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Iraq update: Drawdown is on target
Col. Shawn Morrissey - photo by Photo provided.
The 3rd Sustainment Brigade will be “second to last to turn off the lights” in Iraq as the 3rd Infantry Division draws down said brigade commander Col. Shawn Morrissey by phone Thursday. Morrissey said his unit is tasked with sustaining troops during a historic and large-scale retrograde operation.
The 3rd Sustainment Brigade has more than 3,700 troops, some of whom are deployed to Kuwait and Afghanistan as well as to Iraq. This deployment is the brigade’s fourth deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, or Vanguard, is scheduled to deploy to Iraq in July.
Morrissey and his men deployed in April. They provide the 3rd ID logistical services such as postal service, finance, transportation and human resources in addition to
providing and maintaining supplies and equipment. The brigade’s area of operation stretches from Baghdad, in the center of Iraq, northward to the northwestern border with Turkey, the brigade commander said.
The colonel compared the enormous scope of the current retrograde to Operation Magic Carpet in World War II, when a vast amount of American military supplies and equipment were moved out of Europe.
“It’s normal — we’ve been here for seven years,” he said. “It’s just time now to finish the mission and move ‘tons’ of stuff. It’s what we do while we are sustaining.”
According to the Army News Service, the government earmarked $11 billion to fund the retrograde in Iraq. Equipment currently being moved out includes “tens of thousands of vehicles and containers” and millions of smaller supplies, the news service recently reported.
Morrissey said the 3rd Sustainment Brigade will “move equipment to where it needs to be,” and said his soldiers are more than capable of accomplishing their sustainment and retrograde missions.
The colonel said retrograded equipment and supplies will be moved in multiple directions.
Some supplies and equipment will be moved through Turkey and Kuwait for eventual shipment to Afghanistan, he said. Some equipment will be sent back to the United States to reset facilities for repair or replacement. Some gear can be fixed in Kuwait, he said.
“It’s a very complex system. It’s very efficient when you balance it against the volume … that’s built up after seven years,” Morrissey said.
The colonel said his soldiers are prepared for the unexpected in Iraq.
“It’s a very dynamic environment,” he said. “Thing can change quickly here.”
Still, the troops have presidential orders to be out by 2011, and that is what they intend to do, Morrissey said.
 “Our most precious resources are our soldiers,” he said. “We have all the proper training and all the proper equipment. They are prepared. Yes, things do happen but our soldiers are trained. They’re ready to protect themselves as we do travel.”
Morrissey said Iraq forces are taking the lead and there are fewer violent incidents now than there were years ago.
The commander said his troops’ morale seems to be holding up well, too.
“We have great junior leaders — the soldiers are all volunteers. They know what the Army is about,” he said. “Many of them have had multiple deployments. On the professional side, they are well-trained and disciplined soldiers who know their mission and they do their job every day.”
Morrissey said his soldiers work long days and “go to bed at night with pride.”
“The morale of soldiers is often (dependent) on job satisfaction,” he said.
Morrissey said on the personal side, soldiers’ utilize post facilities to relax and socialize when they’re not working. They spend time in Internet cafés, using Skype to catch up with loved ones at home or meeting with fellow soldiers.
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