News: Traveling transition teams, returning Afghanistan to its original state
Story by 1st Lt. Vanessa Macekura
ZABUL PROVINCE, Afghanistan - The U.S. Army has been in a number of conflicts. When these missions are published in the newspaper or broadcast during the evening news, the highlights are of combat missions, the drawdown of coalition troops and sequestration, or automatic budget cuts.
Regarding the drawdown of coalition troops, what people may fail to realize is that there are soldiers whose sole purpose is to demilitarize forward operating bases and return Afghanistan’s land back to the state it was before International Security Assistance Forces altered it to support their missions.
In Zabul province, Afghanistan, the soldiers performing the demilitarization of FOBs are collectively known as a T3, or a traveling transition team. Currently, Combined Task Force Raider has two T3s: 1st Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division Special Troops Battalion T3 and 1st Battalion, 41st Field Artillery Regiment T3.
One might assume that all members of the T3s should be engineers; however that is not the case for the 1-41FA, Combined Task Force Raider, 3rd Infantry Division team.
This T3, located in Zabul province, is led by a field artillery major with an engineer captain serving as the deputy team chief, a medical services first lieutenant as the operations officer and four motor transport operators ranging in rank from specialist to sergeant first class. All the members of the team are performing numerous tasks well outside their military occupation specialty or experiences.
“Out here we are dual-purpose,” said Sgt. First Class Marold Mills, the senior motor transport operator and the noncommissioned officer in charge of the team. “We coordinate movements of retrograde material on the FOBs we are responsible for closing, to other FOBs or to Kandahar Airfield, and the demilitarization of the site. The team is pretty much doing everything within and outside of our MOS,” added Mills, a Freeport, Ohio, native.
“It is good because we get different aspects of all jobs,” interjected Spc. Wesley Berry, a motor transport operator and a native of Fort Meyers, Fla. “We do everything from engineering to maintenance, and we learn to work with what we got.”
The teams’ primary methods of tear-down are a bulldozer and a rough terrain container handler, more commonly referred to as a RTCH.
“We can use our equipment to do almost anything,” stated Mills.
“Traveling transition teams are very beneficial,” said Maj. Jason Lageman a Covington, Ky., native who is the team’s officer-in-charge. “They ensure tactical infrastructure is transitioned in an appropriate environmental state and that the base’s remaining facilities are handed over to the Afghan National Security Forces in a condition which allows them to further their security efforts in Zabul province through operations or training. It also provides the U.S. government with assurance for the appropriate disposition of property that will not be handed off to the Afghan National Security Forces.”
Across Regional Command South, Afghanistan, there are numerous FOBs that have been essential for coalition troops. The current drawdown is resulting in many of these FOBs being closed at a rapid pace, some of which have been utilized for more than five years.
This traveling transition team is comprised of seven soldiers, of mixed MOS, that are expected to demilitarize these FOBs in a matter of months, sometimes weeks, who are all too often forgotten, their hard work sometimes overlooked.