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Second Platoon, Company A, 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment soldier Sgt. 1st Class Russell Johnson, 32, of Cumberland, Va., watches a Chinook helicopter sling-load supplies into Forward Operating Base Baylough in Zabul province, Afghanistan, on Sunday.
Second Platoon, Company A, 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment soldier Sgt. 1st Class Russell Johnson, 32, of Cumberland, Va., watches a Chinook helicopter sling-load supplies into Forward Operating Base Baylough in Zabul province, Afghanistan, on Sunday. (Seth Robson / S&S)
Second Platoon, Company A, 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment soldier Sgt. 1st Class Russell Johnson, 32, of Cumberland, Va., watches a Chinook helicopter sling-load supplies into Forward Operating Base Baylough in Zabul province, Afghanistan, on Sunday.
Second Platoon, Company A, 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment soldier Sgt. 1st Class Russell Johnson, 32, of Cumberland, Va., watches a Chinook helicopter sling-load supplies into Forward Operating Base Baylough in Zabul province, Afghanistan, on Sunday. (Seth Robson / S&S)
A soldier from 2nd Platoon, Company A, 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment works to expand indoor storage space at Forward Operating Base Baylough in Zabul Province, Afghanistan, on Sunday.
A soldier from 2nd Platoon, Company A, 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment works to expand indoor storage space at Forward Operating Base Baylough in Zabul Province, Afghanistan, on Sunday. (Seth Robson / S&S)
Soldiers load a Chinook helicopter at Forward Operating Base Baylough in Zabul Province, Afghanistan, on Sunday.
Soldiers load a Chinook helicopter at Forward Operating Base Baylough in Zabul Province, Afghanistan, on Sunday. (Seth Robson / S&S)
Afghan contractors work to expand hard-standing accomodation at Forward Operating Base Baylough in Zabul Province, Afghanistan, on Sunday.
Afghan contractors work to expand hard-standing accomodation at Forward Operating Base Baylough in Zabul Province, Afghanistan, on Sunday. (Seth Robson / S&S)
Afghan contractors work to expand hard-standing accomodation at Forward Operating Base Baylough in Zabul Province, Afghanistan, on Sunday.
Afghan contractors work to expand hard-standing accomodation at Forward Operating Base Baylough in Zabul Province, Afghanistan, on Sunday. (Seth Robson / S&S)

ZABUL PROVINCE, Afghanistan — Soldiers in Zabul province are working hard to improve isolated outposts before winter snow closes mountain passes, but getting supplies into the backcountry is not easy.

At Forward Operating Base Baylough in the Dey Chopan district, Cpl. Jeffrey Treaster hammered nails into framing as he worked to erect a new storage room Sunday. Afghan bricklayers were working nearby to expand hard-standing accommodations at the post. “We’re trying to make it a little more livable out here with more storage space and stuff like that,” said Treaster, 33, of Harrisburg, Pa.

“When we first got out here there was not much — just a Conex (shipping container), tents and Porta-Johns. We added a new toilet block and a washroom. Now we are building a storage boom to clear some space in the TOC (tactical operations center),” he said.

Some supplies for the construction came to the FOB in Afghan “jingle trucks,” the rest came sling-loaded on Chinook helicopters. The base also gets regular parachute supply drops from fixed-wing aircraft, he said.

There appeared to be enough construction material at Baylough to get the job done last week, but some other supplies were running short. For example, soldiers ate with plastic forks because they didn’t have knives — other than combat equipment — or spoons, and their breakfast cereal was served with water since there was no milk.

Getting material to FOBs in Zabul is not easy, according to Capt. Keith Wei, 25, of San Francisco, who is responsible for getting supplies from Kandahar to three FOBs operated by Team Apache, 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment.

“Being the most powerful army in the world, you expect that when you need something, you ask for it you’ve got it. But here we have learned it takes time,” he said.

For example, as of last week, the soldiers at Baylough had waited almost two months for printer cartridges because supplying them requires approval of a board at Bagram air base that only meets once a month, he said.

“There should be someone up there saying OK, they need this stuff, let’s get it to them,” he said.

Even getting ammunition to the FOBs, even during a firefight, is a challenge, Wei said.

“The ammo supply point (at Kandahar) is only open five days a week. They are closed on weekends and you almost have to beg for them to come and get it. When we are in a heavy fight and you ask them to do something like that, they come in all disgruntled. That’s a small example,” he said.

One of the Baylough soldiers, Sgt. Christopher Allen, 22, of Bamberg, Germany, said he doesn’t blame the Army for supply shortages.

“We are a really isolated place. It is not the easiest place to get supplies to. Helicopters can’t fly in bad weather and we have had a lot here lately,” he said.

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