Iraq — Logistical Drawdown in Iraq Proceeds Ahead of Schedule

WASHINGTON — As Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma this week hailed “one of the largest logis­tics oper­a­tions we’ve seen in decades” accom­pa­ny­ing the force draw­down in Iraq, the com­man­der over­see­ing the move­ment cred­it­ed hard work and inten­sive prepa­ra­tion with ensur­ing the mis­sion pro­ceeds smooth­ly and ahead of sched­ule.

Joint Base Balad, Iraq
com­mand­ing gen­er­al of the 103rd Expe­di­tionary Sus­tain­ment Com­mand left, along with Army Com­mand Sgt. Maj. LeRoy Haug­land, com­mand sergeant major of the 103rd ESC uncase the 103rd ESC col­ors dur­ing a trans­fer of author­i­ty cer­e­mo­ny July 1 at Joint Base Bal­ad, Iraq. The event sym­bol­ized the 13th ESC com­plet­ing its mis­sion and the 103rd ESC tak­ing the reins to con­tin­ue sus­tain­ment oper­a­tions in sup­port of the respon­si­ble draw­down of U.S. troops and equip­ment from the Iraq.
U.S. Army pho­to by Pfc. Emi­ly Wal­ter
Click to enlarge

“We’re mov­ing out mil­lions of pieces of equip­ment,” the pres­i­dent said in a speech to the Dis­abled Amer­i­can Vet­er­ans describ­ing progress toward reduc­ing the U.S. foot­print in Iraq to 50,000 troops by Sept. 1, and ulti­mate­ly to zero by the end of 2011. 

Army Brig. Gen. Mark Cor­son, com­man­der of the Army Reserve’s 103rd Expe­di­tionary Sus­tain­ment Com­mand, is the point man on the ground charged with over­see­ing the logis­ti­cal with­draw­al while con­tin­u­ing to sup­port forces on the ground. 

Con­duct­ing the largest re-pos­tur­ing of forces and equip­ment in more than 40 years is noth­ing short of “mon­u­men­tal,” he acknowl­edged dur­ing a phone inter­view with Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice from his head­quar­ters at Joint Base Bal­ad in Iraq. It’s an around-the-clock oper­a­tion that involves fly­ing sev­er­al thou­sand troops and mov­ing 3,000 to 4,000 trucks loaded with their accom­pa­ny­ing equip­ment, prop­er­ty and sup­plies to Kuwait or the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr every day. 

The pace of the exo­dus – about 72,000 pieces of equip­ment a month since June 2009 – is up, Cor­son report­ed. Dur­ing May alone, U.S. forces returned 146,700 pieces of equip­ment to the Unit­ed States, includ­ing 2,700 vehi­cles, gen­er­a­tors, trail­ers and mate­r­i­al-han­dling equipment. 

Most of the equip­ment gets returned to the States, some gets sent for­ward to troops in Afghanistan, and under tight­ly con­trolled con­di­tions based on a con­gres­sion­al man­date, some gets left behind for use by Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces. 

Just five weeks after assum­ing com­mand of the logis­ti­cal draw­down, Cor­son said he’s sat­is­fied by the progress. “So far, it’s going extreme­ly well,” he said. “We are actu­al­ly two weeks ahead of schedule.” 

That’s a far cry from how Cor­son felt back in 2003, when, as com­man­der of the 450th Con­trol Bat­tal­ion, his focus was on surg­ing mas­sive quan­ti­ties of logis­ti­cal sup­port into Iraq to sup­port the ini­tial U.S. troops there. 

“We got here about two weeks after forces crossed the berm (into Iraq) and found our­selves play­ing catch-up,” he said of the ini­tial deploy­ment. Work­ing with com­mu­ni­ca­tions equip­ment they were issued on arrival, and hav­ing to set up the sys­tems and process­es sup­port the logis­ti­cal oper­a­tion, Cor­son called the mis­sion “a peri­od of high adven­ture.” “The Army did its best to train us for what we were going to face dur­ing [Oper­a­tion Iraqi 1] dur­ing the lib­er­a­tion of Iraq, but the truth was, we did­n’t know what we were going to face,” he said. “We found that the adapt­abil­i­ty and resource­ful­ness of the Amer­i­can ser­vice­mem­ber real­ly came into play, because we made a lot of our process­es up and per­fect­ed them on the spot – and we were successful.” 

Draw­ing down in Iraq is a whole dif­fer­ent sto­ry. “We now have excel­lent facil­i­ties, excel­lent infra­struc­ture and excel­lent com­mu­ni­ca­tions,” Cor­son said. “The biggest chal­lenge fac­ing us now is that we have so much stuff… and we have to make sure the move­ment is all coor­di­nat­ed, and that we exe­cute it well and safe­ly while also sus­tain­ing the force.” And with a clear­er sense of what the draw­down mis­sion would entail, the Army was able to set up Corson’s team for suc­cess from the start. 

“A tremen­dous amount of plan­ning went into this, in very great detail, so we came into a very well-planned oper­a­tion,” he said. 

Cor­son and his key staff spent months inter­fac­ing with the unit they replaced in Iraq, the 13th Expe­di­tionary Sus­tain­ment Com­mand, before the deploy­ment to ensure a smooth transition. 

They also par­tic­i­pat­ed in sev­er­al major exer­cis­es, includ­ing a mas­sive com­mand post exer­cise at Fort Lee, Va., that Cor­son said prepped them staff for many of the sit­u­a­tions they’re now encoun­ter­ing in Iraq “It’s like we were in a sim­u­la­tor,” he said. “When we face chal­lenges here, I tell peo­ple, we have seen this before. We have done this before.” 

“We’re extreme­ly well-trained for this, and that is one of the rea­sons I think it’s going so well,” he con­tin­ued. “It’s because so much effort on the part of the ser­vices was put into this that it set us up for success.” 

Now on the ground, Cor­son cred­its his team of active-duty, Army Reserve and Nation­al Guard sol­diers, air­men, sailors, civil­ians and con­trac­tors with putting this prepa­ra­tion to work as they endure gru­el­ing hours, sti­fling heat and chal­leng­ing con­di­tions to keep the mis­sion on track. 

He paid par­tic­u­lar trib­ute to the truck dri­vers and con­voy escort teams who run 70 to 100 con­voys every day, bump­ing their way down Iraq’s road­way sys­tem that’s noto­ri­ous­ly busy by day and long and lone­ly by night. 

“These are some of the hard­est-work­ing folks I’ve ever met, and every­body wants to be here,” he said. “The typ­i­cal work­week is a 13- or 14-hour day, six-and-a-half days a week, and if we did­n’t make them take that half day, many of them wouldn’t.” 

Con­cerned that they may be push­ing them­selves too hard – par­tic­u­lar­ly in light of progress already made — Cor­son recent­ly direct­ed a “safe­ty stand-down” so his troops can “catch their breath” and per­form extra vehi­cle as well as per­son­al main­te­nance. The mis­sion will con­tin­ue 24/7, he said, but at a slight­ly slow­er pace in the inter­est of keep­ing it safe. These troops “are doing a fan­tas­tic job of get­ting things were they need to be and get­ting the mate­r­i­al out,” Cor­son said, and all rec­og­nize the mag­ni­tude of their mis­sion. “Folks are very excit­ed about this because they know that once again, we are mak­ing his­to­ry, and this is their oppor­tu­ni­ty to contribute.” 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

Face­book and/or on Twit­ter

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →