BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan – The 10th Sustainment Brigade, Task Force Muleskinner, operates the largest supply support activity in the Army here that supplies Soldiers and supports retrograde efforts.
The Bagram SSA currently supports approximately 85 percent of customers located throughout the Combined Joint Operations Area-Afghanistan. It serves as a hub for equipment to be issued or retrograded, which assists in getting equipment back in to the Army supply system.
Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Niles, logistics liaison noncommissioned officer in charge, and Spc. Jaime Rivera, Shindand liaison, both assigned to the 419th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, unpack equipment at the Bagram supply support activity August 28, 2014. Soldiers at the SSA support Soldiers and civilians in the area of operations by ensuring they are properly supplied and equipped to maintain unit strength enabling strategic and operational reach. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Luis Saavedra, 10th Sustainment Brigade PAO)
More than 2,000 accounts are supported, which include accounts transferred from five SSAs that have closed since the arrival of the brigade and transformed in to forward issue turn-in points. On an average month, there are more than 35,000 receipts processed at the SSA.
Muleskinners assumed responsibility as the single sustainment brigade in Afghanistan February. Since then, the brigade planned for the synchronization and rapid execution of the sustainment of Soldiers and transition of equipment to ensure mission accomplishment.
It is not the first time the brigade has conducted sustainment operations in Afghanistan and managed the SSA.
“The 10th Sustainment Brigade has established processes, sufficient life-support capacity and access to transit routes to permit the redeployment of materiel and equipment in the same way that we have effectively deployed, sustained, and recovered forces throughout the brigade's two deployments in the past four years,” said Col. Willie Rios III, Houston, native, 10th SBDE commander.
The SSA plays a critical role in ensuring the sustainment and retrograde support missions are successful. Its mission is broken up into five major functions: receipt, issue, storage, turn-in and stock control.
Although every area is important, there is an area not listed that some may consider the most important.
“We are in the business of customer support,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Nicholas Penna, Springfield, Massachusetts native, 10th SBDE accountable officer. “Our number one goal is to satisfy customer demands to assist with their mission.”
The deliberate and rapid execution of the transition of equipment in theater is critical to supporting the strategic mission in Afghanistan.
Items identified to be retrograded are laid out for a customs inspection. After items have been cleaned and sorted, they are packed and shipped to an Army depot.
“I feel that without the retrograde section, equipment would not get back in to the Army supply system,” said Sgt. Eric White, Brooklyn, New York native, retrograde noncommissioned officer in charge assigned to 10th SBDE. “We are able to save the Army money. The 10th Sustainment Brigade meets the needs of the nation by being good stewards of our taxpayer's and nation's resources while facilitating the transition to the next phase of the mission.”
White said that during the initial phase of his mission, his team was packing approximately 40 boxes a day to be retrograded. He said the tempo has decreased and he believes the base closures and transfers may have something to do with it.
The brigade has successfully retrograded more than 3.4 million pounds of equipment, which equates to approximately 350 twenty-foot equivalent units. The success may be attributed to the brigade's deliberate process to transition equipment responsibly to maintain mission readiness at optimal levels.
Muleskinners have saved the Army more than $750 million by retrograding equipment back to the U.S. and approximately $700,000 redistributing equipment back to the warfighter.
“The 10th Sustainment Brigade ensures Soldiers and civilians in the area of operations are properly supplied and equipped to maintain Soldier and unit strength enabling strategic and operational reach providing armed forces with the endurance needed for mission
success,” said Rios.
Although retrograde is critical to mission success, the brigade has a mission to sustain the warfighter as well.
The SSA also plays a major role ensuring forces employed forward are able to sustain mission success through constant and deliberate logistical coordination and support of U.S. military equipment and personnel.
“You don't have a Walmart or Auto Zone in Afghanistan,” said Penna. “You cannot just go to the corner store and buy what you need.”
He said items ranging from office supplies to vehicle repair parts have to be requested through the SSA.
“We keep the fleet going,” said Penna.
The SSA has more than 12,000 different items in stock to facilitate delivery of equipment to units.
“After some demand analysis was conducted, we know these items are the most commonly ordered by our customers,” said Penna. Items that are not readily available get requisitioned through the Defense Logistics Agency, General Services Administration or other agencies.
The SSA is always open, which helps get supplies to customers within 24 hours if possible.
Penna said he has identified the most efficient route to get items to customers quickly, which is a priority in the Muleskinner brigade.
As with most teams, a single person cannot do it alone.
“Working with tactical level sustainment as well as strategic retrograde has been a great learning experience,” said Penna.
“Taking on the retrograde mission is unique. I have a great team and I'm proud of how the SSA looks compared to how it was when we started operations.”
The SSA will continue to operate well in to the next phase of the mission. The Muleskinner team assigned to ensure it operates flawlessly will redeploy soon and transfer the mission to other logisticians who will continue to make history.
By U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Luis Saavedra
Provided through DVIDS
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