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Base camp infrastructure development and C2 in Afghanistan.

The rapid and unexpected population growth that occurred at the base camp at Baghram, Afghanistan, and the expansion of base camps in general, presents challenges for engineer and logistical planners concerned with developing base camp infrastructure in an efficient manner.

Before Operation Anaconda, the base at Baghram, located approximately 30 miles north of Kabul, was not expected to exceed more than 300 personnel. Accordingly, engineer and logistical planners did not expect, nor plan, extraordinary life support or base camp construction tasks. As the situation developed, however, the camp population began to expand rapidly, and by mid-January, the population was hovering at about 1,000. Thirty days later, it had nearly doubled, and two weeks after that, the population was up to almost 3,500. By mid-March, the population had peaked at about 4,000. This rapid growth presented several challenges for engineer planners who were concerned about developing basic base camp infrastructure. Challenges such as providing bed-down, latrine, and shower facilities; potable water; and adequate power distribution had to be overcome at Baghram, as well as at the base camp at Kandahar. Establishing a base camp master plan and a command and control (C2) organization in the midst of the rapid e xpansion also proved challenging.

Bed-Down Facilities

Initial bed-down facilities for the first units arriving at Baghram consisted of a mix of old Russian barracks; standard general-purpose, medium tents; and Force Provider tents. As the camp expanded, more Force Provider facilities were added, and several buildings were renovated for use as offices and limited sleeping quarters. Planners faced a major challenge in establishing bed-down facilities at Baghram because the area was heavily mined. The method used to clear areas throughout Afghanistan was dependent on several factors, including the known or perceived threat, the purpose for clearing, the assets available, and the terrain on which the clearing was required. In Baghram--as in Kandahar--large, flat areas were available and designated for tent cities. Inmost cases, these areas were cleared with a mine-clearing armorplated D7 dozer, or an Aardvark or a Hydrema flail, and then visually proofed. Mine-detection dogs were also used for additional proofing. (See article, "Repairing Runways and Clearing Mines in Afghanistan," Engineer, July 2002.)

Another issue faced by planners at Baghram was that initially, many conventional forces and some special operations units deployed to Baghram without tents. Consequently, several hundred tents had to be procured on short notice to provide adequate life support for these units.

Water Supply

Providing an adequate supply of potable water at Baghram was also challenging during its rapid expansion. Initially, bottled water was flown in, and this was sustainable when the camp consisted of fewer than 300 personnel. However, it soon became apparent that as the population expanded, bottled water would not be adequate to meet dining, laundry, and hygiene requirements.

During their occupation, the Soviets had built two wells at Baghram, but neither of the pumps was operational when U.S. forces secured the base. A British well-drilling team and U.S. engineers repaired or replaced the pumps. The British team tested the water from one well and confirmed that it was safe for drinking. However, reverse osmosis water purification units were brought in for both wells as added insurance of safe drinking water.

Repairing the well at Baghram required that engineers overcome a heavy lift problem. A crane was not available to lift the pipe from inside the well, so a helicopter secured the existing pipe and pulled it out. At Kandahar, wells also provided potable water. There, one of the pumps operated with three-phase electrical power. Very few people on the ground at the time had much experience with three-phase power. Fortunately, the engineer battalion S3, who had an electrical engineering degree, and a logistical assistance representative from the Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command were able to get the pump into operation. Had these people not been available, the pump would have had to be replaced with a pump that operated on more conventional single-phase power.

Latrine Facilities

The latrine facilities at Baghram went through several stages as the base camp expanded. The first latrine was a single privacy box constructed of four military metal pallets placed over an available sewage manhole cover (see photo above). The camp quickly outgrew this facility, and latrine facilities progressed to slit trenches and urine tubes. As these facilities were improved to provide for privacy, more construction materials and engineer assets were flown in or purchased locally. In a theater where the primary--and often the only--means of logistical support is by air, getting heavy engineer equipment and large stocks of materials into Baghram was challenging. Early on, delays were common and often frustrated engineer planners on the ground.

