CAMP PATRIOT, Kuwait -- With about 2,100 pieces of military equipment to clean, Soldiers with the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team (ABCT), Task Force Spartan, began wash rack operations for vehicles as part of their re-deployment to Fort Bliss, Texas. The inspection of the vehicles is a requirement by customs before the equipment is cleared to leave the country.
When it comes time for such deployment-worn armored vehicles to return to the United States, a good scrubbing is in order. This is where the wash racks at Camp Patriot and Camp Arifjan, Kuwait come in.
To meet the demands of servicing thousands of vehicles, the racks are open 24-hours a day and six-days a week, providing the opportunity for every vehicle within the brigade to be processed through the wash rack.
Getting the fleet from Kuwait to Fort Bliss is no easy task; it requires communication between the Soldiers and leaders of the 2nd ABCT to make it happen safely, efficiently, and continuously. This is a 24-hour a day operation, six days a week.
"The Strike Soldiers I have spoken with are excited about getting the job done because that is a big step to heading home. The leaders have done a great job to fight complacency, maintain safety standards and keep the right amount of Soldiers onsite and engaged to maintain adequate throughput," said Sgt. Maj. Kenneth Drury, the brigade operations command sergeant major for the 2nd ABCT.
With vehicles such as heavy, expanded-mobility, tactical trucks (HEMTTs); and high mobility, multipurpose, wheeled vehicles (HMMWVs) rolled forward to the wash points, it became quite clear just how important wash rack operations would be to completing the preventive maintenance checks and services requirements necessary for successful movement.
The length of time it takes to clean a vehicle varies by the vehicle type, but averages from one to five days. Understandably, some vehicles are muddier than others and, consequently, require more time to clean. Therefore, on a case-by-case basis, extremely muddy vehicles were allowed additional spraying time, as determined by the wash rack officer in charge.
"2/1 ABCT Soldiers in conjunction with U.S. Customs, have worked tirelessly to prepare our vehicles for redeployment. This is one of the final operational steps to get our equipment and our Soldiers home," said Capt. Michael Blair, officer in charge of the wash rack operations for the 2nd ABCT.
To maximize the efficiency of the wash rack usage, Soldiers are working around the clock as fast as they can without compromising safety. At night Soldiers have 50 racks to work with, while during the day, they are only allowed to use 30.
Soldiers and crew members work long shifts in extreme temperatures to keep the cleaning moving. The heat during the day can impact the pace, but even in the hottest times, work continues -- albeit at a slower pace. Both environmental factors and safety concerns factory heavily into the plan for wash rack operations.
"During wash rack operations, units and personnel will perform various tasks that present unique hazards that must be accounted for," said Michael Patchus, 2nd ABCT Safety and Occupational Health Manager. "Soldiers will be exposed to constant noise hazards and dirty water, rigging hazards from utilizing cranes for engine pack removal and installation, and slips, trips and falls while cleaning vehicles."
Leaders account for these hazards when conducting risk management before wash rack operations. This can take many forms such as safety briefings, ensuring that Soldiers are wearing the proper safety gear and making sure that everyone is following correct procedures.
Despite the frustrations that most Soldiers feel about the detailed and strict guidelines, they know mission accomplishment equals their return home.
These Soldiers also understand the importance of the detailed process because after they finish the initial cleaning, there is an even more thorough customs inspection.
"It's been an interesting experience to be involved with the wash rack. It allows me to view operations from a larger perspective," said Sgt. Ra'Tirrell Duckworth, a combat engineer with the 40th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 2nd ABCT. "It has also been interesting to manage the balance of the desire to finish this task and get home with the efficiency required to proceed through the wash racks safely and correctly".
For the majority of the "Iron Soldiers" from the 2nd ABCT, their deployment is almost coming to an end and they will be on their way home. But for others, their mission is not complete until they complete the detail.
The re-deployment of the 2nd ABCT from the Middle East to its home station -- after nine months in support of Operation Spartan Shield -- demonstrates that the brigade can maintain readiness during these important transitions.
More than 4,200 Mississippi National Guard Soldiers of the 155th ABCT will replace the "Iron Brigade", and will continue to support Operation Spartan Shield's mission of deterrence and theater security cooperation.