War on Terrorism

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Airmen help clear the battlefield

by Staff Sgt. Phillip Butterfield
332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

7/6/2010 - JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq (AFNS) -- As the drawdown of U.S. forces in Iraq picks up steam, there is a collection of Airmen, Soldiers and civilians ready to process billions of dollars in equipment for redistribution.

The Redistribution Property Accountability Team was developed to process equipment bound for refurbishment in the United States or locations of higher priority. At the heart of this immense project is the members of the 732nd Expeditionary Support Squadron.

"The RPAT mission is incredibly important," said Army Sgt. Jason Crocker, the 402nd Army Field Support Brigade RPAT Sprung officer in charge. "We help servicemembers pack up their gear and ship it out so they can get home to their families."

The process starts with Army unit members bringing their equipment to one of eight RPATs spread across Iraq. As units arrive, Airmen assigned to the 732nd ESS are responsible for verifying the items' serial numbers against the units' property log. Next, the Airmen log and inspect the equipment. Some of the items are as small as laser pointers and are processed, wrapped and boxed. While large items such as mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles are parked in the yard awaiting transportation.

The most unusual item the RPAT has packaged and moved so far was a saxophone, said Capt. Christine Carr, the 732nd ESS JB Balad RPAT officer in charge.

"The Airmen and Soldiers here are scheduled to redeploy $17 billion in equipment over a six-month deployment," said Chief Master Sgt. Barry Schulhofer, the 732nd ESS chief enlisted manager. "The next rotation is scheduled to do even more."

However, there are times when a unit may not be able to come here to turn in their gear. Therefore, the members of RPAT go to them.

"A mobile RPAT is also available for units in remote locations," Captain Carr said. "A team will go out, complete the paperwork on site and collect the gear. Without an RPAT there is a greater likelihood of items being misplaced, lost or left in the enemy's hands."

The accurate processing of equipment and paperwork is essential for the drawdown to be a success.

"We have never turned away a customer," Captain Carr said. "If they need help with their documentation we help them the best that we can."

The full measure of the RPAT's success cannot be measured until the drawdown is complete. Nevertheless, to most of the yards customers, RPAT signals the end to a deployment.

"It feels great to arrive at a RPAT and turn in equipment," said Army Sgt. Kenneth White, a 123rd Infantry Battalion vehicle operator. "The supply people here make it an easy and smooth process, which makes it possible for me to go home."

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