Corps of Engineers offers valuable experience to new Afghan officers
October 27, 2009
- Recent graduates of the National Military Academy Afghanistan spend six months with USACE Afghanistan Engineer District-North.
- New engineers work on Corps projects from design to water resource management.
- Capacity development helps the Afghan officers and their country achieve their own development objectives.
ItAca,!a,,cs hailed as the Aca,!A"West Point of Afghanistan.Aca,!A? The National Military Academy of Afghanistan in Kabul is modeled after the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Graduates are commissioned in the Afghanistan National Army and Afghan National Air Corps and receive a degree in English, civil engineering, computer science, management or law.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Afghanistan Engineer District-North has welcomed three NMAA engineer officers into its ranks for a six-month internship program to introduce them to several aspects of engineering.
Aca,!A"We hope to give them a better appreciation of design, construction and project management that we execute at AED,Aca,!A? said Col. Michael McCormick, AED-North commander. Aca,!A"TheyAca,!a,,cll get practical experience in the field and some great training behind the desk through design projects and learning from our project managers. We also plan to learn from them about the Afghan Army and Afghan culture.Aca,!A?
The Afghan officers are committed to helping repair their war-torn country. In Afghanistan, most members of the military come from military families. TheyAca,!a,,cre motivated to maintain traditions theyAca,!a,,cve learned at the academy, and are ready to take ownership of reconstruction efforts.
"The analogy of West Point could extend to the entire country because West Point played a pivotal role in developing engineers to settle the American west,Aca,!A? said U.S. Air Force Col. James Cook, a U.S. Air Force Academy mentor at NMAA. Aca,!A"These young engineers are going to end up serving their entire careers, maybe decades long, building their entire country back to where it might have belonged. If I were in their shoes IAca,!a,,cd be very excited as well.Aca,!A?
Cook and nine other U.S. military officers act as advisers at the academy. After the young officers complete their internship with the Corps of Engineers, he said, theyAca,!a,,cll return to NMAA to teach.
Bringing the engineers on board at AED-North is part of capacity development, a process through which individuals, organizations and societies obtain, strengthen and maintain the capabilities to set and achieve their own development objectives over time. Robin Liffmann spearheads capacity development at AED.
Aca,!A"WeAca,!a,,cre developing relationships with the Afghan officers with face-to-face interaction. Under USACE capacity development weAca,!a,,cre building up Afghan human resources and institutions to better meet, and eventually take over, the CorpsAca,!a,,c mission which is the design, construction and maintenance of infrastructure.Aca,!A?
Liffmann helps introduce the officers to AED project management processes. TheyAca,!a,,cre exposed to western-style methods, but theyAca,!a,,cre also encouraged to explain what Afghans really want and need.
Aca,!A"WeAca,!a,,cre trying to make it a two-way street. Not just their learning our processes, but also our getting their feedback on the Afghan perspective so we can have a better idea of their cultural values. For instance, we had been putting western-style bathrooms in Afghan military training facilities. Many recruits coming from rural areas didnAca,!a,,ct know how to use them. The fixtures would be broken and they werenAca,!a,,ct fixed properly. Now weAca,!a,,cre putting in Afghan-style restrooms. We need to make sure the facilities meet Afghan requirements to be fully functional into the future. The Afghan officers are helping us with that.Aca,!A?
Liffmann said one of the officers is a perfect match for a function near and dear to USACE. Learning how to harness and work with water is one thing that AED-North is gladly sharing with Gul Rahman, who specializes in water resource management.
Aca,!A"We have flexibility in our schedule and weAca,!a,,cre going to make sure that he works with our water resources branch to get some hands-on experience with watershed assessments and constructing dams and reservoirs. We also want him to be mentored by our engineers to study water flow in relation to roadways, bridges and other infrastructure.Aca,!A?
Liffmann said one goal of AEDAca,!a,,cs capacity development is to have the three Afghan officers take part in the thinking process.
Aca,!A"WeAca,!a,,cre not only teaching them engineering, weAca,!a,,cre teaching them project management. They want to know how to write a proposal, how to figure out cost estimates and schedules, and how to follow through.Aca,!A?
The Afghan officers are quickly picking up bits and pieces of American culture in AED-NorthAca,!a,,cs Qalaa House compound. TheyAca,!a,,cre grateful for the knowledge and education theyAca,!a,,cre receiving, and have warmed up to the USACE civilians whoAca,!a,,cve volunteered to support Operation Enduring Freedom.
Aca,!A"We like the communication with people from other countries and especially with AED civilians from the United states,Aca,!A? said Mohammed Shafiq. Aca,!A"We like to learn about the American culture and we are learning a lot. We are really trying to improve our knowledge and getting to participate in the rebuilding of our country. It is a good impression given to us that the coalition forces are here helping us.Aca,!A?
ThereAca,!a,,cs a lot to learn, and the newly commissioned Afghan lieutenants have immersed themselves into an education that will be hard to surpass. What they learn from USACE will trickle down beyond NMAA to the Ministry of Public Works, and it is hoped, provide jobs for Afghanistan. AED-North Deputy District Commander Lt. Col. Steve Lefebvre is optimistic that the CorpsAca,!a,,c version of capacity development will have a long-lasting effect.
Aca,!A"These lieutenants are at the top of their class. TheyAca,!a,,cre smart and they know what theyAca,!a,,cre doing. TheyAca,!a,,cre getting a lot of experience and learning how the Army Corps of Engineers works, which will really help when they go out to the field. I think itAca,!a,,cs very exciting to see them progress.Aca,!A?