News: Avoiding the frustrations of frustrated cargo
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan ― Soldiers assigned to the 415th Military Police Company provided customs training to more than 230 Soldiers from various units at the clamshell here June 12.
Customs and border patrol agents assisted with the training.
With retrograde and redeployment operations at full intensity, it is imperative for unit leaders to ensure they know how to efficiently get their assigned equipment and containers back to home station. Part of that process is ensuring 10 percent of unit members are customs certified.
The training was designed to help redeploying units meet the certification requirements and to provide unit leaders with the assets needed to prepare for the customs inspections that are part of the redeployment process.
Customs inspections are not meant to be painful processes but, if not prepared for properly, they can become frustrating. The customs standard for cleanliness during an inspection is that no more than a pinch of dirt can be obtained from any piece of equipment or container. To some, that standard may seem frivolously high and impractical in a place such as Afghanistan but there are many reasons for such high standards.
“Everything comes back to money,” said Michael Coons, U.S. Central Command customs program manager and lead instructor for the training.
A healthy agricultural industry in the U.S. produces billions of dollars in revenue each year and employs millions of people directly and indirectly. The job of a customs agent is to protect the integrity of the United States’ natural resources from disease and invasive species of insects, plants and animals, which could potentially harm the industry.
If the standards weren’t enforced, faith in the American agricultural industry would erode thus impacting the farmers, the food processers, shipping companies, and grocers, which in turn may cause higher prices for consumers. Moreover, when a disease or invasive species is introduced into our ecosystems the cost of eradication is often very expensive and at times impossible to fully correct.
During the class, Coons illustrated this point by mentioning the emerald ash bore, which has wrecked havoc throughout the eastern U.S. and resulted in the destruction of millions of trees.
“The problem is beyond the ability to eradicate and the government is now trying its best to contain the epidemic,” said Coons.
There is another financial loss that results from improperly cleaned equipment and that is the cost of frustrated containers. Depending on the method used to ship a container, its odyssey back to the U.S. or its territories may include stopping at several ports in various countries before arriving at its final destination. If not properly cleaned, customs officials from those countries, to include the U.S., can refuse the containers entry until it is properly cleaned.
The cost of cleaning and fines is a needless expense the Army ultimately has to pay for. Thus, when time comes to ship unit equipment back to the U.S., knowing the standards and adhering to them can save people time and money.