Camp Leatherneck is the home base of most United States Marine Corps operations in Afghanistan. The base began life as a barren outpost in 2009, but has quickly expanded into a 1,600 acre fairly modern facility that is a military powerhouse in the area. National Geographic Explorer filmed a documentary at the base detailing its role and expansion that aired in January of 2010.
Officially opened in May of 2009, Camp Leatherneck was home to 4,000 Marines from the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade and civilian contractors. The base was protected with earth filled Hesco barriers and all personnel slept in large 100 man tents. The base went through a series of rapid expansions and improvements, courtesy of Naval Mobile Construction Battalions. The base can now house 20,000 Marines and contractors, many of whom now live in single story pre-fabricated climate controlled buildings. Each building can comfortably house up to 2,000 personnel and stands in stark comparison to the original dirt floored tents of the base.
One of the largest tactical upgrades to Camp Leatherneck has been the addition of a 3,828 yard runway at the adjacent Camp Bastion. Camp Bastion is a British controlled base that regularly shares assets and resources with Camp Leatherneck. The large runway allows for large planes like 747’s and C-5 Galaxy Cargo planes to land in the area. This greatly eased the logistics of supply such a massive number of troops.
Significant quality of life improvements at Camp Leatherneck have been made as well. In the beginning, Camp Leatherneck had a single small and often overcrowded gym that was open 24 hours a day. The base now boasts four gyms, each with a specific function. Marines can choose from a general purpose gym, a cardio center, weight training and a CrossFit specific gym.
Some of the most popular upgrades with Marines recently have been to the base chow hall and PX. The previous PX of Camp Leatherneck was a mere 3,000 square feet, which could only hold a small number of Marines at any given time. Furthermore, shelves were often stripped bare as quickly as they were stocked. The new PX is more than three times the size, 10,000 square feet, and keeps a much larger storage area to keep shelves full at all times. Camp Leatherneck also added a second new chow hall to the base, decreasing wait times and expanding menu options.
Additionally, Camp Leatherneck has added a new phone center for Marines and civilians to call home. Several shipping containers at the base have been converted into phone centers that are open 24 hours a day. In a further attempt to increase moral and welfare on the base, Camp Leatherneck has expanded religious services as well. Very little of the base is devoted to religious activity, but three chapels have been built with the larger one having a capacity of 200 and the two smaller ones holding 75 each. The chapels are multi denominational and served by several Navy chaplains.
Despite the remote location of Camp Leatherneck, the United States Marine Corps has gone to great lengths to increase the comfort and operational abilities of the base. There are no plans however to upgrade the base to the status of some in country installations (Al Assad Air Base in Iraq is the common comparison) with amenities like fast food outlets and coffee shops.