Iraqis learn the efficiency, complexity of U.S. logistics
January 11, 2009
CAMP TAJI, Iraq — Sometimes Gatorade is crucial to the fight in Iraq.
The blue, red and green bottles, along with a mix of energy drinks, are stacked at U.S. outposts throughout Iraq. They turn up on convoys at joint security stations and are available in bulk when soldiers are sweating through long summer days in 120-degree weather.
“Sometimes the Gatorade can be more important than fuel,” said Capt. Bryan Williams, commander of Company A, 225th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.
The constant availability of sports drinks is one example of the complex and efficient U.S. supply system in Iraq. But among Iraqi authorities, such support is hard to find. Most posts are left to fend for themselves in a decentralized, “fly-by-night” system, Williams said.
Often, Iraqi soldiers pool money from their paychecks to buy food and supplies for their operations center. For missions, Iraqi officers are given stacks of cash to supply troops through the local economy.
“They will go and purchase local food from vendors,” said Williams, 36, of Redlands, Calif.
Meanwhile, funding for supplies such as beds and vehicle parts is not available. “The central government is really hoarding the parts and the money,” he said.
The Army is trying to pass along some supply expertise to the Iraqis as U.S. operations are scaled back under the new security agreement. Williams and his company are an obvious model. The company has provided food, water, fuel and other services to more joint security stations than any other company in Iraq since it deployed about 13 months ago, according to Williams.
At its most busy, it supplied 16 of the joint outposts around Camp Taji — twice as many as the previous unit and with half the manpower, Williams said.
“If you can dream it, we supply it,” he said.
The supply trips, which now include 13 joint stations, are planned days in advance for security and accuracy. Most deliveries are made late at night to reduce the U.S. presence in the area.
The company has been teaching embedded Iraqis the supply system, which includes an emphasis on the importance of non-commissioned officers and the need for safety. Overall, the logistics battalion said it has trained about 1,400 Iraqis in various fields.
The first embedded officer went back to his unit and created an NCO position one week after the training, which was a signal the training is taking root, Williams said.
On Thursday, 1st Lt. Nakesha Moultrie of Company A was pointing to her computer screen at Camp Taji, showing a young Iraqi officer a diagram of a joint security station that would be supplied the next day. The map showed traffic patterns, buildings and the classes of supplies for each area.
“I think it is important to show [the supply convoy] pictures so they can visualize where they need to go,” said Moultrie, 35, of Georgetown, S.C.
Lt. Abbas Fadhel, a transportation platoon commander with the 9th Iraqi Army Division Logistics Battalion, spent a day learning the planning process for convoy security and a day traveling with the company on resupply missions.
Abbas said he would apply the planning and coordination methods to his supply fleet, which moves supplies from a nearby airport to storage centers in the area.
But his job will not include moving any food or beverages to army stations.
“Right now, each unit gets the money and supplies themselves with food and water,” Abbas said.