SHINDAND AIR BASE, Afghanistan, Aug. 23, 2011 -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working with the 838th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group at Shindand to expand the base to triple its original size. The extra space will be used to relocate some 3,000 coalition forces to make way for construction of a new training runway for Afghan pilots.

"It [the apron] will enable us to progress on Shindand's strategic mission"establishing pilot training for a professional, fully independent and operationally capable Afghan Air Force," said Air Force Col. John Hokaj, commander, 838th AEAG.

In addition to the new rotary wing apron, several other projects are underway to improve the overall capability of the forces at Shindand including a strategic airlift apron; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance apron; fuels operations and munitions storage; a solid waste management plant and a waste water treatment plant.

"This apron marks a significant milestone in the expansion of Shindand Air Base as it grows to become Afghanistan's premier training base for the Afghan Air Force," said Lt. Col. Michael Kinslow, 838th AEAG deputy commander, at the ribbon cutting ceremony Aug. 15. "Not only does it make way for the new training runway, but it also creates a first-class platform to support our combat aviators."

Celebrating the apron completion with Kinslow was Maj. Gen. Kendall Cox, commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, or USACE, Transatlantic Division; Air Force Col. Benjamin Wham II, commander, USACE Afghanistan Engineer District-South; Lt. Col. Blake Alexander, commander, Task Force Spearhead 3-227th Combat Aviation Battalion; Scott Vick, vice president, Tetra Tech EC (the prime contractor); representatives from Yuksel Insaat (the construction subcontractor) and other military and civilian officials.

"I'm very proud to cut the ribbon on this," said Wham. "In a direct partnership between USACE, Tetra Tech EC and Yuksel Insaat, we constructed 110 percent of the original contract -- and completed the job at the highest quality four months early."

The contract was awarded Sept. 16, 2010, for $14.9 million and the expected completion date was mid-October 2011. However, a modification to the original contract increased the scope by 10 percent, the price to $17.4 million and extended the completion date to December. The project provides parking for an additional 14 Chinook, 18 Black Hawk and 10 Apache helicopters.

"This project directly supports the war fighters and their mission to contribute to Afghanistan's stability and security," Wham concluded.