By Justin GraffJuly 11, 2018
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan -- The Army Field Support Battalion - Afghanistan Traffic Management Office plays an essential part in equipping the warfighter with the best and most reliable equipment throughout the Combined Joint Area of Operation in Afghanistan.
The battalion's Traffic Management Specialists track and facilitate the movement of equipment coming into Afghanistan, leaving Afghanistan, and being delivered to Forward Operating Bases across the CJOA.
"Nothing happens until something moves," said George Barnes, traffic management specialist, AFSBn-Afghanistan. "That was our motto in the transportation corps and it's about as true as true gets."
Barnes retired from the Army in 2012 after 20 of service as a unit movement specialist and logistics planner.
"I volunteered to come back to Afghanistan as a Department of the Army Civilian to continue service to my fellow warfighters and make sure I do my part so they can do theirs," Barnes said. "I think it's important that the warfighter has the right equipment to do the mission. It's my job to get it in, and get it out."
Barnes and his small team have tracked and facilitated movement for more than 1,000 pieces of equipment throughout Afghanistan between January and July 2018.
With every movement mission, the Traffic Management Specialists conduct quality assurance checks to ensure load plans are correct.
They verify commodity codes, ensure all the indicated equipment weights match across numerous forms, and ensure all hazardous materials are correctly identified along with correct amounts of the reportable HAZMAT quantities.
"Ten percent of it is actually receiving and pushing out vehicles on the flight line," Barnes said. "Then about 40 percent of it is making sure vehicles get missioned to go where they are supposed to go, and the other 50 percent of it is tracking timelines and where things actually are throughout the CJOA."
As mission requirements change and newer versions of combat equipment platforms are fielded, the AFSBn-Afghanistan must constantly anticipate equipment needs and maximize distribution opportunities.
"It's challenging because it's a distribution fight every day within the CJOA," said Lt. Col. Brian Knieriem, commander, AFSBn-Afghanistan. "We have to make sure our equipment gets out to certain locations by a certain timeline, and we know that throughput mission is going to change as priorities change in terms of equipment and also personnel."
As U.S. Army Materiel Command's only forward deployed unit in Afghanistan, the AFSBn-Afghanistan executes sustainment, property accountability, and responsible retrograde in support of the U.S. Army and Joint and Multinational Coalition Forces.
Different locations and units have different equipment requirements and restrictions, so vehicles are configured differently depending on what area they are going to and what unit is going to use them.
The ever changing environment makes it essential that the AFSBn-Afghanistan is synchronizing effectively with the Army's materiel enterprise for sourcing, configuring, and distributing equipment throughout Afghanistan, said Knieriem.
"For example, if in the next 30 days we might have 15 vehicles that need to go to a certain location, we configure the platforms for that mission and start planning transportation," Knieriem said. "After we've assembled it, baselined it, and prepared to move it by air to that location, sometimes the mission changes abruptly and we have to direct five of those 15 pieces to an alternate location."
The knowledge and experience of people like Barnes is one of the battalion's biggest assets, said Knieriem.
"The professionals we work with every day, who've been on the ground, some of them have been in and out of this theater for ten or more years," Knieriem said. "That's a lot of expertise that we can leverage.
"This team works really hard to get the right equipment to the warfighter," he said. "We owe that to our Soldiers who are out on the front lines to ensure their equipment is operating correctly, and they can complete their mission and get home safe."