By Staff Sgt. Chanelcherie DeMello, 305th MPAD, USD-S PAOOctober 11, 2010
United States Division-South is in the final stages of preparing Camp Bucca for its handover to the Iraqi government in December.
The process for closing a U.S. military base is full of critical, can't-miss deadlines and the criteria for closing a base that will be turned over to the Government of Iraq are even more demanding.
The lion's share of the work preparing Camp Bucca for the turnover is being done by the Bucca Base Closure Assistance Team, or BCAT.
Working with the engineers and logistics shop, BCAT answers the questions military and civilian contractors may have in regards to accountability, equipment and infrastructure, said Tony Cameron, BCAT team leader.
BCAT is comprised of logisticians trained in base closure projects, said Capt. Rahman Ruston, a 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Advise and Assist Brigade, 4th Infantry Division logistics officer. The team gives insight into closing bases and turning property over to the GoI.
"I don't think I would be able to turn over a base without the BCAT," Ruston said. "Granted, we have echelons above us that have that knowledge, but to have an actual team right here next door to you made it that much easier to get information and accomplish our mission."
In April 2010, the Theater Internment Facility was turned over, starting phase one of the Bucca closure. The project took about a month. Phase two was scheduled to begin Sept. 2010, but the team received a base closure mission for Safwaan Hill, which was ordered to close within 30 days from notice. BCAT simultaneously worked both closures, completing Safwaan Hill on schedule. The team combined phase two and three of the Bucca closure and is back on track.
So many things go on at the same time, Cameron said. Accountability and movement of troops and civilians have to be initiated, base environmental specialists have to conduct an initial, preliminary and final stage planning process, a thorough inventory from both military and civilian contractors will take place, and the reduction of services such as laundry, internet and food have to be considered.
"There is a lot of planning that goes into closing a base most people wouldn't think about," he said.
"One thing that is important to know is that the U.S. government will allow up to $30 million (in value) to be left behind," said Cameron.
This is decided through two condition codes. Condition one, serviceably new, consists of items that have never been opened; their original costs are reduced by 50%. Condition two, serviceably used, consists of used items that are reduced by 40%. Force protection barriers, T-walls and crucial infrastructures are not calculated as part of the $30 million that can be left behind.
The closure is at a critical part of the process, Cameron said, but the U.S. has left a footprint, educated their Iraqi counterparts, and left points of contact for when the Americans have left.
"I give a lot of credit to BCAT, especially to Tony 'Tank' Cameron," Ruston said. "He's a civilian, but has green all through him; he's dedicated and wants to see this mission through."
"We are thankful to be here and assist the military, because the drawdown of forces" said Cameron. "I lost a lot of my troops over here during active duty, so every time I get to close a base I get to give a little bit back to them, so it makes something out of what we are doing."