By Army Pfc. Lyndsey Dransfield
Special to American Forces Press Service
Dec. 17, 2008 - Iraqi security forces, aided by U.S. soldiers, have taken another step toward self-sufficiency by securing the supplies and equipment they need to sustain operations. In the past five years, Iraqi Army logistics has struggled to make ends meet for its soldiers. One of the crucial issues involved obtaining spare parts for Humvees, the primary vehicles Iraqi soldiers use on their daily missions.
"It became such an inhibitor that it was an issue brought up in every meeting we went to. It was keeping them off the road from successfully conducting current operations," Army Maj. John Joseph, officer in charge of the 4th Infantry Division's Iraqi security forces logistics cell, said.
A lack of spare parts was not the issue. The Iraqi army had ordered and received the parts, but a plan to distribute them to the battalion and brigade levels did not exist.
"There was a bunch of spare parts sitting unorganized in a warehouse in Taji," Joseph said.
In September, the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, along with coalition military officials, developed a program that organized spare parts, put them into packages and distributed them to the 6th, 9th, 11th and 14th Iraqi Army divisions in Baghdad.
The divisions then developed their own plans to distribute them to the brigade and battalion levels, Joseph said.
Joseph, along with Army Maj. Shane Upton, the officer in charge of the Iraqi security forces logistics cell, has been monitoring the implementation of the program from the beginning and will see it through its completion at the end of this month.
"This is a true test of the Iraqi Army logistics system and the capabilities of the headquarters support companies," Joseph said.
Many Iraqi soldiers were trained by military police transition teams as mechanics, but the lack of parts prevented them from putting their training to use. Now that the parts are being distributed, mechanics can be pulled from checkpoints and do what they were trained to do -- fix vehicles, he said. "The Iraqi logistics system now has a chance to work for itself, which is our goal."
Although coalition forces played a vital role in the execution of the program, the Iraqi security forces should take credit for the progress, Joseph said.
"We are here to help them execute their system," he said. "We're not here to redesign it or change it in any way. Their system is centralized because it is culturally based, and it's how the Iraqi army functions."
In 2005, coalition forces began implementing the United States' systems to improve Iraq's infrastructure, but "doing things our way was quickly proven to be an unsuccessful endeavor," Joseph said. "[The Iraqis] wouldn't execute our system unless we were hand in hand with them."
When coalition forces leaders realized the plan wasn't working, they quickly changed their actions to support the Iraqi system by providing resources and provoking actions to occur, Joseph explained.
"It is not up to us to do it for them or dictate how their system should work," he said. "We show them some methods; it may not be methods they adopt, but they're methods that work for us. They can take the best practice out of that and apply it if and how they want."
The key, however, was to let them figure out how to make the system work and to provide assistance where needed. "Our effort didn't change anything about their system," Upton said. "It just promoted their system by helping them push the packages down to those who need them."
The logistics cell is planning a similar program for Iraqi national police in the near future, Upton said.
"The police force also has nontactical vehicles that they use to complete their missions. These parts are in their warehouse and need to be organized," he said. "This isn't a one-time deal. The program is proven to be effective, and will be used throughout the future."
(Army Pfc. Lyndsey Dransfield serves in the Multinational Baghdad public affairs office.)