By Cheryl A. Moore, USACE Afghanistan DistrictNovember 11, 2019
Leading a team of Veterans to austere bases throughout Afghanistan is business as usual for the majority of military members deployed in the region. But one team, in support of the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers' mission, the 553rd Forward Engineering Support Team-A (FEST-Advanced), trekked to these austere bases throughout theater to assess and develop solutions to difficult infrastructure, life support, and force protection problems facing these military units.
As the Afghanistan District honors all Veterans, we take this time to shine the light on the 553rd Forward Engineering Support Team (FEST) that has left a huge footprint throughout our Area of Operations.
The FEST-A completed more than 45 projects and designs, including the engineering analysis and design to address base flooding, camp expansion, and force protection upgrades to resolve complex flooding issues on Bagram Airfield (BAF) in support of U. S. Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A).
"We've maximized the FEST-A's efforts and emphasized the importance of the team's skillsets across theater," said MAJ Christopher George, Detachment Officer in Charge.
FEST-A provided support to the Resolute Support Coalition-Joint Engineer (CJENG) director of force protection upgrades on Kandahar Airfield (KAF), along with the teams efforts on project CUR 1999 which set the foundation for securing "new" funding through NATO for USACE execution.
"A first for construction in Afghanistan which opened the door for NATO to utilize USACE for future work," said George.
This team of eight engineers include: Drew Clemens as the Lead Environmental Engineer, who demonstrated technical expertise through his application of subject matter expertise in the areas of geology and hydrologic engineering.
Javier Jimenez-Vargas, Lead Civil/Hydraulic Engineer who provided invaluable civil engineering analysis to address base flooding, camp expansion, force protection upgrades, and a variety of other projects.
There was the Lead Electrical Engineer, Paul Larmooh who demonstrated unparalleled professionalism and technical expertise through his application of electrical engineering, who was frequently call upon by Regional Contracting Command Afghanistan to conduct inspections of Afghan-built projects. The results of those inspections ensured the contracted services were built according to specifications, saving the Government tens of thousands of dollars in repairs.
Rito Sabanal was the Lead Mechanical Engineer who demonstrated an exceptional ability to network across organizations and coordinate with subject matter experts from a variety of disciplines to develop comprehensive design solutions.
And the team was rounded off with a Lead Geospatial Analyst and a Lead Hydrologist.
The cohesiveness of the team was in part the leadership of the Detachment Officer in Charge of the 553rd Forward Engineer Support Team-Advanced, MAJ Christopher George. He provided command and control. And the Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge, Chief Petty Officer Thomas Hume's effective leadership, technical competence, and selfless service were essential to the FEST-A's ability to complete the more than 45 assessment and design projects across Afghanistan, ultimately saving the U. S. Government millions of dollars.