171st Movement Control Team returns from deployment to Kuwait, Iraq
Soldiers of the 171st Movement Control Team from the National Training Center and Fort Irwin returned home to the embrace of loved ones and a huge welcome from leadership, here, Dec. 14.
At a redeployment ceremony, NTC and Fort Irwin Commander Brig. Gen Ted Martin and the 916th Support Brigade commander, Col. James Kazmierczak, received the 11 servicemembers after a deployment to Kuwait and Iraq in May 2013. The small unit falls under the 1916th Support Battalion, 916th SPT BDE from this military installation. The team conducts movement control missions, and in Iraq, the 171st Soldiers helped with the mission of shutting down forward operating bases.
The 171st commander, 1st Lt. Bruce Martin, was happy to be back.
“I don’t think it’s hit me yet, but it feels good so far,” Martin said.
The unit’s non-commissioned officer in charge, Staff Sgt. Joel Leopard, was all smiles from getting hugged by girlfriend Katie O’Brien, after the unit was dismissed from a formation. This was Leopard’s fourth return from a deployment, having served in Afghanistan once and Iraq three times. He never imagined returning to Iraq, but he finally got to see Baghdad, and was proud of his unit’s accomplishment of getting equipment out of that country.
“The highlight was being able to help close down bases,” Leopard said.
Martin said his unit’s assignment was very unique. His Soldiers performed material recovery element missions by going to FOB sites, along with the Army’s 574th Quarter Master Supply Company (from Grafenwoehr, Germany), and investigate the accountability of equipment. They would determine if items would be destroyed, retrograded to Kuwait or stateside Army depots, or provided to the Iraqi’s. Equipment retrograded is refurbished and re-issued to Army units, Martin said.
Some of the challenges of the mission included dealing with thousands of customs clearances and working in a country that didn’t allow Soldiers to carry weapons. Iraq is not a completely safe country yet, Martin expressed.
“It was a hostile environment,” Martin explained. “Every other day we either heard or saw reports of gun fire, explosions. You have a general perception of an Iraq that it’s relatively peaceful. It’s not that, by any means.”
The U.S. State Department and contracted security provided protection to the unit, who traveled in pairs on helicopters, said Martin. Most of the unit is composed of junior Soldiers, with the NTC and Fort Irwin being their first duty station. The young Soldiers, sometimes separated over a distance of 200 kilometers, handled their mission with high proficiency, said Martin.
“They raised and surpassed any expectations that their noncommissioned officers set out for them,” Martin said. “I am happy with their performance. They showed a lot of independence and maturity that I would expect of [sergeants]. They worked well above their pay grade.”
The unit took well-deserve leave during the holidays. January will see the Soldiers of the 171st return to the mission of supporting rotational training units, here. As transportation management coordinators, the 171st Soldiers are involved with the movement of personnel and equipment into and out of the NTC and Fort Irwin.
“If something needs to move from point A to point B, somewhere in that loop there’s a [transportation management coordinator] making it happen,” Martin said.
The 171st MCT was attached to the 402nd Field Support Brigade (of the Army Sustainment Command, Rock Island, Ill) in Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, with forward assignment to the brigade’s 402nd Battalion Southwest Asia. In Iraq the unit covered five areas of operations in: Baghdad Embassy, Baghdad International Airport, Taji (Forward Operating Base Hammer), Besmaya, and Embassy Military Attaché Security Assistance (FOB Union 3 in Baghdad). The 171st conducted Iraq-Material Retrograde/Mobile Redistribution Property Assistant Team operations in support of the normalization of United States-Iraq relations.
The 171st MCT was also integrated with the 574th Quarter Master Supply Company in order to provide movement coordination for items identified for retrograde. The 171st identified more than 2,700 items to be retrograded, such as weapons, radios, counter IED equipment, force protection equipment, trucks, trailers and forklifts. The unit’s Soldiers took the lead in interagency and multinational operations transporting equipment into and out of Iraq, which required Kuwait and Iraq customs clearance; the 171st MCT successfully acquired more than 3,000 Iraq customs clearances and more than over 400 Kuwait customs clearances.