Rebuilding FOB Sweeney

Story by Sgt. Christopher McCullough

FORWARD OPERATING BASE LAGMAN, Afghanistan – Moving into a new residence for the first time is a challenge for anyone. When that residence is some place that has not seen any sizable American forces in nearly five years, and is in a state of disrepair, it is infinitely more challenging.

“The place had been neglected for well over a year,” said Capt. Joe Mickley, commanding officer for Battle Company, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, Task Force 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, the newest tenant at Forward Operating Base Sweeney.

After living out of their bags for the better part of a month at FOB Apache, the men of Battle Company were itching to settle into their new home and strenuous manual labor wasn’t about to stop them. They set about building their proverbial ‘home away from home’ almost as soon as they arrived.

“Everything you see around here was built by our soldiers,” said Mickley. “We built a lot of buildings, we put up a lot of tents, we filled a lot of sandbags and we increased our force protection significantly.”

“We had to build it from the ground up,” the Battle Company 1st Sgt. Aaron Alexander added.

The amount of hard work the soldiers of Battle Company have put into their FOB in such a short time is not lost on their commanding officer.

“The obvious challenges are having to build everything that you have and make it what it is,” Mickley said. “However, the rewards of being able to sit back and see the growth – the place that you’ve put your blood, sweat and tears into – that’s the reward, and that’s what is really creating a high motivation, high morale within the unit right now because soldiers can sit back and see the fruit of their labors.”

The soldiers of FOB Sweeney seem to agree as well.

“Sweeney turned out to be a lot better than I thought it was going to be before we came out here,” said Staff Sgt. David Cross, one of Battle Company’s squad leaders. “The guys have really pulled together and we’ve worked hard. It’s coming along well and I think it’s going to turn out to be a pretty good outpost.”

It hasn’t been easy, however. The quartering party that was sent in advance, worked relentlessly for the last month.

“The guys have done a tremendous amount of work – from sunup to sundown, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve – to make sure this place was ready to support a company-plus size element and all its future operations,” said Alexander.

To make things more difficult, FOB Sweeney’s location – over a mile-high, on the east side of a mountain range, several hours from Qalat – makes getting provisions difficult.

“It’s fairly remote,” said Alexander. “So, as far as receiving the supplies and heavy equipment that we need to expedite these projects, that’s definitely been a challenge. But the guys have overcome, they’ve adapted and they’ve made-do with what they have.”

None of these challenges have dampened Battle Company’s spirit, though.

“There is kind of the challenge of the unknown, which is fun,” said Alexander. “There hasn’t been anybody out here for a while – there has been nobody conducting any enduring operations out here for quite some time – and the enemy has realized that and capitalized on it. So we have the opportunity to make a dent in the insurgency here and the partnership with the ANA and the other local security forces.”

In spite of all the challenges they face, Battle Company is on point and digging in for the long haul at FOB Sweeney.

“There are going to be challenges,” said Mickley. “However, given the start that we’ve gotten here, I feel we’re well suited for those challenges. I feel we’re going to make a difference here … but we have our work cut out for us. It’s not going to be easy.”

[photo below] A soldier from Battle Company, 5th Battalion 20th Infantry Regiment, Task Force 1st Squadron 14th Cavalry Regiment, removes nails from what little lumber was available to build with at Forward Operating Base Sweeney, Afghanistan, Jan. 13, 2012. Soldiers from Battle Company 5-20 Inf. had just moved to FOB Sweeney where supplies and equipment are in short supply.

A soldier removes nails

A soldier removes nails

[photo below] Sgt. Grant Short (left) and Staff Sgt. David Cross Battle Company, 5th Battalion 20th Infantry Regiment, Task Force 1st Squadron 14th Cavalry Regiment, work together to fill sandbags that will be used to improve force protection at Forward Operating Base Sweeney, Jan. 15, 2012. Soldiers from Battle Company 5-20 Inf. had just moved to FOB Sweeney and were working hard to improve the base which was in a state of neglect when they arrived.

