ARGHANDAB, Afghanistan - A small combat outpost, or COP, called Terra Nova is quickly under renovation. About 200 U.S. soldiers, mainly Baker Company, 4th battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division at Fort Bliss, TX., occupy the area. 1st Sergeant Ken Griffing is the COP Mayor. His job is becoming more and more important each day.
By July 1 Terra Nova will be taken over by 3rd Kandak’s Afghan National Army. There are many tasks that need to be completed before the July 1 deadline.
Retrograde is becoming a more familiar word to the soldiers of Baker Company. Soldiers at Terra Nova feel the heat as the temperatures increase every day in the triple digits. Tearing down their living quarters, moving heavy equipment, continuing with force protection around the COP, as well as supporting the Afghan National Security Forces or ANSF on daily missions around Arghandab. When are the soldiers able to take a break?
Griffing finds innovative ways to keep his soldiers motivated and to ensure all tasks will be mission complete before the deadline.
“My soldiers were complaining about the gym floor and how it couldn’t handle the weights,” said Griffing, 1SG of Baker Co., 4-17th Inf., “So, we moved it outside and used Air Force pallets as a secondary floor. Now, my soldiers have more area to workout and with a safer floor. Our Afghan partners will be receiving this “new” gym when they take over.
Griffing has ordered to keep the MWR, which houses Internet computers and SPAWARE phones, open until the day of the take over. Soldiers at Terra Nova will be allowed to stay connected with family and friends during the retrograde process.
Another plan of action Griffing decided on was to allow his soldiers a long break during the hottest part of the day. This break can last from 1 p.m.-5 p.m.. At this time, soldiers are able to sleep, or relax in an air-conditioned environment.
“Right now, we have doubled up on rooms and the leadership is sleeping in their offices so soldiers can be as comfortable as possible during these final weeks,” said Griffing.
Before their ANSF partners can take over Terra Nova, there are still many challenges that need to be met.
“Our ANSF partners aren’t able to maintain the structures that we have, such as tents. We’ve gone from 24 tents to soon, no tents within these two weeks,” said Griffing, “They aren’t able to do what we do logistically. Here at Terra Nova we consume about 700 gallons of fuel every day for our generators, which sustain the COP. When our partners take over the COP, they will only be issued 500 gallons of fuel per week.”
The larger generators, which sustain electricity throughout the COP, will need to shut down. The power load will decrease exponentially. Smaller generators will then be activated and spread out to help sustain and maintain the ration of fuel for the ANSF.
The retrograde process at Terra Nova is ahead of schedule and will successfully meet the deadline.
Acting as the COP Mayor demands certain responsibilities to keep his COP running smoothly, explains Griffin. Enforcing safety to all of his Soldiers will ultimately help complete their mission and ensure a healthy homecoming.