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Engineer Team Plans Bagram’s Future

By Army 1st Lt. Lory Stevens
Special to American Forces Press Service

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, Aug. 13, 2008 – The talents of 21 military members and civilians here combined with the work of about 1,000 Afghan nationals at any given time blend together to facilitate the steady flow of projects designed to improve and expand Bagram Airfield.

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A civilian contractor shows Air Force Maj. Kyle Torster, a facility engineer team member at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, the progress of a construction project. Ongoing projects at Bagram include a new $2.7 million Combined Joint Task Force 101 administrative building that is nearing completion. Courtesy photo

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Five officers, four enlisted servicemembers and 12 civilians make up the base’s facility engineer team, which prepares plans and specifications, conducts inspections, and offers expertise for Bagram construction projects.

The team typically juggles about 20 projects involving demolition, rubble removal, barrier building and other structural work, and normally has up to 50 additional projects in the works. Synchronization is key to the team, because new projects result in a domino effect, Air Force Maj. Kyle Torster explained, noting that every project affects at least four other units on the base. “Individual units tend to only see their own circle of operations,” he said. “It’s our job to see the big picture.”

To keep track of ongoing efforts and the development of secondary projects, such as well building or area de-mining, the team had to devise a plan.

“Major Torster developed a tracker to trace secondary effects,” Air Force Lt. Col. Christopher J. West said. “[Before that], it was impossible to follow all the development projects and changes going on inside the wire.”

Projects in the works include a new $2.7 million Combined Joint Task Force 101 administrative building that’s nearing completion. The building will provide administrative space, conference rooms, secure rooms, and a new command center.

Other projects under way include upgrading guard towers, reorganizing the locations of motor pools and replacing temporary “B-huts” with pre-engineered buildings -- all projects aimed at improving Bagram living and working conditions for the troops, officials said.

In addition to improving lives for deployed servicemembers, the facility engineer team brings jobs to Afghan nationals by empowering local contractors to lead in most areas of construction.

“[Many] Afghans are very good at brick and mortar, and they are very smart,” said Torster, who explained that, while Afghans now are hired mainly to perform hands-on labor, they will play an increasingly valuable role here as their technology evolves. For example, he said, sizing electrical or mechanical loads is challenging at this point to a culture accustomed to living with limited electricity.

“I believe Afghans are watching and will find a way to bring more technology to Afghanistan,” Torster said. “In terms of electrical and mechanical engineering, Afghanistan is a generation or two away from the United States in terms of technology.”

Afghan contractors and local nationals who work with the facility engineer team not only build projects to improve Bagram Airfield, but also build relationships with U.S. military and civilian contractors. By working closely together, good relationships are formed, and Afghans are able to improve their construction techniques and processes, team members said.

(Army 1st Lt. Lory Stevens serves in the Task Force Warrior Public Affairs Office.)

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Related Sites:
Combined Joint Task Force 101
NATO International Security Assistance Force

Click photo for screen-resolution imageTwo Afghan workers prepare to cut drywall for rooms inside a new $2.7 million Combined Joint Task Force 101 administrative building on Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Bagram’s facility engineer team employs about 1,000 Afghan nationals at any given time. Courtesy photo  
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