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Posted 3/8/2012

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By Fred Tucker
533rd Engineer Detachment, Forward Engineer Support Team-Main

KANDAHAR Airfield, Afghanistan -- Members of the 533rd Engineer Detachment, Forward Engineer Support Team-Main were highly praised March 1, 2012 at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan by Maj. Gen. Kendall P. Cox, commander of Transatlantic Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

"You guys are phenomenal; completing 220 projects is huge!," exclaimed Cox, referring to the number of engineering projects team members completed in Afghanistan since deploying from Fort Knox, Ky., April 4, 2011. The count is continuing.

The 533rd FEST-M, commanded by Col. Culen K. Robinson, is a flexible, self-sustaining expeditionary engineering asset task-organized to conduct technical engineering and construction management in combat or contingency environments. The 30 persons deployed include both military and civilian team members from various disciplines to include electrical, mechanical, civil and environmental engineers, logistics and resource management.

Upon arrival at Kandahar Airfield April 7, 2011, Robinson set the standard for the team.

"We have spent countless hours planning, preparing and training for this day," Robinson said. "We are equipped and trained to provide the best engineering solutions in the Army and are eager to begin our one-year mission. Let's go to work," he added.
Tasked with providing technical engineering support to United States Forces-Afghanistan and Regional Command-South as the priority, the team was also capable of providing support throughout the Combined Joint Area of Operations when needed.
Guided by the commander's vision of, "We say 'no' to no one," the unit was soon fully engaged both "inside and outside the wire."
The highly skilled engineering team's work was soon seen by commanders at the highest levels and word spread on its unique mission to primarily support war fighters in the field.

Manned by personnel willing and able to take on challenges that had previously delayed execution of critical projects, the 533rd FEST-M quickly became the "Go-to" source for rapid design of Battle Space projects throughout Afghanistan.

Design projects ranged from vertical construction, route upgrades and flood mitigation at Forward Operating Bases and Combat Outposts across Afghanistan; to Morale, Welfare and Recreation facilities at numerous locations; to an Improvised Explosive Device training facility.

"The 533rd FEST-M is making a difference," Maj. Gen. Cox said Dec. 17, 2011 during a previous visit from his headquarters in Winchester, Va. "You are contributing immensely to the overall engineer effort in Afghanistan and you have done an excellent job; you promised and you delivered," he added.

On Jan. 13, 2011 with rain clouds gathering overhead, 533rd FEST-M engineers were recognized by Col. Lawrence Kominiak, 7th Sustainment Brigade commander for the on-time completion of a much-needed repair project to mitigate flooding around two Rigger K-Span building previously constructed near the then undeveloped southwest end of the Kandahar Airfield.

"As airfield development continued southward over the years, drainage problems increased around these two buildings," said Charles Oliver, Chief Engineer. "We developed a concrete flood wall around the buildings with ramps allowing vehicle access and underground drainage to handle run-off outside the wall and rainfall within the protected area," he continued.

The rains came and the design worked as planned.

The 533rd FEST-M expects to redeploy to Fort Knox, Ky., around April 1, 2012.
When asked about his command's one-year deployment to Afghanistan, Col. Robinson said it has been one of the most rewarding experiences of his military career.

"I have been fortunate to have led a unit that has performed beyond anyone's highest expectations. Our team of engineers and other professionals have dedicated themselves wholeheartedly to the mission and have truly landed among the stars," Robinson said.

"Our wonderful engineer solutions are in place throughout the Theater from here in the South at Kandahar and the surrounding battle space; to the West at Shindand; and to the North and East at places like Kabul, Mas-E-Sharif and Spin Boldak. A truly outstanding effort," he concluded.