By 13th Sustainment Command Expeditionary Public AffairsAugust 25, 2009
JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq - As most U.S. forces in Iraq prepare for the largest strategic reposturing of forces in 40 years, Task Force 586 has already started the process.
The Airmen of Task Force 586, 732nd Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), have been traveling throughout the Iraqi theater of operations, identifying, collecting and redistributing excess supply items since 2006.
"Our main task is to retrieve excess equipment from Army and Marine locations in Iraq," said Capt. Rachel Ramos, officer in charge, Mobile Redistribution Team 4, TF 586.
Once excess is identified, the teams determine whether or not the material is in working condition. After the equipment is established as serviceable, it is issued to units in theater.
Reusing equipment which is already here on the ground is a cost effective measure as opposed to units ordering more and more material which will further clog up the supply system.
"Redistributing supply items and materials that are already in theater is much cheaper for everybody," said Tech. Sgt. Vick Williams, the noncommissioned officer in charge of MRT 4. "It gets stuff that's just sitting around into the hands of Soldiers who can use it."
The Airmen of the MRTs endured austere living conditions in order to accomplish their mission.
"It was a rough mission, with the sandstorms and heat and bare-bones living conditions; it was tough," said Ramos, a Texas City, Texas, native. "On top of the weather, some of these places didn't even have female latrines."
She said she tried to focus on the mission because she knew she faced even more daunting challenges.
While the Airmen were stationed at Joint Base Balad, the MRTs would often pull back to back missions, leaving them little time to recover before heading outside the wire again.
"We were basically living out of a suitcase," said Williams, a Melbourne, Fla., native. "After two weeks on mission, sometimes we'd be back less than three days before we'd go out again."
Despite the harsh conditions, the unforgiving desert environment and magnitude of the mission, Task Force 586 identified, collected and redistributed more than $50 million in excess supply items since February, said Ramos.
In Multi-National Division - Baghdad's Victory Base Complex alone, $23 million of excess has been identified in less than three months, said Lt. Col. Kenneth Morey, the refit and redistribution chief with the13th ESC.
The MRTs escalated their efforts to retrograde material out of the Iraqi theater, in anticipation of the gradual drawdown.
"Through the next 12 months, the MRTs are going to try to move as much equipment out of theater as possible," said Morey.
While the date for complete U.S. withdrawal from Iraq draws near, more troops and materials are being sent to their home stations, congesting the transportation network.
As troops are redeployed out of Iraq for good, equipment which would previously have been inherited by their replacements is instead rerouted into the supply system. It is then either given to units which can use it, or retrograded back to units in the United States, said Morey, a Buschwell, Ill., native.
The retrograde of substantial amounts of equipment now will free up transportation assets for troops and their assigned equipment later, he said.
"We want to mitigate the effects of a sudden pull-out as much as possible," he said. "At the same time we don't want to leave our footprint in theater."
As U.S. forces shrink from 130,000 personnel in theater to the August 2010 goal of 50,000 personnel, the MRTs will play an integral role in prioritizing equipment to send home.
"Everybody else is planning for the drawdown," said Morey. "We're already doing it. It's an inglorious job, but they love doing it and they're good at it."