War on Terrorism

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Soldiers Renovate Base in Afghanistan

By Army Sgt. Rob Frazier
Special to American Forces Press Service

Nov. 10, 2009 - Soldiers here continued the renovation of their base by relocating and resizing the fuel point area at Forward Operating Base Altimur, Nov. 7. Several months ago, soldiers from 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, implemented a new program called "Operation Extreme Make Over." The goal was to coordinate quick, Afghan-led projects to improve areas in local villages, instill pride and build on the U.S.-Afghan partnership.

The fuel point is the latest improvement project for the unit's soldiers, who have worked steadily for the past 11 months to ensure they leave the base better than they found it. The change offered multi-faceted benefits, said Army Capt. Kamil Sztalkoper, Headquarters, Headquarters Troop commander.

"Today we are installing two new fuel tanks to increase the fuel capacity," the Cleveland native said. "This strengthens force protection and improves the distribution and reception points at Altimur."

Until recently, the squadron had been using the area that was created when the 101st Airborne Division established the base in late 2008. However, growing concerns over its location prompted the unit's leaders to make moving it a priority before they finished their year-long tour next month.

Army Sgt. Luke Morgan, a petroleum supply specialist, was sent from the 710th Brigade Support Battalion at Forward Operating Base Shank to supervise the construction. He noticed right away the new location would be a huge asset by providing better service to traffic and a more convenient spot to refuel.

"The old location created a traffic jam," the Springfield, Mo., soldier said. "With the new location, vehicles can pull off to the side of the road, refuel and be on their way without causing any slowdowns on the route."

Using local workers, Morgan supervised construction of the barriers that will serve as the perimeter for the two fueling points, which will sit side by side.

"We have to make sure we have the right dimensions to prevent slack in the liners," he said as an Afghan worker lowered dirt into the last remaining barriers from a front-end loader.

Meticulous planning for every detail will go a long way to ensuring the efficiency and durability of the fuel point for soldiers, Morgan said.

An added benefit to moving the fueling point to the new location is placing it on level ground.

"The earth work is very important," Morgan said. "When something like this is on a slant, it messes with the gauging of the bags and the fuel count."

Soldiers are installing two 50,000-gallon bladders that will encompass an area 100 feet long and 60 feet wide. That size, Sztalkoper said, will ensure soldiers have more than enough fuel to carry them through the long, weekly stretches of a deployment when the grueling tempo promotes an increase in movement.

Soldiers also factored in the harsh winter weather by installing a backup drain system, Morgan said. "This is essential for snow and water build-up so we can be certain the area will drain properly to prevent problems."

Within the next several days, the bladders will inflate with thousands of gallons of fuel, and the last major project for the Titan soldiers on Altimur will be completed.

Sztalkoper said the new fueling system, along with the finished construction of the new chapel, hard-structure billeting and the doubling of the helicopter landing zone, will go a long way to helping the 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment, when that unit's soldiers assume operational control of the base in the next few months.

"We've definitely done a lot of good things here over the past year," he said. "The most important thing is that each project we've done impacts the soldiers directly in a positive way. We can confidently say that we have left this [base] better than we found it."

(Army Sgt. Rob Frazier serves with the 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)

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