By Carol Davis, USACE Europe DistrictSeptember 14, 2009
NEVO SELO TRAINING RANGE, Bulgaria Aca,!" Sitting in a sunlit office poring over a Cyrillic-scrawled map of the Bulgarian countryside that lies just outside his window, Pat Klever, the resident engineer at the newly formed Bulgaria field office, is adapting to his new environment Aca,!" one that heAca,!a,,cs busy planning for incoming U.S. Soldiers.
Klever and his growing team oversee the $50-million contract to construct expeditionary structures at a 135-acre forward operating site near the city of Sliven, Bulgaria, that will support about 2,500 soldiers during joint military training activities. The site will include 77 facilities in all, including 23 barracks buildings, a chapel, post office, fitness center, several administrative, operational, maintenance, storage, dining, and medical facilities, and basic infrastructure such as utilities, roads, walkways, and parking areas, all of which are expected to be used for at least 20 years.
In effect, they are creating a military training base that resembles what U.S. Soldiers find at their home bases.
Aca,!A"The main priority of the FOS is to provide a training platform where U.S. and Bulgarian Soldiers can train together, learn from each other and learn a different culture,Aca,!A? said Armando Solis, acting area engineer for Eastern Europe.
Living and working in a culturally different country where nothing, including the alphabet, is familiar would create a challenge for more people, Klever said. But he believes he is in right place at the right time.
Aca,!A"I love muddy-boots construction management and IAca,!a,,cve been happiest in my professional life when IAca,!a,,cm doing this,Aca,!A? said Klever who spent about 10 years in the Army and 32 years total as a government employee during various engineering jobs. Aca,!A"I love it here and I feel as though IAca,!a,,cm making a real difference here. I have a great team Aca,!" Mehdi Mizani, the project engineer who set up the initial office, Petar and Ivan, two local national engineers, Magi, my local national management assistant, and Kazmierz Kordecki, a construction representative on loan from Fort Huachuca. The only thing missing in Bulgaria is my wife. Then it would be perfect.Aca,!A?
Klever, a Toledo native, said his journey began when Ron Miller, a math teacher at St. JohnAca,!a,,cs Jesuit High School, asked him what it was he was passionate about. When Klever responded drawing and building things, Miller suggested he consider engineering. It has been KleverAca,!a,,cs focus ever since.
A former Boy Scout and West Point cadet who later transferred to University of Toledo, Klever said his journey thus far Aca,!" his Aca,!A"crucibleAca,!A? Aca,!" has taught him to think independently and creatively. Aca,!A"I believe that engineering is not a degree, itAca,!a,,cs not a profession; itAca,!a,,cs a thought process,Aca,!A? he said. Aca,!A"West Point and the Boy Scouts taught me to look at the total solution. Aca,!A| Anyone can design something but only an engineer can look at all of parameters, cost, time and aesthetics and come up with the best solution.Aca,!A?
Finding solutions is something Klever said he does on a daily basis in Bulgaria. Aca,!A"Everything is new here,Aca,!A? Klever said. Aca,!A"We are blazing new ground with subcontractors who are not used to U.S. or even European Union standards, with employees who have different ideas about construction, and with obtaining the sheer quantity of materials necessary to make this all happen on time.Aca,!A?
Magdalena Rabina, contractor management assistant, said: Aca,!A"Here in Bulgaria we are taught that everything we do, we have to come to the same result.Aca,!A? Aca,!A"But it turns out that the way we are used to doing things and the way Americans way is quite different, and itAca,!a,,cs nice to have Pat to ask advice or explain things.Aca,!A?
Contracting differences are not the only differences to deal with in Bulgaria. Here, something as simple as the way Americans shake their heads to indicate yes or no is the exact opposite. All of which makes construction management in Bulgaria challenging.
Aca,!A"Pat is doing a great job,Aca,!A? said Solis. Aca,!A"He has a warmth, which is needed to do the job completely, heAca,!a,,cs a good engineer and most importantly heAca,!a,,cs patient,Aca,!A? said Solis. Patience is exactly what it will take to see the project through to completion. The facility is expected to be complete late 2010.
Aca,!A"I couldnAca,!a,,ct do it without the whole team. While I am concentrating on contracting issues, Mehdi takes care of the day-to-day quality issues. Together, we complement each other very well. And Petar, Ivan, and Magi really smooth the way with translating both the language and the technical standards to something everyone can understand. Without their help and support, doing this job would be like trying to swallow a softball wrapped in barbed wire. Together, though, we make an awesome, successful team.Aca,!A?