BAUMHOLDER, Germany – As the 170th Infantry Brigade Combat Team prepares to inactivate in the fall, Bayonet soldiers will move on to new assignments, and their stories will move from newspapers to history books. But what will happen to the brigade’s millions of dollars worth of equipment?
Armored vehicles, computer systems, night vision goggles – items like these were expensive to purchase and can’t just be thrown away.
That’s why soldiers and civilians have been working together here since early April to account for and turn in the brigade’s equipment as part of Task Force Harvest.
Task Force Harvest is a program that U.S. Army Europe started in 2005 to allow different units and personnel in Europe to meet in one central location and collect equipment, said Master Sgt. Tracey M. Grinstead, a Chicago native, now the non-commissioned officer in charge of basic supplies collection with 21st Theater Sustainment Command.
The program is a “big money and time saver.” All items collected as part of Task Force Harvest go to a storage location where they can be easily distributed to units throughout Europe as needed, Grinstead said.
Normally, U.S. Army units stationed in Europe would have to order new equipment from the United States. By having quick access to used equipment, soldiers can get their hands on gear they need faster and taxpayers don’t have to front the bill to order new items, Grinstead said.
Bayonet soldiers get the added benefit of not going through one of the biggest steps of inactivation alone. Task Force Harvest provides the means to ensure the turn-in process is completed as quickly as possible, said Jennifer M. Spencer, a Cedar Rapids, Iowa, native, now a logistics management specialist with 21st TSC.
While supply soldiers with 21st TSC are busy receiving, inspecting and processing equipment, Spencer’s team of Department of Defense employees takes care of tasks like quality assurance and statistics analysis.
In addition, German shipping companies move the equipment from the receiving point to storage. The soldiers, Department of the Army employees and German companies all work together to ensure the equipment is efficiently received, accounted for and stored for redistribution, said Grinstead.
This efficiency goes a long way with the volume of equipment the Bayonet Brigade is turning in. While most units commissioning Task Force Harvest turn in items they no longer need, the 170th IBCT is signing over everything they have, Grinstead said.
“[This operation is] much bigger,” Spencer said. “Normally a Task Force Harvest assignment we go into is only a three to five week operation. This one is three months.”
According to Spencer, the Task Force Harvest team has successfully received approximately 27,000 pieces of equipment, worth about $110 million, in a little more than a month.
It’s a great start, but the operation has a long way to go before it’s finished. While a lot of soldiers with Task Force Harvest have had similar missions, this one is on a much bigger scale than anything they’ve seen before, said Staff Sgt. Billy W. Scott, a Houston native, now the floor supervisor for non-sensitive items with 21st TSC.
The unit moving to Baumholder following 170th IBCT’s inactivation, 16th Sustainment Brigade, also sent soldiers to help with Task Force Harvest due to the size of the operation, said Spc. Ivan Alas, a Los Angeles native, now a human resources specialist with 574th Quartermaster Support Company, 18th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 16th SB.
As part of Task Force Harvest, Alas inspects items that are sometimes worth more than $1 million apiece.
“Once I’ve inspected and accepted a part, I’ll sign for it and it becomes my responsibility. You have to be really strict when it comes to taking in that part,” Alas said.
He estimated seeing around 5,000 items go through his inspection station in the last week alone.
Spencer said that knowing the number of items Task Force Harvest processed at the end of each day is a large factor in the team’s motivation.
“On a daily basis we know exactly what we’ve accomplished and that makes me feel good about coming to work, and hopefully the 170th feels good about us being here to help them,” Spencer said.
And the brigade appreciates Task Force Harvest’s presence, according to Capt. John P. Rugarber, a Haddon Heights, N.J., native, now an assistant brigade logistics officer with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 170th IBCT, who’s been working with Task Force Harvest regularly during their mission in Baumholder.
In terms of logistics, the on-post operation has nixed the need for the brigade to spend the time, money and effort it would take to travel to the storage depot and turn in equipment without support, Rugarber said.
On a personal level, “we appreciate the fact that sometimes they’ll stay later then they’re scheduled for [on any given day] to allow us to turn more equipment in,” Rugarber said.
For soldiers turning equipment in, like Sgt. Jose G. Rodriguez, a Lumberton, N.J., native, now the motor sergeant with B Company, 40th Engineer Battalion, 170th IBCT, Task Force Harvest offers another important benefit.
“Motivation,” Rodriguez said. “It gets the guys ready to go on to different things in our careers.”
With every piece of equipment that is turned in, Rodriguez can focus more on helping his soldiers do what they need to properly leave the brigade and prepare them for their next duty station.
“Every time we see a piece of equipment go we breathe a sigh of relief,” Rodriguez said.