'Logistics Warriors' in Iraq not distracted from support mission
LOGISTICS BASE SEITZ, Iraq — Sgt. Scott Cross, Spc. Desiree Dufur and Spc. Youlanda Madison looked over the town of Abu Ghuryab on Thursday from the security tower on their small base north of Baghdad.
Their time passed without incident, but it’s not always this quiet.
On any given day, Abu Ghuryab is either the first or the second nastiest town in all of Iraq, according to Maj. John Silverstein, 541st Corps Support Battalion’s executive officer.
“We’ve been hit probably 25 different times with anything from AK-47s to mortars,” he said. “We’ve received 16 wounded over a six-month period.”
The soldiers call it “little Mogadishu,” Cross said, because “they’re fighting us as well as themselves.”
An area map of Baghdad hangs on the wall of one of the base’s offices. Small red marks signifying attacks on coalition forces are spread out around the map. A tight cluster of marks covers the area around Logistics Base Seitz.
And even though the area is dangerous, there’s no 82nd Airborne troops, or elite forces helping guard the logistics hub. Defense of the base is provided in-house, Silverstein said.
The closest thing Seitz had to regular infantry troops was an MP company that left Thursday.
“Because of all the measures we’ve done we can stand alone,” he said, “we don’t need a combat arms unit.”
Recent visits by Army force protection officials have confirmed the troops’ soldiering skills are as good as their supply skills.
The more than 1,000 soldiers from 11 quartermaster, maintenance, transportation and chemical companies provide support for what Silverstein estimates is 18 percent of the entire coalition force in Iraq.
They prefer to be called ‘Logistics Warriors’ — as in suppliers of food, fuel and water.
“We do every class of supply the Army does except for class 8 and class 5,” Silverstein said. “Class 8 being medical [supplies] and class 5 being ammunition.
“Every vehicle in greater Baghdad that needs fuel comes to us, military or [coalition-driven] civilian,” he added. “ [We’ve delivered] about 19 million gallons of fuel in a five-month period. We’ve made over 27 million gallons of water in a five-month period.”
They’ve also issued nearly 1.5 million Meals, Ready to Eat and 452,098 cases of bottled water. To make all these deliveries, they’ve driven about 750,000 miles.
“We are the largest logistical battalion, with the largest logistic mission for a battalion, in Iraq,” Silverstein said.
The battalion has about half active-duty Army soldiers and half reserve or National Guard troops. None had worked together before arriving at Seitz in April.
“Never in my wildest dreams would I think I’d deploy with ... National Guard troops, reservists and regular Army,” said Command Sgt. Major Vaneta Vaughn.
“They came together and mixed together just like our motto: ‘An Army of One,’” Vaughn said. “I can’t tell the difference [between them] any more.
“The thing I love about having the reserve and National Guard trips is they bring so much to the table,” she said. “They bring their civilian job skills as electricians, carpenters ... and plumbers.”
Those skills were put to use to rebuild the base, which once housed members of Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Republican Guard.
“Everything you see here we built on our own,” said Silverstein. “When we came up here ... This place was full of crap, on fire and full of dead things.”
Silverstein said the battalion had three goals during construction.
“The mountains we’ve climbed since we got here,” he said. “Mission support ... the force protection issue ... and our MWR to take care of our soldiers.”
As Spc. Thomas Steele of the 542nd Maintenance Company waited to check his e-mail at Seitz’s Internet cafe, he said that the battalion has done a great job of taking care of the soldiers.
The cafe has a bank of telephones for soldiers to call home. Most of the soldiers, with the exception of the battalion’s senior leadership, now have air conditioning in their workplaces and improvised barracks.
Then there’s the 20-foot movie screen, complete with a popcorn machine in the snack bar. Soldiers also pointed out their regulation concrete basketball court and sand volleyball court.
Living here is the closest thing to a desert oasis that they will probably ever see. The only problem with this oasis is that it’s mortared occasionally.
But the soldiers on Seitz take everything in stride. They take the mortars, they take the heat, and they take all of the supplies for coalition forces in central Iraq.
“We’d take over the world if they’d let us,” said Silverstein.