By Army Spc. Brandon Sandefur
Special to American Forces Press Service
Feb. 13, 2009 - Members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently mentored Afghan contractors to ensure the construction of a new school in northeastern Afghanistan's Laghman province will last through the harsh climate for years to come. Bill Stratton and Bill Martin, both Kennewick, Wash., natives, assisted Afghan contractors on The Center of Excellence, a boy's school for 5- to 15-year-olds. Afghan contractors completed the project with the skills needed to build a lasting building.
"We mentor the contractor on bricklaying and how to do a basic design for a building," Stratton said. "We had a bricklaying class here at [Forward Operating Base Mehtar Lam]; we had a practical exercise, and we visited the job site."
Martin and Stratton also taught the Afghan contractors other skills. "We taught them how to mix mortar, and the difference between mortar for stone vs. mortar for brick," Stratton said. "They did not know there was a difference before we showed them, so they now have better quality in their construction."
The instructors used hands-on training to ensure the skills were properly imparted. "They've learned these bricklaying skills from their father, so it's hard to get them to switch to the ideas of a total stranger," Stratton said.
This is Stratton's fifth trip to the country. He noted that the construction quality has greatly improved.
"The quality of work on my first deployment to Mehtar Lam was pretty poor," Stratton said. "Statements of work didn't hold the contractor to the standards they now do. The quality of construction is much better now, and statements of work are 15 to 20 pages with detailed explanation of the work to be done and the technical requirements."
(Army Spc. Brandon Sandefur serves with the 1st Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team public affairs office.