Sgt. Grant Short (left) and Staff Sgt. David Cross

Sgt. Grant Short (left) and Staff Sgt. David Cross

[photo below] Sgt. Grant Short, 5th Battalion 20th Infantry Regiment, Task Force 1st Squadron 14th Cavalry Regiment, cuts wood for a tent base which will be used to improve the housing situation at FOB Sweeney, Jan. 21, 2012. Soldiers from B/5-20 Inf. just moved to FOB Sweeney where living quarters are limited.

Sgt. Grant Short

Sgt. Grant Short

[photo below] Two Battle Company, 5th Battalion 20th Infantry Regiment, Task Force 1st Squadron 14th Cavalry Regiment, soldiers work in tandem to build a tent base which will be used to improve the housing situation at FOB Sweeney, Jan. 20, 2012. Soldiers from B/5-20 Inf. just moved to FOB Sweeney where living quarters are limited.

Two Battle Company, soldiers work in tandem to build a tent base

Two Battle Company, soldiers work in tandem to build a tent base

[photo below] Pvt. Edgar Mayfield, Battle Company, 5th Battalion 20th Infantry Regiment, Task Force 1st Squadron 14th Cavalry Regiment, installs lighting that will be used in the company aid station, Jan. 15, 2012. Soldiers from B/5-20 Inf. just moved to FOB Sweeney and are working hard to improve the base which was in a state of neglect when they arrived.

Pvt. Edgar Mayfield

Pvt. Edgar Mayfield

Battle Company soldiers set foot in Afghanistan

Story and photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Brandenburg
December 17, 2011

Battle Company soldiers set foot in Afghanistan

Battle Company soldiers set foot in Afghanistan as they offload from a CH-47 Chinook helicopter as they arrive at Forward Operating Base Lagman, Afghanistan on December. 17, 2011.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE LAGMAN, Afghanistan – The night was dark with a crisp winter wind as the soldiers of the Arrowhead Brigade gathered inside Sheridan Gym [on Fort Lewis] waiting for their names to be called off the manifest. They had already said goodbye to their loved ones, whom they would not see for the next year. One by one, each soldier filed out the back door, yelling “here” as they exited, and loaded onto buses that would eventually deliver them to McChord Airfield.

Arrowhead soldiers reached McChord Airfield, dropped their bags and grabbed a bite to eat before loading the plane that would take them to the other side of the world.

The word was given to load up, soldiers scrambled to their feet, bags and gear being slung on shoulders and over backs. Once everyone was on the plane, the Arrowhead soldiers settled in for a long flight, many just wanting to sleep the entire way.

The seatbelt light illuminated and the captain announced that the flight was starting its final decent into Bangor, Maine. With a jolt, the plane touched down and taxied to the terminal. The layover was long enough to get a coffee, call home and walk around before the announcement called everyone back onboard.

Next stop was Leipzig, Germany where, for many, it was the first time outside the borders of their own country.

They loaded back on the plane glad that the next stop would be the last for the next few days. Twenty-three hours after taking off from Joint Base Lewis McChord, the plane touched down at Manas, Kyrgyzstan. At Manas the soldiers of 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, received a brief on the rules of engagement and completed Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle Egress Training.

After a few days, the men and women of the Arrowhead Brigade loaded an Air Force C-17 Globemaster ready for the flight into Kandahar, Afghanistan. This was the first main wave of Arrowhead soldiers to reach Kandahar Airfield. The brigade had deployed three times before but this was the first time 3-2 SBCT would have soldiers on Afghan ground.

Soldiers trained on how to spot improvised explosive devices as well as zeroing their individual weapons over the next two days.

“I thought the counter improvised explosive device lane was very informative,” said Sgt. Richard Wallace, chaplain assistant, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd SBCT, 2nd ID. “I thought it was good instruction for the soldiers to have.”

Arrowhead soldiers loaded CH-47 Chinooks at Kandahar, which transported them to forward operating bases throughout the Zabul province. There, the Arrowhead Brigade would take command of Combined Team Zabul, which currently has two Romanian mechanized battalions and 1st Battalion 24th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division.

“We have it pretty good here, we have good food, we have a gym next door,” said Spc. Mark Neace, Fusion Cell, HHC, 3rd SBCT, 2nd ID. “It could be a lot worse.”

