Camp Salerno / Forward Operating Base Salerno
Apache Company of the 501st PIR was the company charged with security for FOB Salerno. It can get pretty boring at times, and with the weather starting to really heat up in early 2004, it can get rather miserable for the soldiers in the towers over watching the surrounding countryside. Despite these factors, it remains a very important duty and all the companies share in it.
Improvements were continuing steadily at Salerno. The new dining facility was finished in early 2004 and civilian contractors took over the operation. Work began on a school to begin to teach the local populace English. The gym is housed in brick and concrete, which is much cooler than the old tent. Much of the task force moved over to the new Force Provider tents with climate controlled comfort. Apache Company eagerly awaited generators that can power the air conditioning units. For now, soldiers had large fans in the tents and roll up the sides during the day. The 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment began operating in Afghanistan in early May 2004 and then moved to Forward Operating Base Salerno in Khowst Province. They previously operated in several different provinces near Kabul and Bagram Airfield.
By late 2004 Forward Operating Base (FOB) Salerno in Khowst Province was one of the largest forward operating bases in Afghanistan. Because of its size and close proximity to the Pakistan border, a large contingent of engineers and supporting infantry soldiers are stationed at the base. Not far from the jagged, mountainous terrain of the Afghan/Pakistan border, this fortified helicopter base keeps a vigilant watch for terrorist activity.
One of the big surprises at FOB Salerno was the number of local nationals that work inside the Hesco wall. There are over 100 men from the town of Khowst that work on FOB Salerno doing everything from cleaning the showers to filling and moving sandbags. Interaction with them is challenging as few of them speak English.
Yaqubi [Lat: 33:24:00N (33.4) Lon: 70:04:07E (70.0686) ] 15 kilometers (around nine miles) northeast of Khowst, just a few kilometers from Salerno. Yaqubi is in the Sabari District, considered among the most dangerous in the province by the Fort Bragg-based paratroopers who patrol it.
At Salerno, the battalion was offered a change of scenery and many new challenges: a welcome change. They had the biggest area of operation in the theatre, with many different units operating with them. The battalion was working with three different Provincial Reconstruction Teams, including the Afghan National Army, a division of the Afghan Militia Force and several other coalition forces. In less than a month, the battalion has conducted numerous operations throughout Khowst Province and an equal number of operations in the Nangarhar and Paktia Provinces. All operations were in the eastern and most active area of the country. In addition, the battalion has conducted numerous humanitarian projects, to include medical care for villagers, construction of wells and providing school supplies to children. The Forward Operating Base endured many rocket attacks and IED threats. Furthermore, the Marines supported several attacks by Anti-Coalition Militants at the Border Checkpoints near Pakistan.
Anti-Coalition militants commonly attack Coalition bases throughout Afghanistan with indirect fire. But many don't consider the fact that once they fire, their position is being tracked. Armed with fire-finding radar, Coalition assets throughout the country have the ability to track incoming indirect fire and provide timely, accurate retaliation. Within seconds of a projectile being fired, the AN-TPQ-36 fire-finding radar system at Forward Operating Base Salerno begins tracking it.
Soldiers deployed to Afghanistan maintain some basic soldier skills on weapons-qualification ranges such as the one set up at Forward Operating Base Salerno. Attending ranges is good for all soldiers, no matter how long they have been in the military. Ranges are important for staying familiar and current with your weapon. While the training here is slightly different from that at home stations, soldiers are able to maintain their skills and confidence in firing a weapon. For most soldiers, going to the range is a chance to refamiliarize themselves with their weapon. For others, it is a chance to get used to a weapon they haven't used before.
Forward Operating Base Salerno received the 125th Signal Battalion on 11 May 2004. Originally the Task Force Salerno personnel and equipment started off in Kandahar as the reserve switch. However, because of the expansion of Salerno, LTC Daley moved personnel and equipment from all over Afghanistan, forming the Task Force Salerno Signal Team (otherwise known as the "A" team). Soldiers and civilians serving at Salerno have combined to make an outstanding Signal Detachment Task Force.
Life at Salerno is rather simple. Soldiers begin the day with morning physical training, followed by breakfast at the Salerno Dining Facility (DFAC). The Salerno DFAC acquired two grills used for cooking fresh eggs and making omelets, which has turned into a huge attraction. The Salerno chow hall also serves a dinner meal with steak and lobster tail or crab legs every Friday.
