By Air Force Capt. Tony Wickman
Special to American Forces Press Service
Oct. 1, 2009 - Members of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Afghanistan Engineer District North performed site assessments and a helicopter flyover to view construction and road projects here Sept. 20. The district engineers are working with the national and regional governments to improve Kunar's infrastructure to benefit governance, security and development.
Martin Reed, construction representative and quality assurance lead, said he was pleased with what he saw after a flyover and a few stops at various construction sites.
"We received helicopter support from our headquarters that allowed us to couple with the [provincial reconstruction team] on an overall mission to fly around and see as many of our projects as possible and meet with people on site to discuss the projects," the Omaha, Neb., native said.
One stop for the engineers was the construction site of the Afghan National Border Patrol station in Khas Kunar district.
"The project construction looked very good and is progressing on schedule," Reed said. "Also, we were able to see that safety standards on the job site were improving."
Another project the engineers assessed was the Afghan National Border Patrol compound in Sarkani district. Once completed, the compound will have administrative buildings, living quarters, a dining facility, fuel and warehouse storage and a vehicle maintenance site.
"[The Afghan National Border Patrol commander] is very receptive and grateful that we're here and making these differences," Reed said. "This compound will increase security and stability in the region and enable the headquarters to better manage its people and mission."
The site visit allowed the engineers to discuss plans to improve the headquarters building with the compound construction, Reed said.
"The headquarters doesn't have a motor pool, but the compound we're building is going to have a vehicle maintenance facility in the contract," he explained. "So we discussed tying both compounds together by adding a gate between them for efficiency."
For resident engineer Michael Weber, the trip gave him a perspective for the scope of the terrain and physical demands of the work environment.
"I've been on the ground here four days, so this was my first opportunity to see the sites. Instead of ideas of how things are, now I know," the Las Vegas native said. "I came away impressed with the progress and construction on the sites.
"These road projects are creating a better economy because there is movement and trade," he continued. "We're also putting Afghans to work with these projects. When we hire contractors, we strongly recommend they hire local labor. Most comply with those wishes."
Army Maj. William Lewis, resident officer in charge, said all Army Corps of Engineers projects tie into the mission of delivering timely and quality infrastructure and services in support of Afghan and coalition operations aimed at defeating insurgents.
"We provide sustainable development projects for the Afghan people that employ the populace, build skilled human capital and promote the future stability of Afghanistan," he said, "It ties to our Asadabad motto: 'One shovel up is one gun down.' The idea is that if an Afghan is working towards the betterment of his country – shovel up – then he will have to lay his hostilities aside – gun down."
The district has 11 current projects in Kunar and Nuristan provinces totaling $92.3 million. They include six border patrol compounds, a pedestrian bridge and six roads. The border compounds are spread across four contracts for $37.8 million. The bridge is one contract for $200,000, and the six roads are across six contracts for $54.3 million.
(Air Force Capt. Tony Wickman serves in the Kunar Provincial Reconstruction Team public affairs office.)