Upon reaching their respective FOBs, the soldiers of 3-2 SBCT had little down time and instead started learning as much about the area as they could from the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Virginia National Guard, whom they replaced.

“This area [Zabul province] is already well established, it’s been an economy of force mission,” said Lt. Col. Robert D. Halvorson, executive officer 3rd SBCT, 2nd ID. “The efforts that the units before us have put into place whether it be 3rd ACR [Armored Cavalry Regiment] or whether it be 116th IBCT have set this place up for success, so really we’re building on that.”

Even before the 116th IBCT transferred its authority of the Zabul province to 3-2 SBCT, Dec. 27, 2011, Arrowhead soldiers were “On Point” and taking the lead. No matter what their role or position, the soldiers of the Arrowhead Brigade have shown that they have what it takes to accomplish the mission.

“I think the attitude is, just a willingness and readiness to succeed,” added Wallace.

Valentine’s Day Shout-outs from the troops at FOB Sweeney

You’ll have to view all seven video clips to find see each soldier. Enjoy meeting them!

DVIDS – Video – Valentine’s Day Shout-Outs from FOB Sweeny – Part 1

DVIDS – Video – Valentine’s Day Shout-Outs from FOB Sweeny – Part 2

DVIDS – Video – Valentine’s Day Shout-Outs from FOB Sweeny – Part 3

DVIDS – Video – Valentine’s Day Shout-Outs from FOB Sweeny – Part 4

DVIDS – Video – Valentine’s Day Shout-Outs from FOB Sweeny – Part 5

DVIDS – Video – Valentine’s Day Shout-Outs from FOB Sweeny – Part 6

DVIDS – Video – Valentine’s Day Shout-Outs from FOB Sweeny – Part 7

Playing in the snow … just like back at JBLM!

Battle Company soldiers enjoyed the same comforts of winter at FOBs Wolverine and Sweeney as they would have if they had been back at their JBLM quarters in mid-January – 15 inches of snow in Afghanistan, 14 inches in Lakewood.

Battle Company Patch Ceremony

For deployed soldiers, an important milestone is when they pass the “30 days in country” marker. At that point they can wear their unit’s patch on both shoulders, rather than just on the left shoulder.

Battle Company celebrated that milestone with a special ceremony. Included in the event were the soldiers from the Afghan police and Romania who work alongside them.

Enjoy these photos provided by the Army:

Troops getting ready to do security patrols

It’s taken a year of training, lots of planning, an enormous amount of personal sacrifice and effort by all 160 soldiers of Battle Company, but they finally are on duty in Afghanistan … and actually doing what they came to do: patrol the countryside and keep life safe for the folks who live in the villages.

Here’s a couple of photos of the troops getting ready …

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409413

and …

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Stay safe guys!

At FOB Sweeney

Pictures are starting to roll in as Battle Company troops settle in and begin their patrol and training tasks.

Thought everyone would like to see them and their FOB Sweeney so …

Pictures courtesy of Spc. Jason Maxwell via Facebook

How rough is the Afghan terrain?

Afghanistan has some of the roughest terrain in the world. Which Marines taking part in Operation Mountain Lion have to navigate the steep mountains wearing a lot of gear! Marine Sgt. Matt Preston followed along and shows how the Marines used an age old method of transportation to carry some of the gear up the steep, winding mountain paths. Donkeys!

This video was posted on YouTube by Military Videos & News on the 3rdID8487’s Channel.

Sometime during the Battle Company’s deployment, we hope to see some pictures and videos from the soldiers showing how our soldiers navigate wearing all their gear (hint, guys)

Embedded Reporter: Rough Terrain Slows Progress in Afghanistan

Among the many challenges slowing progress in Afghanistan is the rough terrain that American troops are forced to traverse in an effort to avoid encountering IEDs on roads. For more, read Ghost Hunters http://nationaljournal.com/member/magazine/hunting-for-ghosts-in-afghanistan-…

Setting sights on new turf …

Sgt. Kenton Dewitt Miller went to work yesterday as a U.S. soldier currently deployed at FOB Sweeney somewhere in the mountainous wilds of Afghanistan. He took these photos of his mates looking over the valley at potential targets through the scopes on their weapons. Good photos, Kenton Keep ’em coming.