BAYJI, Iraq — As the U.S. continues with the responsible drawdown of troops in Iraq, the most important and considerably the biggest task for U.S. forces is returning bases to the Iraqi government.
Since the fall of 2009, Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division out of Fort Riley, Kan., have been working hard at this mission. The 'Ranger' battalion has already turned over two of its smaller bases and is now concentrating on returning Forward Operating Base Summerall.
"[The Soldiers] have done everything from counting every Hesco barrier to counting T-Walls," said Milan, Ind., native Capt. David Lawburgh, the assistant operations officer with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2-16 Inf.
"There's been a lot of work, and it's going to be a continuing project as we draw down and start closing out the American footprint on these facilities that we're turning over," he added.
The Soldiers of Company F, 2-16 Inf. are responsible for coordinating the movement of the equipment from FOB Summerall and consolidating it at Contingency Operating Base Speicher.
According to Staff Sgt. Chris Hoffman, the Standard Army Maintenance Systems-Enhanced and Consolidated Redistribution of Supply Program noncommissioned officer in charge with Company F, millions of dollars worth of equipment has already been recovered and turned back into the Army Supply System.
"[We] consolidate [the equipment] into the different classes of supply and [we] load it into a connex and it gets shipped to [Joint Base Balad]," he said. "The equipment is then either put back into the supply system to be redistributed to other units that are over here or in Afghanistan or even to the States if it's needed over there. For the stuff that's unserviceable, they either ship it back to the manufacturer or destroy it."
Hoffman said that he is proud of the work of his Soldiers and is in awe of how quickly they worked to sort through and turn in equipment that had accumulated for a period of eight years.
"The Soldiers that I've had working with me have been outstanding Soldiers," said the Applevalley, Calif., native. "We only had four and a half months to close down the entire fob and the Soldiers that I had, worked 100 percent and got everything turned in."
The closure of FOB Summerall and other bases like it is seen by many as an event that will be written in history books. For Spc. Ashley Jensen and Staff Sgt. Wayne K. Mathis, both motor transport operatorswith Company F, the base closures represent the accomplishments and the sacrifices that have been made since the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom and are both proud to be a part of the drawdown.
"It feels awesome for me, personally, and I know it feels good for everybody else too in knowing that we're a part of something that made a change," Jensen said.
"[The drawdown] shows that we're making progress and good things are happening, big Army's recognizing it and we're winning," Mathis concluded.
FOB Summerall is scheduled to be returned to the Iraqi government later this month.
This work, 'Ranger' battalion Soldiers prepare to close FOB Summerall, by SGT Shantelle Campbell, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.