FORWARD OPERATING BASE PAYNE, Afghanistan -- For most Coalition forces throughout Afghanistan, counterinsurgency operations are minimal and assisting and advising Afghan National Security Forces has increased. The change in mission requires less support assets, which has allowed personnel here to close more than 190 bases since early 2012.
Marines with 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 7, have played a vital role in the closure of another base, Forward Operating Base Payne in southwestern Afghanistan, since their arrival here in April.
“Currently we are in the process of demilitarizing this position,” said Capt. Joseph M. Clarke IV, the Weapons Company commanding officer. “We’re making this FOB not look like a FOB so we can retrograde our gear, equipment and personnel (north) to Camp Dwyer.”
All that remains of FOB Payne are remnants of buildings and a protective outer berm. The Marines, paired with Army engineers, finished the job started by their predecessors, the “Shadow Warriors” of 3rd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment.
“We came in a little late, but 3/9 Marines did a lot of work prior to us arriving here— we’re just trying to close it out for them,” said 1st Sgt. Christopher N. Cary, a 32-year-old native of Boston and Weapons Company first sergeant.
While base closures place more of the responsibility of security for the region in the hands of the Afghan National Security Forces, for the Marines of “America’s Battalion,” the base closure means continued progress.
“My hat’s off to 3/9 Weapons Co.,” said Clarke, a Chicago native. “They planned the whole demilitarization of FOB Payne, tore it down a lot faster than expected and almost saw it to completion during their time.”
The closing of FOB Payne has significance for the Marines, but also for the security of Afghanistan.
“The demilitarization of this FOB is not only good, but it’s important because it shows that the Afghans in the area no longer need our help,” said Clarke. “Usually we’re the ones who bring the information to the Afghan people, now it’s the other way around.”
The Marines have experienced instances where the Afghans have stepped up.
“Just the other day they saw an illumination (round in the sky), and we had several Afghan leaders contact us to check in on the unit making sure that we weren’t in (enemy) contact, and that we didn’t need assistance. It shows just how much they’ve progressed, and that they’re a capable force.”
While the battalion’s deployment is still in its beginning stages, Clarke said Payne’s successful closure is a good start to the deployment.
“We’re proud of the Marines in our company,” Clarke said. “We’re going to continue going one step at a time, focusing on staying safe and responsibly getting our gear and equipment back to Camp Dwyer.”
As the final vehicles leave and the dust settles, tire tracks will be the only tangible evidence left of the Marines’ presence at the FOB.