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Coalition Engineers Work to Build Up Bagram

By Spc. Kelly Hunt
Special to American Forces Press Service

BAGRAM, Afghanistan, April 5, 2004 – The collaboration of the United States military and three coalition partners is increasing engineering productivity at the air base here with every passing month.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Slovakian engineers Sgt. Kollar Erich and Cpl. Lubomir Spodwiak work on the flight line at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan. The soldiers are part of a multinational engineering team called Task Force Griffin. Photo by Spc. Kelly Hunt, USA

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The engineers of Task Force Griffin are working all over the base, from smoothing out Disney Drive to rebuilding the flight line. The task force includes more than 1,250 U.S. soldiers, a Slovakian team of 45, more than 100 soldiers from the Republic of Korea and 100 Polish engineers.

"It's really a unique mix, one I've never seen before," said Lt. Col. Paul Craft, task force deputy commander. "It really is neat how much we've been able to work as a coalition."

Each team brings a specialty to the effort. The Korean and Slovak units deal mostly in construction, according to Maj. Steve Fleishman, logistics officer.

The Korean forces are also the only coalition partner with a batch concrete mixer on Bagram, he added. The Polish team is mostly a Sapper unit, responsible for mine clearing efforts and demolition work on base. "Those (troops) have been working really hard clearing mines on post, and they've done some great work here," Fleishman said.

The good relationship among all the forces has come in handy more than once, said Craft. In addition to getting the work accomplished faster and more efficiently, their combined efforts also have saved lives.

One U.S. soldier from Task Force Griffin ran into some trouble when operating a bulldozer for construction efforts. "This young man scraped off some soil as part of preparing the site and triggered a mine," said Craft. "It was the Polish who were working not a hundred yards away who rushed over and got this young man into an ambulance." The soldier only suffered a sprained ankle and some minor hearing damage.

"We always talk about it, that we're a coalition effort, but this task force has the ability to work together in a way that I've never seen before in my career," Craft said. "It's been a unique experience for us."

This opportunity to work together with various countries is building friendships and has offered some troops a chance to experience other cultures.

"I think we have a good relationship with other coalition (military personnel) and, of course, the U.S. forces," said Maj. Jerry Kucharski, senior staff operations officer for the Polish forces. "We are openly friendly. We are part of the same family."

Kucharski said standing together with all the coalition partners in the fight against terrorism is the way to win this war. "Terror everywhere must be under pressure, (and) other countries should try to fight terror," he said. Task force officials said working together has closed the gaps among the participating cultures and created a united front against terrorism.

(Army Spc. Kelly Hunt is assigned to the 4th Public Affairs Detachment.)

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