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Project management in Afghanistan.

Have you ever wondered why the burn pit was located right next to the ammunition and fuel points? Or why the chow hall stood next to the wastewater storage area? When Soldiers arrive at their deployment site and settle in, there is little thought about how their living and working conditions came to be. The 243d Engineer Detachment (Construction Management Team [CMT]), 18th Engineer Brigade, is deeply involved in meeting the facility requirements of Soldiers, from identifying the basic living needs to providing quality assurance during construction. The detachment, based in Heidelberg, Germany, is currently deployed to Forward Operating Base Sharana, Afghanistan, with its organic parent unit, the 18th Engineer Brigade (Task Force Sword). The decisionmaking and project management processes are imperative in achieving the facility requirements.


For any new construction, such as a combat outpost or rebuild site where enemy action has rendered the old construction unusable, the requesting unit identifies the need for construction. Initial builds that are meant for short-term use may receive wooden tent decks for billeting, while sites meant for long-term use might receive hardstand billeting and work areas. Once the need is identified, an engineer work request is submitted to the higher headquarters. To facilitate quick processing of the work request, it should list specifics such as the number of Soldiers supported and the size, purpose, and location of the structure. Simply identifying a need for a "B-Hut" or a "SEA hut" is insufficient. These are simply types of buildings, with no specific size indicated.

After the work request is approved by the division engineer, it is sent to the engineer brigade, which publishes an order tasking the 243d Engineer Detachment (CMT) to provide program management and project overview and assigns an engineer unit to perform the construction.

As program managers, the 243d conducts mission analysis on the specific mission. Although we use the military decisionmaking process, the factors we are concerned with are slightly different. We work with the mayor's cell at the site of the proposed construction to understand the current and future composition of personnel and the specific operational requirements at the site. The calculations for billeting and other structural requirements are based on construction and base camp development standards in the U.S. Army Central Command "Sand Book" to ensure that the minimum military requirement is met. The minimum military requirement is a standard which ensures that construction capacity is maximized for the greatest number of personnel instead of overbuilding one site while giving another site less than effective support. The Sand Book provides standards for living conditions based on the number of personnel at the site, such as the square footage of open-bay space that each person is entitled to and the size of the recreational facility that a site should have. Sand Book standards also enable the detachment to produce standard drawing sets.

After the project manager identifies the Sand Book requirement for the project, the requesting unit is responsible for getting the project funding approved through the joint facilities utilization board. This board can contract materials for troop labor to construct, contract construction of the entire project, or contract partial construction through local national contractors. If necessary, this is the point at which the requesting unit submits a land acquisition request. The land acquisition request should be approved before construction starts, although time does not always allow this.

While the project is being funded, the project manager works with surveyors, designers, and technical master planners to understand and maximize the available space. Surveyors survey the current buildings to describe the current site layout, to include buildings and topography. The new build is plotted on this layout to ensure that everything fits and that the necessary standoff distances have been established. Once a site layout has been created, the project manager works with the requesting unit or the customer to ensure that all needs are being met. It is beneficial during this time for the project manager to conduct a site reconnaissance to fully understand the available working area. An additional benefit to this is the opportunity to meet the customer and discuss specific needs and issues.


The project manager also works with entities such as the appropriate prime power detachment and the Logistics Civilian Augmentation Program. At the start of the project, prime power engineers conduct an electrical load assessment of the current power supplies. They can identify additional power requirements and create plans to contract the installation of new power grids for large construction. If the construction site is contracted for operations and maintenance through the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program, the contracted agency needs to be involved in the process early to perform inspections during construction so that the buildings can be added to the density list upon completion. Once the construction is added to the density list, it is the responsibility of the contracted agency to maintain it.

During the site layout approval process with the customer, the site design goes through a vetting process. The specific project determines who needs to vet it, but some of the more common venues are antiterrorism/force protection, communications, explosives safety (for ammunition handling or supply points), fire, and aviation (for airfields and helipads). This addresses topics ranging from the maximum occupancy of a bunker to the standoff distances required for air assets. Once the site plan has been vetted and the drawings for structures approved, the project manager will produce a construction directive for the constructing unit. This details the construction requirements and identifies who is responsible for each specific task. For example, the emplacement of concertina wire is not an engineer task; it is a basic Soldier task that can be completed by personnel other than engineers. Included in the construction directive are details for the construction, site layout, construction drawings, and inspection checklists. When published, the construction directive is distributed to the engineer brigade, the requesting unit (which is usually the customer), and any other units in the task force that might have an interest in the construction. This allows the person in charge on the ground to know exactly what is required to complete the mission.

During mission execution, the 243d conducts milestone quality assurance inspections that augment the inspections completed by the constructing unit to ensure that the project is being built to life, health, and safety standards. After every site visit and reconnaissance, the 243d Engineer Detachment (CMT) produces a memorandum that details what was seen, what was fixed, and any outstanding issues. This is also disseminated to the lowest level to ensure that lessons are learned, outstanding issues are addressed by the appropriate personnel, and all personnel involved receive project updates.

Upon completion, the customer signs a completion memorandum to inform all parties that the construction has been completed. The customers can then move in and begin operations, while the construction engineers move on to the next project.

The 243d Engineer Detachment (CMT) completed several significant missions at locations such as Combat Outposts Dashe Towp and Sayed Abad. The greatest lesson learned from those experiences was to attain open communication with the customer and mission-related experts at the earliest possible time. Being able to provide the most complete site layout with accompanying construction directives to the engineer unit sets the construction mission up for success.

By Captain Kathryn A. Werback

Captain Werback is the 605th Engineer Detachment (CMT) public works officer, currently deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. She is a graduate of the Engineer Captains Career Course and holds a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from the University of California, Davis and a master's degree in engineering management from Missouri University of Science and Technology at Rolla
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Author:Werback, Kathryn A.
Publication:Engineer: The Professional Bulletin for Army Engineers
Date:May 1, 2012
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