Noncommissioned officer walks the yard

Sgt. Cynthia Landin, 289th Quartermaster Company, Kandahar Airfield Retro Sort Yard noncommissioned officer in charge, assists a civilian contractor in cutting a chain from a few gas cans near the tire cleaning station.


KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — She progresses through her long days of hiking along shipping-container skyscrapers by spreading her infectious positive attitude and laughter.

Armed with a friendly smile, and maybe even a joke or two, Sgt. Cynthia Landin, deployed with Fort Hood’s 553rd Transportation Battalion, 4th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command, spends her days as the noncommissioned officer in charge of the Kandahar Airfield Retro Sort Yard — a weight-bearing keystone position to the responsible drawdown of coalition forces in Afghanistan.

Before Afghanistan can fully stand alone, coalition forces must steadily recover a decade’s worth of equipment, materiel and infrastructure, a recovery initiative is known as the Central Command Materiel Recovery Element mission.

Landin said the retro sort yard is the nerve center of the mission, where tons of American equipment, supplies and various machinery parts are salvaged, organized, and cleaned as they venture through Kandahar to be redistributed to our nation’s armed forces to meet operational and training needs.

“We’re here to save money,” she said. “If anything is still of good use, we put it back into the supply system. The key here is always to save money.”

Landin spends a good amount of her workday overseeing the productivity of the retro sort yard and personally checking on her crew comprised mostly of civilian contractors from around the world.

Although she is in a supervisor position, she never hesitates to lend a hand to sort through a shipping container or fill a generator with fuel.

“I’m a manual labor kind of person,” she said. “So being around these hard-working people motivates me. I love being an (automated logistical specialist).”

What Landin does plays into a large-scale, high-profile recovery effort in Afghanistan, which recently became the responsibility of the 43rd Sustainment Brigade.

The nationwide recovery mission was set into motion by the 593rd Sustainment Brigade, nicknamed the “Trailblazers.” Since the 43rd has taken over the responsibility, the “Rough Riders” Brigade intends to take the foundation laid by the Trailblazers and progress the mission to the next level, ensuring that the hard work of men and women, like Landin and her crew, will not be in vain.

Maj. Shane Upton, the brigade’s support operations officer, said the Rough Riders are already seeing a significant increase in mission productivity. He said the brigade will be able to move about 22 percent more materiel than the most productive month in the history of the mission. This spike in numbers has been due to the Rough Riders taking a fine-toothed comb to previous retrograde mission procedures, reworking some math and realigning a few assets.

Although the Rough Riders are currently at the helm, creatively solving problems, Landin still describes the airfield’s retro sort yard as being “business as usual,” tackling the obstacles of the day one at a time.

One of the most daunting tasks is methodically sorting through the usually unknown contents of each shipping container that passes through the yard from any number of duty stations and military posts throughout Afghanistan.

During his recent visit to the yard, the International Security Assistance Force senior enlisted adviser, Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Capel, commended the efforts of the entire recovery team.

“With the team that I’ve just seen out here today, I do not have a worry,” Capel said. “We have a lot of hard-working men and women that are going to make this mission happen, and I thank them for what they are doing.”

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