Iraq war has ended, but logistical battle still under way

Earlier this month, the U.S. Army ceremoniously rolled and sheathed its flags in Iraq, sending a very clear signal: The war is over. But in the sandy environs of Kuwait, the Army is waging another campaign.

The war might have ended, but the logistical battle to move roughly 4 million pieces of equipment-from armored vehicles to computers stripped of their hard drives-wasn't over by Christmas, as the war was for the troops.

Army logisticians put the timeframe closer to the end of March, when gear moved out of Iraq and into Kuwait reaches its final destination, be it Afghanistan or Wisconsin.

The story of the massive logistical undertaking began with Operation New Dawn in late 2010, when Army and Pentagon planners began to unpack the problem that confronted them: How to shutter the 24 major operating bases across the country.

Roughly 80 percent to 90 percent of the equipment in Iraq is "theater-provided equipment," or equipment that soldiers deploying to Iraq found waiting for them when they arrived, said Army Col. Jeff Carra, chief of operations for the Responsible Reset Task Force at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait.

The other 10 or 20 percent, he estimated, was "organizational property," meaning that if the 1st Infantry Division out of Fort Riley, Kansas, brought 10 trucks to Iraq, then those 10 trucks would be returning to Kansas with the unit.

Of course, equipment of both types accumulates during almost a decade of war-and at the end of the conflict, everything must be liquidated.

Here, in a nutshell, is how they approached the issue, which has so far been a success, according to Army officials and military experts.

Early on, soldiers in the field began crating up nonessential items. "We had soldiers packing up half of Baltimore," Carra said. The 20-foot-by-40-foot containers moved in convoys toward Kuwait, the hub of Army logistics for the Iraq War. As trucks snaked their way south carrying cargo out of Iraq and into Kuwait, the logistical lines "collapsed"-moved southward-as well.

"We were the catcher's mitt," said Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dowd, the commanding general of the 1st Theater Containment Command.

In Kuwait, at Camps Virginia and Arifjan, soldiers inventory and clean any equipment bound for the United States. If it's not clean, it won't get through customs or meet Agriculture Department standards. "The USDA is very, very tough," said retired Army Lt. Gen. Gus Pagonis, who oversaw the drawdown after the Gulf War in the 1990s.

Not everything, though, will make the long voyage across the ocean back to the United States. Some items, like stoves, refrigerators, and gym equipment, stayed with the bases that passed to Iraqi control. Others went to Afghanistan, or elsewhere within the purview of Central Command, the combatant command responsible for Iraq and 19 nearby countries.

Military officials are not saying exactly how much will go where. But how logistics experts make such decisions is a little more clear. The communications process, sped by the Internet, allows them to talk quickly with each interested layer of the Army and Pentagon hierarchy and decide, for instance, whether an item will be sent to a depot in the U.S. or off to Afghanistan. The whole process now takes 72 hours; it used to take three weeks, Carra said.

What's next for Dowd and his soldiers will be getting 1,500 containers off to their destinations over the next 90 days or so, before the logistics coda of the Iraq War terminates-another deadline for withdrawal.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.