By: Capt. Keith Stutts
3rd Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs
JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq - The 13th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 3rd Sustainment Brigade, 103rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), assumed mobile redistribution team operations in 2010.
The battalion provides MRT support for United States Division-North and United States Division-Center, providing mission support for more than 93 forward operating bases, contingency operating bases and joint security stations, focusing on coordinating, synchronizing, reconnaissance, and executing retrograde operations.
Each MRT is comprised of four to six soldiers who have the ability to properly identify each class of supply for disposition instructions, said Staff Sgt. Lewis Shoulder, MRT non-commissioned officer-in-charge with the 289th Quartermaster Company, 13th CSSB, and a Killeen, Texas, native.
The 13th CSSB has managerial oversight for two fixed-MRT yards, one at Joint Base Balad and the other at Victory Base Complex.
Each yard is designed to sort, segregate and process excess cargo received from mobile missions, and then prepare for onward movement to Kuwait or Sierra Army Depot, located in California.
Each yard processes about 100 containers and receives 60 containers monthly. The 13th CSSB has retrograded more than 3,000 containers out of Iraq and returned more than $239 million back into the Army supply system.
Each fixed-MRT yard is augmented with contract workers who have supply service activity expertise. There are 25 workers at VBC and 13 workers at JBB, originally from Panama and Honduras. Their responsibilities are to help the soldiers sort, segregate, and process excess equipment.
The additional support also provides the battalion with the capability to deploy more MRTs throughout Iraq. The 13th CSSB has the ability to strategically relocate workers from yard to yard to fulfill mission requirements as needed.
“I am extremely proud to be a part of such a great operational unit for this historical mission,” said Kevin Peart, site lead with the 13th CSSB, a Newark, N.J., native.
He added that the contract for the Honduran and Panamanian workers will end Sept. 15, 2011. Nigda Guerrero, from Panama, has been a worker here for 14 months, and said she feels that working in the yard is making a difference in Iraq.
“Working in the yard is hard work, but I don’t mind,” said Jose Salinas, a worker and a Honduras native.
Iraqi local nationals are part of a new augment to the fixed-MRT yard at JBB, a Layla Engineer Skyline Company contractor. The purpose for hiring local nationals is to encourage Iraqi economic expansion, promote a habitual relationship between Iraqis and U.S. Forces, and provide a stable income to provide for their Families.
The experience working in the yard has been very rewarding, said 18-year-old Ali Almgdmai, the youngest in the yard.
“I support eight family members by working here in the yard,” he said.
U.S. forces working with local nationals help build relationships between the workers.
“Iraqis have seen that Americans are providing humanitarian services to them,” said Wissam Shiak, Iraqi supervisor and Alhatamiy villager. “There is little to no work in our village, so each worker is very thankful for being afforded the opportunity to work and do our part in cleaning up our country. Each worker’s goal is to work so that they can provide for their families.”
The soldiers and civilians get along very well, said Spc. Rochelle Stokes with the 289th Quartermaster Company, and a Houston native. Stokes added that the work in the yard is very different and hard at times, but with the additional support of the workers it really makes a difference.
Spc. Heather Saturday, a rough terrain cargo handler with the 289th Quartermaster Company, and a Clarksville, Tenn., native, said it was very surprising to see how everyone in the yard works together as a team to accomplish the mission.
Seven years of accumulated equipment is what the MRTs are cleaning up. The 13th CSSB will be leaving behind a historical milestone for years to come.