Army Official: No ‘Iron Mountain’ Will Be Left in Iraq After Troop Drawdown
Downsizing the U.S. military presence in Iraq has been a laborious process, he tells industry and military officials Feb. 7 at the National Defense Industrial Association’s annual Tactical Wheeled Vehicles conference.
Many of the Army’s vehicles have been shipped from Iraq to Afghanistan, he says. Between June 2009 and August 2010, 25,000 pieces of rolling stock and 1.5 million other items were processed by U.S. forces in Iraq. Some property was transferred to Iraqi units, including refrigerators, desks, Humvee trucks and M1 Abrams tanks. Other equipment was sent back to the United States to be repaired or modernized.
The logistics of it were “magnificent,” Perna says. The lesson learned? “We need to start thinking about the drawdown the day we enter a country,” he says. “We have to start figuring out how to reduce [footprint]. We have to figure out how to right-size constantly but still provide commanders with the flexibility to take on the enemy.”
As a battalion and brigade commander, Perna was thankful for the thousands of armored Humvees and mine-resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicles that the Army sent to Iraq. But in his role as logistics director, he began to see things differently. “I started to think to myself, ‘Really? Did we need 40 versions of the MRAP? Did we need all those different repair parts flowing in? Did we need all this equipment? Did every soldier need to have three vehicles to drive in?’”
This may be a case of too much of a good thing ultimately being bad, he says.
Perna left Iraq in late October. He oversaw the so-called “end of combat operations” in August. The gargantuan logistics effort was the first of its kind since World War II, he says.
A force of 180,000 soldiers dropped to less than 50,000. A presence of 225,000 contractors declined to less than 75,000. The number of bases went from more than 200 to about 80.