Karshi-Khanabad (K2) Air Base
Camp Stronghold Freedom
On 26 August 2005, following 3 months of increasing tensions, Uzbekistan's Senate approved the Uzbek government's order calling for the withdrawal of US military forces from the country and the Karshi-Kanabad Airbase. Additionally, some senators demanded compensation for environmental damages caused by the US at the facility.
Khanabad is located in the arid Qashqadaryo Province near the border with Tajikistan. The flat-to-rolling sandy desert with dunes made it easy to spot anything approaching the base. Its summers were hot and its winters mild.
Karshi-Kanabad (K2) Airbase was the home of Camp Stronghold Freedom, an Army logistics base in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. K-2 was at the site of an old, Soviet-era air base in Uzbekistan and general conditions were harsh. It was a very active site supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. Thousands of service members (mostly Army and Air Force, but some Marines) from various Guard, Reserve, and active duty units had worked at K-2 or were scheduled to go there soon. Some people who worked there were concerned that the environmental conditions may have affected their health.
Just one square mile in size, K-2 was also located within the borders of an Uzbek base, which provided an additional layer of protection for Airmen. The majority of facilities at K-2 were tents, which were slowly replaced by dorm-style billets. Other projects included a new fitness center, a bigger runway, an emergency runway and a new dining facility.
Although Airmen constituted a majority of the base populace, 800 of the 1,300 people there, the Army provided the support function, giving Airmen everything they needed to survive on a daily basis. Since Airmen did not have to worry about operating basic support functions, like the dining hall, base fire department, or facility maintenance, the focus on their various missions was razor sharp.
Although Airmen outnumbered Soldiers, Army rules prevailed. Airmen had to get used to not being allowed to roll up their sleeves, as well as having to wear their uniform at all times except during physical training. The Army also contracted out for services. Instead of Soldiers serving up biscuits and gravy, enployees from KBR Company, could be seen working in the dining facility, constructing buildings or cleaning restroom facilities.
Although seldom mentioned in the news, K-2 quickly became well known by military aircrews as the most hospitable and efficient airfield in the region. The base hosts countless heavy airlift and transport aircraft, and before an aircrew even touched down on the base's short, crumbling runway, an orchestra of people was already on-hand to welcome them.
Teams representing transient alert, command post and combat weather anticipated the needs of all visitors and aircraft. When an aircraft taxied to a stop, forklifts were standing by to off-load cargo and fuel trucks were close behind, waiting for their cue. Passengers were greeted by a base representative before they even stepped off the plane and then ushered to a bus, parked just a few feet from the aircraft.
Working 24-hour operations, the weather crew provided 2 day forecasts to the base's rescue units and on-the-spot forecasts to transient crews. The aircrews never had to walk more than a few steps to find the support they need. After receiving their weather briefing, the command post staff was on-hand with a quick-reaction checklist.
The bulk of the C-130H missions from K-2 moved people and cargo directly to locations involved with Operation Enduring Freedom. The 416th Air Expeditionary Group averaged 200 passengers and 100 tons of cargo per day from its remote location.
Supporting US forces in Afghanistan and surrounding countries in Central Asia required surface transportation movements by train and truck across thousands of kilometers of some of the most forbidding territory in the world. Some shipments, after traveling by ocean carrier to Bremerhaven, Germany, journeyed by railcar to Uzbekistan.
After Military Traffic Management Command (MTMC) surface shipments reached Karshi-Khanabad Air Base in Uzbekistan, the 164th Transportation Contract Supervision Detachment, a Third Army element, contracted private trucks to distribute the supplies to US and allied troops in Afghanistan. The sustainment supplies were shipped primarily to the Afghan cities of Mazar-e-Sharif, Bagram, and, occasionally, Kandahar in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
The 3 main transportation nodes in the AOR, Bagram, Kandahar, and Karshi-Khanabad, operated multimodal port activities. The 2 primary modes of transportation to the AOR were fixed-wing coalition aircraft (primarily US) and commercial containerships.
The surface shipments originally started as a means of relieving pressure on the overburdened aircraft. Using civilian trucks freed the aircraft to move high-priority, sensitive, and perishable cargo. Working with the 507th Logistics Task Force at Karshi-Khanabad, the 164th ordered vehicles, coordinated passes, documented cargo, escorted trucks, and assisted customers.
Surface transportation in Afghanistan began in December 2001 with contract trucks moving sustainment supplies from Karshi-Khanabad to Mazar-e-Sharif. The 164th contracted for local 20-ton Super Kamas trucks to make these shipments because of the trucks' size and capacity.
The air-conditioned tents at the base, named K2, were laid out on a grid, along streets named for the thoroughfares of New York: Fifth Avenue, Long Island Expressway, Wall Street. About 1,000 US troops worked at the facility as of August 2002, handling tons of supplies for the war in Afghanistan.
Expanding the supply chain to Kandahar has been the most difficult to arrange because of the distance from Karshi-Khanabad (1,500 kilometers) and the road conditions. The only successful route entails a 12-day transit over the Salang Pass, through Kabul, and into Kandahar.
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