Face of Defense: Soldier Improves Afghan Post
By Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Matson
Task Force Red Bulls
NANGARHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan, Mar. 14, 2011 Army Sgt. Christian Kapler is a busy man. Anywhere people walk on Forward Operating Base Torkham Gate on the Afghanistan and Pakistan border, they will see something Kapler built, repaired or improved.
Iowa Army National Guard Sgt. Christian Kapler talks on a cell phone with his interpreter March 5, 2011, at Forward Operating Base Torkham Gate in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Matson
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“My dad would say it’s genetics,” said Kapler, a burly, soft-spoken infantryman from Oelwein, Iowa, with Company B, 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment, who serves as the base’s manager. “My grandfather had a little shop and built everything he had -- his house and all. I don’t know what he actually did for a job other than build things.”
Like his grandfather, Kapler said he enjoys working with his hands.
“I was always tinkering and building things when I was a kid, going to the lumber yard and getting scrap wood and building stuff,” he said. “I did handyman stuff when I was older and started going to school at a community college for architecture and contracting, but I kept getting deployed, so I never finished college. I think the unit knows building stuff is the type of thing I excel at.”
Torkham Gate has been home to Company B, part of the Iowa National Guard’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, Task Force Red Bulls, since October, and the base is expanding.
Kapler supervises 44 Afghan workers of various trades and abilities. He said he appreciates the work his crew does, despite what can be a challenging process of getting supplies and proper tools. He said when his team wants to get something done, they do it quickly.
His company commander, Army Capt. Kevin Hrodey, from Pleasant Hill, Iowa, said he is impressed with Kapler’s accomplishments.
“It is amazing to look at pictures of the [base] from when we first took over operations and then walk around now and see how much it has actually changed,” Hrodey said.
Hrodey noted that people can see the results of Kapler’s efforts everywhere they look. His projects have improved all aspects of life on the base, the captain said, from its defense to quality of life to the maintenance facility.
One repair that took some innovation was Kapler’s upgrade to the firing range. Before he and his crew got their hands on it, the range was a berm surrounded by sand-basket barriers, with some old, neglected targets and a few stakes in the ground that marked the distance.
“We use the cardboard from water pallets as target backing,” Kapler said.
The older targets were fixed, and Kapler’s crew installed conduit so targets could be replaced easily once they started deteriorating. He used unserviceable dining facility tables as firing benches, weapons racks, new metal distance markers, a reinforced berm and a camouflage net awning to provide shade.
A 15-year veteran of the Iowa National Guard, Kapler deployed to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iraq with Company B, before deploying here. He worked construction in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, before becoming a union carpenter. Between deployments, Kapler married an Oelwein, Iowa, woman, and is the proud father of three children.
Kapler said he plans to start a tool-rental business when he returns to Iowa, and his wife is taking accounting classes so she can help to run the administrative side of the business.