US forces take proactive steps toward drawdown

Story and photos by Spc. Michael Camacho
139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Public Affairs

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — As the time for the responsible drawdown of U.S. equipment and personnel approaches, proactive steps in the movement of retrograde materials are everyday missions for units in the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary).

“For south-bound traffic, the 13th SC(E)’s number one priority is redeployment and retrograde cargo,” said 1st Lt. Randell Krug, chief movement supervisor with the 858th Movement Control Team, 49th Transportation Battalion.

In June, units at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, took part in Operation Clean Sweep, a mass turn in of unused, excess equipment, said Capt. Daniel Simons, support operations planning officer with the 80th Ordnance Battalion.

“This was a way for us to clean up our backyard,” said Simons, a Missoula, Mont., native.

Simons said within the past few months, mobile retrograde teams have traveled to the bases surrounding JBB, assisting units with the transportation of retrograde materials from that site to JBB.

The MRTs use sustainment transportation movement requests to initiate the movement of trailers full of retrograde material, he said.

“A transportation movement request is a request to move a specific piece of cargo from point A to point B,” said Krug, a Bad Axe, Mich., native. “A sustainment transportation movement request is the same, but more general. Instead of someone making a decision to move that specific container, they can point at it and say ‘Alright, I want all this stuff that we’re not using or haven’t opened in six months, that container that nobody knows what it is, I want it out of here.’”

 Sustainment TMRs require much less paperwork, which allows for a quicker movement of retrograde materials that serve no use to the unit, said Krug.

With the closing of some contingency operating locations and units redeploying, there has been an increase in the number of retrograde assets moved to JBB, said Staff Sgt. Jay Towle, a theater backhaul coordinator with the 49th Trans. Bn.

Towle, a Lewiston, Maine, native, said, “You never know how much (material) you’ve deployed with until you have to send it home.”

JBB serves as a central logistical hub for the surrounding bases, said Capt. Timothy Ratliff, also a theater backhaul coordinator with the 49th.

“The cargo will be consolidated on those smaller (COLs), moved here to JBB,” he said. “JBB is where they’re going to stage it for its final movement to Kuwait.”

Convoys of the 593rd Sustainment Brigade go north to drop off cargo and supplies for deployed units, said Ratliff. The retrograde materials are loaded onto the flatbeds prior to their return south, he said.

“As the yards fill up, we request more (trucks) from the 593rd to come up and pull those down,” said Ratliff.  “They’ll send up what they call ‘dead heads,’ which are empty trucks that aren’t bringing anything north, to pull the backhaul south to those locations.”

The Iraqi Transportation Network has assisted with the movement of retrograde materials, said Ratliff.

“ITN is playing a major role in helping us draw down as well, by moving commodities mainly down to Tallil, which is a much shorter and easier trip for 593rd to make,” said Ratliff, a Junction City, Kan., native.

Ratliff said the ITN moves non-sensitive items and cargo according to the limits of its contract. The ITN will move cargo to COL Adder where it is downloaded and uploaded onto vehicles to be moved in convoys with the 593rd back to Kuwait, he said. ITN frees military assets, making the trip from Kuwait and back in only a day, said Ratliff.

Ratliff said to take a proactive approach to the responsible drawdown, actions must be taken now.

“Now is the time to start getting this junk in here, getting this stuff on TMRs, bringing it into the yards and moving it south because … the further we move into the drawdown, the less time we’re going to have to move all this stuff,” said Ratliff. “The goal is to start early now, that’s what Clean Sweep is; to start a year out from when the final phase of (strategic reposturing of equipment and personnel) is suppose to be winding down.”

Once in Kuwait, the cargo is processed and its final destination is determined, based on where the military has determined that equipment is needed, he said. It may be sent back to its home station, redistributed to a deploying unit or pushed up to Afghanistan, said Ratliff.

Ratliff said, “As we ramp up and increase the intensity of the drawdown, more and more of the cargo here is going to be going to Kuwait as we move toward our goal of going down to 50,000 troops.”