Logistical Drawdown Progressing Smoothly in Iraq

WASHINGTON, Nov. 14, 2011 — The logis­ti­cal draw­down in Iraq is pro­gress­ing well and on track to meet the Dec. 31 dead­line, the com­man­der of the unit that over­saw the mis­sion since Jan­u­ary report­ed as he and his sol­diers pre­pared to return home ear­ly this week.

Army Col. Stephen Fal­cone, com­man­der of the Army Reserve’s 77th Sus­tain­ment Brigade, said his troops faced tough demands in Iraq as they sup­port­ed two seem­ing­ly oppo­site require­ments: keep­ing troops on the ground sup­plied while orches­trat­ing the Unit­ed States’ largest logis­ti­cal draw­down since World War II.

“It’s been a big bal­anc­ing act,” Fal­cone told Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice from Camp Vir­ginia, Kuwait, as he and his sol­diers await­ed their flight home to Joint Base Maguire-Dix-Lake­hurst, N.J. “And it’s some­thing we’ve had to focus on every day to make sure we give [troops on the ground] just enough, but not too much.”

So as con­voys arrived at bases through­out Iraq deliv­er­ing food, water, fuel, ammu­ni­tion and oth­er sta­ples, Fal­cone and his sol­diers ensured they left filled to the brim­ming point with equip­ment des­tined for Kuwait and ulti­mate­ly, the Unit­ed States.

The 77th Sus­tain­ment Brigade was among the last units to deploy to Iraq as the Unit­ed States began the process of hand­ing over oper­a­tions to Iraqi forces and oth­er U.S. agen­cies. Its 300 sol­diers arrived in Jan­u­ary to serve as the head­quar­ters ele­ment for an addi­tion­al 3,500 sol­diers and air­men assigned to put the logis­ti­cal plan into action.

Dur­ing their deploy­ment, they ran more than 1,700 con­voys, trav­eled more than 4.2 mil­lion miles, issued more than 120 mil­lion gal­lons of fuel, moved out 2,700 tons of ammu­ni­tion and trans­port­ed 20 mil­lion pounds of incom­ing and out­go­ing mail, Fal­cone report­ed.

As they closed ware­hous­es and scaled back sup­port oper­a­tions, they tran­si­tioned more than $238 mil­lion in equip­ment, repair parts and oth­er sup­plies to the Defense Depart­ment inven­to­ry, he said.

Good plan­ning, hard work and favor­able weath­er came togeth­er to move the tran­si­tion of bases to Iraqi gov­ern­ment con­trol on or ahead of sched­ule, Fal­cone said. He not­ed that three of the largest bases tran­si­tioned ear­li­er than planned, includ­ing the most recent, Joint Base Bal­ad, which was trans­ferred to the Iraqis three weeks ahead of sched­ule.

“We have done an order­ly and respon­si­ble pro­gres­sion of how we trans­ferred those bases,” Fal­cone said, giv­ing some wel­come breath­ing room in the sched­ule to com­plete the process by the year’s end.

As daunt­ing as the logis­ti­cal draw­down may be, Fal­cone said it is com­pli­cat­ed by the fact that U.S. forces remain­ing on the ground for the dura­tion of Oper­a­tion New Dawn still require beans, bul­lets and oth­er essen­tials.

Fal­cone said he didn’t want them “liv­ing in tents and eat­ing [Meals, Ready to Eat] every day,” and took pains to pro­vide them the best qual­i­ty of life for as long as pos­si­ble while still adher­ing to the draw­down sched­ule.

As bases pre­pared to close and con­trac­tors who had been assigned to them returned home, mil­i­tary mem­bers stepped up to con­duct mis­sions the con­trac­tors had done. They took over the din­ing facil­i­ties, laun­dry and oth­er ser­vices.

In some cas­es, they cross-trained into oth­er jobs to keep vital ser­vices flow­ing. Falcone’s water purifi­ca­tion spe­cial­ists, for exam­ple, served as fuel han­dlers as well. Oth­er ser­vice mem­bers vol­un­teered to become crane oper­a­tors, posi­tions con­trac­tors had held.

“The good part is that they stepped up to the plate and did a fan­tas­tic job,” Fal­cone said. “We had absolute­ly no prob­lems.”

Fal­cone called the evo­lu­tion tak­ing place in Iraq a throw­back to the ear­li­est days of Oper­a­tion Iraqi Free­dom, or “OIF in reverse.”

“When we first went into Iraq in 2003, it was kind of an aus­tere envi­ron­ment,” he said. “And as we trans­fer those bases over, we go back to that aus­tere envi­ron­ment for the sol­diers.”

Fal­cone acknowl­edged that in the weeks lead­ing up to Dec. 31, con­di­tions will become increas­ing­ly aus­tere as the last U.S. forces in Iraq wind down their oper­a­tions.

With the 77th Sus­tain­ment Brigade now rede­ploy­ing, the active-com­po­nent 4th Sus­tain­ment Brigade from Fort Hood, Texas, will over­see the com­ple­tion of the mis­sion.

Many of the 77th Brigade sol­diers elect­ed to extend their deploy­ments to join the 4th Brigade in see­ing the mis­sion to com­ple­tion, he said.

Togeth­er, “they are going to do it the right way, they are going to do it on time and more than like­ly, ahead of time, and then they are going to go home,” he said.

Unlike past rota­tions in Iraq, no replace­ment unit will be arriv­ing to take their places. “This is the first time when there is no unit fol­low­ing us,” Fal­cone said. “So when we leave, the job we were asked to do is done. It’s not left to some­one else to fin­ish up.”

Fal­cone said his sol­diers are excit­ed about their role in the his­toric draw­down mis­sion in Iraq. “They’ve gone a yeoman’s job, work­ing very long hours con­duct­ing the largest ret­ro­grade oper­a­tion since World War II,” he said.

“I tell them that when they go home, they need to be proud of what they have done here, to stick their chests out far­ther and to hold their heads high,” he said. “They need to walk down the streets of Amer­i­ca know­ing they have tru­ly end­ed this oper­a­tion the way it should have been end­ed. They did a great job, and they did every­thing the coun­try asked them to do.”

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