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Camp Arifjan Readying for 'The Surge'

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait, Dec. 15, 2003 – Logistics experts at this camp are preparing for one of the greatest feats of transportation in military history.

The camp will be home to the Iraq troop rotation. Soldiers will come out of Iraq, clean their equipment and board planes and ships for home. Other service members will be arriving from the United States, drawing equipment and preparing to move into Iraq.

Nothing like this effort has been done before.

The camp is located outside Kuwait City and it is already the logistical hub for Operation Iraqi Freedom. "A total of 800 trucks a day go north into Iraq," said Maj. Gen. Steve Speakes, the deputy commander of the Combined Land Component Command and the man in charge of effort.

There are 28,000 American troops in Kuwait, with 10,000 in Arifjan. The soldiers are almost equally divided among active duty, Army Reserve and National Guard. Their sole purpose is to ensure the combat troops in Iraq get what they need, when they need it.

But they will be tested further by what Speakes calls "the surge." That is when the 130,000 American service members now in Iraq start moving back to their home stations and 110,000 soldiers and Marines replace them. The surge will start in January and will last through the end of April. Speakes and his soldiers will be the area's largest innkeeper during that time, housing about 65,000 more Americans than they do now.

But it is not just people that will make up the surge. Those coming out of Iraq will bring 30,000 pieces of equipment with them. That equipment has to be scrupulously cleaned before coming back to the United States or Germany. U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors do not want germs, fungus, insects or diseases riding home with the equipment.

At the same time, arriving units will bring new equipment with them, and the equipment must be married up with the proper units, primed and readied for combat. The soldiers and Marines must test the weapons to ensure they work.

Speakes said the command is readying beds, tents, wash racks, fueling areas, chow halls and training areas -- all the things needed to get service members ready for combat or ready for home. Planning began months ago. "We plan for the worst-case scenario," Speakes said. "We don't want to be surprised."

All of this is being done in a high-threat environment. Speakes said the Americans have worked closely with their Kuwaiti hosts to ensure force protection. "They have been immensely cooperative, and we have put in place many force protection measures," he said.

Speakes said the surge will be more complicated, in many ways, than D-Day at Normandy. "It's going both ways coming and going," he said. "But these young soldiers are up to the task. The mission is to get people into Iraq so there is no degradation of security, while at the same time ensuring no one stays in the region one day longer than they have to."

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