News: Bridging the gap: Seabees work with ANA specialty engineers
By Steelworker 2nd Class Amanda Lewis
Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 28
CAMP PHOENIX, Afghanistan – As members of the Task Force Engineering Brigade Advise and Assist Team (EBAAT), Seabees of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 28, based out of Barksdale Air Force Base, Shreveport, La., mentor and advise soldiers of the Afghan National Army (ANA) National Engineer Brigade (NEB) Specialty Engineering Kandak (SEK) on complex engineering tasks, including vertical construction, bridging, and water well drilling.
Beginning in January 2014, nine Seabees with the support of six linguists were provided the opportunity to instruct 60 Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers on the construction of a Mabey Johnson bridge, a pre-engineered, steel panel bridge.
Within the past couple of weeks, these Seabees have familiarized their Afghan counterparts with parts recognition, roller layout, and have constructed the launching nose section.
Although it has been challenging overcoming the language barrier, bridge master Utilitiesman 1st Class David Knapp describes the training as a “rewarding experience.”
Knapp says he takes pride “when they [the ANA] push us out of the way and take charge of the bridge operations. They are grasping the concept of pin and panel bridging, and are eager to participate.”
"The level of engagement from the Specialty Kandak up and down the chain; from the Commanding and Executive Officers to the Bridge Students is very exciting,” explained Lt. Cdr. Deniz Piskin, EBAAT Officer-in-Charge. “They understand the importance of learning critical engineering skills like bridging and the positive impact that these skills can create for their community and country. So they are eager to participate."
Bridge master and safety representative Builder Second Class Matt Triolo talked about the rough start, “The majority of these soldiers are kids, aging 19 to 21, just like us when we came out of boot camp. They don’t necessarily want to be doing it, but they are doing it.”
“We are working with extremely heavy parts, and many of them are not used to manual labor, nor mechanically inclined,” Triolo continued. “They currently need 100% guidance to ensure nobody gets hurt.”
Triolo has proactively established an Afghan safety counterpart to help emphasize proper hand placement, lifting technique and teamwork, effectively minimizing the risk of any safety mishaps occurring on the job site.
So far the idea has been positively reinforced, Triolo explained, “if he sees something, he takes the initiative to fix it so no one gets hurt”.
Triolo hopes to promote a safety plan that remains effective long after the Seabees finish their training with the ANA.
Future training of the Specialty Kandak Bridge Company will include finishing the build-out, launching and landing the bridge, as well as continued practical exercises to ensure the ANA bridge unit is fully mission capable.