From seaside cities to landlocked Afghanistan Giles assures quality and safety of new construction
November 19, 2012
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- It could be said that Jeff Giles was born of the sea. The 58-year-old former U.S. Navy Seabee who served in such exotic seaside cities as Kenitra, Morocco and Sigonella, Italy, has built a 35-year career closely connected to the water. Yet now, and for the next 10 months, Giles will be supporting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers construction mission in landlocked southern Afghanistan. Despite the lack of waterways, Giles, whose favorite place to be is aboard his boat said, "It's a privilege to serve, and I'm honored that I was selected for deployment."
As a civil engineering technician and construction control representative with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Afghanistan Engineer District-South, Giles is responsible for making sure electrical work at several project sites in southern Afghanistan is in compliance with established standards such as the U.S. National Electrical Code.
"Quality assurance is very important because we want to make sure our contractors build reliable and safe facilities for the Afghans," said Giles, who has been deployed for about two months.
Giles normally works at the Mobile District's Panama City, Fla. site office, where he has served since 1987. Although this is Giles first deployment to a combat zone, he has deployed to some 15 domestic emergencies, including Hurricane Katrina, to provide disaster response. He previously served as an electrician for the Departments of the Navy and Air Force and is licensed to operate large disaster response vehicles including the Deployable Tactical Operations System, a mobile command and control vehicle system that supports quick ramp-up of initial emergency response actions. Although Giles is a GS-09 on the U.S. civil service pay scale which ranges from GS-01 through GS-15, his emergency management experience has earned him leadership roles that most GS-09s would never fulfill. In 2011, he led a 60 person quality assurance team for three months, seven days a week, when a tornado ripped through Alabama killing nearly 300 people and leaving thousands of residents homeless.
"Tuscaloosa (Ala.) was probably the hardest mission I've had," said Giles. "Everything from body recovery to debris collection, to working with several different agencies, to overseeing and motivating people … I didn't know if I was going to be able to manage all of those moving parts, but I did, and I learned much about interagency cooperation and influencing people."
Giles, who holds an associate of science in electronics technology, a bachelor of science in management and a master's degree in business management, said he realizes some may wonder why he has chosen to stay at the same office and the same grade for so long.
"I live on the water, I work on the water, I like and respect the people I work with and many of the people I care about live near me," said Giles. "Life is about choices and I've decided family and friends and free time spent enjoying life with them is important."
When in Panama City, Fla., Giles operates and maintains survey vessels and conducts hydrographic surveys for the Mobile District. He lives in his home near the water, keeps his boat in the backyard and enjoys weekends spent with his 88 year-old father and 12 year-old son fishing for grouper and snapper.
His mentors include his father, James Giles, who was wounded aboard the USS Vincennes during the Battle of Midway in June 1942 and his supervisor in Panama City, Fla., Waylon Register, P.E.
His father taught him about loyalty to family and duty to country and his supervisor encouraged him to participate in "Emerging Leaders," the predecessor to the USACE Leadership Development Program and also allowed Giles time for furthering his technical expertise and education, explained Giles.
"Working at USACE has afforded me great benefits and opportunities, including this deployment," said Giles. "I am proud of being a Department of the Army civilian," he said.
His goal for this deployment is to do the best he can to make sure facilities are built to specification and that they are safe and reliable for the customers who will use them. He plans to use the knowledge and experience honed from years of electrical work and emergency management in his efforts in Afghanistan, he said.
"I want to do my part to help make the transition from American management of these facilities to Afghan authorities a smooth and successful one," Giles said.