Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Marines shuttering major base as Iraq mission draws to close

by GySgt. Katesha Washington
2nd Marine Logistics Group

CAMP TAQADDUM (Nov. 3, 2009) — Marine Corps participation in Operation Iraqi Freedom is drawing to a close, and Marines and Sailors are preparing equipment for shipment back home or to other parts of the world.

As part of the departure, one of the Marine Corps' largest bases in the country is on its way to being in the hands of the Iraqi government once again.

Drawdown operations are in full swing at Camp Taqaddum, a base located about 50 miles west of Baghdad in western Anbar province. Before the base was in the hands of American military commanders, it was used as an Iraqi Air Force base during former president Saddam Hussein's dictatorship. Today, it is a vastly developed base that occupies approximately 12 miles of desert land.

Lately, forklifts, flatbed trucks and tow vehicles have been the main source of traffic aboard the base as units continuously send equipment and gear to Afghanistan or back to the States. But as the deadline gets closer for TQ, as it is locally called, to be returned to the Government of Iraq, those still left here acknowledge the enormous responsibility they have on their plates and are experiencing a nonstop operational tempo.

"They have done phenomenal," Lt. Col. David P. Grant, commanding officer, 2nd Maintenance Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 27 (Forward), said of the progress his Marines and Sailors have achieved in the cleanup of the Lakeside area of the base since arriving in September 2009.

"This [cleanup and retrograde mission] is not what we asked for and this is not what we expected, but this is what we got and the small unit leaders have been critical in [getting the job done.]"

Although the retrograde and cleanup of the southern expanse of the base is one of the top priorities of the battalion, it is not the number-one priority. The battalion is ultimately still responsible for providing general combat logistics support to all outlying units within Anbar province.

"The biggest concern is making sure we support the warfighter while we continue with our cleanup efforts. When we are down to the last toolbox, if a unit needs support at that time, we have to be able to provide that support," Grant explained.

When Grant's battalion arrived at TQ, they took responsibility for general support in Anbar province and for the cleanup and closure of Lakeside from 2nd Supply Bn. At that time, 2,007 pieces of equipment and gear were still awaiting movement to either the Marine Corps Logistics Command (Forward) retrograde lot here or to the camp's scrap yard.

Since then, they have significantly dwindled down the number of items left to be retrograded to a remarkable 1,265.

One platoon in particular that is helping to make a dent in the battalion's overall stock has disposed of or retrograded 67 percent of their inventory. Staff Sgt. Scott A. Motroni, Engineer Ordnance Maintenance platoon commander, Maintenance Co., 2nd Maint. Bn., said his platoon makes an average of two scrap yard runs per day and has thus far disposed of approximately 40,000 pounds of scrap material.

Motroni added that when they arrived at TQ in August, the platoon had 163 assets on its records. Nineteen of those assets were sent to the Defense Reutilization Management Office and 91 were sent to the Material Redistribution Center in Afghanistan for follow-on use. He said the remaining assets will be sent to the Marine Corps Logistics Command (Forward) for redistribution to the U.S. or to Afghanistan. They also sent 38 large shipping boxes of repair parts and miscellaneous equipment to Afghanistan.

Motroni credits his Marines for the substantial progress the platoon has made in their retrograde efforts.

"Our key to success is our Marines' determination to accomplish the assigned mission in the time frame given. We truly have an outstanding group of Marines and without their efforts we wouldn't have been as successful otherwise," Motroni said.

PHOTO: Marines load an oversized floodlight onto a flatbed truck at Camp Taqaddum, Oct. 21. Marines and Sailors with CLR-27 (Fwd) are participating in the responsible drawdown by removing equipment and gear from Iraq.

May you walk with the LORD always, and when you cannot take another step, may He carry you the rest of the way until you can walk along side Him again.

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