By Staff Sgt. Nathaniel Smith, 1st Inf. Div. Public AffairsNovember 27, 2010
The first Division Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 1st Infantry Division Soldiers to redeploy are scheduled to arrive at Fort Riley, Kan., before Christmas, but there is still a lot to be done between now and then to ensure they have smooth travels home.
Step one of that is the packing and inspection of the unit's shipping containers to get Soldiers' personal gear from southern Iraq back to home station.
If any unauthorized goods are found in a container, that container and all its contents can be in limbo for up to 18 months, but luckily for the troops of DHHB, they have Sgt. 1st Class Lilia Schoenhofer, the unit's customs program manager who has completed almost 1,000 inspections over the course of her tour in southern Iraq.
"Customs is a very, very fun job because you're busy all day every day," Schoenhofer said. "It may seem like a tedious task, but thank your customs inspectors because they're the ones that are going to get you home."
Schoenhofer said the best way she prepares Soldiers for their customs inspection is by providing them with timely and accurate information to prepare.
"A lot of people think it's kind of like at the airport where you walk up and they're ready for you. In order to maintain the integrity of the inspection, I give a briefing at the very beginning," Schoenhofer said. "I usually block it for three hours. After the briefing, it literally takes that long to get the inspection knocked out. It really depends on making sure everybody knows that they're probably going to be there awhile."
Since day-to-day operations continue, the Chicago native said scheduling conflicts can be a big problem for taking care of the inspection requirement, but she schedules personal inspections for those who are simply too busy to be at their container for an inspection.
Maj. Terri Andreoni, the officer-in-charge of one of the shipping containers going back to Fort Riley, said the information the customs inspectors provide has helped the process go smoothly so far.
"All the guidance that's come out from both (Division Transportation Office) and the customs people of (Provost Marshall Office) and out of the company, it's laid out pretty specifically how things are supposed to go," Andreoni said. "We're just waiting for our designated time that we'll do our inspections."
Schoenhofer said another issue is conflicts of interest where Soldiers may be inspecting bags that belong to their supervisors. To negate this, Soldiers of the 3rd Advise and Assist Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, currently attached to the 1st Inf. Div. as part of United States Division-South, have been helping with the inspections.
Andreoni, a St. Marys, Wisc., native, said while the inspections are a sign that she will be going home soon, her work continues.
"This is just one of the things that we are checking off," she said, "but we're still focused on doing a lot of good work in USD-South."