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Increasing and Sustaining the Polish Military Contingent in Afghanistan

The Polish military contingent Task Force White Eagle deployed to Afghanistan in support of
Combined Joint Task Force 101 (CJTF–101) on 30 October 2007. Task Force White Eagle originally consisted of about 1,000 Polish soldiers fighting alongside U.S. forces deployed to Paktia, Paktika, and Ghazni provinces. Most of the task force was based out of Forward Operating Base (FOB) Sharana and Combat Outposts Waza Khwa and Kushamond. One Polish company occupied FOBs Ghazni and Warrior and Nawa Fire Base.

Increasing the Polish Force

In the fall of 2008, the Polish government authorized an increase of forces and capabilities in Afghanistan. This increase included 600 additional troops, an aviation detachment of 4 Mi–24 Hind helicopter gunships, 4 Mi–17 Hip multirole helicopters, and a fire support section comprising 4 DANA 152-millimeter self-propelled gun howitzers.

The increase of Polish forces also called for a realignment of the battlespace between Task Force White Eagle and Task Force Red Currahee (1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment). The realignment stationed all Polish forces in Ghazni, and the U.S. forces realigned to cover down in Paktia and Paktika.

Task Force White Eagle now fully occupies FOBs Ghazni, Warrior, and Four Corners and Giro District Center. It also has two additional combat outposts, Askercot and Qarabaugh, to secure Highway 1. Four hundred more Polish soldiers deployed in support of Task Force White Eagle in the summer of 2009. This increase brought the total number of Polish soldiers in Afghanistan to more than 2,000.

Planning and preparing for this effort began immediately after the notification of the increase in the Polish military contingent, which coincided with Task Force White Eagle rotations I and II. Logistics and engineering planners in CJTF–101 quickly went to work putting together a plan that would allow for not only the increase of the Polish military contingent but also the realignment of the battlespaces and additional construction requirements to relocate Task Force Red Currahee to Paktika.

Preparing for the Increase and Realignment

The expansion of facilities was the top priority of the planners and task force commanders in the battlespace realignment. Before any logistics or engineering planning could occur, the acquisition and cross-servicing agreement (ACSA) between Poland and the United States had to be understood by both sides. The ACSA outlines what types of support and services the United States can give to another government and the financial responsibilities incurred by the recipient.

The ACSA calls for a repayment in kind for services. The mechanism to execute the transaction is the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) Form 35. Form 35s are submitted with every support transaction and serve as the method of reimbursement from CENTCOM. Construction requirements must comply with U.S. codes and are limited to a maximum of $750,000 in Contingency Construction Authority funds per project.

To initiate the numerous construction projects that were required to make the increase of Polish forces and relocation of U.S. forces possible, joint facilities utilization board (JFUB) packages were completed and submitted for approval and funding. The construction projects included the building of brigade and battalion tactical operation centers, permanent and semipermanent living structures, dining facilities, fuel storage and distribution facilities, ammunition supply points, 8 helicopter landing pads, and a 400-meter runway for the Mi–24 Hinds at FOB Ghazni. Once the JFUB packets were prepared and approved, they were sent to the CJTF–101 G–8 for funding and then to the Bagram Air Base contracting office to be awarded.

Although most of the facilities were constructed by the 62d Engineer Battalion and the U.S. Navy Seabees, the electrical and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) work was awarded to KBR through the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP). The LOGCAP process caused the construction projects to be delayed by about 2 months while the funding issues were readdressed and packets were resubmitted for the power and HVAC installation.

To mitigate the construction delays, Force Provider dining facilities were operated by KBR at FOBs Ghazni and Warrior and an initial operating capability landing strip was laid with gravel. To ease the burden of constructing additional living facilities at FOB Ghazni, 90 living containers were flown in from Poland and assembled on site. Two power generators from FOB Sharana were also transported to FOB Ghazni to provide Task Force White Eagle’s tactical operations center and living containers with 220-volt power.

U.S. and Polish Collaboration

While the construction projects were ongoing, U.S. and Polish personnel were busy with parallel planning for the battlespace transfer. Site surveys conducted with the planning team included both U.S. and Polish planners and the staffs of both Combined Task Force Currahee and Task Force Red Currahee.

