FORWARD OPERATING BASE SMART – From room assignments to fuel levels to food supply to day-worker assignments, two people at the home of the Zabul Provincial Reconstruction Team here make it their business to ensure that everything is running smoothly.
Army Staff Sgt. Jose Echeona and Army Sgt. Ryan Shifflett are the forward operating base’s mayor and deputy mayor, respectively, and they say there is never a dull moment on the job.
“You never know what each day might bring in this job,” said Echeona, a Gaithersburg, Md., native. “One day you could be working with the fuel system and the next figuring out lodging for 20 visitors. The job is constantly changing.”
Making sure the base stays running was not what the two soldiers expected when they deployed more than six months ago. As civil affairs reservists deployed from the 450th Civil Affairs Battalion out of Riverdale, Md., the two were set to interact with provincial government officials.
“I came out here with the purpose of going out on convoys and doing my job [in civil affairs],” Echeona said. “When I was put in this position, I just kept putting one foot forward, because it was a different opportunity.”
Neither does it alone. They didn’t receive any training for their jobs here, so they routinely reach out to other entities for assistance.
“We’ve both never done this before, and it has kind of been a trial-by-fire type of situation,” Echeona said. “We’ve had a lot of assistance from brigade, the folks at Kandahar Airfield and our leadership here. Everyone has been an excellent source of help.”
Shifflett, a Washington, D.C., police officer, joked that while the job here differs greatly from his civilian job, people like him more as the mayor.
“All joking aside,” he added, “the job as FOB mayor does have its similarities -- mainly that I deal with all types of people in both jobs. From the local nationals to the higher-ranking visitors, we interact with everyone.”
Shifflett said he doesn’t mind the job because of the bigger picture.
“The mayor’s cell worries about the little things,” the Annapolis, Md., native said. “If the folks here have a good dining facility, running water, heat in the winter, air conditioning in the summer, offices, living spaces -- all things we as the mayor’s cell handle -- then those same folks can focus on their convoy or dismount outside the wire and on completing that mission.”
Air Force Lt. Col. Justin Kraft, the provincial reconstruction team’s commander, said the mayor’s cell provides peace of mind.
“For all the folks who have to engage outside the wire, it takes a big load off their shoulders knowing they aren’t going to have to worry about the little things,” he said. “They just know that they don’t have to worry about it, because Echeona and Shifflett are on the job. It’s an expectation that they have built for themselves. They take pride in what they do, and it produces superior results.”