Corps of Engineers builds future of Afghan army, police force
January 5, 2012
By Paul Giblin
KABUL, Afghanistan (Jan. 5, 2012) -- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials toured several projects that represent the breadth of the agency's efforts to develop facilities for the Afghanistan National Army and Afghanistan National Police on Oct. 25.
The projects include:
-- two schools for the Afghan army valued at $28.6 million and $13.9 million respectively
-- a complex with 25 ammunition bunkers for the army valued at $5.6 million
-- a headquarters complex for vehicle operations for the army budgeted for $4.9 million
-- extensive renovation of a vehicle maintenance facility for the Afghan police budgeted at $1.9 million
All five of the projects are being built under the direction and oversight of construction professionals assigned to Afghanistan Engineer District-North, which is based in Kabul, the capitol city.
"There are a lot of good projects going on out there. We have a tremendous amount of work being done," said district commander Col. Christopher W. Martin, who headed the delegation that toured the sites.
"I've very impressed with the quality of the projects we're getting," he said. "We can tell we're doing something good for the Afghans in order to help them take over the security, constructing their facilities to do maintenance on some of the police vehicles and at the same time building them a school to train their officers and their soldiers in the ability to support the Afghan army."
The schools are being built adjacent to one another near the existing Kabul Military Training Center. The Afghan army will use the facilities to teach its service members administrative duties associated with managing the emerging military force that is projected to grow to more than 171,000 troops this year.
Combined, the projects will accommodate 3,000 troops.
The bigger of the two schools is the Human Resources and Finance School. The construction work is being handled by the firm FCEC UI Projects JV, which is based in Kabul. Work began in March of 2011 and is scheduled to be complete in November of 2012.
The scope of work includes six barracks, a dining facility that can seat 1,000 at a time, classrooms, roads, a waste water treatment plant and an electrical system, and more.
The other school is the Logistics School. Construction is being done by Kahkashan Balkh Building & Road Construction Co., which is based in Mazar-E Sharif, a city in northern Afghanistan. Work began in March 2011 and is expected to be complete in July of 2012.
The facility will feature four barracks, classrooms, three administration buildings, support facilities such as latrines and laundry facilities and related structures.
The complex was a hive of activity with about 450 workers at the human resources school, and 250 at the logistics school. A key component for the process is coordinating the side-by-side construction projects and the efforts of two contracting companies, said project engineer Antonio Castro.
"Every week we have a progress meeting for each contractor and after the progress meetings, we have a coordination meeting among the Corps of Engineers, the HR/finance school and the logistics school to thrash out any issues," Castro said.
Among the primary topics are ensuring that the elevations of the buildings on the twin sites can accommodate shared utilities, and access for work crews and equipment in and around the bustling sites that are located across an unfinished road from one another.
"So far, everything is going well," Castro said. "The coordination meetings last just 30 minutes, because most of the time, the two contractors discuss their issues between themselves. They're here every day. They see each other every day. If there are some issues that they need us to negotiate, we discuss them in the negotiating meetings."
The ammo bunkers are being built in Pol-E Charkhi on the outskirts of Kabul. The work is being done by Hashmat Khalil Rezai Road & Construction Co., which is based in Kabul. Work started in September of 2010 and is projected to be complete by March of 2012.
The facility includes 25 large concrete-walled bunkers, a road through the site and security features. Thick concrete walls had been poured for 23 bunkers and forms were in place for the remaining two, said resident engineer Gerald Allen.
Work was stopped for six weeks following the abduction and murder of James W. "Will" Coker on Oct. 5, but has since resumed. Coker was a Corps of Engineers contracting officer representative who was stationed at near-by Camp Blackhorse. The circumstances of his death are being investigated and details have not been released.
"They had gotten a good rhythm going," Allen said of the construction workers. "Hopefully, they'll pick that right back up."
The police vehicle maintenance center renovations and army movement operations headquarters also are being developed side by side.
The maintenance center, which is being used as construction continues, is the primary location where the national police force services its fleet of vehicles, which is comprised largely of Ford Ranger pickup trucks.
The renovation features six primary buildings: a warehouse, a heavy maintenance building, a tire and battery shop, a body shop, a wood shop and a main office. The construction is being handled by Technologists Inc., which is based in Rosslyn, Va. Work started in July of 2010 and is scheduled to be complete in January of 2012.
All new vehicles pass through the facility before joining the police fleet, said Shane Kobialka, a Corps of Engineers project engineer.
"They take in basically lots of Ford Rangers -- other vehicles also -- then outfit them with radios, light bars, all the equipment they need to perform their function," he said. On the day of the tour, hundreds of the compact pickups were parked all around the complex. The forest green police trucks are omnipresent on Afghanistan's overcrowded and rutted roads.
One of the most difficult parts of the renovation was working with an existing Soviet-era warehouse on the site, Kobialka said.
"It was rusted through. It had been hit by debris from mortar shells," he said. "Originally, we were going to de-skin it and re-skin it and that was all. But when we took the skin off, all the structural integrity of it kind of fell apart. All the trusses started leaning and sagging, so we did a modification to replace it."
Crews razed the structure, resurfaced the existing concrete slab and erected a new warehouse. Crews also upgraded the electrical systems of several existing buildings to bring them up to the standards of the new buildings.
About 100 Afghan workers are on the site daily, he said.
The army vehicle operations headquarters, which is known as the Central Movement Agency, includes an administration building, barracks, a vehicle wash rack, a weapons storage building, an auditorium, a gymnasium and related facilities.
The facility is used to perform maintenance on the army's semi-trailer trucks and other heavy equipment.
"Basically, it's a one-stop shop," said Charlie Bechtold, a construction representative for the Corps of Engineers.
The construction also is being done by the firm FCEC UI Projects JV. Work started in September 2012 and is set to be complete in January 2012.
Overall, it is progressing smoothly, but shipments of structural steel are being stalled in Karachi, a coastal city in Pakistan, Bechtold said. FCEC UI executives told Corps of Engineers officials that they are exploring other routes to get the steel into the land-locked country through its northern borders.