A month after arriving in Kabul, Afghanistan, a Columbus-based Georgia National Guard unit faces challenges drawing down troops and closing installations, the commander said Thursday.
“We have to determine which bases we are going to close and how to deal with the impact of that,” Col. Andy L. Hall, commander of the 648 Maneuver Enhancement Brigade said during a telephone interview.
Hall leads 4,000 people from Camp Phoenix, which includes Army soldiers, Marines, contractors, civilians and more than 100 soldiers from the guard unit on Victory Drive. The unit officially assumed duties from the 26th Brigade, Massachusetts Army National Guard on Jan. 27 for a nine-month deployment to provide support and security to a cluster of eight installations.
Hall said there are about 10,000 U.S. soldiers living on installations scattered throughout the region.
Of the 4,000 people under his command, Hall said the majority of the personnel are contractors used for security, food and maintenance of facilites. Several hundred are assigned combat operations in tactical vehicles.
The unit is in Afghanistan when the defense secretary announced combat operations will be turned over to Afghan forces and U.S. and allies shift to training and advising mission next year.
Some of the base closures will occur while the 648th is deployed. The shift will impact training and security mission, Hall said.
“When you draw down and close you spend more money,” Hall said. “You close one and you got to move all those people to another.”
Hall said he will have to provide new living quarters and office space to to accommodate the soldiers on that base.
During the deployment, the guard unit will be close to that date when combat operations end. “We will run right up to that and I think it will be another year before they are trying to close,” Hall said. “We are in the period to do both. I think the next guy will come in and close.