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In the rear with the gear: Logistics Command completes equipment retrograde

By Art Powell | | April 15, 2010

The massive logistics operation that began in January 2007 to retrograde Marine Corps equipment out of Operation Iraqi Freedom ended April 9 when the final pieces of equipment were processed through Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, and the Kuwait Naval Base.

The Multi-National Force-West completed the turn-in of Principle End Items on Feb. 10. As of April 2, of the 121,143 PEIs received at LOGCOM-Forward, 32,807, or 27 percent, are currently en route to the United States; 14,701, or 12 percent, have been redistributed in-theater; and 73,635, or 61 percent, have completed retrograde and shipped to depot or other maintenance or storage facilities. All equipment was washed, prepared for customs processing and transportation, as needed, using Marine Corps personnel and contractors.

“MCLC-Forward operations ended in Kuwait and Iraq Friday,” said Col. Ben Braden, chief of staff, LOGCOM. “It means those forward operations will now be relocated to Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan.”

The retrograde was completed a month ahead of schedule, and Braden credited the Marines on the ground in Kuwait for that accomplishment, plus the fact they provided logistics support for military operations in Marjah, Afghanistan, the biggest offensive since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan.

“What we did for the retrograde was the first time in history for us, and it wasn’t off-the-shelf doctrine,” said Braden, who deployed as commander, MCLC-Forward operations, Oct. 30, 2009 – March 5, 2010. “We’re capturing lessons learned on how this retrograde worked and how could we do it better and how do we could do it again, so when Operation Enduring Freedom ends, we’ll be ready to get out of there.”

LOGCOM is assessing OIF retrograde operations to translate lessons learned into Marine Corps doctrine.

“We need to transfer those lessons learned to determine if doctrine needs to be changed and, if so, where and how, and are we doing the appropriate work at MCLC-Forward for the operator, are we value added to them, are we hindering them? That’s the feedback we’re looking for so we can determine our role,” he added.

OIF retrograde operations revealed issues that were dealt with on the spot, and it also provided a venue for LOGCOM to demonstrate one of its benchmark capabilities.

“It proved that Marine Corps Logistics Command is a solutions-based logistics organization,” Braden said. “The fact we were on the scene and the warfighter could continue his fight up until the end and then turn the equipment over to LOGCOM, and for us to find out as far forward as we can what to do with that gear, was value added.”

That procedure helped depots schedule workload more efficiently and allowed LOGCOM to put equipment back into the fight faster, said the chief of staff.

“I’m proud of all the Marines who are forward, they did a good job,” Braden added.

One of those Marines is Lt. Col. Kyle J. Nickel, commander, MCLC-Forward, who oversaw retrograde operations since Braden’s return to the continental United States, and will move them to Afghanistan.

“There is no more Marine Corps equipment coming out of Iraq, everything is washed and certified for agricultural requirements and is approved to come back home,” Nickel said.

Seeing the end of the Marine Corps equipment retrograde out of Iraq, and being part of it, is something Nickel feels will become more significant as time passes.

“It’s tough to appreciate the significance of it now. Ten or 15 years from now, we’ll look back and see the significance of this large redeployment of Marine Corps equipment. There probably hasn’t been anything of this size since the Korean War,” he said in an interview from Kuwait.

Nickel echoed Braden’s remarks that MCLC-Forward has evolved since its arrival in Kuwait in 2007, and has been flexible in responding to changing needs.

“Absolutely, we were learning as we went along. This is not the Marine Corps’ core business. Our core business is amphibious operations, where Marines go in with their gear for 90 or 120 days,” he said. “To do something like this, where Marines are not redeploying with their gear, where they are turning it into LOGCOM and we’re handling that whole redeployment, there’s nothing in Marine Corps doctrine that shows that.”

What LOGCOM has learned from forward operations will be applied to not only OEF operations from the Marine base at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, it will also be applied to developing Marine Corps doctrine for future retrograde operations.

“There was no Marine Corps ‘book’ written for doing this, so, we’re writing the book. The Marines here have performed well and so have our contractors,” Nickel added. “The lessons learned from MCLC-Forward operations in Kuwait will now be applied to similar operations in Afghanistan.”