News: COP Spera closed, dismantled by ISAF
By U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Ishmail
Soldiers from A Troop, 1st Squadron, 33rd Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, said goodbye to their home for most of last year Dec. 23 in Khowst Province.
Combat Outpost Spera was sterilized, sanitized then officially closed during a brief ceremony at the remote COP.
COP Spera was a platoon-sized outpost about two kilometers from the Pakistan border until U.S. commanders made the decision to close it, due in part to improved security in the district provided by Afghan National Security Force.
Fittingly, the very same platoon that first occupied it almost a year ago, “Red” or 1st Platoon, was tasked with the dismantling of the outpost.
According to U.S. Army 1st Lt. Paul A. Corcoran, of North Attleboro, Mass., platoon leader for Red Platoon, it has been a difficult process dismantling the outpost and preparing major equipment and reusable supplies for transport back to Camp Clark.
It also has been hard emotionally on the platoon for the last 12 days since they were notified of the decision to close COP Spera.
“I was looking forward to sticking it out, more of a sentimental thing, I guess,” Corcoran said.
COP Spera’s closure is a victory according to 3rd BCT leadership, because security on the area has improved.
At the beginning of their tour in Spera, A Troop saw enemy contact almost daily. But because of the aggressive posture and combined patrols with Afghan National Army troops assigned to the district, violence decreased.
There had not been a significant attack on COP Spera in over a month prior to its closing; a victory by any measure, and one recognized by Khowst provincial officials.
Khowst Provincial Gov. Abdul Jabar Naemi, Provincial Police Chief Brig. Gen. Abdul Hakim Ishaqzai, and the ANA 1st Brigade commander of the 203rd Corps, Brig. Gen. Esrar, attended a small ceremony on COP Spera’s former site to mark the closing.
According to 3rd BCT officer U.S. Army Maj. Mark Kovalcik, from Clarksville, Tenn., the COP’s closure will also help U.S. and Afghan forces handle their missions in Khowst Province more efficiently.
"Though the ANA forces in the area have never lost an engagement against the insurgents, (the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan) realizes that the ANA at COP Spera can have more impact on the population and the district as a whole by locating near the Spera District Center," Kovalcik said. "Their relocation to the Spera District Center will greatly improve development capacity and security for all of Spera District."
“I can understand the reasons behind closing it,” said U.S. Army Spc. Cody L. Jones, from Rigby, Idaho. Jones was one of the most frequent residents of the COP, having lived there sporadically nine of his 12 months in Afghanistan. Jones also said he prefers living there because he is able to do his job as a forward artillery observer, and he developed close ties to the smaller group there.
According to troop leadership, each platoon shared responsibility for maintaining the U.S. presence on the COP by spending three months there on a rotational basis.
During the closure ceremony at COP Spera, the quiet was interrupted only by the explosive sanitation of the COP, reducing ordinance that could not be returned to inventory, and the heavy thump of rotor blades from the UH-60 Black Hawks and CH-47 Chinooks carrying away the last U.S. forces.
Corcoran hoped to be the final U.S. Soldier to leave a boot print in the fine dust before rotor wash from the last flight out of COP Spera blew it away.
“I guess in a way I am going to miss it,” Corcoran said.