By U.S. Army Capt. Kent Caldwell
505th Engineer Battalion
BALKH PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Camp John Pratt construction reached another milestone this week as the 875th Engineer Company (Horizontal) completed the large earthen dining facility pad and started excavation of the storm water retention pond.
The storm water retention pond project will be essential to drainage of the 880-acre camp, which was recently dedicated and named after fallen U.S. Chief Warrant Officer 5 John C. Pratt. The camp is purposed as an alternate retrograde staging area for troops and equipment leaving Afghanistan.
The construction of Camp John Pratt retrograde facilities is currently the largest troop-based construction effort and ranks as the number one construction priority Afghanistan. It has significant strategic importance as the 2014 International Security Assistance Force withdrawal deadline approaches.
The 411th Engineer Brigade, known as Joint Task Force Empire, manages a joint engineer task force composed of Army and Air Force engineers to accomplish this expansive construction mission. The 875th falls under the direct operational control of Task Force Hurricane, a conglomeration of active, reserve, and National Guard engineer units led by members of the 841st Engineer Battalion out of Miami, Fla.
The 875th Engineer Company hit the ground running in Afghanistan and continued cut and fill operations where the prior unit left off. The high sense of urgency continued as they transitioned to the storm water retention pond due to the approaching wet weather season. The equipment operators will move more than 675,000 cubic yards of earth in 60 days. The end result will make a large dent in the Afghanistan countryside approximately 27 acres by an average of 15 feet deep. Capt. William Dudley, 875th company commander, acknowledges the challenges inherent in the project.
“The details of Camp John Pratt construction as an overall mission are very complex. The storm-water pond construction, as well as many of the other projects on this camp, allow for the opportunity for me to use all the military occupational specialties under my command and develop each soldier’s job proficiency and leadership skills.”