Following breakfast the Signal Soldiers and Civilians usually begin work at or around 04:00z (08:30 local time). SFC Dorey, the Detachment First Sergeant describes the day to day at Salerno as "Proud young Americans coming together as a team, striving towards a common goal." Following a shift in the Automations Section, a Switching Shelter or Satellite System soldiers usually retire to the gym or to the MWR facility. On Sunday's at Salerno the Signaleers started the First Regional Salerno Horse Shoe Tournament.
Through it all, the Signal soldiers and civilians at Salerno have grown very close to one another and would not trade their meager accommodations for any other base camp. Although the temperatures pass one hundred degrees and we are without air conditioning, and the dust and dirt fill the tents and cots, morale remained high.
Those seeking a place to worship here will longer have to settle for a cramped tent that leaks when it rains. A newly-built, wooden chapel was dedicated 15 December 2004 that replaced the tent that was previously used as a chapel for the 1,500 service members and civilians living here. Because there is still a threat of rocket attacks to the base, the soldiers had to practice light discipline and were forced to use small pen-sized flashlight to see so they could cut wood. Eventually there would be shutters on the windows so worshippers can practice light discipline during night services.
With safety at the forefront in everyone's minds, having firefighters ready and standing by is important when an emergency happens on base. The types of emergencies the team is prepared to react to range from aircraft and tent fires to overturned vehicles. One of the main roles of the firefighters is to stand by when aircraft land. There is a total of 39 firefighters who rotate through Salerno. They rotate out so that no one gets complacent. Every person will experience something different than the person who (he or she) replaced or who comes after (him or her). To help the firefighters do their job efficiently, they use two P-19B fire crash vehicles, each with a 2,000-gallon capacity.
The Forward Operating Base Salerno Field Hospital provides medical services to both coalition members and Afghans throughout Regional Command East. By focusing on the other needs the local community has in terms of medical infrastructure, the hospital is helping in countless ways.
As of early 2005 the Coalition was using 14 airfields in Afghanistan. These ranged from from an airfield like Bagram, which is a big airfield, to smaller airfields like Salerno, Shkin, or Tarin Kowt or something like Farah which was a dirt strip. If the Coalitino needed to do a medical evacuation of either an Afghan citizen or Coalition, then some of these airfields like Salerno, Tarin Kowt or Shkin become very important to move people around the country.
A new brick-and-mortar medical clinic opened 24 April 2005 at Forward Operating Base Salerno. On hand for the opening ceremony were Mera Juddin Pathan, Khost provincial governor; U.S. Army Lt. Col. Dave Barber, commander of the 249th General Hospital; U.S. Army Lt. Col. George T. Donovan, commander of the 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment; and Afghan doctors Bashir Ahmadzai and Dr. Rasool. The building will be used by Coalition forces to offer medical services to Afghans in what is known as a Medical Cooperative Assistance Program, or MEDCAP. The facility is near the north gate of FOB Salerno, which is located near the city of Khowst. Security for the clinic will be provided by the Khost Provincial Force, led by Commander Shafiq. The new facility is called the Brick & Mortar Clinic. It won't be open continuously; it will open to the public only during MEDCAP operations. Dates and times for MEDCAP operations will be announced through local media and radio.
In March, 2008 elements of the 4th Brigade Combat Team 101st Aiborne Division took responsibility for Camp Salerno and the surrounding area supplementing elements of the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade.
On Tuesday August 19, 2008 Taliban forces attempted to breach the walls of Camp Salerno using six suicide bombers targetting the security barrier attempting to open the door for Taliban infantry to enter the compound. The attack failed however when three of the bombers were shot and killed and the other three's explosives detonated prematurely. This attack followed on the heels of a pair car bomb attacks on Monday August 18, 2008 near Salerno's main gate that killed 10 Afghans and wounded 13.
In addition to the main American force at Salerno there was a Polish battle group and a number of provincial reconstruction teams stationed at Salerno as of September, 2008.
Task Force Currahee hosted a set of training classes on the new M14 rifle at Forward Operating Base Salerno during August and September, 2008.
The 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, is the first unit in Afghanistan to begin issuing these weapons. 118 are currently in use within the task force, and more were expected to be issued before the end of the deployment. The reintorduction of the M-14 to modern American military units was part of a relatively new program called SDM, Squad Designated Marksman. The the SDM is not considered a sniper, his job is to send accurate semi-automatic fire downrange to allow other soldiers in the squad more freedom to manuever and engage hostile forces. The new M-14 is equipped with an adjustable buttstock and rail system allowing it to mount the latest optics and accessories. The SDM program was introduced just before the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and has been used to great effect in urban counter-insurgency operations, it is likely to be even more effective in the mountainous regions of Afghanistan.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|