EDITOR'S NOTE: The following article was published by the Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System, which connects worldwide media and the military serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain.
FORWARD OPERATING BASE APACHE, Afghanistan - The Arghandab Mountains, a beautiful range with peaks that reach as high as the clouds, stand as guardians of a geographical area long ravaged by wars, armed conflicts and civil unrest. The mountains have borne witness to much over the years.
Nestled in the shadows of the mountains are the service members of Combined Task Force Raider on Forward Operating Base Apache.
While some soldiers may have lived in horrible, downright disgusting places during past deployments, much has changed since those days. Soldiers assigned to the 1st Armor Brigade Combat Team, Third Infantry Division, Combined Task Force Raider are reaping the rewards of this change with grateful attitudes and big smiles
''Life here is pretty good,'' said a smiling Cpt. Matthew Goncalves, company commander for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st ABCT, Third Infantry Division, CTF- R. ''Soldiers here have hot water, a good dining facility, gym, laundry service, mailroom and a great Morale, Welfare and Recreation Center.''
One reason for the FOB's condition is that the noncommissioned officers are doing their part to enforce standards and keep it running as a safe, clean and sanitized base.
''The company first sergeant and noncommissioned officers are doing a great job making sure soldiers follow all prescribed safety standards, like washing hands before eating, showering daily and picking up litter around the FOB,'' said Ray Williams, a civilian safety officer assigned to 1st ABCT, Third Infantry Division, CTF-R.
''Safety Ray,'' as he is affectionately called by soldiers around the task force, added, ''Soldiers still need to make sure they are wearing a reflective belt at night and have situational awareness at all times, watch choke and pinch points between moving vehicles, and have a light source at night.''
While life on the FOB is good, soldiers have work to do which includes training for patrols, keeping in shape and preparing for the smooth transition of authority back to the Afghanistan government.
''Our squad leader makes us clean our weapons daily, conduct preventive maintenance checks and services, and constantly drills us for an insider threat on the base or any other host of contingencies which may happen,'' said Pfc. David Rieger, a cavalry scout assigned to HHC, 1st ABCT, Third Infantry Division, CTF-R. ''We're ready to help the Afghan people in any way they need.''
A simple piece of real estate tucked in the shadow of the Arghandab Mountain range will be free and secure during the coming months, thanks to the positive attitudes, diligence and watchful eyes of the tactically and technically proficient dog-faced soldiers charged with its care.
Blakeslee is a public affairs specialist with the United States Army and a former recruiter stationed in Warren. He is originally from Mentor and plans to return to Warren in 2016.