Shindand Air Base triples in size

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Joe DelCampo
  • 838th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group
By expanding to nearly three times its original size, Shindand Air Base recently became the second largest airfield throughout Afghanistan.

Colonel Larry Bowers, the 838th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group commander, opened the new expansion area upon completion of construction of approximately eight miles of perimeter fence line.

Having been in the works since fall of 2010, completion of the "Far East Expansion" makes the base second only to Bastion Field in Lashkar Gah in size.

The project is part of a $500 million military construction effort to support Regional Command West and turn Shindand AB into the premier flight-training base in Afghanistan, officials said.

The new expansion is slated to become the new living and working area for more than 3,000 coalition forces and government contractors, officials said. The relocation of these members will make room for a new a 1.3-mile NATO training runway, with construction scheduled to begin in early 2012.

"Our current mission here is to train and upgrade Afghan air force pilots in flying the Mi-17 helicopter," Bowers said. "The new runway project is being constructed in preparation for the addition of 18 new fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft and the establishment of Afghan introductory flight and undergraduate pilot training programs."

Leading the coordination for the project was Lt. Col. Lance McCuiston, an 838th AEAG civil engineer.

He said he faced many challenges during the project, including delays and design changes, and he is certain teamwork by multiple units and organizations contributed to overall project success.

"If it wasn't for the great work and dedication of our military members, civilians and contractors, this project would not have happened," McCuiston said. "This truly was a combined effort."

Despite a period when contractors left the work site due to threats by individuals claiming to be local land owners and detection of seven improvised explosive devices, the project remained on track, he said.

"The arrival of new security forces members greatly increased the ability to defend Shindand," McCuiston said. "It will be the mission of the security forces to patrol and defend this new battle space until completion of the project."

On hand to celebrate the opening of the expansion were members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who established the $13 million contract necessary for construction of the perimeter fence in October 2010.

"Opening this new expansion was a culmination of months of difficult planning, coordination and construction," said Capt. Greg Ward, of the Shindand office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "We should all be very proud."

Members of the 877th Expeditionary Prime BEEF Squadron were also on hand, with eight of their engineers having worked throughout the last four months during construction of the Far East Expansion. Prime Base Engineer Emergency Forces are civil engineer forces organized for direct combat support or emergency recovery from natural disasters.

Their oversight of more than 80 construction projects was crucial in the opening of the new area and ensured the NATO training-runway project remained on track, officials said.

"The Far East Expansion has been an extremely fast-paced project with some significant obstacles along the way," said Chief Master Sgt. Chris Hodge, the 877th EPBS superintendent. "Knowing that 10 years from now, the projects we designed and broke ground on will endure; this is our reward and something the 877th (EPBS) engineers can be proud of for a very long time."