Units were not accustomed to providing their own latrines. A general consensus of senior participants in the operation was that unit-level field sanitation tasks need more emphasis during home station training exercises.

Because the area around the Baghram airfield was heavily mined and littered with unexploded ordnance (UXO), continually relocating slit trenches was not practical. As the base camp continued to expand, slit-trench latrine facilities progressed to burn-out latrines. Once these facilities were constructed, personnel hired from the local area maintained them. In the Baghram area, planners were fortunate that there was plenty of unskilled labor available and willing to maintain burn-out latrines.

At the end of February, porta-potties became available and started to replace the burn-out latrines. At Baghram, local contractors maintained the porta-potties, but finding competent contractors turned out to be somewhat challenging for engineer planners. The long-term goal of the camp at Baghram is to tap into existing sewage lines. However, the problems involved with locating and clearing existing lines may make it more feasible to construct a completely new sewage system.

At Kandahar, the latrines progressed in a similar manner. Porta-potties there were serviced by a Canadian team with the appropriate equipment. Waste was hauled to a local leach bed within the camp perimeter. It is noteworthy that burn-out latrines, as opposed to porta-potties, are generally considered the best interim solution since using contractors or coalition partners for waste disposal will not always be a readily available option. As of this writing, a utilities detachment was installing a sewage main at Kandahar that will allow gray water to be drained directly to the leach bed and will allow some existing facilities to be brought into service. Fortunately, the engineer battalion commander purchased a commercial ditching machine for each of his companies before deploying. This equipment has proved very useful for installing cable, sewage lines, and underground power lines.

Shower Facilities

Shower facilities were quickly sought at Baghram as well as at Kandahar. A few permanent facilities were located and put into operation by the combat heavy engineers, but they were always overcrowded and were not nearly adequate for the number of soldiers at the camp. Many units did not deploy with kits or materials to make field-expedient showers, so they were dependent on the logistical system to provide them. Some of our coalition partners, however, came with field shower equipment and were able to provide service to their units. As of the writing of this article, showers were still in high demand at both base camps.

Power Distribution

Power generation went through similar development at both Kandahar and Baghram. Initially, units depended on their organic tactical generators for their power needs. At Kandahar, personnel from prime power units arrived and quickly designed power grids. The existing power distribution systems at both camps were deemed too unsafe or unreliable, so the utility detachment and other engineer personnel began installing underground power lines. The biggest constraint in getting the power grid into operation at both camps was the transport and availability of the prime power unit's large 750-kilowatt (kW) generators. Once these generators were on the ground, the prime power units--with the assistance of the utility detachments--installed a power grid in relatively short order.

The mission of the prime power units is to design the power grid and provide low-voltage (120/208 -- 60 hertz) power to the user. Their normal tasks do not include running long exterior low-voltage lines to end users. Military occupational specialty 51 R electricians assigned to the combat heavy engineer units were very competent at interior wiring tasks, but most of them had little experience with running long exterior low-voltage lines. Fortunately, soldiers from the prime power detachments were able to assist the combat heavy units' electricians, who installed low-voltage power lines for other units as required.

It was noted that the generation of technology used by the prime power detachments is based on aging technology. Prime power personnel are required to manually balance the loads placed on the power grid. In modem power grids, this task is automatically accomplished by semiconducting resistance circuit boards. In addition, the step-down transformers that they use can only be obtained through the Army supply system and are unlike the ones readily available off the shelf. This is potentially problematic, since the required transformers can only be procured from limited sources.

The initial assessment was that the power requirement at Kandahar was 2.2 megawatts. This required the base camp to use three 750-kW generators and one backup 750-kW generator. However, during the summer months, many units subsequently added environmental control units to provide air conditioning. These requirements were not initially accounted for, and they easily doubled the requirement for 750-kW generators from four to eight.

