By Army Spc. Andrea Merritt
Special to American Forces Press Service
uly 24, 2008 - In another sign of progress in Iraq, 62 tribes and 68 sheiks have organized four private trucking companies to form the Iraqi Transportation Network. The sheiks approached the U.S. military with a proposition for the ITN to haul their cargo throughout Iraq, guaranteeing safe shipment and taking financial responsibility for any loss. They chose people from their tribes to drive for the companies, and the U.S. military conducted background checks. More than 100 drivers were chosen, and 97 percent of them were approved.
The formation of the Iraqi Transportation Network is one of the first efforts in more than 30 years to build a private logistics company in the country. ITN moves low-value cargo for U.S. forces to and from different forward operating bases in Iraq.
"For Iraq, this particular form of logistics network is a key enabler for the Iraqi economy, so we're seeding it with military cargo to get this going," Navy Cmdr. Ken Titcomb, the ITN action officer for Multinational Force Iraq, said. "The goal is that, after a couple of years, their revenue will come from commercial services, not military. Hopefully it will end up driving a lot of jobs, and it'll be a factor for economic prosperity in Iraq."
The ITN has successfully hauled different classes of supplies in Fallujah, Asad, Taqaddum, Ramadi and Jordan.
Since the missions in that region have proven successful, network officials plan to expand their services to Multinational Division Center by September and to Multinational Division North by October, tripling the size of the network.
The transportation network has moved food, water, construction materials, wood, barriers and containers without military escorts. To date, there have been no incidents or attacks resulting in the loss of cargo.
"With the truckers we have today, that made a difference of at least 20 soldiers on the road," Titcomb said. "This reduces the dependence on military to get the cargo moved."
In addition to providing jobs for Iraqis and reducing soldier exposure on the roads, customer units see other benefits to the service that the ITN provides.
"If they move the low-priority cargo, then we can take the priority cargo that must move in support of missions and combat operations," said Army Maj. Ira Baldwin, 1st Sustainment Brigade support operations transportation officer. "We can now focus more of our trucks on that specific aspect."
As the Iraqi Transportation Network continues to grow, the goal of a stable Iraqi economy becomes less of an idea and more of a reality. In the first two months of operation, the ITN generated more than $2 million in revenue.
"It is a growing entity," Baldwin said. "If you look at the Iraqi Transportation Network, it's not just trucks on the road. Iraqis have done this before. This is why we are taking baby steps to build the Iraqis back up, so they can do this in a flawless manner. Eventually, they will get there."
(Army Spc. Andrea Merritt is assigned to 1st Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs.)