News>COMKAF develops plan for orderly Boardwalk drawdown
Coalition forces enjoy the Kandahar Boardwalk Aug. 16, 2013. The vendors on the boardwalk will begin closing in phases as part of the overall drawdown at Kandahar Airfield. The boardwalk has become an iconic part of KAF and its closure is one of the most visible symbols the mission is ending. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jack Sanders)
Coalition forces stroll along the Kandahar Boardwalk Aug. 16, 2013, at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. The headquarters staff for the Commander, Kandahar Airfield, have developed a phased closure plan for the vendors at the boardwalk, resulting in a planned, gradual reduction of services at the boardwalk as end strength declines. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jack Sanders)
The Kandahar Boardwalk is lit up during the night of Sept. 7, 2013, at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, as an aircraft takes off in the back drop. The planned, gradual closure of vendors at the boardwalk is the only piece of this iconic morale venue closing, as the recreation fields and plywood boardwalk will remain after the vendors have departed. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jack Sanders)
Cartoonists from the National Cartoonists Society draw different Coalition force members as part of a USO tour at the Kandahar Boardwalk at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Sept. 7, 2013. The boardwalk has hosted countless USO, morale and band tours, to include performances from country singers Toby Keith and Billy Ray Cyrus during the seven-year span the boardwalk has been in its current location. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jack Sanders)
by Capt. Brian Maguire
451st Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
9/16/2013 - KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- The Commander, Kandahar Airfield headquarters staff has developed a phased closure plan for the Kandahar Boardwalk as part of the drawdown efforts across Kandahar.
The closure is scheduled to mirror the drawdown of military and contract personnel as the International Security Assistance Force's combat mission in Afghanistan ends in 2014.
"This is a natural evolution as we drawdown forces across the country," said U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. John Dolan, NATO's Kandahar Airfield commander. "As our personnel numbers decrease, so will the amenities at our installations."
The boardwalk has served as a morale location since it first opened near the passenger terminal here in 2003, resembling a strip mall with a collection of trailers. The boardwalk moved to its current location when the site was authorized by U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. John Clark, then NATO's commander for Kandahar Airfield. The first establishments open at the boardwalk were Pizza Hut, Burger King, Green Beans Coffee, and the Dutch, German and French exchanges, shortly followed by Tim Horton's - a Kandahar favorite.
"I am proud of the rich history and the wonderful services that many nations have provided coalition forces over the years," Dolan said. "The boardwalk is a part of KAF's identity and exists as a corner-stone in the collective memory of the men and women who have served here since it was built. We will still sponsor a bazaar on a limited basis, giving local businesses an opportunity to sell goods to coalition forces."
Several of the boardwalk amenities are scheduled to remain following the closure of the businesses. Most of the physical structures will be removed, but the plywood boardwalk itself will remain, along with the sports area that includes the running track and football pitch. The sports facilities were paid for by the morale and welfare fund, which includes contributions from boardwalk vendors. The morale and welfare fund has supported a number of projects on KAF to benefit all national facilities here.
"We want the boardwalk to remain a place our people can visit and relax whilst they're here, and we will continue to provide internet and protected seating areas," said Royal Air Force Group Capt. Jamie Johnston, Kandahar Airfield deputy commander for support. "The hugely popular sporting areas are also scheduled to remain in place."
The fortunes of the boardwalk have mirrored the growth of Kandahar Airfield. Serving as the social hub of the largest NATO installation in Afghanistan, the boardwalk has hosted stars such as country singers Toby Keith and Billy Ray Cyrus, the rock band Daughtry, and most recently accommodated Operation Honoring Our Troops, where American celebrities brought a taste of Creole cooking to deployed service members.
"We have been very fortunate to have such a great venue as the boardwalk," Johnston said. "From the vendors who have contributed to the iconic nature of the boardwalk to the numerous tours, band concerts, celebrations and sporting events, the boardwalk provides a unique atmosphere that, in years ahead, will still be remembered fondly by those of us who have served and worked here."
The boardwalk won't close all at once, as each of the vendors have been given a date for when they need to have completely vacated their premises. The staggered departure of vendors will ensure the appropriate level of service for personnel working at Kandahar while providing the flexibility to adjust to any potential population changes. The phased approach will provide for an orderly closure of the facility while still offering benefits to service members deployed to Kandahar.
The boardwalk closure is separate from other morale, welfare and recreation facilities around Kandahar. The Army and Air Force Exchange Service main Exchange will remain open, and will offer several different vendors inside the current facility, to include jewelry, sunglasses, watches and scarf retailers, in addition to the selection of products sold by AAFES.
"We will be asking vendors to depart in increments, to provide them all due diligence in regards to their livelihoods and to facilitate and orderly closure," Johnston said. "We are really proud of the great history of the boardwalk and the part it has played in Kandahar Airfield's daily life, and we are grateful to our vendors for enabling a large part of that success."