By Jon Micheal Connor, ASC Public AffairsFebruary 8, 2017
FORT IRWIN, Calif. -- Located in southeastern California's Mojave Desert is the Army's National Training Center at Fort Irwin.
No other Army post offers a climate closer to that of Southwest Asia, with temperatures exceeding 100 degrees in the summer and lows in the 30s during the winter. Very little rain on average adds to a rough and rugged environment.
It's also where the Logistics Readiness Center-Irwin conducts the base operations logistics support necessary to keep this installation operating. It is responsible for supply subsistence management operations, supply and services operations, transportation services, food service management, and logistics support for training, mobilization and deployment of units.
Comprised of approximately 1,000 square miles, Fort Irwin is about the size of Rhode Island and is isolated from densely populated areas. This area is ideal for maneuvers and ranges, with airspace restricted to military use.
The 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment serves as the opposing force to units of all services coming there for a 21-day training rotation that comes to as close to war as it gets.
LRC-Irwin takes great pride in supporting combatant commanders leading Brigade Combat Teams with some of the Army' s toughest training.
"Our concern is to ensure that the logistics support to the Brigade Combat Teams that come here to train is at that national standard so that they get the best training possible," said Jerry Walsh, LRC director.
"To do that means that we've got to be able to provide them with the logistics that they need on time and to be at the level they need it in order to effectively execute the training that they come here to conduct," he said.
LRC-Irwin is one of the 70-plus LRCs worldwide that fall under the U.S. Army Sustainment Command, whose higher headquarters is the U.S. Army Materiel Command. This LRC reports to the 404th Army Field Support Brigade, headquartered at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state.
Since equipment and training go hand-in-hand, LRC-Irwin has nearly $900 million in equipment on its installation consolidated property book. The Property Book Office manages eight Unit Identification Codes and more than 100 hand receipts. On average it processes 4,188 major transactions annually.
"As the LRC, we are the face of the logistics spear and I will tell you it is very important of the logistical service that we provide -- for both the rotation and installation," said Blanch Watkins, LRC deputy director and Plans and Operations chief. "We have to be top-notch at all levels. For that to happen, we have to make sure all policies and procedures have been followed and are properly in place as directed by Army regulation."
In October 2012, AMC took control of the LRCs from the Installation Management Command. The transfer provided a number of benefits for the Army by reducing redundancy, standardizing processes, improving contract management, and enhancing quality and visibility of services.
ASC then began managing the LRCs to align them with the Army's Materiel Enterprise.
Thanks to past visits by ASC personnel, operational issues were discovered that needed addressing, said Kevin Babiak, facilities coordinator, Plans and Operations.
As examples, Babiak cited the need for a hazardous compliance shade and storage area in the maintenance facility; loading docks lacked proper fire suppression; and unleveled platforms didn't allow 871A3 tactical trailers to "marry up" to the loading docks. This prevented forklifts from being used to upload equipment in trailers and trucks, resulting in more work than necessary, Babiak said, and was a safety issue too. All issues were addressed and remedied.
ASC personnel also found no means to produce heat in the maintenance building. Heat is needed during the winter as temperatures fall near freezing. Hence, the bay doors had to be kept open to allow for proper ventilation of exhaust fumes from vehicles being worked on, Babiak said.
Radiant heaters were put in, and a hose system was installed to capture carbon monoxide exhaust fumes and blow them outside, allowing the bay doors to remain shut in the winter for clean air and heat retention.
"The cold just doesn't leave the building," explained Michael Cox, head of the LRC's Maintenance Division.
The LRC's Maintenance Division is responsible for all vehicles used by the garrison and other Army elements at Irwin. "Therefore it stays extra cold longer. It's kind of hard to have someone work on something when it's an ice box [inside]," Cox said.
"We get a lot more production [now] in the winter time because we're able to start work at 7 o'clock in the morning, instead of people being slower, waiting for until it warms up at 9 o'clock," Cox said. "The heat's just tremendous. It's been a great asset for us to have that done."
Cox added that regular servicing of vehicles is critical in the desert.
"The sand does create a large problem with your air filter systems, your fans, your blowers … they get filled up with sand; they won't work," he said.
Because of the mountainous terrain, getting a unit's equipment to Fort Irwin is no easy task. In fact, some of the equipment -- usually tanks and similar large vehicles -- does not initially go there, but instead arrives by rail at the Yermo Annex at the Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, located about 30 miles southwest of Fort Irwin.
