By Maj. Lucas Connolly, 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment April 7, 2013
FORWARD OPERATING BASE SUPER FOB, Afghanistan (April 7, 2013) -- Under blue skies and white clouds, like those at home in a Norman Rockwell painting, the Soldiers of the engineer Tolai of 4th Kandak, 2nd Brigade, 203rd Afghan National Army marched in formation toward a symbol of their most recent success.
At the end of the road lay the entry control point of Paktika Province's "Super FOB," or forward operating base. It was once a poorly designed and poorly defended entryway into the heart of the 2nd Brigade's home base. The gate is now flanked by twin towers reminiscent of medieval fortifications, surrounded by earthen filled walls, and complete with a vehicle search lane, over-watched from two machine gun positions.
However, it is neither the thickness of the walls nor the imposing height of the towers that make this project significant. What is significant about this project is that not one ounce of dirt was moved by foreign hands, not a single foreign piece of equipment was used to construct it, and every piece of material used in its construction originated in the supply yards and motor pools of the 4th Kandak.
Just before lunch on a sunny spring day, several dozen visitors, mostly Afghan National Army, or ANA, personnel and their advisors, assembled at the gate of the Super FOB to witness its ceremonial opening, and to congratulate the engineer tolai assembled there, for a job well done.
"This was their project from start to finish," said Capt. Douglas Mize, advisor to the engineer tolai. "We provided technical advice and some help with the design but they did every bit of the work."
Afghan National Army Lt. Muhammed Eshaq, the acting commander of the engineer tolai and officer in charge for the project, received a certificate of achievement for his efforts. Proudly holding it above his head he shouted, "For Afghanistan!"
Discounting the commonly held belief that nothing happens while the commander is away, the entire project was completed in the absence of Eshaq's commander, ANA Capt. Anwar, currently attending school at another location.
"The old entrance was no good," Eshaq stated through an interpreter. "There were no walls and you couldn't see anything from the tower. This is secure."
The 4th Kandak commander, ANA Lt. Col. Muhammed Ayoub, congratulated Eshaq after cutting the ceremonial ribbon and letting the first vehicle through the gate.
"This was all done by Afghan hands," said Ayoub, "We are grateful for our advisors, but soon we will not need them."
An Embedded Training Team from Utah assigned to Engineer Task Force Prowler, followed the project closely from design to completion. It was used as the validation operation and the final assessment of the engineer tolai's capabilities.
"Simply put, we're done," said Staff Sgt. Travis Thomas, noncommissioned officer in charge of the ETT. "They're capable. They're ready. They don't need me anymore. And I'm happy to say that my team and I are going home in a few weeks."