By Staff Sgt. Victor JoecksJune 27, 2016
BAGHDAD, Iraq — In the last several months, Soldiers from the 24th Composite Supply Company based out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord have helped oversee the delivery of hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of equipment and supplies through the Iraq Train and Equip Fund, or ITEF.
"We're the sustainers, so we provide all the logistical support to people who are training and assisting the Iraqis," said 1st Lt. Natalie Edwards, ITEF manager with the 24th CSC.
Edwards oversees ITEF Responsible Officers, who work at various Forward Logistical Elements, or FLEs, throughout Iraq. ITEF responsible officers, like 24th CSC 1st Lt. Neshia Robertson, are responsible to receive, store, account for, and distribute equipment that the Army divests to the Iraqi military.
Robertson said that her team has divested vehicles, body armor, weapons and a lot of ammunition during her time working with ITEF.
The total value of the equipment divested in the last several months throughout Iraq is several hundred million dollars, according to 1st Lt. Jonathan Shannon with the 271st Movement Control Team out of Joint Base Langley-Eustis who serves as another ITEF responsible officer.
These supplies have a two-fold purpose. First, coalition forces use the supplies to train different branches of the Iraqi military. The trainers include forces from around the globe, including servicemembers from Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Italy, and England.
"I work with a lot of [coalition partners]," said Robertson. "I provide a lot of equipment for them to train Iraqis with. Whenever they need something, my door is always open."
The equipment supplied by the 24th CSC and other units is not just used for training. The second purpose for those supplies is that they serve as a necessary ingredient to recent Iraqi military gains against Daesh, including the liberation of Ramadi. Daesh is another name for the Islamic State.
"Those are the guys (the Iraqi military) who are kicking [butt]," said Staff Sgt. Melvin Correalopez, ITEF noncommissioned officer in charge at an Iraqi FLE, who is also with the 24th CSC. "They took Ramadi. Their vehicles, equipment — we are supplying them."
"Anything that is needed for them to get to the next level, we have issued it to them."
The movement of the ITEF goods is the responsibility of Soldiers like Spc. Neil Bernard, an automated logistics specialist with the 24th CSC. Bernard loads and transports the equipment during transfers with the Iraqi military.
"We show up to the location and start moving," said Bernard. "Staff Sergeant [Correalopez] handles the paperwork. I start moving equipment."
Using a mixture of Arabic and English, interpreters and hand signals, U.S. and Iraqi servicemembers work together to unstrap and unload equipment during the exchanges. Itis obvious that Soldiers from both countries enjoy the chance to interact, and these brief interactions are filled with moments of camaraderie, like exchanging patches and taking selfies with each other. Both sides even share the interest most Soldiers have when getting a chance to examine different kinds of weaponry.
"It's a good experience," said Bernard. "I get to work with the Iraqis. They're friendly. It's been good. They like to take pictures and hug. They ask a lot of questions — wife, family, kids?"
"Last time, we had an issuance, we sat down and ate lunch," said Robertson. "They're very helpful and thankful that we're helping out as much as we can for them."
According to Correalopez, that help is having an impact seen throughout the world.
"If they don't have the equipment to train on, there's no (operation). We're making a difference."