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Gateway To Afghanistan

Dispatches from Manas

From ‘need to know’ to ‘need to share’

   Manas commanders regularly struggle with what they consider flawed perceptions of the U.S. air base’s military role showing up in Russian, Kyrgyz and other predominantly foreign media.

   So, Manas is turning inside out the military’s precautionary mindset that all information be guarded on a “need to know” basis, and hoping that a more open and inviting relationship with the supply base’s neighbors will help ease Kyrgyz apprehension about its purpose.

   “We call it `a need to share,’” said Col. Dwight Sones, commander of the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing at Manas.

   The base has begun actively encouraging Kyrgyz nationals to visit the Transit Center, drawing an estimated 2,000 from the Bishkek area last week for tours, demonstrations and barbecue. Earlier, it hosted several foreign media organizations from as far away as Russia, China, Japan and England.

   So far, it’s helped identify at least one contributor to some of the worried speculation: windowless dormitories with separate air conditioning units for each room.

   The perception apparently had been that the buildings were being secretly used for something much more important than dormitories because it’s so uncommon in this part of the world to provide such amenities for rank-and-file troops, explained Major John Elolf.

The solution? Elolf made sure that those who were worried about the buildings got a chance to tour them.

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About this blog

Fairchild Air Force Base supplies 80 percent of the military aircraft and flight crews operating out of Manas Transit Center, a key hub along one of the primary NATO supply routes into Afghanistan. The small base, located outside the Kyrgyzstan capital of Bishkek, is barely 400 miles from the Afghan border.


Colin Mulvany is a staff photographer for The Spokesman-Review.

David Wasson is a deputy city editor for The Spokesman-Review.

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