Story by 1st Lt. Patrick Leroy Beaudry, 2nd AAB, 1st Inf. Div., USD-C
BAGHDAD—Soldiers of Company D, 1st “Dragon” Battalion, 63rd Armor Regiment, 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, United States Division – Center recently handed over Joint Security Station Deason to the 17th Iraqi Army Division.
Closing JSS Deason, where they had spent the previous ten months of their deployment in support of Operation New Dawn, was a difficult task that required several months of methodically-planned equipment and personnel movement in order to maintain security and operational capability while maintaining accountability of millions of dollars worth of government property.
“We knew [Company D] was going to be the last company at the JSS from the very beginning,” said 1st Lt. James Brodhag, former executive officer with Company D, 1st Bn., 63rd Armor Regt. and a Philadelphia native. “This put us in the mindset of figuring out how to close it down for the end. We went in assuming the duties of the previous unit, but with the added knowledge that an exit strategy would be a key component to our deployment.”
The initial planning and coordination began when the company first arrived in December and culminated after the official transfer of custody of the installation occurred. Brodhag created an initial list of property to be turned over to the Iraqi government. As the deployment wore on, many new items were added to the property transfer list while other components were removed. In addition, timelines for property removal changed multiple times during the ten months prior to base closure.
“We were able to quantify our equipment reduction plan and show how our prior planning worked during practical application,” said 1st Lt. Jonathon Chandler, the current executive officer with Company D and a Christmas Valley, Ore., native. “Through repetition we showed the proficiency of our Soldiers, and we eventually had a proofed equipment drawdown plan.”
Perhaps the most difficult portion of the planning was figuring out just who from the 17th IA Div. was going to take responsibility for all of the equipment and buildings Company D was leaving behind. This meant guaranteeing that the 17th IA Div. supply officer could be available to properly inventory the entire property list as well as sign all the related paperwork both before the base closure and again on the final day.
“The Iraqi Army operates much differently than our Army,” said Capt. Michael McClain, commander of Company D, 1st Bn., 63rd Armor Regt. and a Johnstown, Pa., native. “For us, we are deployed for a year straight and are available the entire time except for our mid-tour leave.”
McClain added that coordination must take into account the different schedules of the two armies.
“Significant coordination must be done to ensure the [IA] officer whose name appears on the paperwork will be physically available to sign the associated documents,” he said. “Little things like this can cause the closure process to significantly de-rail.”
The difference in culture between the U.S. and Iraqi armies took some getting used to, but ultimately the inventories and official signing were completed. Company D Soldiers vacated the place they had called home for the past 10 months and rejoined many of their Dragon Battalion comrades at Victory Base Complex, Iraq. The Soldiers of Company D have but one more move to prepare for—the one that will take back home to the United States.