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SDDC moves longest-serving units in Iraq to home stations.

Aboard a flotilla of ships, the longest-serving Army units in Iraq are coming home.

The equipment of the 1st Armored Division and the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiments were shipped aboard nine Military Sealift Command ships in July and early August.

Originally scheduled to return home in April, the units were abruptly extended 90 days in Iraq to help pacify an outbreak of violence.

The harbor is busy at Ash Shuaiba, Kuwait, as thousands of combat vehicles of every size and purpose are staged in long lines for loading.

They do not wait long. Ship-after-ship comes in and SDDC Southwest Asia deployment and distribution managers study stowing plans and direct the seemingly endless flow of equipment ... M-1 tanks, M-2 Bradley fighting vehicles, Trucks, HMMWVs move forward in a slow and patient line.

The stately gray-bottom hulls of the Military Sealift Command are ready ... familiar names made more so by their numerous trips with Operation Iraqi Freedom cargoes: USNS Carlton, USNS Antares, USNS Cape Island, USNS Gibson, USNS Gordon, USNS Brittin, USNS Denebola, USNS Pomeroy, and USNS Benavidez ...

They will speed over 7,100 pieces of equipment of the 1AD's to home stations in Germany and the 2nd ACR's home station in Fort Polk, La.

The highlight of the operation was July 28 when seven vessels were enroute to Europe and the United States returning equipement.

"This is the first big surge for SDDC's newest organization and I am proud of our Soldiers who are working 24/7 in temperatures over 120 F. degrees," said Col. Tom Harvey, commander, SDDC Southwest Asia.

"This is the essence of deployment and distribution operations."

Homeward-bound Soldiers greatly assisted the SDDC movements.

During nighttime loading on the USNS Gordon, Sgt. Michael Hunter reflected on the SDDC operation.

"We will be here driving equipment until it is done and then, finally, we're heading home," said Hunter, of 1AD.

Originally the units were to leave in April. Faced with unrest, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld extended the unit's tours on April 15. In all, 20,000 Soldiers were affected-about a quarter of the troops were attached National Guard and Army Reserve personnel. The Soldiers reacted quickly to the order. Some Soldiers impacted by the order had already been moved back to Kuwait. Some advance party 1AD Soldiers were already in Germany.

The positive communications from the 1AD command group made the extension easier, said Maj. Joyce Oakley, a division liaison officer at the port.

"The command group did an excellent job communicating to the division," said Oakley. "They were very open and honest about the extension. The troops did want to go home, but we knew we had another mission.

"In fact, a lot of our equipment had already been brought to the port. The SDDC team was very helpful in turning us around and getting us back into the fight."

Oakley said 1AD troops excelled at their work.

"They cleared out many weapons in Karbala with the assistance of a Polish brigade and Ukrainian Soldiers," said Oakley. The division also traveled down to An-najaf, southwest of Baghdad, one of the holiest Shia Muslim sites in the world."

Now, said Oakley, the Soldiers were ready for home and SDDC was part of the solution.

"We very much appreciate the support we have received in getting our equipment and Soldiers home."

Cdr. Randall Ramian, Public Affairs Officer SDDC Southwest Asia
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Title Annotation:Surface Deployment and Distribution Command
Author:Ramian, Randall
Publication:Translog
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 2004
Words:561
Previous Article:SDDC Southwest Asia forms to run theater moves.
Next Article:Small units play big role in SDDC operations.


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