News: New mayor has to Beall things to all people
Story by Sgt. Christopher McCullough
FORWARD OPERATING BASE LAGMAN, Afghanistan – There is no doubt that a mayor’s job is difficult. It is infinitely more challenging when you take the duties and responsibilities that come with the position, throw them into a war-torn country like Afghanistan and expect the newly appointed “mayor” to learn on-the-job. Nevertheless, that is exactly what occurred when Capt. Matt Beall, commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, Task Force 1st Squadron 14th Cavalry Regiment, took over the mayoral reins at Forward Operating Base Apache.
“There was no relief-in-place here, so to speak,” said Beall. “We just came in and started setting up the squadron Tactical Operations Center and getting the squadron ready to go.”
Overseeing a small “town” of soldiers is a full-time job, but it is not Beall’s only job. He is also the Base Defense Operations Center Commander, in addition to his duties as Troop Commander and FOB Mayor.
“We’ve [got] the actual squadron TOC that will be doing all the command and control of the squadrons throughout [the province],” Beall said.
It is enough to make you wonder how he does it. Beall is not alone in his mission to improve the quality of life and take care of the soldiers on FOB Apache; he has many assets that he can draw from.
“We have elements from 296th [Brigade Support Battalion] that have been attached to us,” Beall said. “[They] will provide our main logistics … maintenance, getting parts, fixing vehicles, etc. We also have the main aid station to provide trauma support, as well as ground casualty evacuations based out of Apache.”
As if that were not enough, Beall is also responsible for ensuring routes from Apache, to the FOBs where other Task Force 1-14 Cavalry soldiers are assigned, are cleared and safe for travel ; a job he has tasked out to the resident engineer company.
“The engineers are attached from the 18th Engineer Company,” said Beall. “They’ll actually provide route clearance between here and the different FOBs.”
Though he has all these duties to handle, Beall explains that his primary mission as mayor is the welfare of his Soldiers.
“A big thing is trying to improve [my soldier’s] living space,” said Beall. “Living space here is extremely short. Everyone has a place to sleep – they’re on beds - but they’re also sleeping on top of each other. Sleeping quarters are tight.”
He goes on to explain that, in part to the exponential growth at Apache, they will need to expand their key facilities in short order.
“We’re expanding all those just because the FOB has grown by several hundred from its normal growth,” said Beall. “The chow hall does a fantastic job but, to be honest, it’s too small. So we’re looking at expanding the gym, expanding the MWR [Morale, Welfare & Recreation], expanding the DFAC [dining facility], and the FOB itself is going to expand dramatically over the next year to two years.”
There is also talk of taking over the FOB’s Post Exchange from 1st Battalion 24th Infantry Regiment, one of the other tenant units at FOB Apache and current manager of the base’s only store.
“We are actually working to take that over from 1-24 Infantry Battalion and trying to get AAFES here,” said Beall.
In the interim, there is talk of creating a ‘free store’ where soldiers can pick up the necessities.
“We’re going to be looking at building a ‘Free-X,’ if you will, so all those different boxes that we receive, full of different things that soldiers will need; instead of having to spend their own money on it, we’ll establish a place where they can get it for free,” said Beall.
With Beall’s Troop, and the requisite attachments, taking over custodial duties on the FOB, soldiers from elsewhere are now performing their intended mission.
“We’re trying to take a lot of the things that Charlie 1-24 [Infantry Regiment] was really being strapped down with, and giving them more combat power so they don’t have to keep so many guys back here to do the BDOC, to do the ECP [entry control point], to do the mayor’s cell,” said Beall. “They can concentrate on actually getting out there and actually fighting the enemy.”
“Actually fighting the enemy.” That is something Beall wants his soldiers to remember.
“Everyone tends to think that because you’re on a FOB, you’re safe, and you don’t have to worry about the enemy,” Beall said. “But everything you do, every single day, somehow affects this country, the province of Zabul, and our mission as a whole, and [we need] to maintain that vigilance so we don’t ever forget we are in a combat zone and this is a war.”