News: Corps of Engineers finishes Afghanistan projects, closes South Area office
Story by William Dowell
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers closed another chapter in Afghanistan as the Transatlantic Afghanistan District’s, or TAA’s, South Area Office was inactivated in a ceremony June 6 at Kandahar Airfield.
Less than a year ago, the Corps had two Afghanistan districts, north and south. Those districts were inactivated mid-2013 as Corps officials whittled down the number of projects they were overseeing. A single district, TAA, was activated July 9 overseeing three area offices, Bagram, Kabul and the South, or SAO.
The SAO initially had three resident and four project offices overseeing 84 construction projects with an estimated $1.4 billion cost. The projects spanned 11 provinces in Regional Commands-South, -Southwest and –West. Officials from the last resident office, Kandahar, or KRO, and its two project offices, Arena and Helmand, will now oversee the 26 remaining projects left in the SAO’s area.
In the SAO’s 11 months of existence, Corps engineers and quality assurance representatives exceeded the district’s goals. They averaged 5.3 projects a month, compared to the previous district’s four-year average of 2.7 projects per month, turning over 58 projects compared to 31 the previous year. This was done while reducing the workforce by 71 percent in just 10 months.
“This is significant since we achieved these results during a reduction in the workforce of 71 percent by May 2014,” said outgoing SAO Officer in Charge Lt. Col. John Connor. “A Corps’ strength, and a fundamental reason for the SAO’s success, is that this team always found a way to identify the issue, develop the situation and achieve positive outcomes. It’s the mark of excellence and I am thankful I was a small part of it.”
Connor also credits the regional commands for the success. According to him, they were extraordinary in their support in every way.
A majority of the SAO projects consisted of constructing battalion and brigade garrisons, compounds, border posts, and training, maintenance and support facilities for Afghan National Security Forces.
“These projects enable Afghan soldiers and police to live, work and train in quality facilities so they can better serve and protect their nation,” Connor said.
For these projects the Corps acts as a construction agent, meaning it’s tasked and funded by other agencies, to contract and oversee construction in accordance with Federal Acquisition Regulations and Corps guidance. Once an agency identifies a need and receives congressional authorization and funding, Corps officials are directed to build the projects.
During the ceremony the SAO flag was lowered and the KRO flag was raised, symbolizing transfer of leadership from Connor to KRO Officer in Charge Maj. Robert Moore. The KRO is scheduled to inactivate at the end of 2014 with the Middle East District, or MED, located in Winchester, Virginia, assuming responsibility of the area as part of their normal operations.
MED is responsible for Corps of Engineers operations in the Middle East, Central Asia and other areas as required. They have permanently stationed personnel in several overseas field offices throughout the region.