(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Melissa A. Latty)
Lance Cpl. Melissa A. Latty
AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq – A detachment of Marines from 2nd Maintenance Battalion remained in Iraq past their unit’s redeployment in order to leverage their supply and redistribution capabilities in support of the Marine Corps’ mission of retrograding gear and equipment from Iraq.
Detachment B, 2nd Maint. Bn., Combat Logistics Regiment 27 (Fwd), relocated to Al Asad from Camp Al Taqaddum Sept. 2 in order to bring their services to the larger and more populated operating base. The detachment is working hand-in-hand with Marine Corps Logistics Command (Forward) to ensure the proper disposition of all Marine Corps assets still found throughout the operating environment.
All of the supplies and gear they are handling are either being sent to support Marine Corps units in Afghanistan or back to the states for repair and redistribution. As they reduce supply inventories, they coordinate with Multi National Force – West to ensure they have what they need to complete their mission.
The detachment fills requests made by the Marine Expeditionary Brigade-Afghanistan and observes unit usage history to anticipate additional requirements.
“This demand pattern allows us to predict what we think will be utilized the most in Afghanistan and also allows us to make recommendations on what we feel would be
useful to send over,” said Maj. Edwin Norris, the detachment commander.
Since arriving at Al Asad, the detachment has processed and shipped approximately 475 20-Foot Equivalent Units (TEU) of materials such as office supplies and computers, and has approximately 135 TEUs left to redistribute to various locations.
“Any time you are ending a war it is important that you responsibly retrograde gear and equipment, and redistribute it to other areas [of the world] where it’s needed,” said Master Sgt. Roderick Barrett, the staff non-commissioned officer-in-charge of the detachment. “We are here to collect these things and redistribute them properly.”
The detachment provides general supply capabilities to units within MNF-W. Their services range from purchasing supplies to preparing shipments for the flight line where they will be flown to their final destination. There are several sections within the detachment that contribute to this process.
“Each section, from Operations and the Procurement Management Cell to Packing, Packaging and Preservation and the Marine Air-Ground Task Force Materiel Distribution Center (MMDC), has a hand in getting supplies from the warehouse to the warfighter,” said Norris. “We must communicate effectively amongst ourselves to ensure a requisition is properly placed, sourced, receipted for and distributed to the customer.”
Norris said that one glitch in the process could dramatically affect the customer’s wait time and potentially impact the receiving unit’s ability to accomplish their mission; Marines work to ensure that doesn’t happen.
“The Marines pride themselves in working hand-in-hand to address customer needs in a timely and effective manner,” he said.
The MMDC section is responsible for the initial receipt of the asset and then they transfer the item to the storage section where it is accounted for and alerts the requesting units that their gear is on the receiving line, ready for the unit to come retrieve it.
The Operations section ensures that the right amount of supplies gets ordered at the right time and makes the ultimate decision as to where the assets will be sent.
Norris described the Customer Service section as the face of the detachment.
“They liaison with the individual units to ensure they know how to acquire supplies through us and makes the customer aware of what our capabilities are and what we can do for them.
“The process is relatively straightforward but requires a great deal of effort to ensure all of the details are coordinated, reconciled and communicated to the using units,” he continued. “They don’t call it a supply chain for nothing!”
With Marine Corps mission in Iraq drawing to an end, the Marines of Det. B have their hands full with the imperative mission at hand and are working 10 to 11-hour days to
get everything moved in a timely fashion.
“The Marines are working hard to ensure the mission is complete by the given date,” Norris said. “The officers and staff non-commissioned officers are developing plans and refining those plans on a daily basis to ensure we are following the commander’s intent.
“Our mission is important because in the bigger picture we are doing more than just getting supplies and equipment redistributed,” he continued. “We are not burying or dumping inventory – we are dutifully downsizing our materiel.”
Gear, equipment and supplies have been building up on Marine Corps forward operating bases for nearly six years. As the Marines prepare to turn these areas back to the government of Iraq, they are focusing on sending the message that they have been responsible tenants while residing on Iraqi soil.
“We are doing our part to prepare for the government of Iraq to reassume control of their country; and leaving a legacy that demonstrates we will give them back a country that is in better shape now than it was when U.S. forces arrived initially,” Norris said.
The junior Marines of Det. B are as equally enthusiastic about their contributions to the responsible drawdown of troops and equipment from Iraq.
“None of us really knew what we were going to do when we were sent to Al Asad, but we really rose to the occasion and I think we are doing a great job,” said Lance Cpl. Ryson Nakaahiki, a traffic management office clerk with Det. B. “It’s a privilege to be able to do this job and be a part of this process. We will all be able to say that we were one of the last Marines in Iraq and we helped in the final retrograde of gear and equipment.”
When driving around base, the progress of the retrograde process is obvious. There are fewer containers lining the perimeters of compounds, fewer tactical vehicles parked in the motor transportation lots and less structures, but there is still more work to be done.
“Although Marines are eager to go home they know that they have to stay focused and engaged,” Norris said. “Everyone will have to pull his or her weight whether it’s processing documents, cleaning containers, packing gear or doing customs inspections; everyone has a pivotal role in ensuring the success of the detachment.”