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Military shippers say drawdown on track
transcom shipment
Workers load a shipping container from the Military Sealift Command ship MV Virginian onto a flatbed truck in Kuwait as part of the drawdown of forces in Iraq. - photo by U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Shannon Gregory

WASHINGTON -- From pens to Bradley fighting vehicles, 1.7 million pieces of military equipment have been moved out of Iraq so far, as the Dec. 31 deadline for U.S. forces to be out of Iraq approaches, a U.S. Transportation Command official said this week.

"The mission is looking good," said Air Force Maj. John Rozsnyai, who heads up Transcom's joint planning team for the effort.

The drawdown from Iraq, which began Sept. 1 after combat operations ceased, now stands at nearly 60 percent complete for U.S. military equipment, officials said. Transcom has five months to bring home the remaining troops and the last 1 million pieces of military equipment. Rozsnyai told American Forces Press Service in an Aug. 1 telephone interview that he had just returned from a "tabletop" organizing meeting in Kuwait.

"Everything we're seeing is tracking well," he said.

The bulk of equipment is returning to the United States, Rozsnyai said, and the Army claims 90 percent of the load. U.S. Central Command officials decide whether equipment goes back to the United States, to the Iraqis for their forces, or is sent to Afghanistan to help the war effort there, he explained.

Meanwhile, he added, the possibility that the Iraqi government may ask for some U.S. forces to remain in Iraq beyond this year affects decisions about the equipment that has yet to be brought out.

"Part of the equipment uncertainty is whether the Iraqi government will want the United States to stay longer," Rozsnyai said. "Requirements for equipment are being balanced between [Afghanistan and Iraq]," he added.

After destinations are decided, Transcom officials begin the mammoth task of moving troops and equipment.

Iraq's terrain and infrastructure are more favorable for this type of effort than Afghanistan's rough and rocky landscape, the major said.

"It's easy to get a convoy to Kuwait [or] Jordan," he said. "The processes we have in Iraq are working well."

Still, minor modifications would make the roads better for transporting equipment, he said, to provide "wiggle room" if it's needed in November and December. Other improvements are in the works to make Transcom's job easier, Rozsnyai said.

"We're working on improving lines of communication, and a service route for critical, sensitive cargo, to give us another option out there," he said.

But not everything has been moving out of Iraq over land, Rozsnyai said. When it became apparent last summer that one seaport had a high capacity, he explained, Transcom planners saw it as an opportunity.

"That port's capacity will give us a really good handle on airlift capacity and our requirements with the commercial industry," he said.

Commercial air and sea carriers work with Transcom officials to assist in the moves, Rozsnyai said.

For example, he said, a commercial ship returning from taking a load of cargo to the Middle East can stop in Kuwait, fill up with U.S. military cargo, and continue on to the United States. It's more cost-effective to use a ship already on an established route than to pull a military ship out of dry dock and prepare it to make the trips, he explained.

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