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Leaked Memo: Afghan ‘Burn Pit’ Could Wreck Troops’ Hearts, Lungs

A bulldozer dumps a load of trash into a burn pit just 300 yards from the runway at Bagram Airfield, January 2012. An Army memo from 2011 found the burn pit is associated with "long-term" health effects on soldiers at Bagram. Photo: U.S. Army

By Spencer Ackerman  @ Wired.com

A bulldozer dumps a load of trash into a burn pit just 300 yards from the runway at Bagram Airfield, January 2012. An Army memo from 2011 found the burn pit is associated with “long-term” health effects on soldiers at Bagram.

For years, U.S. government agencies have told the public, veterans and Congress that they couldn’t draw any connections between the so-called “burn pits” disposing of trash at the military’s biggest bases and veterans’ respiratory or cardiopulmonary problems. But a 2011 Army memo obtained by Danger Room flat-out stated that the burn pit at one of Afghanistan’s largest bases poses “long-term adverse health conditions” to troops breathing the air there. Read the remainder of this entry »

Bagram Airfield attack kills U.S. contractor – Bryan Farr

By Joshua Partlow
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 19, 2010; 2:29 PM

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — The Taliban’s brazen assault against the heavily-fortified, city-sized Bagram Air Field on Wednesday demonstrated again the insurgents’ penchant for headline-grabbing strikes at the most potent symbols of foreign power in Afghanistan.

The attack before dawn, with gunfire, rockets, and grenades, killed one U.S. contractor and wounded nine American soldiers. The U.S. soldiers at the base responded by killing 10 insurgents, including four wearing suicide vests.

It was the second ambitious attack in as many days, and possibly a demonstration of the new offensive the Taliban promised earlier this month. As the U.S. military sends thousands of new troops to the southern city of Kandahar, the Taliban vowed to respond by targeting Afghan officials, contractors and NATO forces.

On Tuesday, a suicide car bomber targeted a U.S. convoy in Kabul, killing five U.S. troops, a Canadian and at least a dozen Afghan civilians. The attack, coupled with the death of two American troops in separate bombings, pushed the U.S. death toll past 1,000 for the nine-year Afghan war.

The attack at Bagram involved 20 to 30 insurgents and began before 4 a.m., U.S. military officials said. None of them breached the perimeter, but gun battles continued for several hours.

The Associated Press reported that the attackers wore uniforms that appeared to match those of U.S. or NATO troops. A U.S. military spokesman said this tactic “wouldn’t be uncommon,” but could not confirm it happened in this case.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for both major attacks this week. Fighting usually tapers off in the cold winter months and then accelerates in the spring and summer. American military officials have been expecting an increase in violence, both in response to their troop build-up and because of the season.

But the choice of Bagram as a target surprised many people. Insurgents tend to avoid confronting American military might head-on. The airfield, expanded from an old Soviet military base, houses thousands of U.S. troops, the headquarters of the military operation for eastern Afghanistan, and the primary U.S.-run detention center. Insurgents have fired rockets at the base in the past, but the assault was “not something that commonly happens quite in this way,” said Mst. Sgt. Tom Clementson, a U.S. military spokesman at Bagram.

“That’s a dog chasing a school bus. You don’t attack Bagram with 20 guys,” one U.S. official said. “Either they’re crazy or brave or both.” (click HERE for the original article)

Here are some more articles written by different publications

Bagram attack kills US contractor, wounds nine NATO soldiers

Taliban attack key US base in Afghanistan

If you know who the America Civilian is who was killed please don’t post it in a comment. Email me by clicking HERE I don’t want to publish the name until the family has been notified officially.

My sincere condolences to the friends and family of our soldiers and civilians who were injured or killed during this cowardly attack. As far as the suicide bombers go…..good riddance!

Ms Sparky

Update 5-21-2010: Our friends at Defense Base Comp Blog have determined the contractor who was killed at Bagram was Bryan Keith Farr. I think I’ve been have to determine he worked for KBR at one time but am not sure if he has transitioned to the LOGCAP IV contractor Fluor, which I suspect is the case. I’ve checked out his myspace, facebook and searched the tweets on twitter and will be updating as soon as there is confirmation. Anyone who has information and would like to share it please email me or leave a comment below.

Bagram: the US nerve centre in Afghanistan

By Bonny Schoonakker (AFP)
December 1, 2009

A US Air Force C-17 aircraft takes off from Bagram Air Base, north of Kabul

A US Air Force C-17 aircraft takes off from Bagram Air Base, north of Kabul

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — Each and every meal prepared for US soldiers at the sprawling Bagram military base in Afghanistan costs about 28 dollars a head — more than most Afghans earn in a month.

