“Logistics just sort of happened,” Capt. Alexander Zerio said in a phone interview June 9. “I didn’t know what I was getting into.”
The logistics officer with the 2-7 Infantry, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, deployed in December to an area south of Baghdad, Iraq. This is his second deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Zerio said he is proud of the role he plays in one of the largest retrogrades in Army history.
Zerio deals with the movement of equipment, “getting it out of Iraq or getting it to other places as needed,” according to 2-7 Infantry, 1st Brigade public affairs representative Capt. Curt Schulteis.
“The unit is spread across four different locations,” Schulteis said.
U.S. troops are under presidential orders to be out of Iraq by Sept. 1, 2011. After seven years of war, there are literally tens of thousands of “vehicles and containers” and millions of smaller supplies that must be inventoried for repair or refit before being removed from Iraq, according to the Army News Service.
Zerio is just one of many logistics personnel involved in the Army’s immense retrograde.
“Before I got into logistics I just knew we got fuel, got food … and you complained when it didn’t show up,” he said.
Now that he understands the complexities of logistics, he considers it to be “an amazing system that supports everybody. It’s pretty impressive.”
The battalion logistics officer was first deployed to Anbar Province, Iraq, in January 2007. He was a platoon leader, then, he said. Last September, Zerio took on the challenges and responsibilities of logistics.
“When we first got into theater, I was kind of bouncing around between agencies,” he admitted.
But, as time went on he figured out how the system operated and began to “make a lot of things happen.”
“When we showed up, we replaced a much larger unit,” Zerio said.
He said he and other logistics personnel had to determine what soldiers would need daily as troops continued to draw down.
Zerio also is involved in the process of returning bases established by U.S. troops to the Iraqi government, he said. Zerio said the Iraqis he has worked with are ready to be self-supporting.
“They’ve taken great strides,” he said. “I think they want … to be protected by their (country’s) soldiers.”
Although he doesn’t speak Arabic fluently, the logistics officer said learning some greetings and pleasantries has helped him form smoother working relationships with Iraqi government-sanctioned contractors and vendors.
Iraqi contractors do generator maintenance and an “array of services,” Zerio said. Iraqi vendors often supply “one-time” goods for daily operations, he added.
“It’s a way to support the Iraqi economy,” Zerio said.
He compares his job as logistics officer to that of a project manager. He said he is responsible for soldiers’ safety and welfare and for using “taxpayers’ dollars” wisely.
The young officer said he has had a significant amount of on-the-job training, and credits his senior NCO, Sgt. 1st Class Maurice Allen, for ensuring he does his job well.
“He is my go-to guy when I have questions,” Zerio said.
Like most deployed soldiers, the captain puts in 16-18-hour work days.
“I’ve been doing it so long its second nature,” he said.
Zerio attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and was commissioned in 2006. He lives in Savannah, but claims Meriden, Conn., as home. He arrived at Fort Stewart in January 2007.
When deployed, he works out in the gym or relaxes with a “cigar club” on his down time. When he’s stateside, Zerio said he enjoys golf and boating in his leisure time.
Editors note: This is the first installment in a series profiling the men and women of the 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, now deployed to Iraq.