War on Terrorism

Monday, October 05, 2009

Team Furthers Education, Jobs in Afghan Province

By Air Force Capt. Tony Wickman
Special to American Forces Press Service

Oct. 5, 2009 - Beneath a tent in the hot Afghanistan sun, children in Kunar province's Mara Wara district are watching their future being built. Kunar Provincial Reconstruction Team engineers visited the Lahor Dag School construction site Sept. 28 to evaluate the progress and craftsmanship of the school that will house hundreds of area children -- part of the provincial government's plan to increase the number of schools in the province while generating jobs.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jay Burgess, the provincial reconstruction team's senior engineer, said the school project is going well, with only minor issues left for the contractor.

"This was the first contract we awarded when we got here in July, so we are doing a follow-up to check the progress of the site as well as the quality of work," the Oklahoma City native said. "There were small issues, but overall the project is in good condition."

Burgess said the biggest concern on the project is making sure the contractor and builders use established construction practices. An area of special concern is ensuring the concrete is of good quality, so it will stand the test of time.

"The gravel is the most important part of the concrete," Burgess explained. "It's what gives the concrete its strength, so we need to make sure they are doing it properly. We need to make sure they are mixing the concrete mix, sand and gravel in the right proportions every time to ensure the concrete is consistently good for building."

For the contractor, the visit was an opportunity to show the progress he has made on the school while addressing the engineers' concerns.

"We have no problems with the construction, and we'll address all the issues identified," said Khalil Khan, the building contractor who was trained as a veterinarian before starting his construction business. "I'll solve all these problems before you come back."

While the engineers identified some issues with the construction, the quality-assurance check yielded a passing grade.

"Overall, they are doing a very good job," said Daniel Dunleavy, a Winchester, Va., native who is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers liaison to the provincial reconstruction team. "I like their brick work and stone masonry; they just need to focus on their concrete work to make sure it's up to standards. But I'm very happy and pleased with what I saw today."

The construction site gives local workers much-needed jobs. Khan said he employs 35 to 50 workers daily on the construction site.

The school is about 20 percent complete, and is expected to be ready in time for the next school year, Burgess said.

The Lahor Dag School and the Loy Bachi School, also in the Mara Wara district, were bundled together under one contract. The schools represent an investment of nearly $500,000 by the provincial government and provincial reconstruction team to improve education and development in the region.

(Air Force Capt. Tony Wickman serves in the Kunar Provincial Reconstruction Team public affairs office.)

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