My Last Tour: A New Base

The volleyball court at Temple's new FOB
The volleyball court at Temple's new FOB
TAMPA (2009-09-22) -

It's been almost two weeks since Senior Master Sgt. Rex Temple checked in from Afghanistan. That's because he was busy moving. The Tampa airman was relocated to a new, Forward Operating Base.

Despite a few drawbacks like a camp store with only two shelves of merchandise and air conditioning units obstructing the volleyball court, Senior Master Sgt. Rex Temple was comfortable at his Forward Operating Base in eastern Afghanistan.

But last week, Temple and some of his teammates were ordered to move south.

"This camp is much smaller. We don't have a PX or even a camp store," Temple said. "The rooms are definitely much smaller. Right now, my room is probably 7 feet by 8 feet and I'm housed with eight people instead of four. In addition it's made of plywood instead of concrete."

His plywood room is called a B-Hut. At the new camp, the U.S. forces are outnumbered by French coalition forces. But, at least there's still a volleyball court.

"There's concertina wire on both sides of the court and on the most part they have tarps over top of it so if a ball hits it then it won't pop" Temple said. "But, I talked to several players and they've gone through three or four volleyballs from hitting it into the concertina wire."

Temple says the move is part of a restructuring of assignments in Afghanistan. Also, the Afghan National Army unit he'd helped trained was independently tested and passed with the highest possible rating. So, the unit is considered self-sufficient.

"Now, that's not to say they don't have some challenges or they have some problems, but that exists in any group or even with the US military," Temple said.

And those challenges, Temple said, includes the lack of resources making it down to the average ANA foot soldier.

"The other day I looked at their pay charts and I see how much they pay these soldiers. You know $100 to $200 a month and it takes roughly $300 a month to support a family here," Temple said. "So, they make up with it by having another job or through corruption. And that's also one of the accepted practices. That is the way of doing business here."

It's allegations of corruption and fraud that have delayed the Afghan election results. Temple worries that the delay will push the possible runoff election to spring. And, in the interim, he said, the Taliban continues to be in power.

"I read today that people are saying well hey, the Taliban are less corrupt than the current government," Temple said Tuesday. He added that the Afghan people are aware the foreign aid dollars coming into the country they are seeing little benefit.

As military and political leaders in Washington consider the future of the Afghanistan War, Temple offered this advice from the ground:

"My personal opinion is they need to address this corruption," Temple said. "They need to be able to funnel that money out to the villages out to the people who need it and not into the pockets of greedy government officials. That has to be addressed."

Temple investigated complaints of fraud and waste while stationed with the Inspector General at MacDill Air Force Base. So, what seems to be an insurmountable problem in Afghanistan, Temple believes can be addressed.

"They need to look at the processes. How does the money come in and who does it go to and what are the benefits," Temple said. "You know just writing a blank check is not helping. Are we targeting the right villages? Are we creating the right roads and stuff or are we actually benefitting the Taliban?"

Temple said that's a conversation happening not just in the nation's capital, but also among those on the front lines.

WUSF is following Temple during his year-long deployment in Afghanistan.

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