Before the 10,500 members of the New York Army National Guard drawn any gear it belongs to Sgt. 1st Class David Nichols.
Nichols, a 34-year Army veteran from Rensselaer and experienced supply sergeant, is the manager of the New York Central Issue Facility (CIF). On August 4, he and the nine other Soldiers and civilians who run the place were tracking $7,885,782.69 worth of gear stacked 30 feet high in the warehouse at Watervliet Arsenal just north of Albany.
That works out to about 300,000 items of personal equipment that included 500 helmets, 852 green plastic canteens, 6,000 kneepads, 4,000 elbow pads, and 1,000 complete sets of Army Universal Camouflage Pattern (UCP) load carrying equipment for a rifleman. CIF stocks 70 different types of gear ranging from goggles to Gore-Tex pants.
The goal of the CIF team, Nichols said, is to guarantee that every one of the 10,562 members of the New York Army National Guard has the most modern personnel equipment possible, especially when they are training to go to war.
"We know what a pain in the butt it was when we went through (deployment training) to get the right equipment to train in," Nichols said.
"These guys all care and that's the real thing," said Deborah Holser, Supply Management Officer for the United States Property and Fiscal Office for New York (USP&FO-NY), and Nichols boss. "They work weekends, they work nights; they do everything it takes."
"The most important part is taking care of the Soldiers and I am all about taking care of the Soldiers," said Spc. Turel McKinney, an Albany resident and a member of the 3rd Battalion 142nd Aviation and the shipping Material Handler for New York CIF.
Each week the CIF crew processes 200 to 300 equipment issues for Soldiers. Most of those involve two or three items to replace damaged or missing gear, but about 35 percent are for complete issues of Organizational Clothing and Individual Equipment (OCIE), the basic gear each Soldier receives.
CIF does about 14,000 equipment issues a year and it takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to put together a complete issue of gear.
Also known as TA-50, for Table of Allowances- 50, a Soldier's basic issue costs $1,500 or $3,500, depending on what is being issued.
Soldiers in units that are not scheduled for deployment get older gear, the old-style duffle bag and standard Kevlar K-pot helmet that costs $1,500.
Soldiers in units slated to deploy get a standard set of UCP colored gear that includes the Army Combat Helmet and the large Modular Lightweight Load-Carrying Equipment or MOLLE bag, along with other items being carried in Iraq or Afghanistan. This costs about $3,500 Nichols said.
Soldiers in the deploying units keep their gear through training. They turn it back in when they leave for deployment because they'll get a full issue at their mobilization station. If they're heading to Afghanistan, that gear will be in the new Multi-cam, Nichols explained.
All told, about 600,000 items of personal gear, ranging from ammo pouches to back packs and costing $25 million are in the hands of New York Army National Guard Soldiers.
Currently about 65 percent of the gear in the hands of Soldiers is the latest equipment in the UCP pattern. Holser, Nichols and the other CIF workers want to get that remaining 35 percent of gear in the old woodland, Battle Dress Uniform pattern, replaced as quickly as they can.
Prior to 2002, Central Issue Facilities existed only in the Active Army. One CIF at Fort Drum, for example, supplied each unit on the post. In the Army National Guard, every unit supply sergeant was responsible for ordering, stocking, replacing and exchanging the personal gear for the Soldiers in his or her unit.
The problem with that, said Holser, an employee of the Property and Fiscal Office for New York for 23 years, was the supply accountability was very poor and Soldiers suffered when the right gear was not on hand. Some units had too much equipment and other units had too little and it wasn't easy to identify who had what. Very often Soldiers got old equipment or none at all.
In 2002 the National Guard Bureau said states could try setting up central issue systems and in 2003 Guard Bureau mandated them. The USP&FO-which is mandated by law to handle the federal equipment used by the National Guard-began collecting gear and even going into armories to ferret out stashes of OCIE held by supply sergeants reluctant to make the change, Holser said.
Seven years later, supply sergeants across the system understand it and don't have any problem working with it, Holser said.
In most cases, a Soldier's gear is picked up at CIF by their unit supply sergeants.
But CIF will issue directly to individual Soldiers in cases where they need gear quickly. Gear is also mailed to units when they are too far away from Watervliet for the supply sergeant to get their personally and time is an issue.
"All my people have deployed," Nichols said. " Everyone of them wants to take care of Soldiers. We as a team really, desperately, want to make sure that they have all the right equipment."