By Devon HylanderMarch 25, 2010
MOST of us dread spring cleaning. Opening closets and trunks full of the items we thought we needed. Moving furniture to discover crumbs, change and pet toys. Deciding what should be thrown out and what should be donated. It's a messy job. But, in the end, we are left with a strong sense of satisfaction. These same feelings held true for multiple Army units who participated in their own spring cleaning efforts over the past year.
Fort Hood conducted Operation Clean Sweep from January to April 2009. The 412th Aviation Support Battalion in Ansbach, Germany followed with Operation Jenny Craig in April 2009, and the 8th U.S. Army in Korea with Operation Stock Validation in June and July 2009.
The purpose of these efforts was to gain better control over inventories, excess equipment and supplies, and ensure units had what they needed to train and deploy. However, the operations not only improved the individual organizations' property accountability baseline, but also contributed to the Army's overall readiness posture.
The Army owns and maintains billions of dollars worth of equipment and supplies, and trains thousands of Soldiers to account for, track and maintain it all. Good stewardship of property is a top priority for the Army, and includes maintaining all transactions and the ability to implement and adhere to established internal controls. However, a high operational tempo, continuous deployments, new equipment fielding, and an enormous training load have taken their toll, resulting in a buildup of equipment. These and other organizations in the Army recognized this issue, and took steps to correct it.
Fort Hood: Operation Clean Sweep
As one of the largest and busiest installations in the Army, Fort Hood, located in Killeen, Texas, has been in a constant cycle of deployment, redeployment and transformation for the past five plus years. Initiated by Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of the III Corps and Fort Hood from July 2008 to November 2009, Operation Clean Sweep was designed to reconcile equipment on-hand, and complete the retrograde and redistribution of materiel. With all the activity at Fort Hood, to include fielding new equipment, Operation Clean Sweep was necessary.
"It was a lengthy process, but it did help tremendously," Staff Sgt. Jeffery Kellum said of Operation Clean Sweep. Kellum was the supply sergeant at Fort Hood for the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 13th Sustainment Command.
Similarly, Pfc. Douglas Rasin, a supply specialist with the 289th Quartermaster Company, said, "At first I was skeptical of how we were going to get the mission done, but as we worked through it, I realized it was a great opportunity for me to gain more knowledge in my specialty."
For the Soldiers and units at Fort Hood, Clean Sweep was a huge undertaking in a short amount of time, but this challenge served more as a motivator than a deterrent. Fort Hood achieved success with Operation Clean Sweep, redistributing $55 million worth of equipment from repair parts and tents, to trailers and radios.
But Operation Clean Sweep did more for Fort Hood and the people involved than just re-establish accountability for property and free up container space. The operation afforded the Army a chance to refine and rehearse methods for bringing equipment back from Iraq as part of the drawdown.
At the beginning of the planning process, key participants gathered to layout a comprehensive plan for identifying, turning in and redistributing property. As they did this, they also mapped out how the process would work on a forward operating base in Iraq. The knowledge gained during Operation Clean Sweep assisted in determining how the Army will redeploy, retrograde and redistribute equipment coming back from Iraq.
Another important aspect of Operation Clean Sweep was how it was used to test and validate accountability processes that will be integrated into the Army Force Generation process. ARFORGEN is the Army's continuous, structured process of generating active and reserve component forces, and providing increased unit readiness over time. A significant part of ARFORGEN is the reset and retrograde of equipment, because if the equipment is not ready, the unit won't be ready.
"In an operating environment where our units are deploying and redeploying frequently, Operation Clean Sweep has enabled them to develop new systems that allow time to focus on property accountability," said Lynch.
Once these inventories are built into ARFORGEN, unneeded materiel won't likely accumulate as it has in the past.
Operation Clean Sweep also provided Soldiers the opportunity to develop skills they otherwise wouldn't have developed so early in their careers. Rasin said he felt lucky to have been assigned to the warehouse at the Supply Support Activity. Since he worked the night shifts, which tend to be slower than the day shifts, he was able to frequently ask questions of more experienced "92 Alphas"-the Army's skill identifier for personnel who specialize in supply management.
"This was an opportunity for me to gain more knowledge in my field," said Rasin. "Because of the large scale of Operation Clean Sweep, I saw a variety of turned-in items that I wouldn't normally have seen, and I was able to sit down with experienced 92 Alphas and ask what to do in certain situations."
Operation Clean Sweep set an example for the rest of the Army and made its way to Iraq in preparation for the drawdown. Other Army units in Iraq have established Operation Clean Sweep teams that are moving through the country, helping units clean up their inventories and distribute excess materiel. The 910th Quartermaster Company, an Army Reserve unit out of Ardmore, Okla., and the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade from Hawaii, were both "swept" at the beginning of 2010.
Germany: Operation Jenny Craig
In Ansbach, Germany, the Soldiers of the 412th Aviation Support Battalion conducted a similar exercise called Operation Jenny Craig-so-named because the objective of the operation was to "slim down" the battalion into good fighting form in preparation for their deployment.
"This was a key effort for us as we prepared to deploy," said Maj. Brian Lofton, the executive officer for the 412th ASB. "It gave commanders a clean look at what was authorized and what was on-hand as we identified equipment to take to Iraq."
One of the challenges units face when deploying is splitting the property book-one book identifies the equipment that goes with the deploying unit and the other the equipment that stays behind. This accountability exercise ensured all the unit's property was accounted for correctly, thus setting up the property book officer for success when it came time for the split. When the unit returns from deployment, the organized property books will be easier to re-merge. Operation Jenny Craig was so successful for the battalion that the brigade-the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade-incorporated many of the tactics into their pre-deployment routine.
Korea: Operation Stock Validation
For the 8th U.S. Army in Korea, Operation Stock Validation was geared toward validating, consolidating and reducing excess stocks. Much of the excess was a by-product of force structure changes, new equipment fielding and other supply actions. The 8th Army did not have an integrated supply system, so excess equipment at one location was not visible at another location. For example, Camp Humphreys' excess was unknown to Camp Casey, where it might be needed. Part of Operation Stock Validation included developing an asset visibility system that would capture equipment inventories and accountability for all units in Korea.
Another change that resulted from Operation Stock Validation was the creation of a regional distribution center, through a partnership with the Defense Logistics Agency. This enabled the 8th Army to redistribute excess stock already located in Korea, rather than shipping it from the U.S. The distribution center not only reduced the time it took units to receive much needed equipment and supplies, but also helped the 8th Army control the purchase of duplicate items.
In the end, these organizations-Fort Hood, 8th Army, and 412th ASB-took control of their vast amounts of property to improve their readiness. Excess equipment found within these units was distributed to other units in need, and shortages were filled.
As the Army prepares to drawdown in Iraq and reinforces troops in Afghanistan, properly accounting for equipment and supplies is essential to ensuring Soldiers have what they need, when they need it.