FORT BELVOIR, Va., Oct. 31, 2011

DLA Disposal Team Enters Final Stage of Equipment Drawdown in Iraq

On a dusty 22-acre lot on Camp Victory, Iraq, eight people assigned to Defense Logistics Agency Disposition Services are literally straining their backs to make history.

The drawdown of more than eight year's worth of military equipment is in its final stages, and those who aren't helping troops decide whether their equipment should be destroyed or sent home are sorting through heaps of material already turned in for disposal or reuse.

"It's nonstop work in 125-degree weather, 11 hours a day. When soldiers come in not knowing what to do with their property, they'll say, 'I'm just bringing in scrap metal.' But it could be a whole truckload of stuff, and we've got to climb up and dig through it all to find sensitive items that we don't want to end up in our enemies' hands," said Chris Bischoff, a material handler deployed to Iraq from DLA Disposition Services in Columbus, Ohio.

Business has peaked at disposal sites at camps Victory and Al Asad, the only two of DLA Disposition Services' four sites in Iraq still open as U.S. troops complete their final months in the country. Sites at Forward Operating Base Speicher and Joint Base Balad have already closed.

News reports have indicated that almost 3 million pieces of military equipment have been taken into Iraq. Getting it all out has been a major undertaking for her organization, said DLA Disposition Services Director Twila Gonzales.

About 25 people are spread throughout the country helping military members decide what to do with everything from computers to vehicles. There are several options: send it back home for repair and reuse, forward it to troops in Afghanistan, store it at DLA Disposition Services Kuwait, break it down for scrap materials that can be sold, or demilitarize it to remove technology that could be used against the United States and its allies.

"We're being very deliberate about making disposition decisions, whether it's to reutilize material within theater to save transportation costs or moving it back to the United States," Gonzales said. "Our goal is to leave the country environmentally sound, not just leave our stuff behind."

The number of material handlers deployed to Iraq has remained steady throughout DLA Disposition Services' presence there, even with the closure of two sites. Material handlers at closed sites simply moved to those still open, Gonzales said. A handful have also traveled to remote sites to assist the military services' redistribution property accountability teams, which help redeploying troops account for property they've been issued.

"That's been a huge benefit to U.S. Forces-Iraq, and that's why we've tried to stay as agile and fluid as possible," Gonzales said.

The DLA Disposition Services team in Iraq is staffed by material handlers from various DLA locations, reservists and volunteers who work in other parts of the agency. Robert Everett works for DLA Land and Maritime, for example, but volunteered to deploy to Camp Victory because he wanted to support the mission.

"I have the skills they were looking for and some knowledge of demilitarizing property," Everett said.

As a former service member, he said he understands troops' eagerness to get rid of unwanted property, especially at the end of a long operation.

Don Helle, chief of the Camp Victory site, described his team as a hodgepodge of folks with multiple skill sets.

"Some guys like working in the office and others prefer operating the equipment, so we make use of everybody's strengths and also help them become a little more well-rounded at the same time," he said.

Those who've volunteered to deploy to Iraq with DLA Disposition Services are "absolutely passionate about being there," Gonzales added. "It's a lot of hard work, and it's dirty work, but people are out there at four in the morning ready to help our warfighters."

And their efforts should make the American public proud, Helle said.

"The image some people have when they think of surplus government property is fraud, waste and abuse. We're much more fiscally responsible than we were in the '50s, segregating scrap and commodities like aluminum, textiles and rubber so we can retrieve more pennies per pound," he continued.

Most members of the disposition team in Iraq will redeploy home in November and December, but some will stay to help run a new 5-acre site being built at Sather Air Base. Though it will be a small-scale operation compared to what's existed in Iraq for several years, Helle said, the site will be large enough to break down scrap material and handle hazardous waste for the State Department, which will take over the U.S. military's role in Iraq before the end of the year.

"At the end of the day, it's about knowing we're providing value, understanding that our customers view us as a value-added partner," Gonzales said. "Being part of this history-making effort has helped us build our reputation as we go forward into the next drawdown, which isn't too far around the corner. We're already making plans for Afghanistan."

As a Department of Defense combat support agency, DLA provides the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, other federal agencies, and joint and allied forces with a variety of logistics, acquisition and technical services. The agency sources and provides nearly 100 percent of the consumable items America's military forces need to operate, from food, fuel and energy, to uniforms, medical supplies, and construction and barrier equipment. DLA also supplies more than 80 percent of the military's spare parts.

Headquartered at Fort Belvoir, Va., DLA has about 27,000 employees worldwide and supports about 1,900 weapon systems. For more information about DLA, go to, or

SOURCE Defense Logistics Agency

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