News: Environmentally sound
Story by Staff Sgt. Kristen Duus
KANDAHAR CITY, Afghanistan- As the Ready First brigade nears the end of its time in Afghanistan, and as the mission has focused more on Afghan independence, combat outposts are being closed or handed over to the Afghan National Security Forces.
The brigade recently handed over the Operations Coordination Center- Kandahar, OCCP-K, on the grounds of the governor’s compound to the Afghan Uniform Police. In order to hand over or shut down, it is essential to ensure the grounds are environmentally friendly.
Mike Johnson, a member of the Regional Command-South environmental team, travels to COPs before their closure to ensure just that.
“We will take care of any fuel spills, oil spills, close down firing ranges for lead-contaminated soil, and we will take cake care of burn pits that have been used by Americans,” said Johnson. “We make sure everything is environmentally friendly once we leave.”
When a base is transferred, it requires coordination with the local Afghan population and the landowner to determine what aspects of the base they want to keep. From there, the environmental team can step in and take care of business.
“Anything that’s on the environmental side, if they want to keep it, we’re not going to touch it,” said Johnson. “We will leave it in place so they can use it for anything they need further down the road.
A closure, which is a more in-depth operation, said Johnson, requires bringing a base down to the way it was before American forces arrived.
“The main thing is we want to leave a good impression in the locals’ eyes of us taking care of their land,” said Johnson. “We want to be good stewards of their lands, as Americans.”