News: US forces drawdown a full-time job for South District’s real estate team
Story by Dave Melancon
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — When it comes time for U.S. forces to transfer land back to the Government of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan or return private leased property back to the Afghan people, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Afghanistan Engineer District-South has a team of experts who can ease the process.
With the ongoing drawdown of U.S. Forces, the South District’s Real Estate office assists regional and U.S. combat area commanders meet land requirements to either close out or turn over a site to the Afghan National Army or Police, said Terry Rupe, division chief, of the Memphis District.
"Our office helps the battle space owner to ensure that all necessary documentation, including a real estate base closure and transfer request form, is complete,” he said, adding that the document provides important information pertaining to the site ownership, its location, and closure or transfer date.
“We are very busy now because of the drawdown initiative. U.S. forces acquired a lot of land during the surge and now we are returning it back to the private landowners or to the Afghan government,” said realty specialist Sarah Kang, of Winchester, Va.
“The real estate office has just completed working through a huge backlog of transfers and closures dating back to when the surge recovery started, Rupe Said. “We currently have closed out the real estate files for over 200 bases to date.”
Rupe said at this time there more than 500 bases identified for closure or transfer in the southern district.
“We work with regional military commanders, U.S. Forces Afghanistan, International Security Assistance Force and the Afghan government,” Rupe said. “In order to keep up with the surge recovery mission, our office regularly attends the regional commands’ base transfer and closure working group meetings. This helps us monitor and track each site that has been nominated to transfer or for closure.”
The local commanders in coordination with local Afghan officials decide which properties to transfer or close, Rupe said. The nominated sites are reviewed by the commander’s staff and submitted to the real estate office for review and to verify if a realty instrument exists on the property.
U.S. forces coordinate with the real estate office so that its staff can provide subject matter expertise on real estate related matters, said senior team member Richard Gonzalez, from Dallas, Texas.
“We also help the regional commands determine ownership on occupied sites so they have as much information as possible to make an informed decision as to whether to closeout or transfer a particular location.”
If there is a realty document in place, our office will “terminate a lease instrument if on private land or end the land use agreement if it is Afghan government property,” he explained.
If the property is privately owned, the office works with the military unit to ensure the Afghan landowner is compensated for the time we occupied their land,” Gonzalez said.
“As a general rule, ISAF Joint Command will not approve the transfer of private property to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan unless the Afghan government has purchased or leased the property,” he said.
If there are no real estate instruments, the office will ensure there are no legitimate claims of private ownership on the site and then archive the file for historical purposes.
As U.S. forces continue to draw down, installation transfers and closures are being recorded into a centralized database known as the Base Transition Reporting System.
“The Base Closure and Transfer process is a moving target,” Rupe said. “Requirements are consistently changing as the process continues to develop. Coordination with all the key players is essential to the success of the mission.”