Equipping Iraqi troops with gear to fight an enormous task
June 29, 2005
BAQUBAH, Iraq — Capt. Julius Boyd is a supply officer for an impatient and under-equipped army.
Boyd, 36, of War, W.Va., is tasked with handing out the uniforms, guns, computers, night-vision goggles, trucks and the dozens of other pieces the Iraqi army needs. He’s trying to outfit an entire brigade, more than 3,500 soldiers, with enough gear to fight their own war.
“Come on! Come on! Come on!” he yelled Monday morning at a group of Iraqi soldiers who had come into Forward Operating Base Gabe for their daily pickup. “Move! Move! Move!”
The Iraqis responded, though few spoke English. They’ve learned the routine.
Almost daily, a group of Iraqi soldiers comes with three or four trucks to pick up supplies at Gabe. The soldiers are from the 2nd Brigade of the 5th Division of the Iraqi army, and they live on an adjacent Iraqi base.
Each day, Boyd has his inventory list of serial numbers and quantities to track just how much is going next door. It’s a test to make sure the equipment — all paid for with U.S. money — goes to the right soldiers within the designated units, Boyd said. As a part of an advisory team helping the Iraqis train their army, Boyd tracks the shipments by paperwork, makes the Iraqi officers do the same, then compares the lists.
Here’s a sampling of what Boyd has given out in the past 90 days: 4,430 uniforms, 2,016 helmets, 870 flak jackets, 123 handguns, 26,000 pairs of underwear, four copiers, three ambulances, 141 pairs of binoculars and 451 pairs of running shoes.
“We’re dressing them from top to bottom,” he said.
In all, $5.2 billion has been allotted for training and equipping Iraqi security forces.
On Monday, he gave out 892 pairs of boots, enough for one battalion, he hopes. He also gave out three computers, a printer, a copier, a fax machine, radios and field stretchers.
Shortly after 10 a.m., Boyd got a call on his radio that 66 jeeps for the Iraqi army were outside the base, waiting to be escorted in. The shipment of trucks wasn’t expected Monday, and Boyd had all he could handle handing out uniforms, Nike shoes and exercise outfits.
There were no Iraqi soldiers around to help with unloading, so members of the advisory team scrambled to drive the jeeps off the tractor-trailers, a slow process because half of the advisers were at an off-base meeting.
Later, Boyd went over to the Iraqi base because he was worried its brigade commander might not distribute the jeeps down to the smaller battalions. He also had to talk to the Iraqis about preparing their soldiers for the daily delivery.
Monday morning, the Iraqis were out in the heat and sun for hours, and no one had packed any water or food. They repeatedly asked the American soldiers for water, and were repeatedly told no. The scenario happens often, but the Americans want the Iraqis to learn to plan for themselves, Boyd said.
In the last two months, the Iraqi Ministry of Defense has begun paying for a small portion of its army’s needs, according to the advisory team at Camp Gabe. The ministry’s two main responsibilities right now are food and water.
“I understand,” Boyd said of the Iraqis’ impatience to get and use their new equipment. “If you never had something, and someone says they’re going to give you something?”
But Boyd does worry about where it goes. He updates his records daily to show what he’s given out. He’s concerned that some soldiers might lose things, or that they might sell items on the black market.
Unless the gear is damaged during work, there are no replacements, he said.
“At some point,” he said, “it’s going to stop [coming].”