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Project Management 101: Camp Bastion: Deconstructing A Formidable Fortress

camp bastion project management military base afghanistan

For those project managers out there, this is an interesting case study of deconstructing Camp Bastion (now known as Camp Shorabak) which was the key British and American forces base in the province of Helmand, Afghanistan and was constructed in several phases starting from 2005 and was formally handed over to the Afghan forces on 26th October 2014. Image source: BBC

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One of the key points of the Camp Bastion is the airfield which at one point was one of the busiest UK-operated airports and handles 600 aircraft a day. It is also one of the well equipped and defended bases that are within the reach of other forward bases in the Helmand province.

In addition to the airfield, Camp Bastion can accommodate up to 28,000 troops, hangars, oxygen & nitrogen production plants, 3 huge dining facilities each capable of feeding around 7,000 diners, water bottling plant, a field hospital, warehouse, bus service, fire station, police force, fast food restaurants, IED training centre, gym, vehicle repair workshop and eight incinerators for waste disposal.

Then in 2014, the UK and US forces ended all frontline combat operations against the Taliban and Camp Bastion was to be handed over back to the Afghan forces. The removal of critical assets and the deconstruction of Camp Bastion then started.

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The people in charge of the key removal and the deconstruction were given 4 months to get the job done although the camp has been downsizing since December 2013. Consider the risks, constraints and the logistic nightmare of this project:-

After almost a decade of growth and use, checking every section of camp to collect the equipment and then deciding what to do with it was a huge task.

Overseeing this responsibility was Major Charlie Perkins the Theatre Logistics Group Adjutant.

She managed various departments that spent months sweeping through the areas where units once stood and collecting any left-over kit and everyday objects, like TVs, that had been accumulated.

Depending on the item and its condition, it was then decided whether it was redeployed back to the UK, gifted to the Afghans, sold, scrapped or recycled.

Just as kit and equipment were flown and shipped into Camp Bastion to build it, items that were redeployed to the UK were cleaned up and serviced before making its way by land, sea and air back home.

Folding up Bastion, right up to the very end and to the very last tent, was part of the intricate plan to make sure that it was left in the best possible condition as the UK Armed Forces closed Bastion’s doors for the final time.


camp bastion project management military base afghanistan

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Consider the tasks at hand:-

  • Identifying the resources who will be involved with the actual removal & dismantling
  • Preparing the documentation to record the assets and all the sign-offs to ensure completion of tasks and hand-over
  • Identifying the assets to be shipped back or handed over to the Afghan or to be disposed of (it is funny to hear the Afghan Colonel telling that it is a good thing that the concrete walls are heavy otherwise the British would have taken them as well)
  • Execution of the actual removal or dismantling of the various tasks (the Gantt Chart would have been colourful and runs in pages)
  • The strip down of any sensitive equipment before the handover or disposal (imagine wires need to be cut into 30 cm to avoid it be used by Taliban to reuse in an IED)
  • Clean up of the leftovers and the rubbish left after the tasks done
  • The escalation and assignment tasks need to be on the dot and without any delays or miscommunication

Being in the military, there is no issue of lack of resources or assets to get the work done but the challenge is how to get it done without depriving the necessary resources & assets needed to keep Camp Bastion safe & operational until the proper handover to the Afghan is done. They need to have enough assets for maintenance and to keep the troops fed and on the high alert.

That is where the project managers and the team need to think on their toes and the deconstruction of Camp Bastion makes it a very interesting case study

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