Camp Harriman / Forward Operating Base Orgun-E
As of February 2003 Camp Harriman was the name of the US Army outpost outside of the city of Orgun-E. As of late 2003 Orgun-E was one of the largest of about a dozen similar bases along the eastern border with Pakistan and across southern Afghanistan that were still engaged in combat operations in Afghanistan. By that time the base included around 400 US soldiers, including from the 10th Mountain Division, a small contingent of Afghan National Army troops, and Special Forces. The camp had an air of permanence: There are hot showers, Internet connections and satellite TV.
Forward Operating Base Orgun-E is not very big, and is situated about 7,000ft above sea level in the mountains. The plus side is that soldiers do not get lost wandering around the base, even in the dark, because of its size. Accommodations are excellent. Some of the things that stand out about Orgun-E are the mud constructed buildings. Even the PX and the billets are mud huts. The soldiers maintain a great relationship with the Afghans and the surrounding community. Many of the Afghans smile and greet the soldiers at the base. And watching the camel herds in the morning going bythe base is also something you don't see everyday.
Forward Operating Base Orgun-E is very rocky. The wind from the Chinook's rotors can blow soldiers off balance. The base sits quietly surrounded by mountains near the Pakistan border. Day to day life here is good, contrary to what a lot of soldiers might have thought before they arrive. They have a nice routine going. They wake up and do PT, take a shower and get some chow and head off to start the workday. The shifts, when everything is working well, usually consist of maintaining equipment. After that any free time is spent watching movies and playing Xbox or spending time talking to families and friends online. They also pass time utilizing the facilities here, which are beyond what soldiers could have expected. The gym, open 24 hours, has every machine to work out every muscle group. And the chow hall, also open 24 hours, almost always has hot chow.
After having a good workout session and a nice hot meal, they usually relax in a nice hot shower. After that, they retire to our rooms for a good nights sleep. The PX is the size of a small shack or shed and the local market is only open on Fridays. So soldiers are left with all the money they are making and nowhere to spend it.
Forward Operating Base Orgun-E is located outside the town of Orgune in the Paktika province of southeastern Afghanistan. Paktika Province. The province is approximately the size of Vermont and shares a 600-kilometer border with Pakistan. The population of the area, on the border with Pakistan, is majority Pashtun, and the province was a stronghold of the Taliban.While the FOB is nothing spectacular to visitors, and although it may not have many of the same amenities as some of the bigger bases around Afghanistan, it's home. It's a place for them to get a hot shower, a hot meal and a bed. It is a piece of cake compared to Iraq. This place is nice. It has power constantly, the phones work, as does the Internet and there is running water so soldiers can take a shower everyday. The living quarters are pretty good.
An Army AH-64 Apache helicopter crashed about near Orgun-E in the Paktika Province in Southeast Afghanistan June 3, 2003 while supporting combat operations. The two pilots on board were not injured during the incident, however, the aircraft was significantly damaged. Security forces sent to secure the crash site picked up both pilots.
The morning of 13 August 2003 an Air Force HH-60 medical evacuation helicopter crashed immediately after takeoff in Orgun-e. The six airmen on board were treated for minor injuries. No patients were on board at the time of the incident. The medevac helicopter had taken off from Khost to transfer a wounded civilian to a surgical team in Orgun-e. The crash occurred as the helicopter was leaving Orgun-e.
Spirit of America is a nonprofit group that seeks donations to support grassroots efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan forged in the name of friendship. Los Angeles businessman Jim Hake was inspired to found the organization through televised reports about US Special Forces soldiers in Orgun-e, a remote Afghan village about 20 miles from Pakistan. Army Sgt. 1st Class Jay Smith asked his wife to send baseball gloves and balls for the local children. Within just a few weeks, she had collected enough donations to equip two teams. That friendship was put to the test in late 2003 when the soldiers suffered a rocket attack from al Qaeda members who had sneaked into the village from Pakistan. In response, the people of Orgun-e formed a "community watch," patrolling the village area each night to protect the US. soldiers. The rocket attacks stopped.
