By Mark Ray
Afghanistan Engineer District-South
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — If you were looking to illustrate "challenge," operating and maintaining a large installation in Afghanistan could serve as a prime example. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Afghanistan Engineer District-South meets that challenge every day, as they oversee the national O&M contract for the Joint Regional Afghan National Police Center, near Kandahar Airfield.
The compound includes four separate areas within a single perimeter fence:
• The Afghan National Border Police Command has nearly 580 personnel on a 20-building compound;
• The Afghan National Uniform Police has about 240 personnel on a 14-building compound;
• The Afghan National Civil Order Police has about 310 personnel on a 23-building compound;
• The Regional Logistics Center and Uniform Police Regional Headquarters has about 41 personnel on a ten-building compound.
The Afghan Ministry of Interior also has a building on the compound in which between 80 and 100 personnel provide administration for the region.
The compounds are much more than office space, with junior and senior barracks, dining facilities, vehicle and other maintenance facilities, warehouses, training facilities, generators, wells and wastewater treatment facilities to support the needs of over 1,200 Afghan personnel and their coalition mentors.
The responsibility for maintaining this critical infrastructure falls to the South District's Operations and Maintenance Execution Division and their National O&M contractor for the site, ITT Excelis.
"The contractor provides a full range of operations and maintenance services," said Penny Coulon, the compound Contracting Officer's Representative. "These include the traditional trades, such as carpentry, plumbing and electrical work, and more complex work, including operating and maintaining large generators, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems, wells and water treatment distribution systems, and wastewater collection and treatment."
Current priorities at the compound, according to Coulon, are:
• Stabilizing operations and installing new generators at the installation power plant;
• Bringing the wastewater treatment plant up to standard and
• Repairing and maintaining, both internal street lights and perimeter lights.
"We are making good progress on the generators," she said. "We have received four new generators to replace failed/failing equipment and are currently installing and synchronizing them. We cleaned out the four large fuel tanks that supply the power complex, and are preparing to line the tanks to extend their service life. Finally, because fuel quality has been an issue and probably will continue to be an issue, we are installing a fuel filter system between the truck discharge and storage tanks, which will also help to extend the life of the fuel tanks and ensure that the fuel getting to the generators is as good as we can make it."
"The original generators on the site initially had electrical issues in their alternator assemblies, which actually generate the electricity," said Dave Greenlief, South Regional Manager for ANSF, ITT Excelis. "These problems eventually became mechanical issues. We brought in a generator expert, who analyzed the issues and provided way ahead.
"While we were waiting for the new generators to arrive, we had to work hard to keep at least three generators working, which is the minimum required to power the complex," Greenlief said.
"That was a difficult situation, since we could not take any of them off-line for major maintenance and overhauls. Issues with fuel quality made the situation even more difficult. Now that we have brought in the new generators, we will be able provide reliable power, and use three older generators as back-ups. We will be able to perform regular O&M and shouldn't have problems in the future."
At the wastewater treatment plant, the O&M team is waiting for delivery of replacement aerators and a new control panel. At the same time, they are cleaning out settlement ponds.
"As we perform O&M on the facilities, we look for opportunities to replace original systems, that may not have been appropriate to Afghanistan, with simpler systems that are easier to operate and maintain," Greenlief said."The wastewater treatment plant is a good example. The aerators originally had a complex system of controls with multiple timers, relays, circuit breakers and overload protectors. We worked with the manufacturer to develop a system that will have a single, manual timer, one circuit breaker and one overload protector -- so it doesn't require a degree in electrical engineering to operate, and it can be maintained here."
Fueling stations are another area where the O&M team is working to install equipment that is easier to maintain and operate.
"The fueling station on the Civil Order Police compound had electrical pumps that were difficult to get parts for, and required advanced skills to maintain," Greenlief said. "We are replacing that system with a gravity-fed system that doesn't require pumps and will be easy for the Afghans to maintain in the future. If it works, we'll consider using it as a model for the other fueling stations on the compound.
"O&M on the compound has been a team effort, with ITT Excelis working closely with the Corps of Engineers and the mentors to get things that were broken or not working correctly fixed, and in a manner that would allow systems to be operated and maintained after the Afghans take over O&M," Greenlief said.
"Along with coordinating the mentors, we've also brought the Afghan leadership on the compound into the process," Coulon said. "I have regular discussions with Afghan leaders that have forces stationed on the compound, to keep them informed of issues and what we are doing to correct them. The discussions help increase their sense of ownership of facilities, which is important as we move toward eventually turning over the responsibility for O&M of the complex."
ITT Excelis is also looking toward the future by hiring as many local Afghan tradesmen as possible, Greenlief said. "This policy benefits us right now because it gives us the ability to procure many materials locally -- our Afghan workers know what is available in Kandahar City, how much it should cost, and they can deal with the merchants in their own language."
Employing Afghan workers and purchasing materials locally also supports the local economy, Coulon added.
"And when we transition O&M of the complex to the Afghan authorities, they will have the opportunity a pool of fully trained tradesmen, who know the site, to draw from if they want," Greenlief concluded.