When Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division soldiers deployed to Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, in June 2014, they were given the mission of training, advising and assisting Afghan National Security Forces.
By December — as part of the drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan — the soldiers also had transitioned the Regional Command South headquarters to its new Train, Advise and Assist Command South structure.
However troopers assigned to the division’s information cell, had a more specified mission — transitioning Kandahar’s NATO-based communications network to a U.S.-based network.
Because transferring a network of this size is not a common — or easy — task accomplishing the mission meant treading an unfamiliar territory.
Capt. Christopher Bizor, the division’s network operations officer in charge, said the three-month process became the standard for other headquarters across Afghanistan since the First Team soldiers were among the first in Afghanistan to complete this mission as Operation Enduring Freedom transitioned to NATO’s Resolute Support.
“The transition was key because it was a part of the presidential agreement between U.S. and Afghanistan for the Resolute Support mission to reduce the amount of coalition forces in Afghanistan,” Bizor said.
He said the process included migrating more than 400 users across Khandahar Airfield from NATO services to U.S. Army services with minimal interruptions to mission critical communications.
“In compliance with the agreement, the United States was identified to be the host nation responsible for Regional Command South that would ultimately return control to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan,” he added.
Roughly 30 First Team soldiers alongside soldiers from the 550th Signal Company worked day in and day out to scale down Kandahar’s network.
Lt. Col. Osvaldo Ortiz, the information officer in charge said the network had grown significantly since the coalition mission first began in the early 2000s.
“We’ve been deployed for so long, you get there, the comms are already there,” Ortiz said. “When you leave, you usually leave them in place for the next person. Now we have to tear stuff down. Now, we have to turn stuff off.”
He explained there was also a human element to consider when decreasing the size and scope of the network.
“Where there were 40 to 50 forward operating bases and 20,000 people in Kandahar requiring support, our goal was to scale it down to a network that is sustainable for a small amount of people,” Ortiz said.
That smaller amount of people included about 8,000 coalition forces and civilian contractors.
Ortiz said his soldiers did a fantastic job, and now there are tools and techniques in place to assist Regional Command East in their transition.
The remaining division soldiers are expected to return to Fort Hood early this summer.