May 23, 2007:
The use of FOBs (Forward Operating
Bases) in Iraq and Afghanistan strikes many Americans as a unique tactic. But
to the U.S. Army, it's merely the latest use of a technique Americans were
using centuries before the United States was established. The frontier fort,
which was often had stone or dirt walls, rather than the more familiar (from
movies) upright logs, was widely and effectively used for centuries, and todays
FOBs are a direct descendent of them. In the last few decades, since Vietnam,
the layout and rapid establishment of FOBs has become a very well developed
drill. An infantry battalion or company can move into an area and have a pretty
secure FOB in operation within 24 hours, Within a week, the FOB becomes very
secure, largely thanks to training, and the availability of many effective, and
inexpensive, sensors (cameras, microphones, and so on.)
The big innovation in Iraq has been the highly
developed ECP (Entry Control Point), through which vehicles and people have to
pass in order to enter the FOB. These have become quite elaborate, mainly
because of experience with the many terrorist threats found in Iraq.
One of the reasons for the high cost of the Iraq
campaign has been the development of portable security materials for FOBs.
Things like portable blast proof walls, shipping containers turned into living
and working quarters, and all those sensors. Cameras are mounted on 30 foot portable
towers in some bases, with computer controlled cameras constantly looking for
suspicious activity. Now there are also robot sentries, that move about,
looking for suspicious activity.
The development of all these security technologies,
while expensive, has brought the casualties, from successful attacks on bases,
including FOBs, down to the lowest levels in history.