News: The builders deploy to destroy
Story by Sgt. Richard Wrigley
FORT STEWART, Ga. - As the sun rises here in the U.S., it has already set on the Afghan horizon, yet the day’s end promises a new beginning to the next, and just as the sun rises and brings with it the new dawn, a new beginning has started in Afghanistan with the arrival of the 92nd Engineer Battalion “Black Diamonds”.
Deployment of U.S. troops to Afghanistan is not a new story, nor is it “news” that an engineer battalion is the latest to deploy, because as most know, the conflict there has stretched over a decade.
However the 92nd Eng. Bn., 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, has just deployed with a mission that is relatively unique in the ongoing war on terrorism.
The Black Diamonds, known by some to be the “premier construction battalion of the army,” have deployed to Afghanistan just a few days ago with the rare mission to deconstruct much of the infrastructure that the Army has built up over the course of more than a decade of combat, explained Lt. Col. Ken Boggs, a native of Keyser, W.Va., commander, 92nd Eng. Bn.
Few know just how unique this mission is more than Command Sgt. Maj. Andrew Lonning, a native of Dorchester, Iowa, and the senior enlisted leader of the 92nd Eng. Bn.
“In all my time in the Army as a construction engineer, I’ve never deployed to deconstruct… in Afghanistan it is definitely unique I think,” Command Sgt. Maj. Lonning said.
“Even in Iraq, civilian contractors handled the deconstruction, and we didn’t deconstruct as much in Iraq, where in Afghanistan we’re going to deconstruct completely,” he added, “this isn’t just unique for Afghanistan, this is unique for engineers in the army.”
Lt. Col. Boggs went on to further clarify just how atypical it was for the Black Diamonds to be deploying for this specific mission in the theater of operations they are deploying to.
“We’re a construction battalion, our previous deployment was to Afghanistan, where we were literally building and constructing the life support areas that allowed the increase of friendly forces in Afghanistan -- but now we’ll be going there in order to reduce that footprint via deconstructing the many forward operating bases that accumulated over the last decade or so of operations there,” Lt. Col. Boggs explained.
The Black Diamonds will be there to help increase and to set the pace of the troop draw down currently underway, through renewed deconstruction efforts in the Regional Command South, Afghanistan.
“We’re not the first with this mission in Afghanistan, we’re relieving the unit that’s there now, the 62nd Eng. Bn. out of Fort Hood, however the tempo and the pace of the deconstruction efforts are going to increase greatly on our watch,” Lt. Col. Boggs made clear.
With plans set in place, the biggest challenges that lay ahead of the Black Diamonds are logistical, explained Command Sgt. Maj. Lonning, in that not only do they need to make sure they have the right equipment, but they need to get everybody on the “same page”, so that the people at the Forward Operating Bases' that the Black Diamonds are set to demolish are ready to work along side the engineers with the same goal in mind: deconstruct and draw down.
“I think our rotation is really going to figure out from A to Z - how to go about deconstructing FOBs,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Lonning.
There are other challenges that are integral to the nature of the mission, explained Lt. Col. Boggs.
There will come a point during the deconstruction of a FOB when everyone who occupied the base will be gone, the perimeter will be gone, and nothing will be left except the Black Diamond soldiers, said Lt. Col. Boggs.
“That will present some pretty unique challenges, but I’m also quite confident in the abilities of the soldiers to do what they were trained to do over these last few months, and the year before that,” Lt. Col. Boggs said.
“I know they are ready, they’re excited for this unique mission, they are all fired up to get after this job,” Lt. Col. Boggs said with confidence.