AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq –
Operating a military base is not easy work.
Latrines have to be cleaned. Housing has to be administered. Contractors have to be supervised. Water and food have to be tracked. Trash has to be properly disposed. Traffic rules have to be enforced. Vehicles have to be maintained.
The 207th Regional Support Group spent much of 2020 in support of Operation Inherent Resolve overseeing life support at three such locations in Iraq – Al Asad Air Base, Erbil Air Base and the Taji Military Complex. Members of the Army Reserve unit, acting as Base Operating Support Integrator (BOS-I) cells, have dealt with the January ballistic missile strikes, extremist attacks and an ongoing pandemic.
U.S. Army Col. Jerome Jackson, who commanded the unit and Al Asad Air Base throughout the deployment, praised the work of his troops.
“Our Soldiers have faced historic events and persevered,” Jackson said. “They consistently stepped forward to deal with whatever problems occurred. And they have always prioritized the needs of those who depended on us.”
Bases give military units locations to facilitate their missions – including support of Iraqi Security Forces and actions against Daesh extremists. Likewise, it allows contractors to more easily provide services to those troops. Without the BOS-I, this process – and military missions – become much tougher, Jackson noted.
U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Sherrie E. Stevens, who supervises the housing, services, billeting and vehicle sections at Al Asad through what’s known as the Mayor’s Cell, said their work covers a wide range of tasks and issues on base. They deal with other people’s problems every day.
“I feel like we operate like a city government would,” she said.
For instance, the Mayor’s Cell has to approve signs before they go up, inspect water points every week and even supervises the relocation of latrines. The BOS-I also acts as a conduit for directives from higher command and sends up daily reports.
“I have to have a hand in a lot of different areas,” Stevens said. “That’s what makes it challenging.”
This includes cooperation with not just American troops and contractors, but also other Coalition Partners such as Norwegian, Polish and Spanish soldiers. Recently, the Al Asad Mayor’s Cell had to do a site survey to accommodate an area for German troops.
Units that come in whose equipment may not have yet arrived, leadership who need non-tactical vehicles and nearly anyone who needs a question answered, comes to the Mayor’s Cell for answers, Stevens said.
“We try to get them to the right person,” she said. “It’s pretty much a help center.”
Another section of the BOS-I, Anti-Terrorism and Force Protection, monitors security issues, stops traffic violations, and can issue citations. Base improvements and changing circumstances can also fall to the BOS-I. In April, Al Asad worked with the 206th Engineer Battalion to open a new wastewater treatment plant designed to save money, increase base security and help the local environment. Soon after its start, the plant was already processing thousands of gallons every day for the base.
In January, missile attacks targeted both Al Asad and Erbil Air Bases and each location had to deal with the ongoing security threats that resulted. Stevens said that the Al Asad BOS-I had to help units clean up damaged areas of the base although they had no prior experience with that kind of mission.
During the spring, Taji Military Complex endured repeated indirect fire attacks while preparing for a planned 2020 handover of the property to the Government of Iraq. U.S. Army Maj. David P. Wedlock Jr., the logistics officer in charge for Taji, said staying vigilant can prove stressful for Soldiers while they still have to take care of daily tasks.
“There could be indirect fire from the enemy at any moment,” he said.
One of those tasks is inspection of the food shipped to base. Wedlock assists veterinary personnel in checking the shipments that contractors will serve at the dining facility – this includes making certain the items were stored at the proper temperature.
“This ensures no one becomes sick from eating food that thawed out during shipping,” Wedlock said. “That could lead to a reduction in the force if military personnel become ill.”
Since the appearance of COVID-19, each location has worked with medical personnel to prevent the spread of the virus, enforcing rules about mask wearing and gatherings in accordance with Department of Defense policy. This has sometimes necessitated the temporary closings of gyms, chapels and restricted use of the dining facilities.
Jackson said the labor and guidance provided by his unit illustrates how the need for BOS-I work is continual. He referred to a quote by Winston Churchill that states, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.”
“The work never really stops,” he said. “I’ve been impressed at how dedicated our troops have been throughout their deployment. It’s essential to everyone’s mission here. They’ve done their part so others can do theirs.”