MANAS, Kyrgyzstan – As operations come to a close in
Afghanistan, the transient mission at Manas Transit Center,
Kyrgyzstan, has begun to steadily decrease, with many
services and facilities beginning to close their doors. Many
soldiers and airmen stationed here have already begun to
pack their bags to begin their long awaited journeys home.
The mission, however slowed, still requires warm
bodies to fill key positions. The plate carrier collection
point (PCCP) warehouse is one of those important components,
requiring dedicated soldiers to ensure that the men and
women traveling to Afghanistan remain as safe as possible.
With soldiers of the 371st Sustainment Brigade
re-deploying in early February, soldiers of the 143d
Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) have answered the call
and will close out plate operations in Manas until mid
MANAS AIR BASE, KG - U.S. Army Specialist Christopher Hattaway (left), intelligence analyst,
Spc. Chanel Coco (center), support specialist and Staff Sgt. Anthony
Sabato (right), intelligence analyst, 143rd Sustainment Command
(Expeditionary), inspect and exchange plates at the plate carrier
collection point on Feb. 1, 2014. They look for any rips, tears or
cracks in the ceramic plating that might endanger the lives of
deploying service men and women.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Ian Shay)
"Soldiers going downrange need serviceable
plates," said Sgt. 1st Class Edward Elliot Jr., operations
noncommissioned officer in charge and the acting PCCP NCOIC,
143d ESC. "The 371st soldiers that were here were top notch
and they drilled it into us how important this job is."
The 143d ESC sent seven soldiers to run, operate and
close down the PCCP warehouse, most with limited to no plate
operation experience, and all with various skill sets and
"They have been outstanding," said
Elliot. "Not everyone has a supply background, but everyone
is willing to learn and been very receptive. High
motivation. We are open 12 hours a day, and we are running
the entire operation with as many Soldiers as the 371st had
on one shift."
The 143d team gave out praises when
asked about their training and transition with the 371st SB.
"From the first day they welcomed us in," said Spc.
Christopher Hattaway, intelligence analyst, 143d ESC. "There
was a lot of information; It felt like they were feeding us
with a fire hydrant,. What they stressed was accountability,
so they there is no loss in inventory that could cost the
tax payer dollars."
"The transition was very easy,"
said Sgt. Gabrielle Hopkins, PCP warehouse NCO in Manas and
a supply sergeant and unit armorer, 143d ESC. “They [371st]
stayed late nights, all the way up to the day they left.”
The 143d ESC team includes two soldiers from Intel, two
with support operations backgrounds, one from operations,
one communications soldier and one with headquarters
"This has been a great opportunity,” said
Hopkins. “It brought people from different sections
together, "The others get to see that supply is really a
hands-on field and I enjoy getting to show other soldiers
what I can do."
"We all fight the same," said
Hattaway. "You do your soldier skills first, and everything
falls into place."
Although the PCCP can seem dull
at times, the soldiers of the 143d ESC realize what's really
"One a scale of one to ten, it's an
eleven," said Hattaway. "If [deploying] soldiers are taking
small arms fire or if there is an explosion . . . if they
are wearing proper plates, it can save their lives."
Hattaway knows the importance these plates make as he
regularly wears a protective vest when working as a police
officer with Cocoa Police Department in Florida, "I do not
go anywhere without [my vest]," said Hattaway. "That's the
only thing between me and an active shooter that can save my
life." "Getting to make sure soldiers get the same quality I
In less than two weeks the team has processed
more than 1,400 service men and women. The process involves
the inspection of each plate, swapping good plates for
defective ones, making minor repairs and adding inspection
stickers to expired plates.
The ceramic plates can
break relatively easy, either by being banged around in a
duffel bag in transient or by simply dropping one on the
"A common occurrence is soldiers dropping
plates," said Hattaway. "As soon as it hits the ground, it
can crack or shatter."
"Because they are ceramic, the
first initial impact can cause cracks, so once a Soldier
drops a plate in line, we take it." said Spc. Chanel Coco,
support specialist, 143d ESC.
The team starts off by
briefing the servicemen and women passing through on the
process, after which they inspect each plates exterior for
rip and tears in the composite backing that surrounds them,
missing or expired inspection stickers and most importantly
for cracks in the plates themselves.
"The last thing
we do is push the plate against the table and listen for any
crackling sounds, if it's cracked we pull it from service
and issue a one for one exchange," said Hattaway. "The
crackling sound lets us know it's damaged."
plates are then removed from service immediately, but plates
with missing or expired stickers are updated on site and the
team even fixes the rips and tears surrounding the plates.
"If we find a rip or tear, we can burn more material over
the exposed parts [using a sauntering gun]," said Hattaway.
"That is why you get plates that look a little burned on the
corners; it is because they have been repaired."
Afterwards Hopkins' supply experience allows her to assist
each soldier with installation support modules (ISM), which
gives her the ability to add and remove items from clothing
records to reflect the issue or re-issuing of plates and
"I try to keep soldiers abreast of
new things that come up, how to clear clothing records and
how to use ISM correctly,” said Hopkins.
The work has
been rewarding for the 143d ESC soldiers as they rarely see
deployers and re-deployers during their time in Kuwait.
"Unlike back in Kuwait, we are having a firsthand effect
on the soldiers going down range," said Elliot. "We are
seeing soldiers going into harm's way, and we are doing a
small but important part in ensuring they get home safely."
As fewer transients pass through the PCCP team will
transition from issuing and re-issuing plates to focusing
more on completing shutting down the warehouse.
can't just throw away plates,” said Elliot. “Each plate is
worth more than 500 dollars. We are trying to be good
stewards of tax payer money."
The remainder of items
left in the warehouse will be shipped by the 143d ESC team
to either the new transient center in Romania or back to the
The six-week mission has already given
the 143d soldiers a great feeling of accomplishment, as they
help safeguard the lives of the servicemen and women closing
out one of the last historic chapters of Operation Enduring
By U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ian Shay
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