Combat-related hazards are not the only perils of operating in a war zone, according to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Andrew Brand.
Deficiencies in facilities that were initially constructed without long-term consideration of electric regulations have resulted in serious injury and even death, he said.
Brand is an electrical engineer and the on-site program manager of the congressionally mandated Task Force POWER (Protect Our Warfighters and Electrical Resources), headquartered at Bagram Air Field (BAF). The Area Support Group-Afghanistan, also headquartered at BAF, has approval authority for all Task Force POWER requests throughout the Combined Joint Operations Area-Afghanistan (CJOA-A).
Brand and 15 two-man teams of journeymen and master electricians inspect and repair electrical system deficiencies all over the country.
"Our job is to make sure service members and the personnel who support them have safe work and living environments, so they can complete the mission," he said. "It's their job to keep us safe when they're outside the wire. It's our job to keep them safe from faulty electric infrastructure when they're inside the wire."
Brand said although it is rare, personnel in theater have been electrocuted by faulty grounding, unlisted material that fails, or faulty installations.
In the early 2000s, several deployed Soldiers were fatally electrocuted in the CENTCOM theater, prompting congressional hearings and the DOD Inspector General investigations that resulted in Task Force POWER.
From May 2015 to September 2018, Task Force POWER has inspected 9,310 facilities covering more than 6.5 million square feet and conducted more than 198,000 repairs.
"We would not be here if there was not a need," said Brand, who listed hastily constructed facilities, counterfeit material, and the misuse of U.S. appliances on 220 Voltage outlets in some locations as some of the most common offenders.
"The problem is very few people know we exist. They don't know what a good resource we are so we're trying to get on everyone's radar and make sure they know how to contact us," said Brand.
And if you submit a support request, you don't have to worry about funding.
"There is no bill--no cost for labor or materiel. We have already been paid with USFOR-A funding and our services are available to every U.S. Soldier in the CJOA," he said.
One of the more popular services the team offers is getting facilities up to code so they can be put online and maintained by the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP), a program that uses civilian contractors to augment the Army force structure. Currently, getting facilities up to code is the largest portion of the task force workload.
Task Force POWER also conducts third-party inspection for quality assurance.
"That means we can come in and inspect LOGCAP or other electrical work and verify the work has been performed to theater standards," he said.
Task Force POWER is the Authority Having Jurisdiction for the CJOA, so "if we find deficiencies in facilities maintained by LOGCAP, we contact them and they fix deficiencies on the spot."
Some CJOA locations, including NATO bases, do not have LOGCAP, making Task Force POWER an even more critical option.
"The task force is one of our greatest assets," said ASG-A Commander Col. Jacob Peterson. "They are a hard working team and have all the tools they need to do the job--material, funding, expertise and the drive to get after it."
Starting in February, the task force is expected to hire 20 additional laborers, allowing them to take even bigger jobs. All task force personnel are U.S.- and Euro-certified contractors.
Anyone can submit a support request, but Brand urges people on ASG-supported bases to work through their ASG site managers to submit a request.
"And you don't need to be an electrician to know that something doesn't look or feel right," said Brand. "Call and let us decide. That's what we're here for."
To submit a support request, contact your ASG site manager or send TF POWER an email directly at DLL-CEHNC-TFPOWER@usace.army.mil.
The Area-Support Group-Afghanistan (ASG-A) provides everything from billeting, laundry and food service to public works and quality of life support to more than 35,000 personnel throughout the Combined Joint Operations Area-Afghanistan (CJOA-A). ASG-A support is provided to U.S. military, DOD Civilians, Contractors and Coalition Forces who are contributing to Resolute Support, the NATO-led, non-combat mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF). For more information on ASG-A, visit www.facebook.com/AreaSupportGroupAfghanistan/posts or visit www.army.mil, type in Areas Support Group Afghanistan and click on News.