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U.S. military faces operation pack up

By Mohammed Jamjoom, CNN
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Military equipment leaves Iraq
  • U.S. packing up military equipment as part of Iraq drawdown
  • Humvees to office equipment must be transported out of the country
  • At the same time logistical soldiers are keeping supplies moving to troops
  • It's the largest effort of its kind since the Vietnam War

Baghdad, Iraq (CNN) -- The U.S. drawdown currently happening in Iraq is not just about service members, it also involves military equipment. Because there's so much of it, packing it up and moving it out has become one of the most challenging missions.

"It's like any household, you know," explained Army Col. C.J. Read. "If you stay there long enough, you're going to accumulate all kinds of things thinking that maybe the next unit might need it and, of course, the last one out the doors is stuck with what's here."

From Humvees to generators -- the U.S. military's 17,000 logistical soldiers in Iraq handle anything and everything. But they don't just deal with the hardware moving out. They also distribute the supplies coming in.

"They do the water production, distribution, fuel, ammunition, parts, and move around throughout Iraq," said Brig. Gen. Paul Wentz, who commands the logistical soldiers. "About 4,000 trucks a day are moving around, pushing sustainment supplies to the soldiers here in Iraq."

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For the logistical soldiers at Camp Victory in Baghdad, it all starts at the Central Receiving and Shipping Point Yard, one of several areas where they work.

"We run 24 hour ops, 365 days. Christmas Day, New Years' Eve, we're here," said 1st Lt. Elizabeth Cal, who is in charge of that operation.

U.S. forces have been in Iraq for more than six years, and moving this amount of equipment makes it the largest effort of its kind since the Vietnam War.

It's a colossal operation, and on an average night, more than 120 convoys move throughout Iraq. The wheels roll mostly at night, as it's tougher for insurgents to carry out attacks then.

Some of the equipment here, like military vehicles, will be shipped to Afghanistan. Other materials will be distributed to other bases in Iraq.

But it's not just heavy duty equipment like generators that must find a new home. Even smaller, more mundane items like printer cartridges and water coolers, must be transported.

Wentz said it's not an easy task but his logistical soldiers were more than up to it.

"These processes have been going on for a while," Wentz added. "We've refined them. We've been deploying and redeploying forces through about the last six years."

The soldiers know their job is crucial. It's what gives them a few bright moments in an otherwise routine -- but sometimes dangerous -- operation.

"It's awesome - when they get excited on the phone and they hear it's coming to them," said Cal. "That's good stuff!"