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