News: The future of Super FOB takes shape in Paktika
Story by Sgt. Ken Scar
PAKTIKA PROVINCE, Afghanistan – After years of planning and logistic challenges, the largest base of operations for Afghanistan’s growing security force is nearing completion.
Forward Operating Base Super FOB, so named because of the sprawling complex being built there, will eventually host 4,000 Afghan National Army and 400 coalition soldiers, who will be advisers and trainers.
Modern steel and stucco buildings line the smoothly paved streets of the 1,150 square meter site, an uncommon appearance in this land where the vast majority of structures are made from mud.
The new additions to the operating base include a sleek dining facility that can seat 1,000, with 10 wood-burning stoves being built to cook traditional Afghan cuisine, a powerplant with nine giant diesel generators that can crank out 8.1 megawatts of power, enough to sustain a small city, and even a jail house with ammenities in each cell that are nicer than most Afghan homes.
Building an installation on such a grand scale in a country plagued by the Taliban and the Haqqani Network proved to be just as huge a challenge as one might imagine.
“This is the most resource-wasting job we’ve ever done,” said Simon Jabbour, logistics manager for Nassar Group International, the Lebanese company that won the bid to build the base. “It has taken a lot of energy.”
When the construction of Super FOB first started four years ago, there were no coalition forces present in the area, and Jabbour and his workers faced challenges with the Afghan government, insurgent groups and tough working conditions which contributed to the lack of progress for the company.
Jabbour, Pierre Nassar, the owner of NGI, and their security teams overcame some daunting difficulties, including being hijacked, blackmailed, trying to get supplies and equipment across the Pakistan border, and even being put in jail to keep the project from moving forward.
Many of the materials used in the project, such as the huge power generators and pre-fabricated metal buildings, were too large to air lift to the build site, so dozens of treacherous convoys from Pakistan had to be arranged. To get the materials across the border, it meant dealing with insurgent groups, and the dangers associated with them.
Today, with a much greater U.S. presence at the FOB and increased ANSF security capabilities, work is going much faster and more smoothly than when they began the project, said Jabbour, noting that the first immigration of ANA soldiers into the new facility is slated to begin within two months.
To help keep an eye on the four-year project, Jabbour and his team have lived at Super FOB since the beginning. Deep in the interior of northern Paktika, their living compound, located on the grounds of the build site, is a maze of lived-in shipping containers and cabins heavily fortified with stacks and stacks of sand bags.
“The senior members of the company are here – they live here and don’t see their families for years,” said U.S. Army Capt. Andrew Littel, Super FOB commander. “That’s how important this project is.”
“We live here to boost the morale of our employees,” said Nassar. “They see us here every day and say, okay, if they can be here so can I.”
Another challenge that faces the construction of Super FOB has been the turn-over of the hundreds of Afghan workers employed by NGI, said Jabbour.
“Our work force has turned over three times so far, because they get scared after rocket attacks,” he explained. “For so many reasons, you see, this project has not been easy.”
It has been a tedious process for Jabbour and his team, but when it’s complete it will be the largest ANA hub in Afghanistan, strategically located in the middle of one of the most volatile border regions in the country.
“This is the most dangerous area in west Paktika, and they’ve built a super fortress here” said Littel. “It’s amazing.”