POLAND — When 2nd Lt. Sam Casey arrived at Torun base camp in October, he entered a world of transitioning chaos.
Casey, the Torun base camp mayor, headed a four-man team from the 652nd Regional Support Group in Helena, Montana, tasked with overseeing basic life-support services such as food, shelter, and laundry, on a rapidly expanding base in central Poland.
“There were 400 people living in three Logistics Support Area tents,” said Sgt. 1st Class Michael Logan of Waterville, a member of the four-man team.
During the first couple months of their deployment, Casey’s team lived and worked in a large maintenance tent which also served as a maintenance bay, gym, Morale Welfare and Recreation center, mayor cell and tactical operations center.
From these cramped quarters, a functioning base camp would eventually be born. The 652nd worked with its tenant unit on base, the 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment, the Polish government and various defense contractors to make it happen.
The team’s job would not be easy. Casey, a new engineering officer, and Sgt. Meltus Nwagbara, a horizontal construction engineer, had experience building things, but not running the day-to-day operations of a base camp. Nor did Sgt. 1st Class John Borske or Logan.
“There’s not really a military occupational specialty for running a mayor’s cell,” Casey said. “So we use our expertise as it applies.”
Logan, a transportation management noncommissioned officer and the team’s deputy mayor, had one of the key roles in the process. He served as the Contracting Officer Representative, meaning as the base was literally built by contractors, Logan oversaw the progress and ensured the terms of the contracts were being met.
“Most of what I do is related to my COR duties. I have about a dozen reports a month I send to Zagan to the contracting unit,” Logan said. “This covers everything from the dining facility to laundry, contracts for the showers and latrines, the water, basically all the life-support systems. I do the surveillance on them all. I go down a long checklist to make sure all of the terms of the contracts are being met. They do a great job here, so it makes my job easier.”
As the base grew, Casey, a new Army officer from Jacksonville, Texas, quickly learned the skills of tact and diplomacy under pressure. The base infrastructure was stood up quickly, but it was still a test of patience for everyone involved.
“We had to manage a lot of personalities and had to manage the contractors who weren’t always happy about us bothering them all the time,” Casey recalled.
The camp is unofficially known as “Camp St. Barbara” because field artillery units rotate in and out of the base camp, and Barbara is the patron saint of armor.
The team had challenges, but all agreed they could not have been at a better place. Their camp lies just outside Torun, one of Poland’s oldest and most historic cities, and unlike most other cities in Poland, it did not suffer damage during World War II. It is the birthplace of Copernicus, and is famous for its gingerbread museum, among other things.
“Torun is the perfect city to emerge yourself in Polish culture,” Casey said. “You have some nightlife, but it’s not a big enough city that you have a ton of tourists or outside effects. You have the Soldiers who are here, and true Polish culture. You go out into town and you’re amongst people who have lived here their entire lives, and love the history of the city and you see the classic architecture and old churches. And the Polish people are very proud of the city, and we came to be proud of the city too while we were here.”
Master Sgt. Ryan C. Matson is the 652nd Regional Support Group Public Affairs noncommissioned officer in charge.