Kyrgyzstan Base To Close Ahead Of Afghanistan Drawdown - - KCEN HD - Waco, Temple, and Killeen

Kyrgyzstan Base To Close Ahead Of Afghanistan Drawdown

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(KCEN) -- As the drawdown brings more troops home early, the U.S. is closing down operations at some bases in countries surrounding the war in Afghanistan.

Whether heading into harms way or home into the arms of their loved ones, about 2,000 troops move through the Transit Center at Manas in Kyrgyzstan each day.

But as the drawdown deadline nears, the United States' contract at the base is ending.

"By the 10th of July, we need to depart this base, and on the 11th we cannot be here anymore," said 1st Lieutenant Max DeSpain, the Air Force officer in charge of public affairs at Manas.

That means about 700 local people who work there will be on the job market.

For the past 6 years, the base has been Kyrgyzstani worker Uluk Adanvaeve's livelihood as well as his entire family's.

He has a wife and three children, and in Kyrgys tradition, as the youngest son, it's his responsibility to care for his parents.

"I'm the only provider at home, so [the base] means a lot to me, so I'll try to find another job when I lose my job here."

For American troops, walking away from Kyrgyzstan also means leaving friends behind.

LTC DeSpain said, "It's just kind of heartbreaking to see those friendships change. I know that with most of the people that I work with, we're Facebook friends, and we plan on staying in contact, but that's not the same as getting to work with them every day and having them as part of our lives."

That relationship goes beyond the gates here of Manas. U.S. troops have been involved in countless humanitarian efforts there.

That's SSG Travis Edwards' favorite part.

"Especially when they go off into an elementary school and they help with building a new roof that was just inadequate before, and that's the stuff we're going to miss," said Edwards.

Uluk now hopes to open his own restaurant.

And in bittersweet time, the fleeting footprints of American troops will disappear for good.

"It's nice, it's a big relief that we're bringing most of our guys home," Edwards said.

The U.S. contracted out the base in Manas in 2001.

Since then, hundreds of thousands of troops and tons of cargo have moved through there, and tens of thousands of Kyrgyzstani people have carved out a living there.

Reporter: Sophia Stamas

Photographer: Jordan Bontke

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