Faces From the Front for February 21, 2011 - 1st Lt. Barry Shugart
Current Unit: Regional Support Command-North
Current Position: Army Engineer
Component: Active Army
Current Location: Camp Spann, Afghanistan
Hometown: Newnan, Ga.
Years of Service: 14
A house cannot stand firm without a foundation, and a nation cannot stand strong without infrastructure. U.S. Army Soldiers supporting Operation Enduring Freedom work daily with the Afghan people to build the crucial infrastructure necessary for Afghanistan’s long-term growth.
One of these Soldiers is 1st Lt. Barry Shugart of U.S. Army Regional Support Command-North. Shugart is a deputy engineer who helps manage the building of infrastructure for the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the Afghan National Police (ANP).
“The lack of infrastructure is why I am here,” Shugart said. “It's very stressful at times because in most areas there is little to no infrastructure to support something as simple as a police station, much less a small army outpost. We've had to work with the local governments in order to overcome this. Through engagement with the local leadership, we have been able to put the local population to work to build up their own infrastructure.”
Although his work has been very challenging for him and his unit, Shugart knows his engineering efforts are essential to the success of ANA and ANP training and operations.
“Without us building the infrastructure, they would have none. They need the basics just so they can function and learn,” said Shugart.
Designing and building police stations and Army or ANA outposts requires careful planning and management by Shugart and other Army engineers.
“My main responsibility is to design and manage projects,” said Shugart. “I handle the oversight from start to finish. I take the requirement and build a design package for the project. Once that is complete, I source the materials and labor and oversee the actual progress of the construction.”
When the time comes to physically build the structure, Shugart primarily turns to local Afghan construction contractors. Shugart had to learn about construction practices to interact better with local contractors interested in his projects.
“Most of my interaction has been with the contractors and the organizations helping us complete our engineering projects. You get to see how the cultural issues dominate their social structure,” said Shugart.
“Sometimes it's very stressful,” he continued. “You have only so many projects and the contractors are pretty competitive. I’ve had to develop an understanding of local construction practices and how they affect our methods.”
This is Shugart’s first deployment to Afghanistan, and also one of his most challenging.
“The lack of infrastructure here has been the most surprising to me and is one of the key challenges,” Shugart said. “But, I've seen the difference in attitude amongst the population in areas where we have built up their infrastructure.”
This deployment has taught Shugart about the Army’s contracting process, the Afghan people, and the key to being a better Soldier—patience.
“Patience is a virtue!” he said.
Shugart is scheduled to return to the U.S. this month. He looks forward to spending time with his wife and three girls.