CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq -- A company of Marines here might have simultaneously the most important and least glamorous job in Iraq.
Virtually everything coming in and going out of theater, from vehicle parts and lumber to office supplies and uniforms, first goes through Marines at Supply Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 15, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward).
If you wear it, drive it or build it, chances are good they had something to do with shipping it there.
“We get the right gear to right places… and we insure the war fighter has what he needs to keep pushing forward,” said Staff Sgt. Daniel R. Poole, head supervisor for Storage/Shipping, Supply Company.
With acres of lot space, four storage bunkers and a dozen separate work sections, the scope of their operations exceed that of a typical warehouse. They directly support the Iraqi Army and police departments, U.S. and coalition forces, as well as other supply units throughout Iraq.
“We’ve supported all the (military) branches out here at one time or another,” said 2nd Lt. Melissa A. Wright, officer in charge of Customer Service, Supply Company.
The company averages more than $1 million of equipment a month to “walk-ins,” unit representatives who schedule an appointment and “shop” for the needed supplies, but this accounts for less than one percent of their monthly totals, according to customer service records.
Most units place an order and have the supplies shipped directly to their area of operation, or AO. Each AO has their own customer service specialist who handles the needs of all its units. From combat boots to caffeine gum, the company tries to meet every reasonable request, said Wright, a 24-year-old from Alburnett, Iowa.
This division of labor is no different on the distribution lot. Starting this deployment rotation, individual Marines began accounting for all shipments to their designated areas – Fallujah, Habbaniyah and Al Asad, to name a few.
“That’s the only way to do it,” said Staff Sgt. Calvin Brown, head supervisor for freight operations at the Material Distribution Center, Supply Company. “If we had 10 people doing the same thing, and somebody made a mistake, we wouldn’t know (who made it.)”
“Each Marine has a piece of that 500-pallet pie,” added Brown, a 38-year-old from Columbia, S.C., commenting on the typical workload the MDC handles every week.
Sometimes the workload appears overwhelming.
“You see the line of containers and sometimes you wonder if the trucks are ever going to stop coming in,” said Cpl. Brittany E. Patrick, night-crew administration specialist in charge at the MDC. “(But) every unit in theater is going to ship their gear through us, and we’ve got to ship it wherever it needs to go.
“We work with what we’re given, and we try to get it pushed out quickly,” added Patrick, a 26-year-old from Indianapolis.
The MDC only sends the gear after it’s counted, sorted and packaged. Another work section takes care of this part of the process.
“This is the linchpin of the entire operation,” said Poole, a 33-year-old from Atlanta. His section, Storage/Shipping, receives the order requests, retrieves the supplies from storage and consolidates the shipments.
Their job is painstaking, he said, and requires precise inventory from every Marine in the section.
“We’ve initiated a 100-percent, quality-control process, and the Marines are committed to it,” said Poole. “They know that war fighters out there need that gear, and they take a sense of pride in (their job).”
Another group is responsible for building containers to hold the supplies. Unlike some of the other sections, the Marines at Preservation, Packaging and Packing (P-3) rely more on working together than personal accountability.
“Everything is teamwork out here,” said Sgt. Rene A. Fuentes, operations manager at P-3, Supply Company. “They all know that things have to get done, and I know I can depend on them.”
Fuentes, a 23-year-old from Laredo, Texas, says his section is also responsible for making the boxes used to send personal items of wounded or deceased service members back home: “It definitely takes some getting used to.”
From receiving the initial order request to the moment the shipment leaves Camp Taqaddum, Marines with Supply Company play a large part in arming the soldier, sailor, airman and Marine with what they need to continue the fight.
“Every unit in theater is going to send their gear through us,” said Patrick. “We’re going to do our job and ship it to wherever it needs to go.”