534th Engineer Detachment: Designing the Future
February 7, 2011
KABUL, Afghanistan - Members of the 534th Engineer Detachment have been supporting survey and design operations in Afghanistan since their arrival with the 902nd Engineer Company in late November. Led by Sergeant First Class Erich Stemmerding, the NCOIC of the detachment from Cincinnati, Ohio, the detachment works to support construction and renovation of all nine camps in the Kabul base cluster. In the two short months since their arrival, the detachment has already completed 26 survey and design missions - each of them with their own unique challenges and parameters. "Each building is going to have slightly different requirements. It\'s much more than a cut and paste in our design software," says Sergeant First Class Stemmerding. "We've done both renovations and plans from scratch for just about everything - dog kennels, local civilian structures, space management plans for new force requirements, and Entry Control Points (ECPs). No two missions are the same." "It's definitely very rewarding," says Sergeant Angel Santos, a surveyor from the Bronx, New York. "Since we're doing survey work for new sites, we get to go outside the wire in places that are still relatively safe. It's given us the opportunity to talk to some of the people in town, and learn more about their culture and their needs." With a prolific history of missions in the short time since they've arrived, the designers are certainly having a significant impact on the footprint of Coalition Forces. "Being an engineer is unique," says Specialist Dustin Arnold, a surveyor from Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. "You can come back to a place you were stationed at maybe five years later, and say to your buddies 'I designed that living area over there.' You really make a lasting impact." The surveyors have racked up over 900 hours of design work, and completed three tactical missions in the eight weeks that they've been on the ground. "You have some experiences out there that you don't forget," Specialist Arnold continues. "And it's one of the most rewarding things you can do in the Army, knowing that all of these hours that you put in and things you design go directly to helping the quality of life for either your fellow Soldiers or the local Afghans."