<b>KABUL, Afghanistan </b>- It's been a long time coming, but Afghanistan's National Police Training Center is progressing according to plan.

Nestled in a hotspot for Taliban activity in Wardak province, the site of the future training center is teeming with activity, as Afghan workers construct concrete walls, grade adjacent land for soccer fields and shooting ranges, and weld steel support beams.

Once completed, the facility will serve as the primary training grounds for Afghanistan's police forces.

"This is one of the largest Corps projects in the country at the moment - both in scope and in physical size," said Capt. Greg Daniel, officer-in-charge of the Afghanistan Engineer District - North's Wardak Resident Office.

Since the project began in January 2009, it has been the target of numerous rocket and mortar attacks and until recently, was mired lack of proper tools and the inability to obtain necessary resources to sustain progress.

"The project has sustained 37-plus rocket attacks, multiple kidnappings and multiple ambushes inflicted on (our) employees," said Josh Haines, the project manager for Technologists Inc., the U.S.-based company contracted to complete the 900,000-square-foot complex.

Perhaps the most significant setback for the project's progress, at least initially, was the lack of skilled labor in Afghanistan and cultural attitudes toward accepting responsibility. "The challenges faced in an average day are enormous," Haines said.

Haines is the seventh Technologists Inc. project manager put on the job since ground was broken. Many of his predecessors left due to the security threat organic to the area, while others left due to frustration with and lack of understanding of the Afghan culture. But Haines, who's been on the project since November 2009, developed a new approach to meet these unique challenges head on.

"My belief is that the way to achieve peace in Afghanistan is by teaching the Afghan people," Haines said. "The knowledge they walk away with can never be taken away. This is the approach all of us are taking and I can say the gratification I walk away with each day is enormous. Not only are they willing to learn - they love to learn."

To that end, Haines and his management team, consisting of Americans and Afghans, have implemented practices to teach their labor force better ways of doing business by introducing new hand and power tools that make their jobs easier and more efficient. Since coming on board, Haines and his crew have taught their workforce how to use skill saws, concrete saws, rebar-tying guns and paint guns, among other tools.

The construction firm also took measures to prevent slowdown of progress by purchasing a concrete masonry unit machine. With the machine, TI produces concrete blocks on the project site, eliminating excess costs and potential delays due to production and delivery issues. Haines estimates Afghan workers will produce around 300,000 blocks using the machine.

Though challenges have been plentiful but surmountable for TI and Haines, the project is scheduled to meet its completion milestones. Adherence to the agreed-upon deadlines is critical as NATO Training Mission - Afghanistan officials plan to start training police officers in the facility as soon as this Fall.

"This facility will provide critical training capacity for 1,000 Afghanistan National Police students and 250 trainers in September 2010, and another 1,000 students and 250 trainers in June 2011," said Brig. Gen. Anne Macdonald, NTM-A's assistant commanding general for police development.

The completion of the facility and the formal training environment it will provide, will also bring renewed credibility to the nation's law enforcement capability by allowing coalition forces to concentrate more on selecting the most qualified applicants to join the police force's ranks.

"As we grow the Afghanistan National Police to 134,000 by October 2011, the NPTC's additional capacity ensures that we implement the Recruit-Train-Assign model," Macdonald said. "This model ensures every new policeman is trained before being sent to the field - absolutely critical to ensuring the ANP are a credible, respected organization."

The new facility will be the final piece of the puzzle needed to solidify the Afghanistan government and coalition forces efforts in building the nation's security forces, said Maj. Gen. Gul Nabi Ahmadzai, who heads the Ministry of Interior's Training and Education Department. Ahmadzai oversees Afghanistan's efforts to recruit and train men and women for both the Afghanistan National Police and the Afghanistan National Army.

"The Wardak training camp ... has all the facilities (we need)," Ahmadzai said. "It's very well prepared. We're very happy with it."

Aside from the training benefits the center will provide the ANP, the facility's presence will elevate the police force's visibility in the region. A provincial ANP headquarters and an Afghanistan National Civil Order Police headquarters are also under construction in the area. The Afghanistan government will look to these additional police assets to provide stability in the area where insurgent activity is prevalent.

Once completed, the training center will feature eight classrooms built to accommodate 3,000 students, living quarters for students and support staff of 500, a helicopter pad, multiple ranges for pistol, rifle, RPG and live-fire driving training, a parade field, and an 11,000-square-foot gym.

The training center is scheduled to be complete in June 2011.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16