Decommissioning a town the size of Reading with battlefield ration packs – the Challenges Presented in Decommissioning Camp Bastion

Clive Anderson, Managing Director Programme & Project Management, WYG was a keynote speaker at TotalDECOM International Conference 2019, and he talked about decommissioning Camp Bastion in a tight 9-month timescale, the challenges this presented, and the skills needed for this, or any large programme of decommissioning work.

Camp Bastion was the British Armed Forces main base in Afghanistan. A town the size of Reading, it became synonymous with the fight against the Taliban. When the decision was taken to withdraw troops from the base, a programme of work to decommission Camp Bastion was implemented. WYG project managed this decommissioning – from helping to assess the future use (or disposal) of every single item to planning and implementing the resulting actions.
An amazing story lay behind its initial creation in a land-locked country, while under attack from a pretty determined enemy. Unlike most towns, Camp Bastion needed the ability to evolve and fully support the troops there with everything they would need from vehicle maintenance to a hot meal. There was 26km2 of built up area at Camp Bastion, with a 3,500m runway. At its peak 14,000 military personnel and contractors lived at Bastion in 2012. Eventually, of course, it would need to be dismantled and taken back to the UK.

The decision to decommission Camp Bastion was implemented from March 2014 with a target programme for withdrawal by December 2014. The WYG team was integrated within 170 Engineer Group and worked on the military planning to support the inward collapse and infrastructure to support the final stages with deployed units working on battlefield ration packs in Tier 1 (tented) accommodation!

During the decommissioning work at Camp Bastion and Lashkar Gah WYG project management included providing option reports, developing the works requirements and the governance for contracts to be let and managed. This entailed work with civilian contracted entities, liaising with the MoD’s Facilities Management provider, KBR as well as other military components. Buildings and infrastructure assets were either prepared to be retained in place for handover to the Afghan National Army, sold in country to provide residual asset value or demolished/put beyond use and disposed of. The Theatre Logistics Group was responsible for return of all the kit and equipment, triaging it, deciding how it was going to be disposed of and what was going to be returned to the UK. Just nine months does not seem like a huge amount of time for such as challenge. Every single item was assessed to decide what was cost-effective to return to the UK and what could be disposed of or handed over to the Afghan National Army.

Then, the question is, how do you get the stuff back. This process worked by first designing the last 90 days or so in the camp, working out what the footprint on the ground would be and what was needed and then working back from there. In total 50 aircraft were packed up and brought back to bases across the UK, 3,400 vehicles were checked and cleaned before redeploying back to the UK along with some 50,000 ISO Containers. The Military Theatre Logistics Group, consisted of around 800 people at its peak, constantly reducing in number as the December deadline approached. But a far higher number of people were involved in the close down of Camp Bastion. As well as those military and civilian personnel involved in Afghanistan on the ground, there was a large number of UK-based people too. The closure of bases came under the acronym of BRAC-T – which is bases realignment and closure (transition) – and there was a policy on how it was conducted, including the condition kit and equipment was sent back in. Generally, as much as possible was done in Camp Bastion so a minimum of intervention was needed when it arrived back in the UK. A large amount of kit went by sea because flying wasn’t always cost effective, so it would fly out to marry up with sea transport. Some land movement was attempted but it took a long time and could only do with low risk items such as tented camps. All this had to be done while not compromising the troops on the ground.

Up to the time it was handed over to the Afghan National Army, Camp Bastion was evolving. Infrastructure was still being built two months before it closed – because it was needed for military capabilities. Everything the WYG team did was to support military capability. Camp Bastion was an incredible achievement both in construction and decommissioning. The WYG staff were among the last of the Civilian Contractors to leave when welfare facilities were at the most austere and all involved received the Civilian Service Medal: Afghanistan, the medal was awarded to civilians in recognition of their contribution to the government’s work towards a stable and secure Afghanistan. The team have flourished since their return from Camp Bastion and are now deployed on projects as far afield as Kenya and Anguilla.

Clive Anderson, Managing Director Programme & Project Management, WYG
International DECOM Conference Keynote Speaker, UK Session – Day 1 – 30th April 2019
TotalDECOM members can view the full presentation for free > Click here for details

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