News: Afghan civilians learn how to operate power plant in Kandahar
Story by Sgt. Antony Lee
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - Afghan civilians learning to run Bagh-e-Pul – a power plant currently operated by the International Security Assistance Force – recently started the hands-on phase of their training as to assume responsibility of the plant at the end of this year.
The training program is an important part of the transfer of operations for the plant from ISAF to the Afghan people, said Staff Sgt. Fenix Batista, a prime power production specialist with the 249th Engineer Battalion who currently oversees the day-to-day operations of the power plant.
The first phase of the training program, which began a few months ago, consisted of educating the Afghans, who work for a local Afghan utility company, on the theories and fundamentals of electricity, generators and other important details of the power plant.
The second phase of the training began in the first week of September and consists of hands-on training, where the trainees apply what they learned.
“Right now we are currently in charge of training the Afghan utility company,” Batista said. “They’re actually here working on generators. We’re teaching them, ‘What do you do every day if something breaks, why are you replacing it?’ We’re teaching them troubleshooting.”
The plant was commissioned in March 2011 and provides electricity to about 25 percent of Kandahar.
“The original plan for this power plant was to be a temporary solution until they fixed the Kajaki dams,” Batista said, adding that the Kajaki dams of Helmand Province provide most of the power for southern Afghanistan.
The temporary solution will last a little longer than expected because of problems with the power lines at the Kajaki dams, he added.
While there have been some minor concerns, Batista said the training is going well.
“They’re ready for this transition to occur,” he said. “They’re ready to take over their own country.”
Service members tasked with the security and maintenance of Bagh-e-Pul – including Batista – briefed Tooryalai Wesa, the governor of Kandahar Province, about the details of the plant on Sept. 10 ahead of the transfer of operations that is expected to begin in December.
Captain Riley Redus, the commander of B Battery, Field Artillery Squadron, 2d Cavalry Regiment, leads a group of American soldiers that provide security for the plant. He briefed the governor on the security of the power plant, a top priority in the transfer process.
Private First Class Justin McCormick, a M249 Squad Automatic Weapon gunner who has been providing security at Bagh-e-Pul for about a month, said the mission has been successful so far.
“It’s been pretty quiet, and we’re hoping to keep it that way,” he said.
The security briefing included such topics as the potential threats in the area, the locations of check points in the area run by the Afghan Uniform Police, and the number of personnel that man the security towers.
“The Afghan Uniform Police are essential to the defense of the perimeter all around and in the surrounding areas as well,” Redus said.
Redus recounted a story from the previous night in which members of the Afghan Uniform Police searched a large white van parked near the perimeter to ensure it was not a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device as feared.
“The electricity we provide to the city of Kandahar is a direct result of ISAF and the Afghan National Security Forces working together,” Redus said.