News: Migration to Masum Ghar
Story by Maj. Joel Anderson
FORWARD OPERATING BASE MASUM GHAR, Afghanistan – There’s an old saying: “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
That is also the case when it comes to building, or improving, and rebuilding one of the International Security Assistance Force’s forward operating bases: they just aren’t built in a day.
Here at Masum Ghar, a rocky, former Canadian army outpost and gateway to the Panjwa’i district of Kandahar province, the operational tempo of quality-of-life improvements has been a constant blur of construction and remodeling from sun-up to sun-down for more than the last 30 days now.
Recently, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, made the move here from their original Afghan area of operations, Zabul province. Ever since the arrival of the Arctic Wolves the entire site has been just like someone kicked over an ant hill. The first order of business, as with the build-up of any FOB or other piece of tactical infrastructure, was force protection.
A quartering party went out in advance and was led by the brigade operations sergeant major, Sgt. Maj. Mark Marques, struck out from FOB Lagman May 24.
“When we first got here, there were just a few of us,” Marques said. “The Canadians still had over a month to go, so we had to pretty well rough it there for about six-weeks.”
As the Canadian forces began to outflow from Masum Ghar, many of the contracts began to expire for things such as food and other life-support functions.
Contracting is a primary method for providing QoL improvements.
These include things such as food, food service workers for the dining facility, water for showers, laundry service, garbage removal, Internet and phone, and many other amenities.
Before the Canadian forces exited the Afghan AO, engineers came in to assess the site and begin prepping it. The 382nd Engineer Company came in early May. The vertical platoon, so-named for being the platoon that specializes in building construction, was at the FOB lending their craftsmanship to the effort by building a new, wooden-frame tactical operations center, complete with a command group building and an intelligence analysis building.
Soon after the Canadians’ departure was complete, a contracting firm came in. In partnership with the U.S. Army’s Materiel Command,work began on July 15 on the MSG improvements project.
“LOGCAP is basically an extensive list of precontracted services available to U.S. forces. Virtually any base life support function can be assumed by LOGCAP to relieve soldiers of those responsibilities letting soldiers focus on the fight. These services are intended as long-term enduring solutions to sustainment, as such they are slow and expensive to implement. But once they are fully mission capable, LOGCAP services provide superior services and are held to the highest standards. Partly due to the stringent quality control measures they must adhere to, but also because there is such a genuine commitment that many of the workers have to supporting the troops,” explained Lt. Col. Edgardo Pimental, the logistics capability LSO/AMC representative at Masum Ghar.
The components are all shipped from the U.S. to the Afghan theater by way of the port of Karachi, Pakistan, and then transported overland to their final destinations - a major feat of logistical prowess in and of itself.
Everything is almost completely containerized in 20-foot equivalent units - the corrugated-steel shipping containers used for worldwide, transoceanic shipment of a myriad of cargo. Partly due to this fact, this concept has also been affectionately referred to as the “FOB-in-a-box."
In addition to the high-quality, climate-controlled, “Alaska” tents, shower, latrine and laundry facilities, the new infrastructure package also boasts the all-electric kitchen.
“Having the AEK makes a project like this [MSG] even nicer,” said Pimental.
“In addition to more efficient cooking appliances, the kitchen, which is a containerized tent, is also climate-controlled for a more efficient work-environment for the cooks.”
So, while the soldiers of 1/25th SBCT may not be sure how long they will get to call MSG home, one thing is for certain. The advancements in LOGCAP, will ensure their stay in the Horn Of Panjwa’i will be as comfortable as possible.