SAHL SINJAR, Iraq --
Nowadays in Iraq, it isn’t uncommon to find forward operating bases spread throughout the various regions where U.S. forces operate. These bases come equipped with contractors whose job is to ensure the area is sanitary and provide certain creature-comforts for service members who are deployed to such bases. These comforts include running water, shower areas, internet and telephone access, and a chow hall that offers three meals a day. However, life on Sahl Sinjar Airfield is rather different.
The Marines of Task Force 3rd LAR Bn. are preparing to return home after seven months of independently operating without the help of contractors.
“With the buildup of FOBs, we’ve become reliant upon commercial contracts, but this deployment has helped show us, that in certain situations, we can still remain effective without them,” said Capt. Chad Dodd, 3rd LAR Bn.’s logistics officer.
Without the help of outside sources for assistance, 3rd LAR Bn. has had to rely on the hard work of their Marines to keep the airfield functioning. Two of the main areas that required a large amount of attention came from the battalion’s supply and maintenance sections.
“We’ve focused a lot of our efforts around our logistical supply and maintenance support,” said Lt. Col. Kenneth Kassner, battalion commander for 3rd LAR Bn. “For example, we support our companies, who are continuously operating in the battle space, by ground convoy. The [logistics] Marines go out to deliver food, fuel and water to those Marines.”
As expected in this type of desolate, dust-filled environment, remaining functional and ready has been no easy task. The Marines of 3rd LAR Bn. have faced certain challenges that have made their deployment difficult at times.
“One of the biggest challenges we’ve faced with our gear is making sure the generators are running properly,” Dodd said. “Over time, these generators are placed under a lot of stress because of the weather and constant use. After a while they need to be refurbished or replaced. Because of the situation, we haven’t always been able to do that, but we’ve done a good job of getting them fixed when needed.”
Although 3rd LAR Bn. is operating under circumstances different from other units, they have still been able to provide their Marines with certain creature-comforts and morale enhancers.
“We maintain an expeditionary chow hall, which serves two meals a day, air conditioning and water,” said Dodd. We have also worked to provide some creature-comforts such as laundry services, showers, and internet and phone services so Marines can keep in contact with their families.”
Sahl Sinjar may be a less than desirable area for a service member to be deployed to; however 3rd LAR Bn. believes their situation is the reason why they’ve been successful throughout their deployment.
“Our mission in this area has been characterized by its expeditionary nature,” Kassner stated. “Working out with limited luxuries at a remote outpost has enhanced our combat effectiveness, because we’ve been able to operate continuously throughout our battle space.”
Although Sahl Sinjar Airfield may be looked upon as an extreme austere environment, to the Marines of TF 3rd LAR Bn., it is the place they’ve come to know as home. As the overall providers and operators of that home, they have worked feverishly to ensure they are not only successful while operating in their battle space, but they are also successful in providing their Marines what they need without support from outside contractors.