CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan -- Tracking equipment required to sustain missions for an infantry battalion in a combat zone may seem like it would be the work for an entire battalion itself. For 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, the supply shop consists of only five Marines.
The supply section is the responsible holder and maintainer of all of the battalion’s gear, equipment and supplies. The job seems intimidating, but the Marines seem to have found their rhythm in order to keep everything organized and flowing smoothly.
“We have roughly $117 million worth of equipment under the battalion commander,” said Staff Sgt. Andrew Smith, supply chief, 1st Bn., 2nd Marines. “Currently, we have five Marines in the section, and normally in the rear you would have little sections of where the paperwork would go. Out here, you have to be able to multitask and work interchangeable portions, all our Marines do the same job. We (each) have our little role that goes into each process, but we double-check each other.”
In a noncombat environment, a supply shop is designated into various sections with more than one Marine responsible for each section. For the supply shop of 1st Bn., 2nd Marines, all five Marines are responsible for working those different sections in order to keep the workloads flowing.
The reduced number of Marines running the shop is not the only thing that is different for supply on this deployment. The Marines have also had to focus more on retrograding equipment rather than sustaining it.
“Mixed in with (our gear) is Army gear, called Theater Provided Equipment, which is a whole different category in some cases,” said Smith, a native of Kalamazoo, Michigan. “In most cases it’s the same equipment just given to us by the Army, but it can’t go to (Redeployment and Retrograde in support of Reset and Reconstitution Operations Group); it has to go through the TPE process, which can get really confusing when you look at it. You can have two of the same items but one’s Marine gear and one’s Army gear. It looks identical; the only thing that makes it distinguishable is the serial number it’s tracked by.”
“The importance of the retrograde is mainly getting the equipment turned in and managing the accounts, making sure everything is accounted for,” said Cpl. Tyler Vu, supply administration chief, 1st Bn., 2nd Marines. “All this equipment has to be turned into the TPE office or (Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office) for proper disposition to make sure everybody gets out of here in time and the equipment’s not just left here in Afghanistan.”
The supply Marines of 1st Bn., 2nd Marines, hit the ground running and are keeping up with the fast pace of a combat deployment since their arrival in May. Each Marine has contributed to the success of the well-organized supply shop.
“I think we’ve been doing good,” said Vu, a native of Brattleboro, Vermont. “We’ve turned in over $3 million worth of equipment. There’s always going to be a little bit of pressure to turn in all the equipment and properly document it.”
“They’re doing phenomenal, they’re multitasking at its greatest,” said Smith. “We work on average, 14- to 16-hour days nonstop, so with the workload we have and the amount of transfers and amount of tracking pieces of gear, I don’t think there’s anybody who can really compete with what I’ve seen so far.”