Working group conference participants achieve
December 3, 2011
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- To help successfully plan and prepare for the transition of USACE-constructed Afghan National Security Forces facilities to Afghan oversight for operations and maintenance, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Afghanistan Engineer District-South hosted a Training and Transition Synchronization Conference at Kandahar Airfield Nov. 20.
"This is not a one-way conference," said USACE South District Commander Air Force Col. Benjamin Wham in his opening remarks. "It's a sharing session on what you know that works and what doesn't work."
More than 45 key stakeholders met to better understand how facility operations and maintenance will transition to the Afghans, how to best support training and transition, and how to address outside influencing factors through the 2014 withdrawal timeline established by the President for the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.
"We wanted to ensure that everyone had a common understanding that there are several complex issues with transition, and training is one key part of that," said Albert Soliz, chief of the Operations, Maintenance and Services Division at the South District. "Since the Afghans have their own processes, with some still being written, we don't have a 100 percent solution as to how transition will occur."
National Training Mission-Afghanistan/Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan (the customer), ITT Exelis Mission Systems (the training as well as the O&M contractor), USACE South District (the execution agent), and Infrastructure Training and Advisory Group representatives attended and mapped out their respective roles as the transition process begins.
The South District administers the O&M services contract, which was awarded for $350 million in July 2010, in support of ANSF facilities throughout the Southern and Western Regions of Afghanistan, said Soliz. In addition to preventive maintenance and routine O&M, this contract also provides training for the Afghan Directorate of Public Works personnel in sustainment of facilities.
Mentoring and training the DPWs to function as an organization, providing oversight of the ANSF to ensure that they're equipped to transition facilities, and working to fill the students and funding will be handled by ITAG. Since training supports and segues to transition, "ITAG is one of the key players," said Christine Florea, an O&M project manager at the South District. "They'll have a presence at each of the seven sites. That person can give us the reality of the situation from that site."
Specific skills needed by ANSF personnel on real property O&M include quality assurance and quality control, safety, fire and disaster response, work order processing, and skilled trades, such as mechanical, electrical, carpentry and plumbing. "We were successful in identifying key taskers yet to be accomplished, such as nailing down where the training will take place on each of the individual camps," said Florea. "And the most critical item -- conveying the urgency in getting students recruited to train."
Some of the training will require a lot more partnering among the key players and the ANSF, according to Florea. Challenges include having an established funding stream within the Ministry of Defense to support hiring personnel to train, as well as procuring tools and equipment; having students recruited and in place -- ready to train; a training program designed to support specific skill-sets necessary to maintain the facilities; and a road-map for transition.
All conference participants agreed to an 18-month operational concept for transition to be carried out in six phases, with Phase 1, or the first four months, encompassing the classroom-style training portion. At the end of Phase 1, 25 percent of the site becomes a training area. Training continues for two additional months, at which time 25 percent of the site is transitioned to the Afghan DPW. Fifty percent of the site is transitioned after Phase 3 and 75 percent after Phase 4. "Contractor phase out" and "ANSF DPW phase in" is the goal after Phase 5. Then, at the end of Phase 6, the ANSF should be prepared to assume 100 percent of essential facilities.
The operational concept starts Jan. 7, 2012, with training beginning at seven locations -- Camp Shorabak in Helmand province; Camp Zafar in Herat province; Shindand/Shindand Air Wing in Herat province; Camp Qal-E-Now in Badghis province; Kandahar Air Wing and Camp Hero, both in Kandahar province; and Camp Eagle in Zabul Province.
"Fiscal Year 2012 will be the best year for transition," said Army Col. John S. Kem, chief engineer, NTM-A/CSTC-A, during his remarks. "The issues identified in the South District pilot program have been developed and incorporated into lessons learned; and over the last nine months, significant improvements have been made within the MoD to address building the Afghan Facility Engineer Capacity."
This past summer, ITAG and the South District began to look at how this transition might occur -- keeping in mind the shortages of personnel, funding and equipment within the Afghan DPW structure -- and how to develop an executable training program, said Soliz. As ITAG set off to address the ANA structure, the South District began a pilot training program at Camp Hero and Camp Sayar to train the limited number of personnel assigned to the DPW. To date, 28 percent of Camp Hero's facilities have been transitioned to the ANA DPW.
Sustainment of the ANSF facilities is a vital aspect for the future of the Afghan people; and the capacity building component of the O&M service contract is an important element of the transition. "But, more importantly, it represents the efforts of the American and NATO members' lives that have fought and cleared the ground they stand on," said Wham.
"While we realize that we will never achieve 100 percent of the conditions needed to transition facilities," concluded Wham. "We have confidence that this phased approach to turning over portions of facilities over an 18-month period will allow us to continue to work the difficulties that exist, but still meet the target date of transition."