After conducting surveys of all of the sites, planners determined that the Polish soldiers would assume responsibility for base operations, oversight of the installation, and the theater-provided equipment that belonged to the FOBs in the area. This would be the first time that a U.S. facility would be fully occupied by a coalition partner with base operations responsibility.

To make this legal, a Polish liaison team had to be formed. Fortunately for CJTF–101, the Polish mission in Iraq was ending and their liaison team was due to redeploy. The Polish liaison team, or operational military liaison team (OMLT), was reassigned to Afghanistan and quickly went to work signing for the theater-provided equipment and installation property. The OMLT also assumed responsibility for managing the FOBs’ local support contacts.

Sustaining the Polish Force

The Polish National Support Element (NSE), originally located at FOB Sharana, was moved to Bagram Air Base because of the NSE’s increased capabilities and distribution network. Before the battlespace realignment, Task Force White Eagle was supported by both the Polish NSE and the 801st Brigade Support Battalion (BSB). After the battlefield realignment, no Task Force Red Currahee Soldiers would remain in Ghazni Province. Because of that, the 801st BSB would no longer be required to provide logistics support to forces operating in that area.

A new sustainment system was developed to allow Task Force White Eagle to support itself with some assistance from the 101st Sustainment Brigade. The Polish NSE, the 801st BSB, the 101st Sustainment Brigade, and CJTF–101 signed a memorandum of understanding that outlined the support responsibilities of all the parties and the financial management actions that needed to be accomplished on a monthly basis.

Bagram Air Base serves as the hub for Polish logistics. CENTCOM established a monthly air bridge to move coalition partners’ air cargo on U.S. airframes at no cost to the coalition partners. Essential Polish supplies are flown into Bagram and then pushed out by Polish convoys to FOB Ghazni, where they are further broken down and distributed to their final locations.

Polish ammunition shipments are coordinated among the Polish Land Forces Command in Poland, CENTCOM, and CJTF–101. After being notified that Polish ammunition is departing Poland, the Polish NSE must coordinate with the CJTF–101 joint transportation officer to schedule immediate follow-on air transport via C–130 Hercules to FOB Sharana. From FOB Sharana, the ammunition is trucked to FOBs Ghazni and Warrior.

Bagram Air Base is also the personnel hub for Polish reception, staging, onward movement, and integration, with all incoming and outgoing Polish forces flying through Manas Air Base, Kyrgyzstan. The Polish aviation detachment, using both their organic Mi–17s and CJTF–101 rotary-wing assets, move the Polish relief-in-place/transfer-of-authority (RIP/TOA) forces to FOB Sharana, where they are flown by C–130 aircraft to Bagram. This process simultaneously works in reverse when deploying RIP/TOA forces into the country. After arriving at Bagram, the Polish soldiers are flown to Sharana by C–130 and then moved onward by the Polish and CJTF–101 rotary-wing assets to their final destination.

Task Force White Eagle assumed control of the Ghazni battlespace and became a direct reporting unit to CJTF–101 on 30 October 2008. In addition to the logistics and engineering planning efforts that went into this successful mission, other planning factors had to be considered, including coordinating the transfer of fires and effects assets, force protection and FOB security assets, provincial reconstruction teams, agriculture development teams, base operations support integrated services, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets.

All planners played a crucial role in planning and executing the increase of Polish forces and the realignment of the battlespace. The combined planning sessions that brought together all parties involved in the mission were instrumental in its success. Through planning conferences, issues were raised and discussed and decisions were made on how to mitigate problems. Since its assumption of the Ghazni battlespace, Task Force White Eagle has continued to grow in size and its logistics enablers continue to support the fight.

Major Eric R. Peterson is the S–4 of the 159th Combat Aviation Brigade. He has a B.S. degree in criminal justice from Sam Houston State University and a certified logistics practitioner’s certificate from the Institute of Logistics Management, and he is certified as a Demonstrated Senior Logistician by SOLE—the International Society of Logistics. He is a graduate of the Army Command and General Staff College, Marine Corps Amphibious Assault Course, Combined Logistics Captains Career Course, Mortuary Affairs Course, Petroleum Officer Course, and Aerial Delivery and Maintenance Officer Course.

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