By Jonathan Stack
Special to American Forces Press Service
Nov. 30, 2009 - Army Col. Mike Bird is about to move a mountain, but he won't be doing it alone. Bird, commander of Defense Logistics Agency—Central Command, will have help from his DLA support team and participants from several of the agency's field activities. That, however, doesn't make the task of helping the military services draw down a mountain of equipment and supplies accumulated during six years of operations in Iraq any less daunting.
DLA provides the military services, other federal agencies, and joint and allied forces with a variety of logistics, acquisition and technical services. These services include disposing of excess military property or allowing for its reuse, as well as disposing of hazardous waste and materials.
Bird has made planning for the drawdown a priority since he assumed command this summer.
"This is much more than moving a mountain," he said. "It surpasses any logistical challenge we have undertaken to date, all while we are still fighting two wars. It is critical that we ensure the warfighter is being sustained while we retrograde, refit and redistribute to the war effort."
The drawdown is the return of all U.S. forces back to their home stations and the closing out the military presence in Iraq, said Donald Bruce, DLA's Joint Logistics Operations Center lead planner for drawdown, retrograde and reset.
"Bringing back troops means bringing back all supplies," Bruce said.
The U.S. equipment drawdown from Iraq will impact all DLA's primary-level field activities to some extent, with the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service shouldering most of the workload. From its headquarters in Battle Creek, Mich., and offices throughout the world, DRMS disposes of excess property received from the military services.
"Coordination and flexibility are keys in any complex operation," said Twila Gonzales, DRMS director.
DRMS already handles the military services' excess property in Iraq, including disposal of battle-damaged equipment and surplus items. DRMS also removes scrap from both the small forward-operating bases and the larger bases. Gonzales said her team is also handling a portion of hazardous waste and materials disposal.
"We're not just working with or for the military units in Iraq, we are working right alongside them," she said. "Our mobilized reservists are doing great work on those teams."
Earlier this year, members of a disposal team working at a large forward-operating base in Iraq removed more than 3 million pounds of scrap from the base in just 30 days.
"Good management of excess equipment in this case helps protect our fighting forces from the danger that an adversary will be able to use some of our own equipment against us," Gonzales said. "Good stewardship over excess property serves both the warfighter and taxpayers."
As U.S. military units start leaving Iraq, Bruce said, they'll look at their supplies and equipment and decide whether to take items with them or leave them behind.
"In some cases, the services might decide they don't need those consumable materials in Iraq because they're drawing down the force," he said. "But due to the buildup, the materials might be needed in Afghanistan."
Much usable material will be shipped from Iraq to Defense Distribution Depot-Kuwait, Bruce said, while some will come back to DLA's stateside depots. The depots, mainly co-located with military repair depots, act as receiving and temporary storage locations.
If a Humvee comes back to an Army repair depot, it will be received by the DLA depot and stored until the Army is ready to put it on the maintenance line and begin the rebuild, Bruce said.
"There's a big impact there for DLA because there's a lot of equipment that has to come back and be repaired before it can be provided to units to prepare for the next fight," he said.
In addition, Bruce said, there will be an impact on the amount of repair parts DLA is supplying to support rebuilding the equipment coming back and going into the depot system.
"The fact that this equipment has been used in the desert for so long means the military services might have to replace a lot of parts that they normally wouldn't," Bruce said. "We have to work closely with the services to make sure we're on top of that and we know what those demands are so we're prepared to support them."
DLA's supply centers are expected to see a surge in business as the military services' requirements evolve.
"We were sustaining the force in Iraq, and those demands are going to decrease over time and demands in Afghanistan are going to increase," he said.
(Jonathan Stack is a writer with Defense Logistics Agency's communications office)