The enormous financial outlay of the eight-year war is brought into sharp focus at Bagram Airfield, where warplanes roar into the skies to the battlefields but where off-duty soldiers can buy burgers, massages and motorbikes.

And it is at Bagram that many of US President Barack Obama’s 30,000 extra troops will get a first taste of Afghanistan.

With its maze of Soviet-era architecture and plywood huts, Bagram is the biggest US garrison in Afghanistan and boasts a dazzling array of fast-food joints and a Harley Davidson dealership for those away from the frontlines.

Already home to more than 25,000 people, the man responsible for its day-to-day running, Lieutenant Colonel Troy Joslin, says the base was on track to grow another 15-20 percent in the next year even without the extra troops.

Colleagues describe Joslin as “mayor of Bagram”, in charge of a base he says has grown 30 percent over the past year in a bustle of expansion that has seen disused land de-mined to make way for new buildings.

“I don’t see us going away in the immediate future,” Joslin told AFP in the two-storey Soviet-built block that serves as nerve centre of the 2,100-hectare (5,190-acre) compound outside the Afghan capital Kabul.

The passenger terminal is being upgraded to accommodate 1,000 personnel a day, up from its current seating capacity of 250, says the US Air Force.

“This is especially important during surges in passenger movements during an increase in force levels and unit deployments,” said Captain David Faggard, a US Air Force spokesman at Bagram.

On a busy day, the terminal strains to cope with around 1,650 inbound and outbound passengers, he said.

Many of the new troops are likely to take-off or land on Bagram’s three-kilometre (two-mile) runway en route to battle the Taliban militia.

Sending in the extra troops will cost the US military 30 billion dollars this year, Obama said — or one million dollars for each deployed soldier.

There are at least 5,000 civilians on base working for companies contracted by the military, such as Kellog, Brown & Root (KBR) and Presidential Aviation, whose pilots still lounge around with “Blackwater Aviation” marked on their jackets — a name laden with controversy since its operations in Iraq.

Multi-course meals are cooked up by KBR costing what a US military spokesman said is 28 dollars per head per meal, more than most Afghans earn a month.

Some nights the fare includes steaks and crab legs, with most of the food flown in more than 10,000 kilometres (6,000 miles) from the United States.

BagramKBR employees also collect the trash, clean the toilets, provide a laundry service and supply fuel to aircraft — doing just about anything that needs to be done without the use of a weapon or military equipment.

Under the supervision of KBR managers, Afghans do most of the menial work. There are also Bangladeshis, Filipinos, Indians, Kyrgyz, Nepalese, Pakistanis, Sri Lankans, Tajiks and Uzbeks, working as labourers and service staff.

Bagram’s main thoroughfare is Disney Drive, named after a US serviceman who died in a welding accident in 2002.

With all the construction work and military operations, the road is prone to traffic jams, clogged with mine-proof vehicles and cement trucks.

“Traffic is the biggest headache,” says Joslin. “There are approximately 2,000 vehicles on the base, double that if you count construction vehicles and Gators (a vehicle resembling a golf cart).”

Alcohol may be banned, in keeping with US military policy, but there is no shortage of recreation.

Special guests are flown in — the actor Gary Sinise and his band played a concert recently — while Kyrgyz women offer soldiers eight-dollar haircuts and full-body massages at 20 dollars an hour at a popular beauty salon.

The PX facility — a sort of shopping mall built out of shipping containers and plywood — has a supermarket, Burger King, Pizza Hut and Green Beans coffeeshop open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Other shops sell sports clothing, jewellery, “Afghan apparel” and souvenirs and cell phones. The Harley Davidson dealership says it sells around four motorcycles a month to US servicemen.

To counter the shortage of space, Joslin says, most of the mines have been cleared to make way for barracks, particularly on the eastern side of the base, where a new detention facility and cement factory are located.

The old prison will be reassigned and the former Soviet-built control tower has been converted into offices for the US Air Force.

The US military has built a chapel on site and is also restoring three Bagram mosques, including one named after Ahmed Shah Massoud, the Northern Alliance leader assassinated two days before September 11 attacks. (click HERE for original article)

For those who may not be aware, Bagram Airforce Base (BAF) is in the processing of transitioning from KBR to Fluor. From what I’m being told from KBR and Fluor employees, there is quite a bit of confusion and a lack of housing at this stage of the transition.

If Bagram is the US nerve center for Afghanistan, then this chaotic transfer from KBR LOGCAP III To Fluor LOGCAP IV must be “un-nerving”. Sorry….I couldn’t resist! Any input from Bagram readers would be great!

Ms Sparky