Sunday, May 10, 2009

Marines in southern Afghanistan build for future, construct Camp Leatherneck

April 27, 2009
Story by: Lance Cpl. Ronald W. Stauffer

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan – Camp Leatherneck, soon to be the largest Marine Corps camp in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is making an impression in the soils of southern Afghanistan, April 27, 2009.

A sign of the U.S. Marine Corps’ commitment to counterinsurgency operations, and the training and mentoring of the Afghan National Police in southern Afghanistan, the camp will eventually be able to house about 10,000, including members of U.S. Navy, Army, Air Force and civilian contractors.

According to Capt. Bart Lecher, the Headquarters Company commander assigned to Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Afghanistan, Leatherneck is designed to be a hub for the reception, staging, onward movement and integration of Marine forces into southern Afghanistan.

Camp Leatherneck is currently under the operational control of Col. Duffy W. White, the commander of SPMAGTF-A until the arrival of the camp’s main tenant – the headquarters of the 2d Marine Expeditionary Brigade.

“The project started in January with nothing but dirt and currently, four months later, the camp is fully capable, housing nearly 5,000 personnel,” Lecher said.

Currently residing in the camp, Navy Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 5 are supporting much of the construction.

“They’re the best at their jobs, and the amount of work they do can’t be matched,” said Marine Capt. Joshua Guide, the company commander of Co. B, NMCB-5, and the Marine liaison with the SPMAGTF-A mayor cell for the camp. “They’re a valuable asset to the Marine expeditionary brigade (who will be taking over Camp Leatherneck).”

Guide said he finds his position with the SeaBees to be unique, but at the same time he feels it’s an honor to have the opportunity to lead the SeaBees.

One of the camp’s largest projects is the construction of three headquarters buildings for the MEB, the regimental combat team and the garrison. At more than 200 feet in length and 10,000 square feet, the Southwest Asia-style wooden structures are recognized by the SeaBees and Marines as the largest of their kind ever built.

While the SeaBees are hard at work, the Marines have jumped into the building frenzy within the camp, assisting the Seabees with squaring walls, placing support pedestals and undertaking other various construction tasks when they have extra time to spare.

“A bunch of us volunteered to come out and help,” said Sgt. Dennis A. Lum, a field radio operator assigned to Marine Wing Communications Squadron 28. “I love building, and I love helping.”

Also playing an important role in the construction of the camp, civilian contractors have worked to erect tents and living quarters, as well as provide life support comforts, such as dining facilities, maintenance shelters and morale, welfare and recreational facilities for the incoming service members.

“The contractors have been absolutely huge,” said 1st Lt. Kieran R. O’Neil, the camp commandant for Brigade Headquarters Group. “They are a vital component to this base. Their mission is getting all the buildings set up.”

O’Neil said that up to 10,000 personnel will be rolling through the camp to receive equipment and push out to the forward operating bases located throughout southern Afghanistan.

“We’re living as the construction is going on everyday, and the Marines are adapting,” said Gunnery Sgt. Claude A. Pile, the logistics chief for the Brigade Headquarters Group. “I walk around all day and talk to the Marines. Even though they’re on the camp for now and the conditions are challenging at the moment, you can still see it in their faces. They want to be here.”

Marine Corps planners say the potential exists to expand the camp to three times its original size in 2010.
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