U.S. Marine Brig. Gen. John Broadmeadow, who heads 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), addresses Marines in April along Route Tiffany in Sangin district, Afghanistan. Logisticians continue to build roads and bases, even as Marines leave the country. (2nd Lt. Scott Murdock / U.S. Marine Corps)
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan — The drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan has required an expansive effort to sort, identify and ship unused equipment stored in theater as the Marine Corps withdraws thousands of troops from Helmand province this summer.
The work will be done by several Marine units as the Corps continues to partner with Afghan forces to build their ability to maintain and distribute their own gear, said Brig. Gen. John Broadmeadow, commander here of 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), out of Camp Pendleton, Calif. Troops at Camp Leatherneck and Camp Dwyer, the Corps’ two largest bases in Afghanistan, are sorting everything from radios to rifle scopes and packaging them for shipment to the U.S.
“Sometimes, it’s just a bunch of things in a box that somebody used a year and a half ago, and it has been sitting in a box ever since,” Broadmeadow said during a May interview. “We bring in technical experts from all over the place, properly classify it, package it up and send it home.”
Broadmeadow’s command already has sent home more than $136 million in unneeded gear, Marine officials said. About two flights leave the base each week packed with gear, and at least 90 pallets of it are staged for shipment at any time, Broadmeadow said.
Marine Corps Logistics Command, out of Albany, Ga., and other units are coordinating the eventual return of vehicles, aircraft and other large items in a separate but related effort.
The sorting mission is one of many for Broadmeadow’s command, which included about 3,400 of the estimated 15,800 Marines in Helmand province as of May. Marine logisticians continue to build roads and bases and train their Afghan counterparts, even as the Corps shrinks its footprint in theater.
In one example this spring, Marines with 9th Engineer Support Battalion, out of Okinawa, Japan, built a new road, Route Tiffany, in the volatile Sangin district that connects to Route 611, the main highway in the region. In just a few weeks there, the Marines uncovered nearly 20 improvised explosive devices.
One blast ripped into a vehicle, killing Cpl. Michael Palacio on March 29 and wounding two of his fellow Marines. Palacio, 23, was assigned to Headquarters Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, according to the Pentagon.
“They lived on that road,” Broadmeadow said. “There was no [patrol base] or anything else while they were building it, and they were out there for a month in about as austere conditions as you can think.”
The push to send equipment home has taken on an increased emphasis, however. First Marine Division (Fwd.) must stay focused on combat operations, so the Corps is working to get ahead of the game before units come off the battlefield by sending teams of Marines to infantry units to examine their equipment, Broadmeadow said.
The Corps also sent a separate 600-man team known as the “R4OG” to Afghanistan this spring to prepare gear to be sent home. The acronym stands for Retrograde and Redeployment in support of Reset and Reconstitution Operational Group. It’s commanded by Col. James Clark, a veteran logistician who commands Combat Logistics Regiment 17, out of Camp Pendleton.
Clark told Marine Corps Times in April that his group was focusing on items that are typically repaired by Marine expeditionary forces.
“A lot of radios, some ordnance items, and other odds and ends,” he said. “We’ll receive those from units that are off-ramping from Afghanistan, or excess supplies they may have. We’ll pack them, and then we’ll be responsible for doing all the systems stuff to make sure they go to whatever MEF happens to be on the tab to receive those items.”