By Natalie ColeSeptember 21, 2010
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait -- Anyone who has ever moved knows how household items can disappear in the whirlwind of packing and unpacking boxes. Not to mention the chaos that can cause packed things to be misplaced, only to be rediscovered months later. Comparing the hassle of a personal move to the drawdown of equipment from Iraq highlights the size of the task facing the Army. Of course, the drawdown involves walk-in metal containers and tanks instead of cardboard boxes and the family car.
Soldiers and civilians with the Responsible Reset Task Force (known as R2TF) at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait are a critical link in the chain of Army Materiel Command (AMC) teams that manage the withdrawal of equipment from Iraq.
The task force keeps billions of dollars worth of supplies and vehicles moving across the desert and ocean to the United States without getting lost. No tanks or trucks can mysteriously vanish in the move, unlike socks and beloved household decorations. To give an example of the volume, the task force moved more than 3,100 armored vehicles in July, exceeding their goals for the month, according to John P. Dugan, deputy to the commander, R2TF, AMC.
In addition to overseeing the movement and accountability of items, the task force manages the repair and redistribution of equipment once it reaches the United States. Many of the armored vehicles in theater, for example, have become beat-up and worn-out as troops rely on them in combat.
In a process known as Reset, the task force teams in the United States take a damaged vehicle and "give it some new life after it's been to battle," Dugan said. "[Reset] takes away the effects of the high op tempo and operations in a harsh environment." But the task force is not only about moving and fixing things. It also saves the Army and the tax payers' money, according to Sgt. Major Patrick D. Strong, of the R2TF, AMC.
The task force identifies supplies that can be salvaged as opposed to destroyed, and keeping existing equipment in circulation cuts the costs of buying replacements. Strong said he is impressed by "the amount of funds that have been saved, and it just continues to grow." In fact, the task force has recovered $208 million worth of supplies so far in 2010, said Dugan. The task force uses a collection of logistics computer programs to uphold its motto of "accountability, visibility, and velocity," Dugan said. One of the newest programs helping with the drawdown is the Theater Provided Equipment planner (TPE planner), which was launched in January of 2010.
Now, units who receive their equipment in theater can use the TPE planner to keep track of their items and identify anything they have that they do not use. The quicker units identify the excess equipment, the quicker it can be redistributed to other units in the Army who do need it, Dugan said. With the TPE planner, the time it takes to move out excess equipment has been cut in half, from 10 days to five days, according to Dugan.
The introduction of the TPE planner is significant because it "gives units, divisions, corps the ability to rapidly determine the disposition of equipment," he said. Thus far, more than 260,000 items have been processed in the TPE planner, Dugan said. The task force plans to have all excess theater issued equipment out if Iraq and in the United States by August 31.
The process of repairing and redistributing equipment is how the task force regenerates the Army's power and resources. When all equipment is accounted for, the Army has a clear picture of what is available to provide to other units, said Strong. This forward-looking approach is a part of the task force's way of doing things. "We need to be predictive, not reactive," said Dugan. "[We are] putting capabilities back with the units."
The drawdown is a process that takes joint effort, just like a personal move often takes all available family and friends. The task force relies on information and logistical support from the 1st Theater Sustainment Command and its subordinate units in Iraq, Camp Arifjan and the sea ports in Kuwait. Dugan said given the computer programs and work of the AMC enterprise, there have been no insurmountable obstacles.
"We wouldn't need to be here if there weren't daily challenges to be worked out," he said. "It's a great team effort among all." Col. LeRoy Ontiberos, with the AMC R2TF, said working with the task force offers a unique perspective for soldiers.
He said he enjoys "working with a civilian workforce with ions and ions of experience. They're a real wealth of information." He added that the end result of the team work is "to use the information to complete our mission."
When asked about the most meaningful part of the task force's mission, Dugan said, "being part of the responsible draw down. The depth and breadth of the requirements... are extraordinary. To help and put processes in place that help [troops] be effective, that has been the most rewarding," he said.
Strong said while the work of the task force is more behind the scenes, it is a necessary part of the drawdown's success.
"We're the support role from behind," he said. Strong added that although troops cannot see the computer data, "they know what's happening, they know when it's done," he said. "We've earned everyone's respect."