CONTINGENCY OPERATING LOCATION Q-WEST, Iraq - In preparation for the drawdown of U.S. forces and equipment from Iraq, the commander of a Mississippi Army National Guard battalion conducted an excess property inspection Oct. 11 at Contingency Operating Location Q-West, Iraq.
Lt. Col. Kerry Goodman, the commander of 2nd Battalion, 198th Combined Arms out of Senatobia, Miss., inspected four company areas, including motor pools and maintenance shops, scattered across the base.
"We have to get all non-mission-essential equipment off our property books to support a responsible drawdown of personnel and equipment in Iraq," said Goodman, a native of Meridian, Miss.
"We're turning in over seven years' worth of accumulated equipment and vehicles, which the Army can redistribute where it's needed most, such as in Afghanistan."
The excess turn in is an added duty for a busy battalion.
The 2/198th CAB provides Q-West with a force protection company that runs the main entry control point, fields a quick reaction force and secures off-post missions, said Goodman.
The battalion also staffs the base defense operations center and the mayor cell that oversees basic life-support needs. Additionally, the Mississippians provide three convoy security companies, said Goodman.
These convoy security companies will become much busier as the transportation of equipment and supplies increases during the drawdown, so it is important for the Mississippians to turn in their own excess property as soon as possible, said Goodman.
Moreover, Goodman said he inspected his companies to place command emphasis on their responsibilities for the drawdown.
He said many of the veterans of a previous, 2005 deployment to Iraq needed to readjust their thinking to current realities here.
"This inspection was partly to help change their mentality," he said.
"During the last deployment, companies had trouble getting vehicle parts and equipment, so they got in the habit of hording. There is no longer a shortage; parts and supplies go through the system in a timely manner."
Goodman did an initial walk-through with the commanders two weeks before the inspection, during which he issued his guidance - company areas needed to meet Army sanitation standards and all excess property had to be identified, he said.
"The companies spent every spare hour since then preparing," said Goodman.
"There's been great improvement. The companies have identified 100 percent of the excess vehicles and 90 percent of equipment that they need to turn in. The first turn in of more than $3.7 million worth of excess vehicles and equipment starts immediately."
Capt. Drew Clark, commander of A Company, 2/198th CAB, out of Hernando, Miss., said his force protection company was well prepared for the inspection.
"We drafted a plan, and the platoon sergeants and motor sergeant began implementing that plan weeks ago," said Clark, a Madison, Miss., native.
"The Soldiers worked hard, and we had extra time to get ready. In fact, when the colonel did his initial walk-through, he didn't have many issues with us. So we were just waiting for battalion to pull the trigger and inspect us."
Capt. Jeremy A. Allen, commander of B Company, 2/198th, out of Greenwood, Miss., said the excess equipment turn-in and inspection changed his perspective on the mission.
"This inspection made us focus on what we need to keep for the mission and what we can do without," he said.
"The more we can do with less, the better we can help the bigger mission. We're doing a sustainment mission for the short term, but the long-term mission in Iraq is the drawdown."
Allen, a Memphis, Tenn., native, said preparing for the drawdown has even influenced changes in how he organizes his company's tasks.
"Preparing for the drawdown, we streamline the company mission, decreasing the number of troops necessary," said Allen.
"For example, we cut the company headquarters section by nearly 50 percent, and we moved those Soldiers to the convoy security and maintenance platoons. That allows us to add truck teams to handle more security missions, because we expect the number of missions to increase as bases across Iraq begin to turn in vehicles and equipment for redistribution to Afghanistan and other key battlefronts."
Capt. Jeff Mallard, Jr., commander of C Company, 2/198th CAB, out of Oxford, Miss., said his convoy security company will see an increased operations tempo in the coming months, as they begin to haul equipment out of Iraq.
"We anticipate playing a significant role in providing security to convoys during the drawdown," said Mallard, a Bay City, Texas, native.
"Therefore, we are doing all we can to minimize our property now in order to stay focused on our mission ahead."
Mallard praised the effort of his Soldiers in preparing for the inspection.
"Soldiers like to stay engaged, and this has kept them busy for the last two weeks," said Mallard.
"I am proud of my Soldiers and all the hard work they have put in. The credit for the drawdown rests on the backs of the young Soldiers. This is hard work and they are making it happen."
Capt. Bradley S. Hollingsworth, commander of A Company, 106th Brigade Support Battalion, headquartered in Magee, Miss., said he sees a lot of work ahead but feels confident that his company is prepared to meet the challenge.
"There will be many more hours spent on this project, but the work we have already done will set us up for success when the order comes to begin drawing down large numbers of forces in Iraq," said Hollingsworth, a native of Florence, Miss.
"It also helps create a safe work place by eliminating clutter."
The excess equipment drawdown shifts focus from core missions, but Goodman said he believes it is a high priority.
"The sooner the battalion completes its own excess equipment turn-in," said Goodman, "the sooner it can focus on securing the convoys that transport excess property out of Iraq to our brothers in Afghanistan."