Providers, civilian contractors work together to drawdown from Iraq

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

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — Civilian contractors have come together with 49th Transportation Battalion Soldiers to provide assistance to the countless units reducing personnel and equipment in country, as the drawdown from Iraq approaches.

The 49th Trans. Bn., 90th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) out of Fort Hood, Texas, in conjunction with KBR, Inc. personnel, moves personnel and cargo throughout various sustainment areas of Iraq, using movement control teams and similar elements.

KBR, Inc. contractors assist and augment the 49th’s workforce, serving alongside Soldiers to maintain 24-hour operations in the air and on the ground, said Maj. Janeen Johnson, battalion operations officer with the 49th Trans. Bn.

“KBR makes up approximately 50 percent of the battalion’s strength,” said Johnson, a Somerville, Mass., native. “They are integrated into all the battalion’s functions, from the MCT level up to the battalion level.”

They assist the separate MCTs with the verification of cargo and cargo documentation, as well as the upload and download of convoys, said Johnson. At the battalion level, KBR workers process transportation movement requests as part of the theater backhaul operations, she said.

There are 17 MCTs with the 49th Trans. Bn. at all the major transportation and personnel movement hubs, said Johnson.

“A majority of our KBR augmentation is retired military, and … they bring their knowledge and experience to the table,” she said.

Contractors stay after units go home, providing seamless transitions; this makes them a valuable asset to incoming units, said Johnson.

“They don’t necessarily get up and brief classes, but they are there to provide insight and historical knowledge on operations,” she said.

The 56th MCT has more than 80 contractors who assist them daily at the Joint Base Balad Passenger and Catfish terminals, said Capt. Corey Walters, company commander with the 56th MCT, 49th Trans. Bn.

They drive the buses and help make manifests for personnel and cargo, said Walters, a Vale, S.D., native.

“There (are) only 16 of us,” he said. “If they disappeared, then this mission would cease. We rely on them to get the mission done; they’re part of our MCT.”

They also provide a level of mentorship to the Soldiers, similar to that of an officer or noncommissioned officer, said Johnson.

Contractors and service members experience little to no friction, said Senior Airman Renaldo Brown, pax terminal movement control team member with the 56th.

“They’ve been here longer than (us),” said Brown, a Baltimore native. “Some of them have been here three years, four years, five years. They’ve been through every situation that comes up. If we have any questions, we can resort to them. They’re like our own continuity book.”

The KBR contractors work with a similar chain of command to that of the military, said Walters.

“In some ways they’re held to a higher standard, because their livelihood really depends on their performance,” he said.