The other day, in my Ten a Day – 23 post, I mentioned I was somewhere new in Afghanistan. That place is Forward Operating Base Al Masaak. It is a small, Romanian run FOB in the Shah Joy District of Zabul, located along Highway 1, about 12km south of FOB Bullard. To clarify, it is small in the number of people here, but it is very large in land area that it encompasses.
Besides the Romanians, there is a small group of US military (Army & Navy) & a small contingent of DynCorp employees that live here. We also share the FOB with a company from the Afghan National Army (ANA).
It isn’t one of my favorite places I have been to here, but it is ok. We are in the broad Tarnak River valley, right off the Highway. The land is dry and relatively barren, with small, browned, scrub brush. The mountains are far enough in the distance and the land between so devoid of green vegetation that it offers terrain with very little that is visually appealing.
The FOB is located on the site of a former Soviet military base; although there are only 2 remnants from that period left standing. The FOB has 4 distinct sections. The original coalition area with a small cluster of the typical yellow concrete block buildings is occupied by the ANA and a joint command post that is shared by the ANA, Romanians and US Forces. The DFAC and a Romanian run laundry trailer are on either side of this building. This area also includes tents for the aid station, a meagerly equipped gym and a very small MWR with 4 computers & 2 phones.
The next section has a small cluster of tents that are currently the primary living and work space for the Romanians, DynCorp and US Forces. This section includes our 4 latrine trailers (as described in Toilets on the Fob). Each trailer has 3 toilets, 3 showers and 2 sinks.
The third section contains the HLZ, the newly established tent city that again is shared by the Romanians, DynCorp & US Forces and the area where our eye the sky balloon and the guys that run it live.
The last section is the large expansion area where the Soviet buildings recently stood. They have been razed in preparation for further expansion of the base and that area is currently primarily vacant. The two structures that remain are on old artillery firing point and a concrete ramp used for vehicle maintenance.
What Al Masaak lacks in amenities it makes up for in space. I definitely have more space than I have had anywhere else in Afghanistan. I have an entire tent all to myself. The tent is set up as an open bay with 8 beds, but they moved a bed out and set me up with a work station, complete with a big comfy chair. So here I am the sole occupant of a 20ft x 32ft space.
The best thing about Al Masaak is the attitude of the people that live here. Everyone that I have met; the Afghans, Romanians, contractors and of course the Soldiers and Sailors have been extremely friendly and helpful. It reminds me of a friendly small town, everyone willing to help their neighbor out anyway they can.
I think we need to hang a sign on the highway proclaiming FOB Al Masaak as the Mayberry of Afghanistan.
Stop in and see for yourself – I have 6 empty beds in my tent if you are in the area 😉
Thanks for looking!
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