By Cpl. Jordan Johnson, 13th Public Affairs DetachmentSeptember 12, 2011
CAMP VIRGINIA, Kuwait, Sept. 12, 2011 -- As the Dec. 31 deadline nears for the repositioning of U.S. service members in Iraq, Third Army/ARCENT Soldiers stand ready to assist with their transition.
United States Forces -- Iraq personnel and equipment will process through the redistribution property accountability team, or RPAT, yard. The role of the RPAT is to ensure all redeploying service members and civilians have their paperwork and property book cleared by the appropriate authority.
"Convoys will be coming through the lanes and we'll have a Soldier standing by each one," said Staff Sgt. Kwame Peterkin, noncommissioned officer in charge, or NCOIC, of the RPAT yard, 227th Quartermaster Company. "We will be checking for basic issue items, shortage annexes and data plates."
After a year, or more, away from home, units are anxious to have their vehicles processed quickly so they can return home.
"The RPAT yard provides an avenue for self-redeploying units to turn in theater provided equipment and clear their hand receipts," said 2nd Lt. Austin Spencer, Field Artillery officer, 1st Battalion, 160th Field Artillery, Okla. National Guard. "We also give them the ability to turn in their organic equipment that's going back with them to their home station. Really, we're just making sure the redeploying unit has a clear hand receipt so they can go wheels-up."
Due to their locale and job duties, the RPAT here is unique.
"We are the last stop for units, so we can't turn anything down," Spencer said. "If the equipment makes it here, we have to settle the disposition. In Iraq, if something is wrong with paperwork, it can be kicked back. We have to fix it. It's great for the units because they know they can come here and get their problems solved."
By successfully completing its mission, the RPAT is saving taxpayer dollars in addition to aiding personnel under the Department of Defense umbrella in getting home.
"We have a dual-facet mission," Spencer said. "We want to get the guys in and out. Also, we want to account for all the Army's equipment. Basically, we are saving the Army money if we can account for every piece of equipment, because we can re-disposition it."
As vehicles are brought to the yard and go through the retrograde process, the parts and pieces will be distributed between four possible locations, stated Spencer.
"Everything is taken out of the vehicles," Spencer said. "Equipment is either shipped back to Iraq, stored in Kuwait, sent to Afghanistan or goes back to the States."
Regardless of the final destination of the gear, the mission takes on special significance for the troops of the RPAT.
"It means a lot to me to be a part of this operation," said Peterkin. "I came to Iraq when it first opened up, and now I get to be here during the tail-end of the close-out process."
Being away from family and friends for a year or more is one of the hardest parts of being stationed overseas. Having the chance to help service members cross the finish line is an outstanding opportunity, Spencer stated.
"It means a lot to be able to get people home," said Spencer. "I couldn't do this without my NCOIC. I've got a great group of Soldiers. It's been a pleasure to work with them."
Third Army is committed to supporting the presidential directive for the re-posturing of troops currently in Iraq. As time nears for service members to leave the country, Third Army Soldiers here are ready to assist personnel with their transition.