by Army Capt. Gina Thomas
HHC/17th CSSB Commander
11/21/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- The
17th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion returned home this week with
elements of the 23rd Sapper Company after a six-month deployment to
The 17th CSSB Headquarters, consisting of 62 personnel from Joint Base
Elmendorf-Richardson were deployed under the Central Command Materiel
Recovery Element. The unit played a significant role in the force
reduction in Afghanistan, as they oversaw the responsible retrograde of
equipment and materiel from theater after 13 years of war and buildup.
Working as a subordinate command to the 45th Sustainment Brigade, the
17th CSSB provided mission command of four companies spread across every
region of Afghanistan and were given the mission of recovering the
multitude of equipment that the military brought into Afghanistan since
the start of the war.
The mission was twofold: first, recover as much valuable equipment as
possible and return it to the United States; and second, responsibly
dispose of the used equipment that will cost taxpayers more to send back
home than it would cost to replace.
The latter boiled down to cost analysis and the question of whether a
piece of equipment was worth the cost of shipping it from Afghanistan
back to the United States. Equipment being moved out of Afghanistan must
first be "reset" back in the United States. That means it first goes to
a depot to be overhauled or repaired before sending it to a receiving
unit. There is a big price tag for transportation and for that kind of
repair, and it is often more cost-effective to purchase new equipment.
The 17th CSSB Commander, Army Lt. Col. Brian Formy-Duval, summed up the battalion's accomplishment.
"If you take all of the 20-foot equivalent units we processed and put
them end to end, it would stretch for nearly 38 miles," he said. "Our
Soldiers put nearly $200 million back in to the Army supply system; the
annual budget for the City of Topeka, Kansas."
The battalion also saved more than $40 million in transportation costs
by preventing unwanted materiel in Afghanistan from being shipped back
to the states. This reduction in transportation also translates into
more than 1,600 Soldiers kept off the road and out of harm's way because
they weren't moving unnecessary equipment on dangerous roads.
The 17th CSSB's mission success was largely due to its strategy of
forward interdiction of materiel throughout Afghanistan and responsible
retrograde by ensuring only needed equipment and supplies were brought
back into the Army supply system. Forward interdiction was essential,
because the process filtered valuable and needed materiel from the
surplus or unusable.
By the time materiel passed through the six forward retrograde elements,
located throughout Afghanistan, into the two retro sort yards, which
served as the main sorting and shipping hubs and were located in
Kandahar and Bagram airfields, only essential and cost-effective
materiel was sorted and returned to the U.S. military inventory with
much of it going to Army depots to be reset for later use by Soldiers.
With the reduction of U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan from 38,000
troops to 9,800 during 17th CSSB's tenure, there was a lot of work and
coordination to be done in setting conditions with Operation Enduring
Freedom to officially become Operation Resolute Support Jan. 1, 2015.
Until recently, civilians and contractors augmented the CMRE mission and
worked alongside military personnel. However, with the transition to
Resolute Support, the military stepped aside and the civilians and
contractors took the lead and covered down on this important mission.
As the 17th CSSB handed off their mission, Army Brig. Gen. Flem B.
Walker Jr., the 3rd Sustainment Command's (Expeditionary) commanding
general, praised the battalion for its accomplishments.
"The CMRE mission you have performed has been critical in the
responsible return of military equipment from the battlefield to the
U.S. and has been vital to sustaining the readiness of forces around the
world," Walker said. "The bottom line is that the 17th CSSB helped
sort, track and transport equipment as the logistical arm of CMRE. You
have saved the Army millions and have done so at what can simply be
called one of the most historical times in our nation's history. This is
truly amazing work by an amazing team."