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'Where Soldiers Come From' in Context

Forward Operating Base Salerno

A forward operating base (FOB) serves as both a staging area for tactical operations and a home for soldiers. FOB Salerno, in southeastern Afghanistan, served as the headquarters for Combined Task Forces Currahee, which is comprised mostly of U.S. troops, including Dom, Cole and Bodi during their deployment.

A forward operating base (FOB) serves as both a staging area for tactical operations and a home for soldiers. Conditions and facilities at FOBs vary (some bases have more "quality-of-life" facilities, such as coffee bars and movie theaters, than others), though most U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan live in air-conditioned dormitory-like quarters with Internet and phone lines and contracted dining facilities.

With 300 acres and a population of nearly 5,000, FOB Salerno functions like a makeshift small town and serves as the headquarters for Combined Task Forces Currahee, a force comprised mostly of U.S. troops. The base is in the province of Khost in southeastern Afghanistan, close to the border with Pakistan — an area where hundreds of Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters are believed to be hiding. Salerno is a main coalition hub for operations and is where Dom, Cole and Bodi were stationed during their deployment. The base was named for the beachhead in Salerno, Italy, where the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment landed in 1943 during Operation Avalanche in World War II — the first large-scale invasion of Europe by Allied Forces. Approximately 60 years later, an Italian light infantry battle group established FOB Salerno.

While at Salerno, Dom, Cole and Bodi spent most of their days sweeping the countryside in tanks and on foot looking for improvised explosive devices (IEDs). According to the Joint IED Defeat Organization, 80 percent of Afghan IEDs are made using homemade explosive components, such as farm fertilizer and ammonium nitrate, along with wood, saw blades and other everyday materials.

The latest Pentagon figures show that the number of planted IEDs is rising. Insurgents in Afghanistan planted 4,472 bombs from May through July 2011, a 17 percent increase compared to the figure for the same three months in 2010. Even with enhanced armored vehicles widely used, IEDs remain the number one cause of death among NATO troops in Afghanistan and have led to a large increase in numbers of troops with traumatic brain injury.

Photo caption: Dom rests during a cache sweep in Afghan village.  Credit: Heather Courtney
» BBC News. "Italian troops attacked in Afghanistan."
» O'Connor, Maura. "Rocket City, Afghanistan." Dispatches and Published Work, September 13, 2011.
» Pincus, Walter. "IEDs killing fewer troops in Afghanistan." The Washington Post, September 25, 2010.
» Powell, Brent C. "Base Operations Section Keeps Camp Salerno Functional." Official Website of Combined Joint Task Force-1, September 26, 2010.
» U.S. Department of Defense. "Reporter's Notebook: Forward Operating Base Gardez 'Feels' Like Afghanistan."

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