This situation points to a larger issue. The Army has not clearly defined the standards for base camps. Established standards or goals are needed so that future base camp infrastructure plans can be completed early on and ample lead time is available for necessary logistical support coordination. Without established planning standards, planners have nothing on which to base plans. To solve this problem, the Coalition Forces Land Component Command (CFLCC) C7 and Central Command (CENTCOM) staffs drafted--and received approval for--a set of standards that are available for future operations. These standards are called the Sand Book.

Base Camp C2 and Master Planning

During early stages of base camp development, planners sometimes found it difficult to expand the camp in an organized, synchronized manner. This was especially true at Baghram, and one of the ways this problem manifested itself was when planners discovered that a recently renovated building could not be used as a dining facility because of force protection concerns. This situation was partially attributed to the rapid and unpredictable growth of the base camp but can also be attributed to the rapidly changing C2 structures and missions of the forces at Baghram. A brief history of Baghram will illustrate how the base camp C2 structure evolved.

On 19 November 2001, CFLCC issued operations order (OPORD) 02-005, which directed CFLCC forces, in coordination with coalition forces, to operate and maintain Baghram airfield to support humanitarian assistance and set the conditions for follow-on operations. Task Force Baghram was officially activated on 29 November 2001. The initial staff consisted of 18 personnel. The task force's mission was to protect the force, conduct airfield and detainee operations, provide base support to seven coalition tenet units, and provide C2 to the approximately 600 coalition and joint forces operating in the Baghram Valley area. Key tasks also included enabling infrastructure development within Afghanistan.

On 9 December 2001, CFLCC published fragmentary order (FRAGO) 02 to CFLCC OPORD 02-005, which directed the movement of a colonel from CFLCC C3 (Rear) to assume command of Task Force Baghram. Over the next three months, the task force headquarters grew to nearly five times its initial staff strength, and tenant units grew to more than 4,000. As the number of tenant units and their corresponding life support requirements quickly increased, problems such as the one described in a preceding paragraph began to surface, and it became apparent that closer attention had to be given to base camp development.

A base camp planning board was established on 27 January 2002, based on the recommendation of a member of the CFLCC C7 staff who was sent to Baghram to assist in the orderly expansion of the camp. This colonel, the chief of construction and facilities section of the CFLCC C7, became the de facto mayor of Baghram and held this unofficial position for about seven weeks. The concept of the planning board and base camp mayor was taken from the C2 structures recommended by the Redbook, a planning guide for base camp development used in Europe. The planning board, which consisted of representatives from most of the major tenant units and staff elements, met weekly. The meetings provided a forum for representatives to voice requirements and issues. In addition, an officer who specialized in master planning deployed to Baghram on a temporary basis to help develop the overall infrastructure plan. The board developed a robust plan and successfully housed an additional 1,000 personnel during the last five days in February.

About this time, a seven-person facilities engineer team (FET), consisting of engineers with a variety of engineering disciplines, was deployed to Baghram. The team's mission was to assist the base camp planning board (which later became the Base Operations Center) in developing technical scopes of work and designs for future base camp infrastructure upgrades. The FET found that the Theater Construction Management System (TCMS) was useful for obtaining basic designs and drawings, even though some of the drawings were outdated. In addition, it found that the software was not user-friendly unless the user was thoroughly familiar with the program.

The Redbook was used in space allocation planning for services such as postal, base camp C2, laundry, and bathing. The FET found that having team members with basic surveying skills was useful for making field surveys of various sites. In addition, the team found that it would have been beneficial to have a power distribution engineer on the team. The team also coordinated with CFLCC C7 staff and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers liaison officer to coordinate scope of work for projected military construction and Logistics Civil Augmentation Program projects.

The FET was given a general planning horizon and number of personnel to plan for when it began work in Baghram. Until that time, a clearly defined end state for the base camp was difficult to ascertain, which made it rather hard for engineer planners to commit the right resources to base camp planning and development. Understandably, security concerns over future operations to be staged out of Baghram were likely the reason why few on the ground knew how rapidly the camp would expand and how permanent the expansion would be.

Task Force Baghram commenced drawdown and transition activities on 21 February 2002, and on 6 March2002 it officially transferred staff functions and responsibilities for garrison C2 responsibilities to the commander of the resident supply and service battalion.

