By Rhonda AppleMarch 9, 2012
Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Public Works Director Ron Kaczmarek was part of a mobile training team (MTT) deployed to Afghanistan during the last quarter of 2011.
He returned to his Family and day-to-day working life on JBM-HH Dec. 20, 2011. Kaczmarek volunteered to deploy with the MTT to the Helmand and Parwan provinces of Afghanistan as part of a five-member military-civilian team put together by the Army's Installation Management Command (IMCOM). The group included a commanding colonel and members with anti-terrorism force protection backgrounds, housing experience, and two experts in public works and security engineering. The team, assembled by IMCOM, spent time teaching base operations to Soldiers downrange at various camps and stations that requested training or the group was assigned to assist.
The mobile transition team spent seven days at Fort Benning, Ga., going through pre-mobilization preparations, including courses in safety, espionage and hostage training prior to arriving in Afghanistan Oct. 1, 2011.
"We went to look at base operations and how bases were run by the U.S. government which the U.S. military oversees in Afghanistan," said Kaczmarek. "They sent us to nine different locations, including Bagram Air Base in the northern part of Afghanistan and Camp Leatherneck in the southern part." The team also went to Kandahar, Shindand Air Base and Kabul.
He said the group of experts served as the advanced team for 24 IMCOM employees currently running two base camps at Bagram Air Base and Camp Leatherneck.
As one of the public works subject matter experts, Kaczmarek said he looked at all the utilities during his visit to Afghanistan. "I looked at how electrical distribution was done through the electrical power plant, how waste water, black and gray water was handled, if they had natural gas or propane as well as how environmental work was conducted."
In addition to looking at the various infrastructures on the base camps, the mobile transition team did on-site coaching and mentoring of the units there and provided IMCOM with an after-action report. As a result of the visit to Afghanistan, Kaczmarek said "IMCOM is developing a training program to add to the IMCOM Academy for units or civilians going over to run base camps. It's like a mini-garrison and pre-command course on how to run base contingency operations."
Although this was Kaczmarek's first trip to Afghanistan, the former Army ordnance officer said for him, it was "another deployment." Wearing body armor, protective vests and helmets were a normal part of conducting business.
"Every base we visited had between 9,000 and 35,000 personnel working there, including military, contractors, civilians and foreign nationals [who also worked as contractors]. These were large cities. We lived out of our duffel bags and moved to a different location about every 12 days," said Kaczmarek. He said the military transition team stayed in barracks, tents and B-Huts while deployed. "Every base had its unique experience."
Coming from a joint base environment was an advantage for Kaczmarek. "I knew how to speak the Marine Corps 'lingo' which helped immensely at Camp Leatherneck," he said. "Four of the five team members were prior military -- and three of us were prior Army, so we all understood how the functional process worked within the chain of command."
Regarding challenges in Afghanistan compared to working in the U.S., Kaczmarek said we take a lot for granted. "Here, we're regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency. When we do things overseas in a contingency environment, we do it out of need."
"We as American people should be thankful for what we have and the military we have," he stressed. "When you're out there in harm's way, the simple things matter -- care packages, letters, news stories. We don't give [servicemembers] enough thanks and we take for granted what we have here."