By Air Force Capt. Angela Webb
Special to American Forces Press Service
Nov. 24, 2009 - Provincial reconstruction team engineers here conducted quality assurance training for more than 30 Afghan contractors, foremen and engineers at the Civil-Military Operations Center in downtown Khost, Nov. 14. The engineers conduct training monthly to address issues found during project site audits throughout the province's 12 districts and one municipality. This training, the third session, concentrated on brick masonry, material storage and project administration. Previous topics included concrete preparation and processing, and plaster and mortar finishing techniques.
"We are addressing recurring quality issues in our training sessions," said Navy Lt. Stephen Gustafson, lead engineer for the provincial reconstruction team. "Our overall goal is to mentor the Afghans in construction best practices and techniques, and facilitate their implementation in the field, so that when [coalition forces] leave, Afghan capacity has grown to the point that the Afghans are mentoring Afghans."
The team's engineers share the latest construction and engineering procedures with their Afghan partners during the training sessions.
"Mentoring the Afghans in construction best practices helps to ensure a lasting, quality product," Gustafson said. "We work closely with the provincial development committee in assessing each project from conception through project turnover."
Significant improvements have been noted since the training sessions began, Gustafson said.
"We noticed improvements in technique, and are spending less time on fundamentals," he said. "We're now spending more time defining and sharpening skills, instead of concentrating on the basics."
Five Khost sector directors attended the latest session, and spoke about the roles of the government, contractors and the provincial reconstruction team for any project and the specific responsibilities after a project is completed.
"It is important to bring everyone together to address some concerns and issues on project construction," said Hamid Shah, director of economy for the province. "We each have a role to make sure the design is done correctly, and it meets the specifications of the contract. If we monitor [and] ensure the owner is properly checking on the site and doing so regularly, then there will be a better product for everyone to enjoy."
The partnership among all development parties is improving, but work remains to be done, Gustafson said.
"There were concerns with a lack of project oversight from all parties involved, so we are working with the [provincial development committee] to visit the project sites frequently and for longer periods of time," he said. "The time we spend with our Afghan contractors is very important in order to provide the proper tools, so they can eventually monitor their own quality and progress."
Nearly 40 projects are in progress throughout the province, and new projects are added periodically to address the latest urgent development needs. Next month's training will concentrate on project management skills, such as development of plans for quality control, safety and work activity.
(Air Force Capt. Angela Webb serves in the public affairs office for the provincial reconstruction team in Afghanistan's Khost province.)