CAMP AL TAQADDUM, Iraq --
The population of U.S. forces in Iraq is becoming less dispersed throughout the country as Marines and sailors from Combat Logistics Battalion 4 and Combat Logistics Battalion 7, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward), are packing up and heading out of Camp Baharia and Combat Outpost Rahwah, two bases in Iraq’s Al Anbar province that have been home to Marines since early 2004 and 2005, respectively.
Services such as disbursing, postal and the Post Exchange are scheduled to close soon, as the number of Marines and sailors on these bases continues to dwindle, reducing the need for full-time services. Instead, the service members remaining at these bases will be supported by Warfighter Express Services teams, a group of three to four Marines who will be making regular visits to these locations to continue making the services available until all forces have left the base.
Prior to the kick-off of drawdown operations, the Marines were supporting around 5,000 service members at each base. With the drawdown of Marine Corps units continuing, the two bases now support about 1,500 personnel total.
As Marines and sailors departing Camp Baharia and COP Rahwah rush to mail their personal belongings home, the postal Marines continue to work hard to get all of the packages to their destinations.
“We extended our hours to give the Marines more time to come and mail their things home,” said Staff Sgt. Joseph Felton, the CLB-4 postal chief in Baharia. “There is less mail coming in and more mail going out.”
Felton also said the Marines have been working after-hours in the shop in order to do their part in reducing the Marine Corps’ overall footprint in Al Anbar.
“Our mission is still to provide postal services to the Marines, however we have to focus on clearing this place out as well,” Felton said.
Aside from the long lines at postal, Marines are also standing in line to buy last minute items from the Post Exchange in preparation for their departure.
“Buying habits have changed as the retrograde process progresses,” said Gunnery Sgt. George A. Revenaugh, the CLB-4 retail staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge at Camp Baharia. “Marines are buying less luxury items, such as video games and systems, and are buying more consumable items - materials to mail things home and basic hygiene products.”
When the Post Exchange closes, the Marines left aboard Rahwah and Baharia will rely on a mobile PX lead by the WES teams for their purchases.
The service Marines’ overall missions are shifting focus as they close shops on the bases.
Sgt. David O. Caron, the CLB-4 disbursing chief at Camp Baharia, said the Marines at the disbursing shop are focused on getting accountability of their gear and equipment and setting up movement for their own gear and personnel out of Iraq. This added work load has left the disbursing office, as well as the other service shops, busier than usual.
“Tempo has picked up a great deal in the last month,” said Caron. “We have been going on more missions [lately] … but we won’t fully experience the change until we close shop."
The Marines of 2nd MLG (Fwd) are one step closer to completing the responsible drawdown of U.S. forces in Iraq.