Lessons Learned

Engineers and logistical planners learned the following lessons regarding base camp infrastructure development and C2 in Afghanistan:

Bed-Down Facilities

* Clearing areas of mines and UXO for tent space may limit the pace at which a base camp can expand in areas where the mine/UXO threat is high.

* Units should come prepared with enough tents to accommodate their personnel or should let their higher headquarters know their requirements early on.

Water Supply

* In austere theaters that are dependent on logistical support by air, using bottled water as the only source of potable water may not be sustainable.

* Combat heavy engineer units should know how to service wells and pumps, to include pulling and replacing pipes. They also should know the basics of three-phase power.

* Drilling new wells may be necessary if existing wells are not satisfactory or are not available.

* Units must be ingenious and use all available assets to accomplish their missions in austere environments.

Latrine Facilities

* Battalion-sized and smaller units should be prepared to provide for their own field latrines until more permanent facilities are constructed.

* Units may not be getting the necessary training on basic field sanitation tasks because of the dependence on portable latrines in most training areas and the relatively short duration and low density of troops during training events.

* Units that are not prepared to construct basic latrines place additional and unnecessary requirements on scarce engineer resources.

* Units must mark slit trenches and urine pits when they are filled in so that future base camp expansion can be planned without jeopardizing the health of the inhabitants.

* Porta-potties cannot always be expected to replace slit trenches since they are dependent on the availability of maintenance equipment in theater.

* A ditching machine allows utility detachments and engineers to rapidly install cable, sewage lines, and underground power lines.

Shower Facilities

* Units should deploy with materials to construct field showers and be prepared to use them until more permanent facilities are in place.

Power Distribution

* Availability and transport of 750-kW generators can be a limiting factor in the rapid establishment of a power distribution system. Off-loading the generators from the aircraft is difficult since each generator weighs more than 39,000 pounds and requires a special loader to off-load it. This special loader itself requires heavy lift assets to offload from the aircraft. Although clearly stated in FM 5-422, Engineer Prime Power Operations, the logistical coordination required to transport these large generators into austere areas of operation should not be overlooked.

* Units should train on how to run low-voltage power lines to main access points provided by prime power units.

* Ditching machines greatly enhance the rate at which power lines can be installed.

* The technology used by prime power units should be upgraded to keep up with common industry standards.

Base Camp C2 and Master Planning

* It is difficult to plan for base camp facilities when the population rapidly and unexpectedly expands and the internal C2 organization rapidly changes.

* A Base Camp Planning Board should be established as soon as possible to assist with the organized development of the infrastructure of the base camp.

* The FET enhances the infrastructure planning for base camps.

* Allowing the FET to tailor itself to the specific mission enables the right capabilities to be deployed.

* Clearly defining the end state for a base camp is the single most important thing that can be done to ensure that proper planning for life support can be accomplished.

* The TCMS is generally useful but needs to be updated and made more user-friendly.

* The Redbook is generally useful but should be updated to include base camp living standards or goals for varying lengths of expected occupation in austere environments such as those encountered in Afghanistan. Some of these standards are addressed in the Sand Book. However, every commander should have his own standard.

Major McNulty is the executive officer of the 577th Engineer Battalion, 1st Engineer Brigade, Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Previous assignments include operations officer 5th Engineer Battalion, Fort Leonard Wood, and commander, B Company, 299th Engineer Battalion and 43d Engineer Company 3 ACR, Fort Carson, Colorado. A graduate of the United States Military Academy, MAJ McNulty holds a master's in mineral economics from the Colorado School of Mines. He traveled to Afghanistan as a member of a Combined-Arms Assessment Team led by the Center for Army Lessons Learned, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
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Article Details
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Author:McNulty, Dennis J.
Publication:Engineer: The Professional Bulletin for Army Engineers
Geographic Code:9AFGH
Date:Oct 1, 2002
Previous Article:Lead the way.
Next Article:Operation Bulldog Barrier.

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