Written by 1st Lt. Daniel Johnson
2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (AA) Public Affairs
Erbil, Iraq – LSA Strike is named after the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) whose Soldiers comprise Task Force Strike in northern Iraq.
When we first got here, all there was, was gravel.” said 1st Lt. Kalapu Fasavalu, platoon leader in Company C, 39th Brigade Engineer Battalion, Task Force Strike, from Long Beach, California. “There were no facilities set up at all.”
As part of their deployment during Operation Inherent Resolve, Soldiers of Task Force Strike, are moving to many locations throughout Iraq to advise and assist the Iraqi Security Forces.
In Erbil, Iraq, as part of the building partner capacity mission, U.S. Soldiers, along with their multinational Coalition partners, are building new facilities to expand their reach for the A&A mission.
For the few Soldiers who arrived first, they soon found themselves building the LSA from the ground up – in very uncomfortable conditions.
“It’s been very tough,” said Sgt. Kevin Villareal, an air defense battle systems operator in Strike’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 39th BEB, and a Hempstead, Texas native. “It’s been hot – roughly 104-105 degrees on a daily basis out here setting everything up in the sun.”
“When we first started, we were working from 0500-1700 to get things set up,” said Fasavalu. “The S6 section set up about 15 floors for the tents, and then the TOC. We then put up all the tents.”
Once the basic layout was completed, Soldiers moved to setting up basic life support systems. Plumbing had to be installed and electrical fixtures connected.
“We put up the shower tents and latrines,” said Pfc. Anene Ezike, an air defense battle systems operator in HHC, from Trenton, New Jersey. “We had some problems with the plumbing at first, but eventually we got that rolling. We had a lot of problems with the generators, but got those working eventually and got power to the tents.”
The next step was setting up the inside of the living quarters, making sure they were fully operational for personnel arriving within days.
“Over a week ago there was only the TOC and the living tents.” said Ezike. “The tents were only a shell though; there was nothing in them.”
“There was nothing in the tents when we got here,” said Spc. Dallas Slater, an aviation operation specialist in HHC, from Lynchburg, Virginia. “We had to grab all the cots from the [shipping container] to move them over and make sure all that tents had them. We also set up the electricity and air conditioning in them. ”
Soldiers also innovated in order to make the living spaces they would be spending the deployment in more comfortable.
“We created doors on the tent,” said Slater. “We wanted to ensure a more comfortable environment for the Soldiers. Everything in the tents is our work.”
Personnel from all ranks assisted with the setup of LSA Strike, sharing the conditions and hard work with each other.
“The brigade executive officer, personnel officer, and other high-ranking officers were out there,” said Ezike. “It was definitely a collective effort. Everybody was out there working; it wasn’t just ‘Joes.’ We definitely came together as a team to get this place built.”
Though the progress has been impressive, the work of setting up facilities is still not done for the Soldiers of the task force.
“The rest of the section is working on setting up communications,” said Villarreal. “I’m going to give them the day off tomorrow because we’re about to move again … We’re about to repeat this exact process at our new location, except at our new location we’ll be working with a lot less resources. It’ll be a lot more hard work.”