Farewell to Kandahar
Nov 15, 2011

The end of Canadian combat operations in Afghanistan brought the Mission Transition Task Force (MTTF) to Kandahar, to repatriate, sell, move or dispose of all the assets accumulated over years of fighting, including buildings, more than 1,000 containers of equipment and 1,000 vehicles. Planning for the operation, scheduled for completion at the end of December, began months ahead of its implementation. BGen Charles Lamarre, the task force commander told FrontLine in a phone interview from Kandahar “While we were planning the nuts and bolts back in Canada, LCol Steve Moritsugu was the lead of a liaison planning team that we had here in Kandahar.” With a small team of specialists, Moritsugu “was our guy on the ground to get answers.”

LCol B. Derry, Commanding Officer of Task Force Freedom briefs MMTF Commander B-Gen Charles Lamarre during a visit to Task Force Silver Dart at Kandahar Airfield on 22 July 2011.

On the ground at the sprawling Kandahar Airfield, MWO Veronica Gibson, MTTF Company Sergeant Major was in charge of getting things done safely and efficiently. She credits a simple, well known technology for major time savings – Barcodes. “I think the troops have probably seen enough barcodes that they won’t want to go into grocery stores,” she said, “but that has greatly, greatly reduced our timelines and the amount of man hours that are required for processing.”

Members from 1 Combat Engineer Regiment and augmented engineers from across Canada, work at the Task Force Air Wing drawing down a shelter as part of the closure of the Air Wing assets.

During training in Edmonton, task force members rehearsed methods of processing equipment through various stages for shipping such as necessary maintenance, stripping off armour, removing ammunition and cleaning. “We had so many different variants of vehicles, and the tools that go with those vehicles, that it was very difficult for people who had not worked on them or ever worked with these vehicles, to process them properly,” Gibson explains.
Various images of the memorial to the fallen located behind the headquarters building at CANADA 7 compound. Many images were shot at the request of 1 Combat Engineer Squadron from CFB Edmonton so when the pieces are taken apart in Afghanistan, they can be put back in the right order.

The Task Force came up with a process in which members took photographs of every single item the first time it went through the line and uploaded the photographs into a computer program. “We’ve reduced thousands of man-hours that it would have taken to look up what this specific part is, to account for it, and package it properly.” The group had originally estimated that it would require about 80 man hours of processing time per vehicle, but within the first three or four weeks in theatre that had been reduced to approximately 32 hours per vehicle. “We have realized huge ­efficiencies there which of course will be used by follow-on ­operations,” she says.
Cpl Cedric Bentley of 1 Combat Engineer Regiment sprays a water based solution to help break down micro organisms in the soil remediation process at Kandahar Airfield in July 2011.

Some equipment was sold or donated to other countries, including Afghanistan, some went north to Kabul to support the 950-person Canadian training mission there, and other assets were being shipped back to Canada. ‘Sensitive’ equipment went by air, while ‘low priority, low sensitivity items’ were scheduled to go by land to seaports in Pakistan. However, the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan was closed in late October, after a U.S. air strike killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, so while the MTTF easily achieved its goal of clearing Kandahar by the end of the year, there may be delays before all the equipment they loaded returns to Canada.
Richard Bray is a Senior Writer at FrontLine Defence.
© FrontLine Defence 2011