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LOGCOM (FWD) takes burden from warfighter

By 1st Lt. Caleb Eames | | May 28, 2009


AL TAQQADUM, IRAQ - Through the vision of the commanding general, Marine Corps Logistics Command has provided full-spectrum logistic support to the warfighter by leaning forward into theaters of combat operations in recent years.

“When you set a vision, there is always a little apprehension because you’re never quite sure if your vision will become reality,” said Maj. Gen. Willie J. Williams, commanding general, LOGCOM.  “Having been here at this command for four years, and being able to watch the vision unfold, it is such a rewarding experience, and I just feel very fortunate and very blessed to have been given the opportunity to command an organization such as Marine Corps Logistics Command.  LOGCOM (FWD) has done remarkable things.  It is very telling to watch the readiness of the warfighter increase as a result of our forward deployed Marines and civilians.”

Elements of LOGCOM first deployed to contingency operations in Iraq in 2006, when the first Marines deployed to receive gear from the warfighter as far forward as possible. 

This allowed the ground unit to turn in their gear quickly, and remain focused on their mission.  It also allowed LOGCOM (FWD) to take over the mission of retrieving gear from the operation and bringing it back to U.S.

“We provide an economy of force to support the Marines who are forward deployed, all in order to make them more effective,” said Col. Joseph K. Haviland, commander, LOGCOM (FWD).  “The real test of our success is not what I say, it is what the Marines who we support say.  If they are satisfied with what we are doing, then I feel that exemplifies our value. This success will absolutely continue in the future and continue to get better.  That is the pattern that we’ve seen thus far.  We have built off of our own success.  The warfighter keeps asking us to do more, and because of our agile ability, we continue to provide value added service.”

Since the first unit deployed here in 2006, there have now been other forward detachments assigned to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait and Kandahar, Afghanistan.  And those deployed aren’t just Marines.  LOGCOM now has approximately 80 deployed civilian contactors who do much of the work on the ground for the command at deployed locations.

“Here we have a formerly non-deployable unit that did not leave the fence and that was depot-centric,” said Sgt. Maj. Stephen Balczo, sergeant major, LOGCOM.  “After talking to the commandant of the Marine Corps, the CG was able to get us over here into theater, and to aid the reset and redistribution plan close to the fight.  This worked fantastic in Iraq, and is also going to save tremendous amounts of time by enabling us to get the Afghanistan piece up and on its feet quickly.  Major General Williams’ foresight two or three years ago is paying off tremendously for the Marine Corps now.”

Lt. Col. Don Mills, LOGCOM (FWD) Kuwait commander, has seen the difference LOGCOM has been able to make for the warfighter.

“I truly believe that Marines who are forward have an appreciation for that rock being taken out of their pack,” he stated.  “Being able to turn in their equipment quickly and get on a plane and go home without worrying about anything else really helps morale.  LOGCOM (FWD) being out here taking on that responsibility for them is a big plus for them.”

Master Gunnery Sgt. Howard Kaiser, LOGCOM (FWD) Kuwait Marine Expeditionary Unit Augmentation Program staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge, works daily to ensure those on the ground have the best possible equipment as quickly as possible. 

“Without this LOGCOM (FWD) team here, the Marines in Afghanistan would not have the equipment they need in an expedient manner,” Kaiser said.  “We are absolutely helping the warfighter.”

Kaiser oversees the equipment repair and distribution that takes place in Kuwait.  Contractors working for LOGCOM there have a complete rebuild facility for vehicles that are sent from the staging area in Al Taqqadum, Iraq. 

“We do complete rebuilds of motors, transmissions, frames, almost everything that can be done at the depot level can be done here in Kuwait by our contracted third country nationals,” Kaiser said.  “This saves the time of sending the vehicle back to the U.S., and these guys can do 50 vehicles a month.”

Capt. John Bacon, LOGCOM (FWD) Iraq operations officer, assists with accepting gear from the ground units in Iraq. 

“We support the warfighter for retrograde purposes for the assets that need to move out of theater,” Bacon said.  “We accept their equipment through a very simple process.  We want to make it as easy as possible for them.  Once we accept the gear from them, the responsibility is all on us to move the gear out of theater, that way they get to concentrate on other missions they have before them.  This has been the ultimate success for LOGCOM by allowing us to focus on our logistics mission and better support the warfighter.”

As Bacon spoke, the 2nd Supply Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, was in the process of turning in four Medium Tactical Replacement Vehicles.  Gunnery Sgt. Shonta Tidwell, motor transport chief, was interacting with the LOGCOM contractors at the turn-in area. 

“The process was easy,” Tidwell said.  “We just prepared the paperwork, and then we drove the vehicles down here.  Once here, we verify everything is accounted for at the drop off point, and then they take it from there.”

Bacon continued, “The lot at TQ covers 66 acres, enough to hold a large amount of equipment.  We have about 1,200 vehicles on the lot now, and if our current lift support continues, they should all be shipped out by mid-June.  We get these vehicles turned around quickly.”

LOGCOM’s largest customer in Iraq is Multi-National Forces - West, which has responsibility for the majority of western Iraq.

“We’ve been here for six years now, and we have a very large amount of equipment that we have to get out of here,” said Sgt. Maj. Kip Carpenter, sergeant major, MNF-W. “As MNF-W, our responsibility has to be to get the gear to a certain point, and then it requires LOGCOM to be able to take it and move it on from there. It is a combined effort between MNF-W, LOGCOM, and the rest of the Marine Corps to get all the equipment out of theater, get it turned around, and then sent to the forces that need it.  We can only go so far without LOGCOM, without them, nothing else could happen.”

MNF-W has already begun executing a forward-thinking plan to draw down equipment in Iraq, and is making use of LOGCOM (FWD) capabilities to do so.

“LOGCOM has been able to take a great deal of the burden off of MNF-West,” said Col. Jim Clark, G-4 for MNF-W.  “As we start drawing down our equipment and forces out of Operation Iraqi Freedom, we’ve been able to turn in our excess equipment to LOGCOM in Al Taqaddum, where they process it. They take the whole burden of retrograding equipment off of us.  They’ve been a real force multiplier, enabling us to focus on our mission, while they take our equipment and get it out of theater and help reset the Marine Corps.  LOGCOM is a real valuable team member, and we’re  very glad to have them.”

Marine Forces Central Command also reaps the benefits of LOGCOM’s expertise in moving equipment between operational areas and the US.

“General Williams has been successful in guiding LOGCOM and shaping them into the great logistics organization that they are,” said Terry Moores, MARCENT G-4.  “LOGCOM used to be known as the unit in the rear, but for OIF and OEF (Operation Enduring Freedom), it has been proven that LOGCOM can deploy, and can provide the same level of support forward as they could in the rear. 

“LOGCOM (FWD) has been extremely responsive, able to identify a requirement, fulfill the requirement, and then look forward to anticipate the next situation.  Over the last four years that I’ve been with the G-4, we’ve seen nothing but increased support.  It started in 2006 when the first LOGCOM (FWD) Iraq started receiving gear, and then they went to Kuwait, and then also to Afghanistan.  So no matter where the Marines go in the future, LOGCOM is going as well,” he said.