June 30, 2011

Virginia Guard Soldiers helping build Afghan facilities

From Staff Reports

KABUL, Afghanistan — Officers from the 29th Infantry Division are helping to build permanent facilities for the Afghan National Security Forces. Afghanistan infrastructure is changing across the country as Afghans and coalition partners join together to build bases for the Afghan National Security Forces. The ANSF is comprised of the Afghan National Army and the five divisions of the Afghan Police.


The IJC Combined Joint Engineer Branch. Lt. Col. John Wranek is third from left on second row and Capt. Merissa Lara is fourth from left on bottom row. Both are members of the 29th Infantry Division. (Photo by IJC Public Affairs Office)

The International Security Assistance Force Joint Command Engineer Team is stationed at the ISAF Joint Command Headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan and charged with planning and coordinating engineer support and construction operations across Afghanistan. The staff is made up of officers from Australia, Canada, England, France, Greece, Italy, Macedonia, and the two officers from the 29th Infantry Division.

In the next few years, the size of the ANSF will grow to over 300,000 service members. The final size of the force has not been completely decided, but the Afghan National Army alone, when fully fielded, will be roughly the size of the United State Marine Corps. The infrastructure needed to support this force is immense.

“We’re essentially building enough temporary and permanent bases to house 4,000 newly fielded Afghan soldiers every month, about the size of a U.S. infantry brigade,” said Lt. Col. John Wranek from the 29th Security Partnering Team.

The National Training Mission - Afghanistan / Combined Security Transition Command - Afghanistan leads the permanent construction program and IJC has operational control of the battle space. As the ANSF Development Engineer, Wranek is tasked with organizing Regional Infrastructure Conferences, which bring together individuals and agencies from across Afghanistan including IJC, NTM-A Engineers, Regional and Regional Support Command Engineers, United States Forces - Afghanistan Engineers, the Army Corps of Engineers, Afghan Army/Police Operational Mentor/Liaison Teams, and local representatives from the ANSF. The primary purpose of these planning conferences is to finalize the locations of permanent or “enduring” facilities for the existing and future Afghan forces. Wranek’s team has already hosted eight major conferences since December 2010.


Lt. Col John Wranek and Col. Jamil, an Afghan Engineer officer, at the Regional Command - North Infrastructure Conference Feb 9 at Camp Shaheen, which means “Eagle” in Dari. (Photo courtesy of Lt. Col. John Wranek)

“From an infrastructure standpoint, the most challenging aspect of our effort is to keep the construction of the facilities ahead of the fielding of the ANSF,” Wranek said. “It is also very difficult to build tactical infrastructure (forward operating bases, combat outposts, etc.) fast enough to keep up with the rapidly changing dynamics on the battlefield.”

Record-keeping and digital databases are not commonly used as they are in the western world and this often delay projects until everyone can agree on ownership. This process takes months because it requires a consensus of local leaders and government officials.

"In many cases, it's very difficult to find GIRoA (Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan) owned land to build on, which is required for permanent bases, and real-estate records are sparse at best," said Wranek.

Wranek is a member of the 29th Infantry Division Headquarters. Approximately 70 Soldiers from the 29th Infantry Division Headquarters were deployed to Afghanistan in December 2010 and plan on returning in the fall of 2011.

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