Mayor’s cell plays key role in FOB life of some deployed Soldier

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4th BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. PAO, MND-B

FORWARD OPERATING BASE RUSTAMIYAH, Iraq – Deployed life for Soldiers of 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light), consists of more than daily patrols through the streets of eastern Baghdad.

A large part of any deployment is forward operating bases where many deployed Soldiers live, and the mayor’s cell on FOB Rustamiyah has responsibility for every person living, working and visiting the FOB.

“We help ensure everyone has power; water for latrines and showers; housing (to include) rooms (and) office spaces; and maintenance on the buildings,” said Capt. John Watkins, commander, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 94th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 4th BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (L), Multi-National Division Baghdad.

The mayor’s cell deals with handling trash, tracking the population on the FOB, and employing Iraqi workers. In addition, various types of work orders are processed through this office, including one recent work order to construct a protective structure over the dining facility, commented Watkins.

Capt. John Watkins and Jack Coffey, a Kellogg, Brown and Root contractor, break ground on a new miniature golf course
Capt. John Watkins (left), a Seattle native, and mayor, Forward Operating Base Rustamiyah, and Jack Coffey, a contractor with Kellogg, Brown and Root, break ground on a new miniature golf course being built on the FOB July 22. Watkins is assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 94th Brigade Support Battalion.(U.S. Army courtesy photo from 4th BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (L), MNDB)

The mayor’s cell at FOB Rustamiyah is responsible for 21 projects and has seven projects pending approval, explained Watkins. The cell also supervises Iraqi businesses on the FOB, ensuring they offer legitimate services to Soldiers and civilians who live and work there.

Another thing the FOB mayor does is work with Morale, Welfare and Recreation. The mayor assists MWR in providing leisure activities for Soldiers, along with planning events and visits for the temporary residents of FOB Rustamiyah, said Sgt. Joshua Thayer, assistant FOB mayor. This includes helping to attract music bands and scheduling special events.

The mayor’s cell is involved in a lot of things on the FOB. The job is not easy for anyone in this office, as the work is never finished, explained Watkins, adding that there will always be people who need help with various issues.

As the mayor of FOB Rustamiyah, Watkins faces another challenge, a shortage of space. He has the unenviable task of ensuring everyone gets the space they need and is happy with what they get.

Thayer is a Las Vegas native who has worked in the mayor’s cell since December. He noted a gradual improvement along with decline in the number of complaints and issues brought to the mayor’s office the last few months.

Conditions at FOB Rustamiyah are continually improving.

Projects in the works on FOB Rustamiyah are geared mainly toward enhancing the safety of the residents, said Watkins. Managing and keeping track of the many projects might seem like a daunting task. However, Watkins and his crew break up the work into departments, with each person handling a different task. The role of the FOB mayor is a very important one.

“If you have the energy and you put a lot of effort in, you can make a lot of changes here,” said Watkins. “You don’t get a lot of sleep,” he joked, expressing the timely demands of the FOB mayor.

In addition to mayoral duties, Soldiers in the section pull double duty working as part of 94th BSB’s communications section. As Watkins and his crew work on all these varied tasks and projects, they just hope to leave the FOB a little better off than when they arrived.

“It’s a lot of hard work, but at the end of the day, I feel like I’ve made a difference,” expressed Watkins. He re-emphasized that the biggest challenge he has faced as mayor is the issue of space, and he is most proud of the creative way they have maximized the buildings and space to address this issue.

By Spc. Grant Okubo