by Senior Master Sgt. George Thompson
386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
4/15/2013 - UNDISCLOSED LOCATION -- The CENTCOM Deployment & Distribution Operation Center and the Afghanistan retrograde
Former President Theodore Roosevelt stated "the best executive is the
one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and
self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it."
U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Lee K. Levy II, Director of the CENTCOM
Deployment & Distribution Operation Center and his select team of
soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are responsible for the retrograde
of the more than 50,000 coalition (U.S. and NATO, of which 28,000 are
U.S.) military vehicles from Afghanistan to be redeployed or
pre-positioned in worldwide contingency stocks abroad.
"The folks here on our joint team are responsible for integrating
strategic transportation with theater transportation," Levy said. "Our
job is to marry those two communities up and make sure it's a seamless
set of logistics and transportation from the factory or fort back in the
U.S. all the way to the point wherever the soldier, sailor, airmen or
Marine needs it at his or her FOB, COB or outpost."
The complicated task of moving equipment halfway around the world was explained with two simple action verbs.
"Our watchwords are anticipate and accelerate," he said. "How can we
anticipate what the guy or gal in a foxhole is going to need and go
faster and make sure the logistics machine is running at a high rate of
Levy likened his team's mission to inner workings of an automatic
transmission and explained the consequences of logistical failure.
"There's a thousand pieces in there some of its mechanical, some of its
hydraulics, some of its electrical and it all has to work together every
single day, every time," he said. "If we as a logistics and
transportation team don't do that, the folks that are at the pointy end
of the spear don't have what they need to execute the mission.
One significant mission levied upon the CENTCOM DDOC is the withdrawal
of U.S. and coalition forces and equipment from Afghanistan by the 2014
Presidential timeline; but the team is also responsible for the
logistics of the other 20 nations that make-up the U.S. Central
Command's Area of Responsibility.
"If it's in the CENTCOM AOR on any given day we'll have some sort of
engagement with the logistics infrastructure to make sure those parts of
CENTCOM are dressed for success," he said. "We work very closely with
AFCENT and their team and the air mobility division and the director of
mobility forces to orchestrate that air movement inside of the theater
and if need be we work backwards with TRANSCOM or with Air Mobility
Command, the air component to TRANSCOM to make sure we have the right
airlift assets in theater to move things around."
So how do you move things around a mountainous landlocked country the
size of Texas and can't lessons learned from the retrograde of Iraq be
used in Afghanistan?
"If you think Iraq was difficult, I would call that getting your
bachelor's degree in logistics," Levy said. "Withdrawing from
Afghanistan is getting your PhD in logistics and we are writing our
thesis as we speak."
"When you look at the lines of communication both ground and air, when
you look at the amount of equipment, when you look at the real estate,
you look at the fact our primary mission it to train the Afghan National
Security Forces to be able to do the job in their own country," he
said. "Our measure of success is the Afghanis doing for themselves and
not us doing it for them."
Another visible measure of success is retrograding from Afghanistan economically.
"Every time we move something it costs money, that's my tax money, it's
your tax money," he said. "We never want to trade effectiveness for
efficiency but we absolutely want to be mindful of cost."
"We will bring home the things it makes sense to bring home and we will
either give them back to the services so they can reset them or they
will go back to the unit and organizations that they came from and go
back for preparation for the next conflict that hopefully will never
While the task ahead is daunting, Levy knows his joint team at the CENTCOM DDOC is up to the challenge.
"In the Air Force we talk about TFI, Total Force Integration, the folks
we have here in the CENTCOM DDOC is total force integration
personified," he said. "A lot of what they do is underneath the radar,
it doesn't make the six o'clock news and that's fine but they help glue
that logistics machine together."
"There is not a day where I don't take my boots off at the end of the
day and say wow, we made a difference for somebody somewhere."