By Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Drumsta, 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team April 17, 2012
CAMP SHELBY, Miss -- Closing bases in Afghanistan is a perfect fit for them, according to some Soldiers of the New York Army National Guard's 427th Special Troops Battalion (BSB).
"The war started in New York City, and now New York State units are going to close down Afghanistan (bases)," said Spc. Aaron Taylor, of Hamburg, N.Y. "It started in New York, now New York is ending it."
Soldiers of the battalion's B Company and Headquarters and Headquarters Company left here for Afghanistan on April 6. The battalion belongs to the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. Brigade Soldiers have already deployed from here to Kuwait, and other brigade Soldiers are here preparing to deploy.
Closing down bases will be an excruciatingly detailed job, according to Capt. Gregory Pforter, the commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Company. The Soldiers will have to inventory, maintain and assess every last bit of equipment at the Combat Outposts (COPs) and Forward Operating Bases (FOBs), he explained.
"It's all about maintaining property accountability, from start to finish," he said.
They'll also have to take care of any hazardous materials issues and track the equipment as it's transported out of Afghanistan, explained Pforter, who is from DeRuyter, N.Y. He declined to estimate the total tonnage or cost of the equipment they'll be taking care of.
"It's a lot," he said. "There are hundreds of COPs and FOBs in Afghanistan. Right now I can't quantify it."
Some of the bases are like small towns, he explained, and have every have everything necessary to support combat operations and troops, along with homey accommodations and morale facilities like shops and gyms. Though closing bases seems to be a daunting task, the companies' regular missions are transportation, command and control, so the Soldiers have the skills to do the job, Pforter said.
"It works out well because we are logistics," he said. "That's what the BSB does. This is very logistics-heavy."
The Soldiers' logistics skills were sharpened by some troops who are now experts in base closure -- the 227th Quartermaster Company, based at Fort Campbell, Ky. In March, Soldiers of the unit, which closed down 10 small FOBs and eight major bases in Iraq, flew here from Kuwait to share their knowledge and hands-on experience with the BSB Soldiers.
"We're taking our knowledge and handing it down," said Staff Sgt. Gene Taylor, of the 227th Quartermaster Company. "Now they'll have a leg up when they get over there. When we got on the ground, it was a crash course. But our guys took ownership of the mission and made it happen."
The training here involved counting equipment like dummy rifles and learning how to create documentation to account for them.
"The work is very tedious," said Taylor, of Morton, Miss. "It's the Army's way of getting equipment back on record. Lots of it has been lost."
Their unit secured millions of dollars worth of equipment, from huge vehicles to crew-served weapons, Taylor said. As the BSB closes bases and accounts for property, unit officers will also be signing for millions of dollars worth of equipment, he explained. The BSB Soldiers will need to take ownership of the mission as well, he stressed.
"If not, they're going to cost their officers money," he said.
Though she's from Columbia, Ky., Sgt. Angelique Mann joined the 427th BSB to deploy to Afghanistan. She's a logistics technician, so the mission is right up her alley, she said. Nonetheless, she enjoyed the training from the 227th Quartermaster Company
"I'm very glad they did this because everyone needs it," Mann said. "There's a lot of detail to it."
The Soldiers and civilians they'll be dealing with are seen as "customers," she explained. These customers are apt to be in a hurry, so the job will also call on their human skills, she added.
"You have to treat them good and be patient with them," Mann said. "We're trying to get people home. This is a slow step in getting out of Afghanistan."
Staff Sgt. Jason Marzan, a cavalry scout from Ovid, N.Y., also joined the 427th BSB to deploy.
"It feels good knowing we're part of the team that's going to close down Afghanistan," he reflected.
Spc. Aaron Taylor recalled that he was in 6th grade when 9-11 occurred.
"I'm 21 and I'm going over to close it down," Taylor said.