By the time Labor Day rolls around, there will be about 50,000 American troops left in Iraq as part of the slow, yet significant, exodus of western troops after seven years of war. And like any other military operation, it is the the lonely legions of military logisticians who are the people responsible for coordinating the perversely complicated task of getting the troops and their gear back home, even if their job doesn’t exactly generate a lot of interest from the public, or the press.
Actually, a new report out from the Inspector General of the Department of Defense implies that the units redeploying from Iraq don’t seem to be too interested in what the logisticians have to say, either. Or at least the teams sent to help them pack. You see, the 13th Sustainment Command (ESC) is supposed to be checking and cataloging every piece of equipment that leaves Iraq bound for American depots in Kuwait, (dubbed Operation Clean Sweep), but many redeploying units either don’t know this, or don’t care. The 13th ESC has deployed Mobile Redistribution Teams (MRT) to catalog all items as they’re packed up in Iraq, and ensure that no weapons or hazardous materials are tossed in with other items. But the DoD’s IG reports that:
… not all units supported the MRT mission, limiting the effectiveness of Operation Clean Sweep. During our site visits to four Forward Operating Bases, we identified units that denied the MRTs access to their excess equipment, did not comply with FRAGO requirements to sort their excess equipment before the MRT’s arrival, and did not provide adequate logistical support to the MRTs.
You see, the order that give birth to the teams didn’t require mandatory participation in Operation Clean Sweep and “the MRT’s mission and goals were not communicated to all units and commanders.” Despite this, the movement of gear has already been epic. From May 2009 to August 2010, it’s estimated that 2.4 million of the 3.4 million pieces of U.S. military equipment will have been shipped out of Iraq. But it’s not like the MRT’s aren’t busy. The 13th ESC reports that from October 2009 to April 2010, the MRT’s “identified and re-established accountability” for about $768 million of American gear.
And what do things look like
when a unit denies MRT’s access to their
gear, and end up being a little lax about how they pack up their gear?
Some storage units that were shipped to Kuwait were
“poorly packed and some contained weapons and hazardous material,
increasing the risk of injury to Theater Redistribution Center personnel
responsiblhings look like e for opening the containers."
Other containers not packed or shipped by MRTs held unserviceable non-repairable equipment and trash that should have been destroyed or scrapped in Iraq. In addition, equipment in these containers was not identified, processed, and brought to record until it reached Camp Arifjan delaying visibility of serviceable equipment in the supply system that may be needed elsewhere, including Afghanistan.”
It’s not a sexy job, checking off boxes on a succession of lists as soldiers load up shipping containers, but it is important, for lots of reasons that last sentence makes clear.
(Pic USMC. Two U.S. Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters fly over equipment and supplies prepared for transport)