News: US Army Corps of Engineers in Afghanistan remembers 9/11
Story by LaDonna Davis
KABUL, Afghanistan - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in northern Afghanistan commemorated the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks on our nation with a number of flag raising ceremonies and a special anniversary candlelight ceremony today at the district’s Qalaa House compound.
The district’s service members participated in more than 100 flag raising ceremonies throughout the morning of the anniversary of the horrific attacks. Later in the day, at 5:00 p.m. Kabul time and 8:00 a.m. central time, to coincide with the time of the first attacks, more than 300 district personnel gathered for a candlelight vigil which recalled the attacks through pictures, videos and an hour -by -hour recount of the four flights that crashed in the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field respectively, in 2001.
“If you’ve been watching CNN over the past several days you know it’s not over just because Bin Laden’s gone. There is still a significant threat out there from Al Qaeda,” said Col. Christopher Martin, the Transatlantic North commander during the candlelight vigil. “We have a totally different type of enemy that we’re fighting here today; we just have to be aware of that.”
After September 11, 2001, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Forward Engineering Support Team deployed with the Army XVII Airborne Corps and worked with that unit’s engineers during combat operations. The USACE team provided the XVII Corps with engineering, construction, planning, contracting and real estate management expertise during and immediately after the conflict.
In 2002, the Afghanistan Area Office in Kabul was established to help manage the construction and renovation of facilities for the new Afghanistan National Army. The newly formed Afghanistan government established the ANA to secure internal peace and security in Afghanistan after decades of war and conflict. But, in order for the ANA to succeed, they needed new facilities that would allow them places to train and work from.
Most of the military facilities in and around Kabul were either damaged or destroyed making repairs difficult or impossible. But, despite the difficulties, Corps’ engineers and contractors began rebuilding pre-existing structures in and around Kabul.
On March 1, 2004, USACE established the Afghanistan Engineer District to help rebuild the war-torn country. The district’s mission was to provide quality, responsive engineering and constructing services to a variety of customers to include Afghan men, women and children so that the country could thrive again.
Today there are two Corps districts in Afghanistan- the Transatlantic North, headquartered in Kabul and Transatlantic South, headquartered in Kandahar. Both districts carry out a mission of delivering quality infrastructure, providing operation and maintenance services to Afghanistan, and building the engineering and capacity of the Afghan people through training in order to support the coalition strategy.
At TAN, the district’s mission is carried out through five programs: The Afghanistan National Army, the Afghanistan National Police, Military Construction, Operations and Maintenance and Infrastructure and Planning. Additionally, the district’s Capacity Building Program helps to bolster the capacity of the Afghan people to design, engineer, build and maintain facilities as U.S. and coalition partners’ transition out of the theater of operations.
In 2011, TAN plans to award more than 500 projects totaling in excess of $4.1 billion. The district employs more than 500 civilian and military service members and has six area offices.
Some of the District’s more noteworthy projects include: Kabul Street lights-a solar power street of lights running through one of downtown Kabul’s busiest streets that provides safety in the city for low costs; Kabul University books delivery- a nearly $1 million project funded through CERP (Commander’s Emergency Response Program) that provided new engineering books to the students and staff of war- torn Kabul University. The university had been using outdated books and materials for years due to years of war and Taliban rule; and the completion of the Detention Facility in Parwan-a $43 million hi-tech detention facility at Bagram Air Field that features three detention housing units for low-risk and high-risk detainees. The facility was built at a record pace, less than one year, in spite of challenges associated with construction making it a highlight of AED-N reconstruction efforts and helping to ensure the security of the country.
“We lost 2,800 people [on September 11th], and countless numbers of military and civilians since then. So, let’s just make sure that what we’re doing everyday reminds us of why we’re here and what we hope to get out of this,” Martin said. Let’s make sure we’re doing the right things so that one day we can look back at this period in our lives with pride and say ‘I was there and I helped make a difference’. And that’s what it’s all about, to someday say, ‘I made a difference.’’’