By 3d Sustainment Command Expeditionary Public AffairsMay 20, 2009
JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq - In the last nine months they've trained and processed more than 12,000 Soldiers into the Iraq Theater of operations. By the time they leave in August, that number is expected to climb to nearly 18,000.
They are the liaison officers, or LNOs, for the 3d Sustainment Command, a 24-Soldier team responsible for coordinating virtually every part of a unit's transition into Iraq, including billeting, mandatory training, and coordinating personnel movement to their mission locations in Iraq.
But this team wasn't always so small and the process of moving units into theater wasn't always as smooth as it is today, and in August 2008, the 3d ESC made moves to streamline its LNO mission in Kuwait (known as "Sustainer South") to its current state.
At the time, each Sustainment brigade under the 3d ESC had their own liaison officers that coordinated the transition of units in the brigade.
This organization left some Soldiers with little or no work for long periods of time, and little cooperation between LNOs, 3d ESC officials said.
"Each brigade was competitive for supplies, resources and space down here in Kuwait," said Lt. Col. Steven E. Logsdon, the officer in charge of the Kuwait liaison officer cell for 3d ESC. There were also communication issues with higher command that needed to be resolved, he said.
Within a month of arriving, however, the 3d ESC streamlined Sustainer South, an operation which now totals two LNOs per sustainment brigade, plus additional support personnel.
"The way we do it now is more efficient," said Master Sgt. Jose R. Miranda, the noncommissioned officer in charge for the 3d ESC LNO cell. Miranda, who is from Ponce, Puerto Rico, said there is more teamwork under the current system. When LNOs from one sustainment brigade are not engaged in work, they help their fellow sustainment brigade LNOs, he said.
"The way it's structured here now," Logsdon said, "It's more 'one team, one fight.'"
But the restructuring was more than eliminating unneeded personnel. It also meant better advertising. Previously, incoming units found it hard to locate the LNO office, Logsdon said.
As a result, the concrete barriers outside the 3d ESC LNO tent were painted with the 3d ESC logo and the patches of the various sustainment brigades, with a sign at the front of the tent. This has increased Sustainer South's visibility, Logsdon said.
"Before the 3d ESC did the restructuring, nobody knew who the 3d ESC was," Logsdon said. "You couldn't find an LNO. And if you found one, they wouldn't know how to direct you where to go."
"Anybody who comes to our tent now, we can direct them to anything they need here on base," Logsdon said, "even if they don't belong to us."
Outsiders have also noticed changes the 3d ESC made.
"When I first got here it was a catastrophe," said Capt. Anthony A. Wheeler, an operations training officer for U.S. Army Central Command. "When I say catastrophe, it was a mind-boggling catastrophe. It was confusion on all ends."
Wheeler, who arrived in Kuwait about the same time 3d ESC did, said since the restructuring, the "visibility" of incoming 3d ESC units, is much better, and the process of getting them trained up is also better. "They revamped their program ... It was a drastic change," he said.
For now, the LNOs said they are experiencing a lull in their workload - but this will not last long.
In the coming months they will receive two brigade combat teams, which the LNOs said will keep them busy.
"There is a presence down here from the 3d ESC," Logsdon said. "And that presence is a strong presence."