Military


Camp Salerno / Forward Operating Base Salerno

FOB Salerno is located just north of Khowst. The facility was occupied in mid-September by the 3rd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, and was named for the beachhead that the 505th parachuted onto on September 14, 1943. FOB Salerno is bigger than Orgun-E, but smaller than Kandahar.

Camp Salerno is in the province of Khost, close to the border with Pakistan, where hundreds of Taleban and al-Qaeda fighters are believed to be hiding. It came under rocket attack late on 18 March 2003. Shortly afterwards, a group of armed men approached the camp and the Italian troops opened fire on them. "Security personnel engaged hostile elements, presumably wounding one of them, while the others escaped. No Italians were injured in the incident. Some 500 Italian troops were based at the Salerno camp. It was frequently attacked when it was controlled by US troops.

Named for the landings under the command of Lt. Gen. Mark W. Clark, the Fifth Army, a great Allied force composed of the British 10 Corps and the United States VI Corps, carried out the first large scale invasion of the European mainland and secured a firm base for future operations in Italy at Salerno. Some fifty miles south of Naples, Salerno had a twenty-mile stretch of beach, favorable landing gradients, and numerous exits to the main coastal highway linking Salerno to Naples and Rome. The Salerno site also had some drawbacks. The mountains surrounding the Salerno plain would limit the depth of the initial beachhead and expose the invading troops to enemy observation, fire, and attack from higher ground. The amphibious assault began early on the morning of 9 September 1943. The failure of counter-attacks on 15 and 16 September indicated that the Allies could not be dislodged, so Kesselring directed German forces to begin an orderly delaying action and a withdrawal north.

An Italian light infantry battle group had been in control of daily operations out of Salerno since March 2003. While in Khowst, the Italian soldiers conducted the first air assault in the history of the Italian army. They participated in Operations Haven Denial and Warrior Sweep with the 82nd Airborne Division, Afghan National Army and Special Operation Forces. They conducted more than 2,000 conventional patrols that led to the disposal of many weapons caches, and they developed a strong relationship with local Afghans.

Italian Task Force Nibbio handed over the reigns of Salerno Forward Operating Base to the 10th Mountain Division during a transfer of authority ceremony 15 September 2003. Task Force 1-87 of 10th Mountain Division took over operations at the FOB near the southeastern border of Afghanistan. Their main responsibilities were providing security for the firebase, and protecting the forward landing strip and helicopter-landing zone.

Since September 2003, the FOB has been built up from the single concrete building and sand bag perimeter that was orginally located at the facility. The perimeter has since been extended. Floors for all of the tents have also been laid down, while perimeter guard towers and fighting positions have been built. The field landing strip located at the site has been repaired and a helo pad has been cleared.

Engineer projects at Salerno include construction of a brigade-sized tactical operations center, Marine command operations center, regional interrogation facility, and buildings to house soldiers living at the base. Smaller projects include pouring a large concrete slab to be used as a wash point and the addition of a concrete batch plant on the base that can be used for the many concrete-related projects being done to reconstruct the base.

The US Postal Service's unofficial motto reads that it's not stopped by rain, snow, heat or gloom of night. Add on the possibility of mortar or rocket attacks and it's a more fitting version for the 1st Platoon, 303rd Adjutant General Company (Postal). In November 2003, the Army Reserve postal platoon from Fort Devens, Mass., started sending two-soldier teams with small, portable post offices to outlying firebases such as Orguun-E, Shkin and Salerno once a month. Armed with a unit's mail, stamps, money orders and postal mailing boxes, the teams take on most postal duties. They also inspect outgoing packages for contraband.

On 20 December 2003, two rockets struck near Forward Operating Base Salerno, in Khowst. They caused no injuries or damage. Officials said the rockets were fired from two separate points of origin, both about five kilometers southwest of the base.

Firebase Cobra Strike at Khowst is at an elevation of 1,140 meters. Forward Operating Base (FOB) Salerno was a few hundred meters from Firebase Cobra Strike.



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