News: Army engineers continue to support theater operations
Story by Staff Sgt. Anna Rutherford
PAKTIKA PROVINCE, Afghanistan - In the center of a forward operating base in Paktika province, Afghanistan, is a place where many pass by, but few notice. Within the confines of a gated and fenced yard, several U.S. Army engineers work diligently, day after day.
Among towering stacks of plywood and materials, a lone forklift moves deftly, neatly organizing lumber. Although the scene looks more like a “Peanuts” character with clouds of dust, the forklift looks effortless in its purpose.
“From what I’ve heard, it was just kind of chaos around here,” said U.S. Army Sgt. Jared Ruppe of the 624th Engineer Company, Utah Army National Guard, assigned to the 178th Engineer Battalion, 411th Engineer Brigade. “They just started organizing right off the bat. They’re just trying to get everything to where it’s easier for us to do our job.”
The bill of materials yard or “BOM yard” on Forward Operating Base Sharana, was a drastically different place in previous years, with more materials than Army engineers knew what to do with or were able to find space for. Today the yard is neatly organized with portions of the yard looking more like a heavy duty version of Home Depot or Lowe’s. With business booming, the engineers are happy to have the tidiness.
“The first three months we were taking one or two orders a week,” said Ruppe. “I want to bet we get close to 12 a week.”
Business for the BOM yard means customers coming in with requests for building materials. This could mean items as large as stacks of plywood, to items as small as screws and nails.
Standing tall near the entrance to the yard is a large wooden facility. Rays of light shine through the loft windows lining the wall near the roof. Inside, the floor is as immaculately swept as a sawdust-covered floor could be. Within the confines, 624th soldiers work intently and briskly inside the wooden cathedral. Few words are spoken above the whirring of power tools and the clattering thumps of lumber, but each soldier moves with ease, needing little instruction.
“This is our truss factory right here,” said Ruppe, of the immense structure. “We don’t build the trusses here, but we get the gussets ready for our platoon and they come in and build the trusses so it’s nice for them to have the gussets already prefabricated.”
Although Ruppe is an Army school-trained plumber, he is a long-haul truck driver out of Vernal, Utah. Ruppe believes that his civilian experience serves as an asset to his duties in the BOM yard.
“I like doing this (job at) the BOM yard a lot better (than other jobs),” he commented. “It’s something I’m familiar with. I love the unit I’m in. It’s a bunch of hard-working soldiers, and we work hard, play hard. It’s been really fun.”
Ruppe isn’t the only soldier to find team cohesion in the work he does. In the off-duty hours, U.S. Army Spc. Paul Gibbs, a native of Spanish Fork, Utah, and a carpenter with 624th, finds contentment in spending time with his fellow BOM yard workers from the unit.
“I usually go hang out with the other guys from the BOM yard,” he said. “We usually play cards, dominoes, maybe go play pool or pingpong. It’s pretty relaxing.”
And much like the cohesive machinery that keeps the BOM yard running, the soldiers of the 624th find a mechanical cohesion all the way from the command level to the most junior enlisted.
“It (the unit) has some pretty great leaders,” said Gibbs. “I enjoy working with them and they make life pretty easy. They really look out for us.”
In the meantime, the Utah engineers will continue to organize the BOM yard, while supporting the missions of coalition forces throughout the area of operations – fully maintaining the spirit of cohesion both internally and externally.