Virginia Guard equipment demobilization site saves money, time as units return from overseas

Soldiers from the Virginia National Guard move containers packed with equipment from redeploying units at Fort Pickett. By establishing an equipment demobilization site at Fort Pickett, the Virginia Guard ensured units a smoother, cheaper return home. (Courtesy photo)

FORT PICKETT, Va. — The Virginia Army National Guard was able to save money and make life easier for redeploying units by setting up an equipment demobilization site at Fort Pickett recently.

“We’re one of the first states to be allowed to do this,” said Lt. Col. Doyle Gillis, the deputy chief of logistics for the Virginia Army National Guard. “It saved a lot of money not just for us but for the active component as well.”

When units return from overseas deployments, their equipment is packed into containers and loaded onto boats for the trip back to the U.S. In the past, these trailers, filled with everything from office supplies to weapons to generators, were sent back to the site from where the unit originally deployed. There the trailers were inspected and unloaded before being repacked and sent to the unit armories in Virginia.

However, Virginia Guard Soldiers from three recent deployments were allowed to send their containers directly back to Fort Pickett before returning them to their armories.

The process had three clear benefits, according to Gillis.

“By having them come straight to Fort Pickett instead of Camp Shelby or Fort Hood, it saves everyone money,” he said. “But this also gets the equipment back into the reset cycle sooner and it allows the Soldiers to spend more time with their families.”

Virginia Guard Soldiers inspect containers filled with equipment and gear returning from overseas. (Courtesy photo)

Soldiers from the returning units only had to travel to Fort Pickett to inspect containers, rather than travel to the demobilization site. So instead of putting Soldiers on orders and paying them to travel out of state, this process made better use of full-time Virginia Soldiers and allowed recently returned Soldiers to spend more time with their families after a long deployment.

The process has been done three times since the end of 2011 and has saved the Army and the Virginia Guard a total of about $100,000, Gillis estimated.

When the Soldiers of Task Force 183 returned home in December, their containers were sent by boat to various ports up and down the East Coast. Commercial trucks brought the containers to Fort Pickett where personnel from the G-4 and United State Property and Fiscal Office transportation section worked long hours to inspect them.

The Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment shipped back nearly 70 containers when they left Iraq in December.

When the 116th Brigade Combat Team headquarters left Afghanistan in March, around 20 containers were shipped to Langley, then loaded on trucks and brought to Fort Pickett.

This process also provided a great training benefit for Fort Pickett and other Virginia Guard Soldiers. While Soldiers at Fort Pickett had to use various types of machines to lift and move the containers, once they were ready to delivery back to their units, Soldiers from the 1173rd Transportation Company delivered them via flatbed trucks to armories all over the state.

“We just had the 1173rd load containers for delivery to Fredericksburg, Christiansburg, Norfolk, and Portsmouth,” Gillis said. “After the units unload the containers, the 1173rd Soldiers will go back next week to pick up the empty containers and deliver them to Letterkenny Army Depot in Pennsylvania.”

“We can’t put a price tag on the training,” he added. “We have Soldiers delivering real loads to real customers.”

To prepare, the 1173rd conducted rehearsals and rock drills. They planned every aspect of the mission, coordinated with the appropriate armory and mapped out each leg of the journey.

“Operationally, this whole thing was smooth as silk,” he said. “Everyone was professional, did their job and executed. It was seamless.”