Engineers map out COIN strategy
Javed Ahmed, Alfonso Santa, Maj. Ronnie Davis and Sam Stacy, left to right, go over the many Hamkari engineer projects in Afghanistan assigned to the 579th Engineer Detachment.

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (Aug. 9, 2010) -- A blend of civilian and military members are proving to be a relevant force to "battle" insurgents in Afghanistan, but not in the typical sense of the word.

These Department of the Army civilians and Soldiers aren't providing security for convoys or raiding enemy hideouts.

"Hamkari Baraye Kandahar," or Cooperation for Kandahar, in the Dari language, is a multi-layered joint military-civil operation.

The civilians and Soldiers of the 579th Engineer Detachment, based out of Vicksburg, Miss., have established a presence on Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, where they are taking engineering projects of this operation and outlining a process for the Afghan people to take control against the Taliban.

"Hamkari for us includes everything from designing government buildings to remodeling police substations," Col. Richard W. Dean II, FEST-M commanders aid.

"It's a cooperation of Afghan, U.S., International and NATO forces working together on projects trying to build up the local Afghan infrastructure."

Projects include taking deconstructed buildings and then making them into usable facilities for the local government.

"Some include Afghanistan's Department of Public Health and the Department of Human Rights," Dean said. "The engineers are taking some of their existing buildings and then redesigning and adding services such as electricity, air conditioning, and plumbing to them. Basic services that we may sometimes take for granted."

Other times the engineer team is starting from scratch and designing buildings for the Afghans, Dean added.

"From President Hamid Karzai to local mayors to local jirgas," Dean said. "These are the people we are aiding."

Coming off two of the deadliest months in Afghanistan, new buildings may prove to just be new targets for the enemy. But they are also a symbol of hope and stability for the war-torn nation.

"If we build a police station, Afghans will have some kind of security they know they're going to be safe from the Taliban," said Ronnie J. Davis, FEST-M operations officer. "We build and redesign schools and hospitals, and they'll have a place to go to and they can use these facilities."

"So hopefully that will detour the Taliban in some way. This will show the locals rejecting the insurgency and supporting their government."

By improving their way of life, it's also about building their self-esteem, Davis added.

In a war that began in 2001, operations hang on the balance of Hamakari's success.

In order to win the lucrative "hearts and minds" of the people, the engineers first need to win the support of the people. Then they can give the nation hope for the future.

"As long as we try," said Davis. "That's all we can do is try."

(Mark Abueg serves as the public affairs officer for the 579th Engineer Detachment, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Camp Phoenix and Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan)

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