Published: 8/16/2012 3:11:14 PM
‘Task Force Mad Dog’ engineers build bases for Devil Brigade
FORWARD OPERATING BASE SHARANA, Afghanistan — Spc. Christopher Taylor stood huddled with other Soldiers in his platoon on the flight line, trying to make himself as small as possible while icy wind from the Chinook’s dual rotary blades blasted over him. It was the middle of the night, Nov. 28, 2011; the beginning of the coldest winter Afghanistan had seen in the last 15 years.
Helicopters hovered and landed, the crew chief for the bird closest to them waved signaling them to board the aircraft. Operation Devil Hammer had begun.
“All I could think was, ‘Where are we going, what is the security, what are the living conditions going to be like?’” Taylor recalled.
In Afghanistan, Regional Command East supports the Afghan government by maintaining stability and freedom of movement along the border with Pakistan. On the western side of RC-East, away from the border, is Afghanistan’s Highway 1, aka “the Ring Route.” The stretch of Highway 1 within RC-East links Kabul to Kandahar, key terrain for the sustainment and prosperity of the country as a whole. In a landlocked nation, control of the road network equals control of the country — coalition forces know this, the insurgents know this. In order to silence the insurgent network along Highway 1 for good, enter the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, the unit selected for the job; their mission — run wild along Highway 1 throughout the fighting season, attacking the insurgent networks. But first, they would need a home and National Guardsmen from the 578th Engineer Battalion, Task Force Mad Dog, were given the daunting task of constructing five combat outposts and expanding three forward operating bases simultaneously. This was to be the largest single construction effort in regional history.
Operation Devil Hammer, preparing the region for an additional brigade combat team, could not fail.
The operation required engineer units from all over Afghanistan to come together under the command and control of TF Mad Dog.
“Having control of organizations from three separate branches of service was challenging. The Air Force and Navy are organized and structured differently than Army construction units,” said Maj. Christopher Angle, TF Mad Dog operations officer.
TF Mad Dog’s greatest asset during the mission was the real-world experience and knowledge inherent in National Guard and Reserve Soldiers. Many of the Soldiers and officers have civilian experience in their trades, making them invaluable in the construction process.
“My experience as a construction project manager for the Disneyland Resort helped prepare me for this challenge,“ said 1st Lt. Russell Fenton, a construction officer for TF Mad Dog who oversaw construction operations.
“Having a civil engineering license gave me the tools needed to manage and influence the design process for the entire operation.”
One of the greatest challenges for TF Mad Dog was the increasing role of civilian contractors used by the military for logistical functions. Base requirements such as fuel points, dining facilities and maintenance bays are more often than not, constructed for a civilian company as opposed to military fuelers, cooks or mechanics.
“The battle space owner played a crucial role during the construction process,” said 1st Lt. Scott Connor, with the 842nd HCC. “By having the customer on ground with the engineers, many concerns were alleviated during the build.”
Another challenge faced by the engineers of TF Mad Dog was that as engineers, they received a lower priority for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets than their infantry counterparts. Battalion intelligence analysts would pick through intelligence reports with information gathered from the local population to get a better understanding of the insurgent presence in the area of operations.
As the winter snows finally melted and the sound of bull dozers faded into the distance, the 1st BCT, 82nd Abn. Div., finally arrived in theater. Their kinetic operations have included airborne insertions, combat patrols and huge finds of enemy weapons and bomb making materials. The enemy emplacement of IEDs along the infamous Ring Route has significantly decreased.
Afghanistan’s Highway 1 remains intact, supporting the economy and logistical needs of the nation.
All of the construction units that had surged together under TF Mad Dog went back to their respective units.
The success of Operation Devil Hammer has significantly degraded the insurgent forces ability to operate in the region. The fighting is still long from over, but Task Force Mad Dog, consisting of Reserve forces from across the U.S., has left their mark on the battlefield.
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