The ongoing reduction of U.S. forces from Iraq brings with it an enormous logistical challenge. As recognized in a 2008 projection by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, “The redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq, a process the Department of Defense (DoD) refers to as ‘reposturing,’ will be a massive and expensive effort. As of March 2008, for example, there were about 173,000 pieces of equipment in Iraq, worth about $16.5 billion, that will need to be returned to the United States. The redeployment process following Operation Desert Storm in 1991, a much shorter war, lasted at least 14 months. DoD guidance emphasizes the importance of early planning for this redeployment process …”
AMC, as the executive agent for resetting the Army, is addressing that challenge through the operations of the Responsible Reset Task Force (R2TF).
Established at the direction of AMC Commander Gen. Ann Dunwoody, the R2TF, dubbed “a catcher’s mitt” by some, consists of a small forward-deployed AMC element that works closely with Army Central Command (ARCENT) and United States Forces – Iraq (USF-I) to facilitate a range of actions on equipment leaving theater.
As the former chief of operations for the R2TF, Col. Steve Shapiro recently returned from nine months in Kuwait that included the standup of the task force organization.
“From my perspective, the purpose of the R2TF is to ‘bridge the gap’ between the tactical operations that AMC is supporting and the strategic mission that AMC has for resetting the Army and building strategic depth,” explained Shapiro. “We have a view on what is being retrograded, when it is being retrograded, and where it is going,” he said, “and we can link those ‘pieces of information’ and create knowledge for the strategic planners back at AMC to do things like workload depots, work on refit of brigade combat teams, and APS [Army Prepositioned Stock] rebuild – again, building that strategic depth.”
Equipment that is inspected and determined to be not economically repairable is transferred to the Defense Logistics Agency and its Defense Reutilization Marketing Offices for demilitarization and possible commercial sales.
“The R2TF is not going to be an ‘enduring presence,’” Shapiro observed, “but it is definitely going to be a ‘multi-year presence.’ I believe that you will certainly see it in place until the drawdown is completed in Iraq, but I also believe that you will see a version of it until drawdown occurs in Afghanistan as well.”
Choosing his words carefully, Shapiro reflected on recent FY 10 activities and accomplishments. “The drawdown is certainly being quantified,” he noted, “but we want to describe things on an unclassified basis. So let me just say that FY 10, from a retrograde perspective, will more than double what happened in FY 09. And the impact of that is going to be on those FY 10 and FY 11 rebuild programs for resetting the Army. And that is a ‘great news’ story.”
“You will see tens of thousands of pieces of rolling stock coming back,” he added. “And you will see hundreds of thousands of other pieces of equipment coming back. And it is all under AMC’s control. This is an amazing contribution toward resetting the Army for the future.”
Asked if he can identify two or three recent accomplishments that bring a special sense of
pride to both the R2TF and AMC, Shapiro was quick to offer a caveat acknowledging the hard work and accomplishments of many organizations throughout the Department of Defense.
“That said, when we first got there on the ground, the ‘process’ for AMC to determine disposition of equipment was a 10-day process,” he said. “So AMC would be notified of a piece of equipment that was no longer required in theater. And it would then take AMC about 10 days before the item at the RPAT [Redistribution Property and Assistant Team] yard in Iraq or Kuwait was cleared. That has now been reduced to less than four days and we think we can get it further reduced to less than two days by working with LOGSA [AMC’s Logistics Support Activity] and doing some things with automation.
“In addition, when we first went to the AOR, prior to standup of the R2TF, we asked USF-I what they needed from AMC. USF-I had a process in Iraq where they would take the equipment that was no longer needed and put it on an Excel spreadsheet. That was followed by a vetting process to determine who needed that item and, if nobody needed it, successively moving it up levels of potential users. Now AMC has completely automated that process. LOGSA did it with a program called TPE [Theater Provided Equipment] Planner,” he said.
