By Summer BarkleyMay 1, 2009
The 2nd Battalion, 402nd Army Field Support Brigade, Retrograde Property Assistance Team at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, has implemented a system designed to improve visibility of Army Materiel Command assets awaiting transport.
Equipment from the holding yard in Kuwait is affixed with large AMC self-adhesive decals. The decals are placed on all vehicles and non-rolling stock destined for shipment to the 402nd RPAT yard at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, en route to its final destination.
The decals, featuring the AMC insignia, make it easier to track the assets because each decal is embedded with a radio frequency identification device number, a transportation movement request number and a point of contact name and phone number.
The decals grew out of brainstorming sessions looking for methods to track AMC property, said Chief Warrant Officer Cheryl Bartly, the theater property book officer.
Her property book covers Iraq, Kuwait and Egypt. As it turns out, it is also widely viewed as the largest property book in the history of the U.S. Army, valued at approximately $17.6 billion.
"We thought there was a black hole between here [Joint Base Balad] and Kuwait," she said.
She put together a team to find the problems, or what she said Maj. Gen. Robert M. Radin, Army Sustainment Command commanding general, calls "leakers."
"We were trying to stop equipment from being lost or frustrated. The decals grew out of this team's vision," she said.
"We try to 'Murphy-proof' the equipment so if 'Murphy' shows up, we have something else to identify our containers" Bartly said, referring to Murphy's Law that states if anything can go wrong, it will go wrong.
The Balad RPAT yard is staffed by U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force servicemembers on a Joint Expeditionary Tasking assignment, augmented by Department of Army civilians and contractors.
Air Force Master Sgt. Lawrence Silver, noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the Balad yard, said, "What we do is keep the Army going. We are the main focal point for getting equipment out of the country [Iraq]."
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Christy Long is the quality assurance officer for the Balad yard and ensures the proper documentation is on the vehicles and containers. She provides the last look before equipment leaves the yard.
Long's "last eyes-on" minimize the calls Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brian Howard receives. Howard is the Balad yard boss and is in charge of everything going in or coming out of the yard. He is the point of contact on every decal on every piece of equipment and container that leaves Balad.
The 402nd AFSB RPAT processing yard at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, staffed by one Department of the Army civilian, one Soldier and six contractors, can hold approximately 500 vehicles ranging from M-1 Abrams Tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles to trailers. An additional 500 Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected Vehicles are held in an overflow lot.
"The decals help by providing a highly visible and distinctive means of identifying equipment and containers as belonging to AMC," said Clyde Yarborough, RPAT responsible officer. "This is particularly important when a large convoy arrives at the entry control point [with] equipment that belongs to different organizations and which has different destinations within Camp Arifjan."
In addition to the decals, documentation with the disposition and other information is placed on the inside and outside of the equipment or containers. Copies of these documents are kept at the point of origin and sent electronically to the Kuwait destination.
The equipment can be tracked electronically through the different transportation modes to the final destination. But, should the electronic system fail, a visual search is made of the local transportation lots and storage yards in Kuwait through a coordinated effort of the RPATs in Iraq and the Kuwait RPAT. Thus, by using improved asset visibility tools such as the decals, equipment that may have been misrouted in transportation can be located.
At times, packing documents affixed to the outside of equipment are lost or damaged, Yarborough said. If that happens, representatives from the AMC processing yard and warehouses can use the data on the AMC decal to access signals identifying the equipment within the convoy, saving them from having to climb onto every vehicle and visually check the vehicle identification numbers.
Putting all the information together, AMC representatives ensure the equipment is routed to the proper facility for further processing, helping to prevent equipment from becoming frustrated.
Bartly said she visited the Kuwait holding yards during mid-March and the decals helped the team locate $18 million worth of equipment that had been shipped to the wrong place.
Bartly said the RPAT yards in Balad and other areas in Iraq "throw the ball" and "Kuwait is the catcher. They are the multiplier."
The 2nd Bn., 402nd AFSB, constantly reviews RPAT processes and makes continuous improvements aimed at getting the right equipment to the right place at the right time, which allows the team to live up to the battalion motto of "Keep It Moving."