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.
The first operational unit in the Afghan National Army maded their presence known by patrolling local streets in February 2003. The patrols serve a dual purpose at the edge of the Afghanistan border; not only do the missions hone war-fighting skills at the platoon level, it gives local civilians the chance to see their own army in action. For many of the surrounding villages and towns in the Paktiki Province, the patrols are the only contact between Afghanistan's army and its local populace. 3rd Battalion is Afghanistan's first operational unit and officials said the community will hopefully accept the army as the future of the country's peace in the region.
It doesn't take requests, doesn't play Top 40 or run contests, but by late 2004 for 18 hours a day Peace Radio, channel 9.365 on short wave radio, entertains and informs residents of Paktika province with a theme that benefits both coalition forces and Afghan civilians. Transmitting from Forward Operating Base Orgun-E, Peace Radio is run by three Soldiers from the U.S. Army Reserve who never expected to be disc jockeys in Afghanistan, but who are enjoying the experience because of its uniqueness. While being a DJ may appear to be a glamorous job of picking music, that's not the reality for the Soldiers at the radio station. Most of the operation is automated, but maintaining and monitoring the equipment falls squarely on the shoulders of the three-man crew and remains the backbone of their job. To keep Peace Radio operating, the station has its own generator supplying power. The harsh conditions of Afghanistan require the soldiers to remain diligent in their maintenance in order to stay operational.
1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, and Task Force Fury, settled into their new home at Forward Operating Base Orgun-E. The paratroops, who began arriving at the FOB 01 March 2005 and took over responsibility 12 March 2005, were stationed at the forward operating base for the following year as part of Task Force Fury. The battalion, along with other elements from the 173rd, fell in on the position occupied by elements of the Hawaian-based 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division. The Soldiers of the 1/508th worked hand-in-hand with the Afghan government, the Afghan National Army, the Afghan Police and most importantly with the Afghan people to ensure the long-term peace and prosperity of the region.
Their role is clear: patrol the countryside for security and maintain relationships with local leaders. They oversee the Paktika province, a strategically important area in the southeastern part of the country that shares a border with Pakistan. They're looking to make sure the roads are clear and free of enemy activity and to check with the local officials to see where help is needed.
The path to outlying villages is a difficult one, even for rugged American vehicles. There are roads in Paktika, but due to rough weather, many are tracks of mud. Some have been washed out, while others are too narrow for the broad humvees to pass. So, many times the humvees head off the beaten path. They follow flat areas and river beds - some dry, some not so dry. The ride was bumpy and slow going for the troops. But the humvees plow through and get the troops to their destination.
The terrain of the Paktika province is an unforgiving one and will continue to pose a challenge. The early months of 2005 was an especially harsh winter for the Afghan people and the weather was wreaking havoc on the countryside. For troops who rely on large, brawny humvees to get around, the lack of roads posed a challenge in a country that often relies on alternate modes of transportation such as mules.
As of June, 2007 FOB Orgun-E had seen a number of changes and additions. The 1st Battalion of the 503rd Infantry Regiment formerly the 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 173rd Airborne Brigade were still the primary residents but Orgun-E had dramatically expanded in size. Soldiers from the battalion remodeled a warehouse into a Morale, Welfare and Recreation center naming it after two of their fallen comrades, SPC Adam Davis and PFC Jessy Rogers. The MWR center features, phone and internet booths as well as a 30 seat movie theater. A restaurant had been added for those growing tired of the dining facility and many of the other buildings had been refurbished. The number of on base retail shops had tripled and ten Afghan run businesses supplied soldiers with everything from rugs and antiques to cigarettes, shoes, eyeglasses and electronics.
Even base grounds had been improved with 240 truckloads of small rocks brought in to help cut down on the dust and mud that was a nuisance in the day to day operation of this FOB. A Wall of Heroes had also been added in memory of those lost in the ongoing struggle to bring freedom and security to the Afghan people.