KABUL, Afghanistan – In a small hut at the Central Workshop in Kabul, a small group of coalition service members working for the Central Workshop Adviser Team arrive daily to provide support to their Afghan counterparts.
Comprised largely of maintenance personnel, they provide instruction on maintenance practices, supply procedures, leadership and teach the Afghans how to coordinate with other shops and external units.
The Central Workshop is the national depot level maintenance facility for the Afghan National Army employing 200 military and 1,275 government civilians. It covers repair and fabrication of all the ANA equipment, with the majority of work occurring on vehicles, weapons, and communication equipment.
The facility is currently undergoing a $14.7M coalition-sponsored renovation and it was clear which areas had been redone and which had not. One of the newly renovated areas is the vehicle maintenance and repair facility.
Cmdr. Christopher Williams, the Central Workshop senior adviser, thinks the renovations already done are making things better.
“It has created a much better working environment and it has greatly increased their capacity for doing work,” said Williams. “Right now, just having concrete in the motor pool helps; getting them up out of the mud and gravel makes a difference.”
Previously work crews had to maintain the vehicles in a dirt and gravel yard. Now they have concrete floors and workbenches, and are getting ready to install jib cranes in the work bays along with maintenance pits. This type of modernization of the facilities has had an immediate effect on the quality and capacity to get work done.
The tour visited most of the 43 workshops on the base. While some were newly renovated many were still using the equipment left by the previous government. The aging equipment, most more than 70 years old, in the metal working shops rely heavily on the skill of the craftsman and lack the sophisticated controls found in modern factories.
In spite of the equipment limitations, the Central Workshop is still capable of meeting the demands of the ANA. The skilled craftsmen employed there produce highly detailed parts for use in modern machines. The amount of training and experience required however is very high.
Training is a never ending project as some of the civilian work force take the skills learned here and use them to gain employment elsewhere. This isn’t a problem though as teaching the Afghans trade skills is part of the mission.
The motivation of the Afghan workers is high.
“Overall, they’re pretty motivated to get to work,” he said. “They complain about all the work that goes to contractors instead of to them.”
One area that was very active during the visit was the weapons rehabilitation section. This area handles everything from small arms to heavy artillery while providing accountability for each weapon. In one warehouse, a group of ANA soldiers was counting AK-47 rifles and reconditioning shoulder fired rocket propelled grenade launchers.
Across the street, Russian made D-30 Howitzers were being refurbished for use by the ANA. The weapons, some left over from the Russian occupation, some donated by partner nations, are fully restored by Afghan workers trained by General Dynamics and UDC of Ukraine contractors before being certified for field use.
In all, the capabilities of the Central Workshop are especially noteworthy given the equipment limitations. The renovations will undoubtedly increase their effectiveness.
“The renovation coupled with the training and mentorship for weapons, communications, and vehicles will increase the capability and throughput of the Central Workshop,” said Williams.
This work, Coalition team guides ANA Central Workshop, by LT Russell Wolfkiel, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.