The final chapter of the Transatlantic Afghanistan District was etched into history on Armed Forces Day, May 15, 2021, as the colors of the command were cased for the final time in a ceremony held at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.
Presiding over the ceremony from a virtual platform was Brigadier General Kimberly Colloton, Transatlantic Division commander and former commander of the Afghanistan District.
“There is a rich history available to us, where adapting, adjusting, and doing it better is a testament of the will of the people,” said Colloton.
She reflected on how the Afghanistan District evolved from a Forward Engineer Support Team, otherwise known as FEST-A.
So as one chapter of the USACE history in Afghanistan closes we will always honor their mission and look back on how that history grew through the years.
In October 2001, the United States and its coalition partners sent military forces into Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, which had the goals of displacing the al-Qaeda terrorist organization, ousting the Taliban government, and establishing a new Afghan central government.
A six-person Forward Engineering Support Team from the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers deployed with the Army’s XVIII Airborne Corps and worked with that units’ engineers during combat operations.
In a country racked by decades of war, the fledgling government needed a national army to secure internal peace and stability. But the new Afghan National Army needed adequate facilities to support it new fighting force. By the fall of 2002, it became clear that the renovation and construction of support facilities would be the pacing factor in the ANA’s expansion. The Office of Military Cooperation-Afghanistan asked the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers to manage the renovation and construction of facilities for the national army.
To manage this program, USACE’s Transatlantic Programs Center in Winchester, Virginia, established the Afghanistan Area Office at Kabul in September 2002. USACE planners completed the ANA facilities master plan and awarded the first ANA construction contracts by the end of 2002. Initially, those contracts were to renovate existing facilities for the first Soldiers graduating from the ANA training program.
The facility requirements for the ANA expanded as the numbers of Soldiers increased, with new brigade facilities identified for construction throughout Afghanistan. Concurrently, the military construction project load for U. S. and coalition forces increased during 2003, primarily because the growing number of forces at Bagram Airfield and Kandahar Airfield required housing and operational facilities. Additionally, USACE entered into an agreement with the U. S. Agency for International Development to provide design review, construction management, and quality assurance services for certain projects.
The growth in mission and the long-term commitment to Afghanistan prompted USACE to expand the area office in Kabul to a District. On March 1, 2004, the Afghanistan Engineer District, reporting directly to USACE headquarters, assumed command and control of USACE assets in Afghanistan and the bordering countries. Five years later, with the increasing mission to provide facilities for the additional 30,000 U. S. troops in Afghanistan, USACE revised its organizational structure. The existing Kandahar Program Office became AED-South on August 3, 2009, with AED-North continuing to be based in Kabul. Both Districts reported to the Transatlantic Division, which was established for a second time on September 29, 2009.
The evolving USACE mission in Afghanistan resulted in another structural change on July 9, 2013, when AED-North and AED-South merged into a single District again. Operation Enduring Freedom formally ended in December 2014 and was replaced by Operations Resolute Support and Freedom’s Sentinel. Subsequently, on December 22, 2020, the Transatlantic Afghanistan District was awarded the Joint Meritorious Unit Commendation for support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and Resolute Support.
The Afghanistan District has delivered quality facilities for the Afghan National Army and Police; critical civil infrastructure, such as water and electrical facilities for the Afghan government; and basic engineering and construction services supporting a wide range of needs. The projects employ the populace, build skilled human capital, and promote the stability of Afghanistan.
For more than 17 years, the Afghanistan District has performed remarkably for the government of Afghanistan, U. S. Forces Afghanistan, and Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, and the U. S. Agency for International Development.
It is at this time the colors of the Afghanistan District are cased for the final time. The casing of the colors signifies the beginning of a new chapter as the Afghanistan District re-flags as the Transatlantic Expeditionary District.
The Expeditionary District brings with it the accomplishments and lineage of the Afghanistan District, “Always Forward”.