Vehicle and equipment packing and moving project part of military pullout
San Francisco, CA -- (SBWIRE) -- 10/02/2012 -- U.S. Army Pfc. Zach Randle is among 23,000 American troops leaving Afghanistan this year as part of President Barack Obama’s military pullout, along with military personnel, the drawdown includes armoured vehicles.
"I don't want to see it again,” said Randle of the 19-ton vehicle he relied on while stationed in southern Afghanistan during a six-month deployment. “It's been through a lot. It protected us, but I'm just in a hurry to turn-it-in to be closer to going home.”
The pullout involved the withdrawal of 10,000 U.S. troops last year. Following the return of 23,000 bound for home this year, 68,000 American troops will remain in Afghanistan helping Afghan forces to take over responsibility for their nation’s security.
Base closure teams have transferred 310 U.S. military bases to the Afghan government, leaving 323 open for now.
American troops preparing to leave Afghanistan are preparing thousands of vehicles and other equipment for shipment to the States. The process involves air shipment owing to the country’s lack of roads and steep, often snow-covered mountain terrain. Shipping is occurring as the war rages on.
From now until the end of 2014, when the majority of American troops will have returned home, the U.S. Military will move roughly 50,000 vehicles and ship about 100,000 metal containers filled with equipment. Items including including night scopes, radios, bullets, nails, and generators must be packaged and shipped.
Brig. Gen. Kristin French, commanding general of the Joint Sustainment Command in Afghanistan, compares the shipping teams to "wedding planners.”
"We are trying to take the burden off the war fighter and give it to our folks who have the mission to do it," French said at her office at Kandahar Air Field. "If we're busy trying to clean up our backyards, we're not doing what our focus is and that is to continue to transition security to the Afghan security forces and partner with them."
Not all military equipment is homebound at this time. Some of it will remain in Afghanistan to be used by U.S. forces stationed until the end of 2014. Other gear will be given to the Afghan government. Equipment that cannot be used will be scrapped or thrown out.
Randle and several dozen fellow U.S. Army soldiers from the 4th Brigade Combat Team 82nd Airborne Division, based in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, are not sorry to see their vehicles and equipment go. They are happy to be returning home.
"They are part of the 23,000 soldier off-ramp," said Lt. Col. Stanley J. Sliwinski, Jr., who assumed command of 401st Army Field Support Brigade in Kandahar in July. "Most of these soldiers will turn in their equipment tonight and they will fly home within the next three days."
Before returning to their families and friends, however, the soldiers will spend about three weeks at Fort Bragg.
Before leaving Afghanistan, the brigade will offload about $18 million worth of equipment, said Army Capt. Matthew Cahill. "I'm glad to get rid of it. It's a lot of stuff — a lot of stuff to keep accountable for. It's nice to finally start making the process back home.”
Cahill, 31, has a daughter who will celebrate her first birthday this month back home in Newburyport, Massachusetts. "I was at home when she was born," he said. "Now, she's standing up on her own so I got to get back."
Pvt. Kevin Patterson, 21, of Carson City, Nevada, said, "Every night when you go to bed and you're in one piece, you think 'Thank God, I'm still here. And when you finish and when you're on your way home like this, you think 'It's amazing. I made it through.'"
Capt. Nicholas Tommaso, 27, of New York state, works at a sorting yard processing electronic vehicle identification codes, transportation control movement documents, green stickers, and bumper numbers. Once he determines a given vehicle’s destination, he orders it weighed and measured to be fitted for air shipment. "We've been moving everything by air now," Tommaso said. "We moved out about 200 pieces in August alone."
Equipment and gear are sorted in another yard. "It's like you opened your garage and you hadn't cleaned it out in a couple years," said Lt. Col. Michelle Letcher, commander of the 18th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion. "We are busy now. We came in July and now we are really ready for people to start pushing the stuff through."
Letcher and other sorting personnel check every item for mould, dirt, insects, and anything else that would hold it up in customs inspections. They record each item’s identification number, attach a shipping label and send the item on its way.
Recently the sorting soldiers found a box full of Louisville Slugger baseball bats. They kept one to bat stones on breaks from their work.
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