MRT yard saves Army millions

Story and Photos by Sgt. Chad Menegay
13th Sustainment Command Public Affairs

VICTORY BASE COMPLEX, Iraq — One challenge the U.S. military faces in its upcoming responsible drawdown in Iraq is the removal and redistribution of material it has amassed during seven years of combat operations.

The leadership with the 812th Quartermaster Company, 373rd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 3rd Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), believes its material redistribution team has helped overcome that challenge with historic results.

Sgt. 1st Class Ralph Salas, noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the 812th’s MRT yard, estimates that his MRT has processed $90 million in military material and saved taxpayers $40 million since September 2009.

The MRT concept is less than two-years-old. Its function is to identify, sort and reallocate excess material in theater, to expedite redeployments and leave less of an environmental footprint.

“This is a more responsible way of reallocating items into different parts of theater,” said 1st Sgt. Rene Guerra, first sergeant with the 812th Quartermaster Co., and a San Antonio native.

“Having been in the military 40 years, I’ve noticed every time we’ve left theaters most of the stuff was left behind, either for the incoming government or actually buried out in deserts,” Guerra said. “With the concept of the MRT now, it’s a lot better concept. Finally, I think the military and our government has gotten it right. We’re not wasting this material.”

The MRT at motor pool No. 5 on Camp Liberty runs a “Wal-Market,” which houses free equipment and supplies, distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis for military and Department of Defense civilians.

“We can have parts here that some unit might need,” Salas said. “We can get it to them faster instead of ordering it and coming from the states. If we have it, ‘bam!’ Here you go. Instead of having that item deadlined for a month, it’s deadlined for a week or less,” Salas said.

MRTs make the Army more efficient. A lot of what gets redistributed goes to Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom, he said.

The work that goes into redistributing new, used and repairable material is physical. Soldiers at motor pool No. 5 currently work 12-hour days in the heat, unloading truck-sized containers, lifting heavy items, moving pallets with forklifts, hauling with five-ton trucks, lifting containers with cranes and sorting through what sometimes turns out to be scrap.

Salas said the 812th MRT has turned in about 177,000 tons of scrap metal and around 45,000 pounds of copper.

The work is tedious at times and physically demanding at others, Salas said.

“We get a lot of large packages in, from washers to little bolts, and we have to identify all of that stuff,” Salas said. “That’s tedious, but we get it done. The hard part of it is when we get big scraps that no one man can lift, so we get the forklift support and get it out.”

Salas said that his Soldiers have accomplished a milestone of more than $40 million in recoverable items.

“That’s $40 million the Army doesn’t have to spend on new equipment, on reordering,” Salas said. “They’re able to put those items back into the system.”

The Soldiers with the MRT here are establishing a new and more efficient way to redistribute and retrograde material and equipment, he said.

“It’s historical, because as far as I know, nothing here is doctrine,” Salas said. “I think our guys are making history. I would like our guys to have a plaque somewhere in the United States, saying, ‘Hey, this is the MRT team. These are actually the guys who helped start this.’”

Another 812th team, one that helps the MRT run more efficiently, is the material assessment team.

MAT is a group that assesses what extra equipment units have that isn’t on their property books. This team helps units organize and plan the packing of material, coordinates transportation, acquires containers if the unit doesn’t have any, and escorts the containers to the MRT.

The MRTs and MATs give redeploying units less to worry about. Instead of units dumping equipment off on someone else, “we’re here to take it off their hands and make it useful,” Salas said. “This helps units (redeploy) out of here quicker.”

 

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Spc. Rogelio Briones, a supply specialist with the 812th Quartermaster Company, 373rd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 3rd Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), and a Harlingen, Texas, native, organizes batteries May 18 at the material redistribution team yard, motor pool No. 5, Victory Base Complex, Iraq.

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Spc. Devyn Williams, a truck driver with the 296th Transportation Company, 541st Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 15th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), and a Statesboro, Ga., native, binds a mass of wires to a pallet May 18 at the material redistribution team yard, motor pool five, Victory Base Complex, Iraq.

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Soldiers with the 812th Quartermaster Company, 373rd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 3rd Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) load Hercules Engineering Solutions Consortium (HESCO) barriers onto a forklift May 18 at the material redistribution team yard, motor pool No. 5, at Victory Base Complex, Iraq,

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Cpl. Andrew Garcia, operations noncommissioned officer with the 812th Quartermaster Company, 373rd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 3rd Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and a Goliad, Texas native, unloads a container May 18 at the material redistribution team yard, motor pool No. 5, Victory Base Complex, Iraq.