By U.S. ArmyMay 30, 2008
ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala.--An environmental engineer here who returned last month from a nine-month tour in Afghanistan with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said he found time to deliver humanitarian aid despite long workdays.
Randy Bright deployed in July 2007 to the USACE's Afghan Engineering District in Kabul to serve as a project manager in charge of construction projects for the Afghan National Army.
"I heard that the military was having a difficult time finding civilians to help support the war efforts and I wanted to do my part," he said.
Bright works in the Directorate of Risk Management's environmental restoration division where he manages the depot's environmental management system, pollution prevention program and the sustainability efforts.
With sometimes more than a dozen projects going on at once, work in Afghanistan took him all over the country managing the construction of large military bases, ammunition supply points, office buildings and force protection upgrades.
"It is a huge effort to get the Afghan military to be self-sustaining," said Bright.
Working mostly with the Afghan Army, Bright also worked alongside the National Cartography Institute of Afghanistan.
"Although his deployment did leave DRK short-staffed during his absence, I believe his deployment will have a very positive impact on our organization as he saw first-hand the missions being performed by our Soldiers and understands how important the depot's mission is to supporting these Soldiers," said Tracy Williams, chief of DRK's restoration division.
He described Afghanistan as "a beautiful country" with hot summers and cold winters much like the weather in Alabama but not as humid.
Though there was a language barrier between the Americans and the Dari-speaking Afghans, Bright and other English-speaking workers asked the interpreters to teach them the phrases that they could use with the locals.
"The locals really appreciated it when you tried to use their language instead of relying on the interpreter," said Bright. "I was also amazed because many of the locals could speak English quite well."
Bright said, for him, the deployment sparked an interest in the U.S.'s role in international relations, as he was able to interact with NATO forces and see more closely how the U.S. is involved in the Global War on Terror.
"Working in Afghanistan has given me a better appreciation for this country," he said. Bright said visiting the many refugee camps there and delivering humanitarian aid "would make you want to cry. To see the children that had absolutely nothing, but most of them were happy."
Bright's family here in Alabama helped with the charity efforts in Afghanistan by shipping items to be given to the less fortunate Afghans. He said his family's participation-along with his 80-hour workweeks-helped him to overcome homesickness and provided a better sense of purpose.
Appreciation for his homeland sums up what Bright learned most from his job in Afghanistan. From working in a foreign country that has been touched by 25 years of war since the Soviet invasion and seeing an economy much different from any in the U.S. has given Bright a clearer understanding of historical references and the need for international allies.
"My greatest opportunity was being able to help out people that were truly in need of help through volunteer work and in helping the country build up its infrastructure," said Bright.