Arghandab, Afghanistan (U.S. Army) — Combat outpost Terra Nova is a bustle of activity as renovations transform the small base. About 200 U.S. Soldiers, mainly Company B, 4th Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, occupy the area. First Sgt. Ken Griffing is the COP “mayor.” His job is becoming more important each day.
By July 1, Terra Nova will be taken over by 3rd Kandak’s Afghan national army. Before that deadline comes, Griffing is in charge of ensuring the facilities will be suited for the incoming occupants. ‘Retrograde’ is becoming a familiar word to the Soldiers of Company B.
The harsh Afghan summer sun sears the Soldiers and sends the temperature into the triple digits as they continue the work of tearing down living quarters, moving heavy equipment, maintaining security and supporting the Afghan national security forces on daily missions.
Griffing finds innovative ways to keep his Soldiers motivated and to ensure the transformation will be complete before the deadline.
“My Soldiers were complaining about the gym floor and how it couldn’t handle the weights,” said Griffing, first sergeant of Company B, 4-17th Inf. Regt. “So, we moved it outside and used Air Force pallets as a secondary floor. Now, my Soldiers have more area to work out … with a safer floor. Our Afghan partners will be receiving this ‘new’gym when they take over.”
Griffing has ordered to keep the outpost’s recreational facility, which houses Internet computers and Space Warfare phones, open until the day of the takeover. Soldiers at Terra Nova will be able to stay connected with family and friends during the retrograde process.
Another plan of action Griffing decided on was to allow his Soldiers a long break during the hottest part of the day. This break can last from 1 to 5 p.m. At this time, Soldiers disappear into air-conditioned buildings and escape the worst heat of the day.
“Right now, we have doubled up on rooms and the leadership is sleeping in their offices so Soldiers can be as comfortable as possible during these final weeks,” said Griffing.
Before their ANSF partners can take over Terra Nova, many challenges still need to be met. “Our ANSF partners aren’t able to maintain the structures that we have, such as tents. We’ve gone from 24 tents to soon, no tents,” said Griffing, “They aren’t able to do what we do logistically. Here at Terra Nova we consume about 700 gallons of fuel every day for our generators, which sustain the COP. When our partners take over the COP, they will only be issued 500 gallons of fuel per week.”
The larger generators, which provide electricity throughout the COP and provide the much-appreciated cold air, will need to shut down. The power load will have to decrease exponentially. Smaller generators will then be activated and spread out to help sustain and maintain the ration of fuel for the ANSF.
The retrograde process at Terra Nova is ahead of schedule. If all goes according to plan in a matter of weeks another outpost will return to Afghan control.