The Web-based TPE Planner tool automates the TPE disposition receipt and vetting process, recording and documenting decisions and directives at all levels, and providing RPAT yard equipment visibility and management capability for more than 233,000 pieces of equipment in the TPE Planner.
“LOGSA took that USF-I challenge head on,” Shapiro continued. “And TPE Planner is now the tool of choice in Iraq. In fact, they now want it in Afghanistan and I believe that we will be implementing it there later on this calendar year.
“And those are just two of many recent accomplishments that AMC points to with pride,” he added.
Looking toward the coming year, Shapiro offered, “This is not necessarily locked in stone, but I think what might occur during FY 11 is that the R2TF will remain in place, with a huge focus on the retrograde out of Iraq, but also converting, at some point during FY 11, into the initial stages of the retrograde out of Afghanistan.”
When asked to forecast challenges that he envisions over the next few years, Shapiro said, “I think the big challenge will be in converting those lessons learned from Iraq and applying them to Afghanistan. I am not talking about a ‘cookie cutter approach’ here. Clearly Afghanistan is not Iraq. We must understand the lessons learned and then take those things we are doing well in Iraq, and where appropriate, apply those to Afghanistan. We must also take those things we might not be doing as well or are definitely not applicable to Afghanistan and figuring out a process that will work there.”
In all of his observations, Shapiro is quick to recognize the teamwork and contributions of organizations throughout the armed forces.
“With SDDC [Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command], for example, my office was a matter of a few feet from their commander’s office. I was in his office at least twice a day and he was in my office at least once a day, just coordinating about items at the port and the movement and flow of those items. We also had meals together several times a week, just so that we could continue to talk business. So I would definitely offer that the R2TF and the SDDC had a ‘hand and glove’ type of relationship that has contributed to program success,” he said.
Shapiro also pointed to other success factors come from CONUS-based elements, like AMC’s Sierra Army Depot.
“We sorted a lot of equipment in Kuwait – thousands of containers,” he said. “And in the spring of 2010 we reflected that Sierra Army Depot has true expertise in this process based on its similar activities in California. So, from our AMC operation forward, we e-mailed Sierra and they sent their deputy commander and their chief of operations to Kuwait to: First, look at what we are doing in Kuwait; and second, see how we might do it more efficiently. And they made a bunch of suggestions to the contractor and to the ARCENT units there.
“Moreover, they are also going to help by taking some of that workload and burden off of the folks in Kuwait and transferring that to Sierra, where, quite frankly, they are set up to do it,” he added. “So, if you see what some believe to be a ‘waterfall’ of equipment coming into Kuwait, they will try to peel things off that waterfall for direct shipment to Sierra. So Sierra has a large intellectual presence forward, soon to be followed with what I believe to be a small physical presence. And then, relying on their core competencies, they can help us work through those processes that need to be addressed. This is the type of relationship that will grow over time, because it relies on core competencies that Sierra does well.”
Offering an R2TF message to the warfighter on the ground, Shapiro asserted, “R2TF is working on the responsible Reset of equipment that is being retrograded, to get it back into the warfighters’ hands as soon as possible, for both training and to protect dwell. We are helping to get them what they need so that they can conduct normal training operations and then get back home with their families. It may be a fourth or fifth order effect, but I think that R2TF is making a contribution in protecting the dwell time for the Soldiers and their families. I don’t know if that’s something that a lot of people would echo, but it is a personal issue for me and it is a big deal for all of the people at AMC.”
Expanding the message to a broader audience, he added, “For the Army as a whole, as this equipment gets retrograded it is a piece of the puzzle for ARFORGEN [Army Force Generation]. Units are going to go through ARFORGEN, where they are going to receive ‘new buy’ equipment and other types of equipment. And R2TF supports that cycle by helping to put these brigades together again, at the correct point in the cycle, so that they can train and be ready.”
This article was first published in U.S. Army Materiel Command: 2010-2011 Edition.