" was alleviated to facilitate a quick turn-over. "Cutting the fat" was definitely a welcome change for the Soldiers turning this equipment in.
These Soldiers are seeing where previously it could have taken as many as 60 days of processing time, now it's taking 24 hours for the turned-in property to come off of a unit's books.
"Throughout this process, a lot of Soldiers themselves have said, 'Hey, you know, this is going to be a very tough task.' As time has gone on, Soldiers have been motivated," Spears said. "You can see the attitudes have changed to where they kind of see where the progress is going. 'I'm seeing this equipment come out of these containers. I'm seeing the equipment coming off of my property book.' You can see the relief in some of the Soldier's eyes when it comes to getting this equipment off of their books."
The brigade has turned in more than 3,000 property book items, more than 23,000 non-property-book items, more than 20 vehicles, and more than 240,000 pounds of scrap metal. To put that into perspective, the Space Shuttle Endeavor weighed 172,000 pounds.
"And at the same time, we're turning in containers, so that units won't have any containers to store property that they don't need any more, because technically if they got all that stuff out of the container, that container should no longer be needed," Banks, a Lawton, Oklahoma native, said.
Units turned in more than 40 shipping containers to the civilian agencies on hand at the turn-in operation.
The equipment that is still serviceable will be transferred to units in need of it across the brigade, across Fort Hood, and across the Army.
"Everything is laid out here, so it's almost like going into a yard sale and you can say okay, I need this piece of equipment, so let me go ahead and get this piece of equipment from this unit and let me put it on my books, because I need it and they don't," Spears said.
Additionally, if a piece of equipment is no longer working or beyond repair, then that piece of equipment can be scrapped and ultimately taken out of the Army system, Spears added.
The scope and success of this operation has gotten the attention of leaders at the highest levels.
"It's a very high-visibility process and across the board, not only Department of the Army, but the Department of Defense is seeing that this is something that can be used hopefully throughout DoD," Spears said.