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15th Sust. Bde. takes on larger role in Iraq drawdown

Feb 16, 2010

By Staff Sgt. Rob Strain, 15th Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs

CONTINGENCY OPERATING LOCATION Q-WEST, Iraq -- The 15th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), assumed command and control over two more Combat Sustainment Support Battalions Jan. 15, making it the largest brigade currently deployed to Iraq.

The brigade is composed of seven battalions totaling more than 7,000 Soldiers from Victory Base Complex in Baghdad to Habur Gate along Iraq's northern border, said Col. Larry Phelps, the 15th Sust. Bde. commander.

"We're on the front-leading edge for the entire theater in terms of the way the theater will do business for the remainder of this mission," said Phelps, a Greenville, Ala., native.

As the drawdown progresses, the brigade must look at a number of factors, including procedures, personnel and equipment, to ensure the right support is provided to the Soldiers still in theater.

"As the mission evolves with the maneuver forces, the mission also has to evolve with logistics," he said. "We have to be smarter, we have to look at ways to become efficient, and not just effective."

"It's not just do more with less," Phelps said. "It's do the right stuff with the right force."

With the addition of the new battalions, the conditions have been set for the future of logistics in Iraq, and when the 15th Sust. Bde. is replaced, the tactics, techniques and procedures are all in place for the remainder of the mission in Iraq, Phelps explained.

The changes mean the "Wagonmaster" family has taken on a larger support role, over longer distances and slightly different mission sets, Phelps said.

Along with the changes, the brigade's Special Troops Battalion has taken over command and control for all finance and human resources units across the entire country, he said.

The brigade's new battalions will face new roles and changes to the way their missions had been done as well.

The 541st Combat Sustainment Support Battalion will be the transportation spine that moves cargo north and south from Contingency Operating Site Marez in northern Iraq down to Camp Adder in southern Iraq as the drawdown kicks into high gear, said Lt. Col. Paul Dismer, the 541st CSSB commander.

The changes will make the transportation system less complex and more reliable, Dismer said.

"This is a better way of doing business, and we are proud to be a part of it," he said.

The 541st CSSB has been conducting driver's training to ensure that each Soldier in the transportation companies can properly drive the vehicles they need to drive, Dismer explained.

"Furthermore, the 541st is taking in excess property from outlying [forward operating bases], processing it, containerizing it and shipping it out of theater," Dismer said. "To date, the retrograde yard and its supporting [mobile redistribution team] has put over $12 million worth of property back into the Army inventory for reuse and moved out over 159 containers worth of excess.

"All of this is being done with calm, confidence, and competence because we have great Soldiers who are professional and understand that it is necessary if we are to successfully support the increase in retrograde operations and eventually leave theater," Dismer added.

The 80th Ordnance Battalion is also working to reduce the amount of equipment in theater.

"To date we have brought over $225 million back into the Army supply system," said Maj. Bryan Rider, the 80th Ord Bn executive officer.

In addition, the 80th has been posturing United States Forces - Iraq with responsible drawdown assets through the heavy equipment transporter maintenance services and the container repair yard , both one-of-a-kind operations in Iraq, Rider said.

For the 80th, the mission has not really changed, but has rather become more focused.

"The first half of our deployment we focused on efficiency improvements," Rider said. "The new mission feels like a continuum of the first half of the deployment with the focus shifting more from posturing to executing responsible withdrawal."

Phelps is confident the new members of the brigade team will work smoothly together to accomplish the mission.

He also thanked the leaders of the 90th and 96th Sustainment Brigades, whom had control of the new battalions before the 15th.

"They have been terrific partners and made the difficult task as easy as it could be," Phelps said of the two brigades.

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