Support our mission
 
Site manager Brad Chase says the warehouse stores about 10 million rounds of ammunition, much of it designated for Iraqi police and army forces.
Site manager Brad Chase says the warehouse stores about 10 million rounds of ammunition, much of it designated for Iraqi police and army forces. (Anita Powell / S&S)
Site manager Brad Chase says the warehouse stores about 10 million rounds of ammunition, much of it designated for Iraqi police and army forces.
Site manager Brad Chase says the warehouse stores about 10 million rounds of ammunition, much of it designated for Iraqi police and army forces. (Anita Powell / S&S)
The main warehouse floor is a constant flurry of activity, with jumpsuited workers moving pallets or cleaning.
The main warehouse floor is a constant flurry of activity, with jumpsuited workers moving pallets or cleaning. (Anita Powell / S&S)

ABU GHRAIB, Iraq — In this corner of Baghdad, one can find many of the tools needed to rebuild Iraq.

A 750,000-square-foot warehouse floor holds everything from Iraqi police and army uniforms, bullets, weapons, computers, cars and trucks, office and school supplies, medical equipment, power cables, industrial equipment — in short, all the tools needed to help Iraq’s new government become functional.

“This is the premier facility for rebuilding Iraq in the country,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Garrie Denson, who oversees the warehouse’s operations for the Project and Contracting Office, an arm of the U.S. Army. “It’s a constant ongoing process. It’s a huge operation out here.”

In the last year, said logistics director Jack Holly, about $3.2 billion worth of equipment has been purchased, most of it designated for the Iraqi army and police forces. Much of that equipment has passed through the warehouse.

“Every (Iraqi) soldier, from the socks on his feet to the uniform he wears to the weapon he carries to the vehicle he travels in to the fuel that goes in that vehicle, it goes through there,” he said.

Between 50 and 60 trucks chug in and out of the campus daily, carrying supplies far and wide. Nine hundred truckloads of cargo are shipped in monthly and individually counted, stacked and labeled before being stored in one of 27 warehouses. Employees are constantly cleaning, making improvements to increase capacity and to improve security to the campus, which is owned by the Iraqi government. The operation costs about $1.5 million a month, said site manager Brad Chase.

The place is staffed mostly by Iraqis — Iraqi workers report to Iraqi section leaders and managers, who report to the mostly American contractors.

“Organization equals accountability,” said Chase, who said the warehouse’s Iraqi staff “take this very seriously. We created an environment where they’re respected. We listen to all of them.”

But outside the compound walls, the workers — many of whom don’t even tell their families where they work — face daily danger.

In recent weeks, two employees were murdered on the road outside the gate. The next day, nearly 40 workers and 20 supervisors quit, Chase said.

For most of the warehouse’s roughly 300 workers, however, those dangers are worth the steady pay and the sense of pride Chase says he sees in many of his workers.

“Personally, they’re investing in it,” he said. “One manager spent his own money to do landscaping, to do concrete work.”

The warehouse’s receiving manager, retired Army Master Sgt. David Palmer, said success is what brought him back to Iraq for a second year, just three months after he returned from an active-duty tour.

“I enjoy my work,” he said. “I really feel we’re accomplishing something. We’ve had 15 workers get married, have babies. Our workers are moving forward with their lives.”

Palmer said he’s witnessed another positive indicator: a shift in government demand from guns to butter.

“It used to be mainly weapons and ammunition,” he said. “We are seeing more of a trend toward education and medicine. I do like to see that we’re moving towards taking care of the families.”

In the future, however, hangs a big question: Will the Iraqi government fairly manage and maintain the facility after the Americans leave?

“They’re fearful,” Chase said of the warehouse’s employees. “What they’re afraid of is the suspicion of Saddam-era corruption, where the Ministry of Transportation will bring in all their brothers-in-law and make money on the place. We’re all afraid of that.”

Migrated

stars and stripes videos


around the web


Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up