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3rd Sustainment assisting with drawdown
Lt. Col. Alexander Monteith is deployed with the 3rd Sustainment Brigade to Iraq. - photo by U.S. Army photo
The Army’s seven-year stint in Iraq is drawing to a close and the 3rd Sustainment Brigade from Fort Stewart is there to assist with the drawdown.
During a speech to disabled veterans on Monday in Atlanta, President Barack Obama said U.S. forces were on schedule to pull out of Iraq by the end of 2011. The president said by Sept. 1 only 50,000 troops will remain to initiate Operation New Dawn in Iraq. There are about 70,000 troops there now. The Army’s mission is transitioning from advise and assist to support and sustainment.
Logistical officer Lt. Col. Alexander Monteith said although the brigade’s job of assisting with the drawdown has become more routine, soldiers are aware the mission can still be dangerous.
“There is still a threat of enemy action,” Monteith said.
He stressed the mood is calmer now than it was five years ago. This is Monteith’s second deployment to Iraq.
“We have not taken any casualties from IEDs or small arms fire,” he said. “I was back here in 2005 for a couple of months. Combat was much more intense. The Iraqi forces were very immature back then.”
That has changed, Monteith said.
“The Iraqi police are coming into their own. They are really becoming the people’s force,” he said.
The 3rd Sustainment Brigade’s operations cover the northern half of Iraq, including the city of Baghdad, the lieutenant colonel said. He compared the size of the brigade’s assigned area to Idaho.
Monteith said the brigade sends at least 350 convoys a month to deliver mail, supplies, equipment and fuel to Army units. In addition, 3rd Sustainment provides financial, transportation and human resource services.
They also coordinate retrograde of equipment to be sent back to the U.S. to reset facilities for repair or replacement. Some will be sent to Afghanistan.
“If it’s needed elsewhere its going there,” he said.
And some supplies not worth moving – such as tables, chairs and tents – will be left behind for the Iraqis.
“For the most part we are taking a dramatic amount of equipment back,” he said.
The 3rd Sustainment Brigade deployed to Iraq in April.
“We’re almost a third of the way through,” Monteith said. He said the brigade’s mission of sustainment has not changed much. The brigade itself will draw down to 3,200 soldiers. It began with a full force of about 6,000 several months ago, he said.
“Many units are being curtailed and sent home early because they’re no longer required,” Monteith said.
The lieutenant colonel said brigade families seem to be coping better with the deployment now that violence is down.
“The hardest thing for most of our families is most of us have been deployed multiple times,” he said. “Overall people are doing well.”
Even with the stress of being separated from family, Monteith said he has found satisfaction with the mission.
“We had an Iraqi kids’ day recently,” he said.
Soldiers played games with Iraqi children, gave them meals and provided a dental clinic, Monteith explained.
“They were shown the proper way to brush their teeth and wash their hands,” he said. “These are simple things we take for granted.”
Monteith said the interaction between soldiers and Iraqi children built up “the human bond.”
“It’s been a great tour,” he said.

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