Yermo Annex is the heart of the rail operations for Fort Irwin. Direct rail links to Los Angeles and San Diego and the intersection of major interstate highways, make this a strategic location for the military.
Victoria Wagstaffe, chief, Freight Branch, Transportation Division, explained that line haul -- the other method to transport a unit's equipment -- is used for things like Humvees, generators and trailers. Line haul trucks are driven on the highways and eventually arrive at Fort Irwin via the Manix Trail, a dirt tank trail, versus using a highway.
"It does have its challenges as far as equipment moving by the line haul," said Stephanie Jeffery, LRC's Installation Transportation officer.
"We sometimes run up against the wall because we'll look for carriers that can move our shipments and because the shipments are not paying enough for the movement we have to go through a long list of carriers just to accept a movement of one piece," Jeffery said.
Heading up the LRC's motor pool is Bill Fraser, a transportation assistant, and a main benefactor of the maintenance shop.
"A lot of vehicles do break down, especially buses," Fraser said. "The main thing is, I would say, down to the dirt and dust, the terrain out here. It can tear up the suspension."
The motor pool offers rotational units and post units sedans, various-sized vans, stake bed trucks, and buses, Fraser said. A total of 237 vehicles are available.
Personal equipment is another function of the LRC.
"We have a very unique operation here because we are always supporting different elements and we work at a rapid pace -- fast, real fast," said Herman Carey, LRC's Central Issue Facility accountable officer.
"Some of the things we do is above and beyond like supporting the rotational guys, you know we do that on a monthly basis," he said. "But everybody's a Soldier and everybody needs support."
CIF supports all installation Soldiers including the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment and designated area support.
Keeping Soldiers, family members and employees fed is another very important LRC function. Unlike most Army installations, there are no restaurants outside the gate. Thus, the LRC is empowered to serve all Irwin personnel.
LRC-Irwin serves between 610,000 and 650,000 meals annually in two dining facilities. It also provides theater entry-and-closing feeding support to various personnel who are initiating, supporting, and ending a rotation.
"It's my responsibility to ensure that the Soldiers, as well as the family members and everyone else, to have the best dining facility experience as they possibly can have," said Bobby Jarman, LRC's Installation Food Program manager.
"Because we're 45 miles from the nearest city, we try to give everyone here at the NTC the best dining facility and dining pleasure we can possibly give," he said.
LRC-Irwin also supports an average of 3,900 in- and out-bound shipments annually for Soldiers experiencing a permanent change of station.
It provides transportation for training purposes and bus support for Soldiers averaging 844 buses for $1.1 million and 1,950 Soldier-travel missions at a cost of $784,000 annually. On-post transportation is conducted via the Installation Shuttle Service Monday through Friday, the "Kiddy Bus" from the child care center to elementary school, "Box Tours" to rotational training areas in transporting Garrison Public Affairs Office, and mission bus support to an average of 2,820 Soldiers and civilians annually.
Frank D. Martinez is the LRC Hazardous Material Operations accountable officer.
"The main mission is to take care of the rotational units when they come in for their basic Class 3 needs as far as grease, oil, and in some cases paint; the tenant units will mainly use the items for the upkeep of their buildings, their equipment, generators, stuff like that," said Martinez.
And finally, the Subsistence Supply Management Office provides Class I -- subsistence items like food, combat rations and water -- and ice to 10 RTUs annually averaging $2.9 million per RTU and 2,521 tons of ice annually.
Ice is heavily consumed during the summer; in 2015, SSMO issued 2,544 tons of ice.
SSMO also oversees food service and dining facility support, laundry services, bulk fuel support, ammunition supply, material management and supply storage along with other critical missions.
All logistics support is provided under the Enhanced Army Global Logistics Enterprise contracts with a total value of more than $16.5 million.
EAGLE is a unique contracting tool that the government uses to award task orders to a pool of qualified Basic Ordering Agreement holder companies for supply, maintenance, and transportation functions.
According to the EAGLE contracting office, the program is intended to find efficiencies and standardize contracting processes in order to save the government money, increase competition, and expand the role of small business.
The missions of the NTC and LRC are tightly wound. LRC-Irwin provides the last support military personnel will see prior to deploying into a hostile environment. Supporting this realistic training is critical to a unit's success overseas.
"We make a contribution to the national defense and to the survivability of these Soldiers because this is the last in the culmination of the training to prepare them for actually going and doing it in a combat environment, in a combat situation," said Walsh, LRC director.