Friday, September 07, 2007

Support for the Support

By 2nd Lt. Liz Lopez

We do not always think too much about them. Their presence fades into the background. They are accepted and expected parts of Soldiers’ everyday lives. But civilian contractors are not so easy to overlook. Without their support and the work they do, Soldiers would be unable to carry out some of their most critical missions in Iraq.
For the Soldiers in the Supply Support Activity, or SSA, of Company A, 210th Brigade Support Battalion, “Commando Providers,” 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), civilian contractors work beside them every day. With their help, the SSA has the capability to not only sustain prolonged re-supply operations, but remain available to assist in various other missions as needs dictate.
When the SSA deployed to Iraq little more than a year ago, they were just over 50 percent strength for personnel. Although they now have a full platoon of Soldiers, only 75 percent work fulltime in the SSA. The remaining 25 percent were pulled to fulfill other operational requirements within Company A and the battalion. With the additional burden of supplying two battalions from a neighboring unit, there are simply not enough Soldiers to sustain the fast pace of operations. But that is exactly why the SSA has contractors.
“What we are doing out here takes the weight off the Soldiers, and allows them to focus on other things,” said Mr. Phillip Lee, a native of Killeen, Texas, a civilian contractor with Blackhawk Management Corporation.
The Blackhawk Management Corporation partakes in a logistics civilian augmentation Program, or Log CAP. In the Provider SSA, there are six civilian contractors working side-by-side with the battalion’s supply specialists to receive, process, and distribute supplies and equipment to the Commando Brigade. Their presence fills the void left by the Soldiers reassigned to other duties, including combat logistics patrols, force protection, and logistics training for the Iraqi Army.
The civilians permeate every section of the SSA. Their presence helps to keep the flow of supplies and equipment moving seamlessly into and back out of the warehouse and adjoining supply yard.
They are there everyday. They have no other missions that take precedence. They are a constant when nothing else is.
“We are basically the permanent parties of these sections,” said Phillip Lee.
With such stability in a place where nothing else is stable, it is easy to see why the Soldiers give these men and women such respect.
“The civilians are great to us,” said Sgt. Lemarkisha Hill, a native of New York City, N.Y., the non-commissioned officer in charge of stock control operations. “We are very lucky to have them here.”
The respect and appreciation is mutual.
“I get full satisfaction out of my job,” said Phillip Lee. “It’s about relationships. Civilians and military, we are all one.”
In the SSA, as in the rest of the support battalion, every mission is focused on providing the brigade’s war fighters with anything they need to conduct operations from forward locations. The Log CAP contractors have adopted this mission as their own.
“It doesn’t matter how small or how big,” said Phillip Lee. “If it comes through this warehouse and it belongs to you, you’re going to get it.”
Deployment is hard, and the fast pace of operations can be challenging to maintain. It is nice to know that the supply specialists in the SSA have a little extra help when they need it.
“We’ll be here as long as the mission is here,” said Phillip Lee.
And, most will be there long after the Provider’s mission is gone.

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