By SGT EDDIE SIGUENZA
Guam Army National Guard
CAMP SPANN, Afghanistan—Forward Operating Base Kunduz, located in the semi-arid northern Afghanistan region, was a place Sgt. 1st Class Celso Leonen called home for almost half a year.
Among the units housed at FOB Kunduz were about two dozen Alpha Company soldiers, the unit that ran nearly 80 missions supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. Leonen’s security forces platoon of Alpha Company soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 294th Infantry Regiment, Guam Army National Guard, occupied a small sector of the base and operated throughout the German area of responsibility.
As of mid-September, FOB Kunduz has become a practically barren flat area of land. Leonen’s group was compelled to leave the compound in late August, and was reunited with their Alpha company brothers and sisters at Camp Spann, roughly an eight-hour convoy trip away.
The move was considered good news, as it demonstrated action as part of the U.S. plan to eventually withdraw with coalition forces from Afghanistan. The exodus entails the shutting down of FOBs, camps, and other U.S. occupied facilities. FOB Kunduz is one of several in Regional Command-North that’ll be turned over to Afghan National Security control later this year.
"Over there," said Leonen, pointing to an isolated area that was once a tent city, "That’s where we used to live. There’s nothing there now except the concrete T-walls."
Even the thousands of T-walls, concrete security barriers as high as 15 feet and each weighing more than a ton, will be removed, says Capt. Thomas Feeney, a U.S. Army logistics/transition officer who led the closing of FOB Altimur earlier this year. There is the option to destroy them if they are no longer needed.
"T-walls are a perfect example," Feeney said. "It can be more cost-effective to bury these in place than to waste money to transport these chunks of concrete from base to base."
The Alpha soldiers performed their last Kunduz-area mission in mid-September. They escorted Air Force representatives who oversee projects at the district and provincial headquarters in the Chahar Dara district. This was their third guardian angel/security forces mission in the Kunduz area since leaving it and perhaps their last.
First Lt. Christopher Candaso, Alpha platoon leader, said his soldiers are adapting to their new mission routine. They now have to convoy a minimum of six to eight hours—with a rest overnight at Combat Outpost Khilagay about four hours away—to perform a specific mission. This is a turnaround from what was done before.
"When we were at Kunduz, we planned for one mission every day," Candaso explained. "But now we plan for one mission that’ll take six or seven days. It’s different than what we’ve done before, but we’re adapting to it."
"The good part about this is everyone’s back at Spann; everyone’s back together," added 1st Lt. Peter Guerrero, Alpha Company commander. "They’re still going to conduct missions, but they’re longer and farther. It’s a lot more risky because there’s more driving. They’re out on the road a lot more now. No matter what mission they’re on, they always perform above and beyond."
"The distance requires a lot more movement," said Leonen. "It’s a lot more challenging because there’s a lot more planning. The good always outweighs the bad. No matter what, we’re always going to be prepared."
Candaso and Leonen credit all their soldiers for the positives aspects of their Kunduz experience. Everyone remained mission-focused, Candaso said. In the first weeks of arrival, they had to network with other units and sources to obtain necessities. Everyone chipped in to make their living area habitable, and operations center workable.
“We didn’t fall under anyone when we got here. We had to work to get specific things," said Candaso.
Guam instantly became a part of the big OEF picture since arriving in April. The unit figures to remain a part of the OEF exodus spotlight as one of the last units in Afghanistan.