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Raising scaffolds, lifting spirits

Published Feb. 27, 2013

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s Afghanistan Engineer District is providing valuable engineering and construction services to support the international effort to establish a secure and stable environment in Afghanistan. Army Corps personnel from around the world deploy to this district to take part in this mission and the New York District is playing a big part in this effort.

New York District deployees want us to know that being a part of this mission is extremely beneficial for the Afghan society and it also enriches their lives.

Deployees are helping to build better communities for the Afghans and providing them the tools to maintain them. In addition, the Afghans are willing to learn from them and the deployees are benefiting from the whole experience.

One of these New York District deployees is Jeffrey Ice, “From the assembly of a plan and the viewing of its construction to the ultimate completion of a product, what we are doing here is creating a new and improved way of life for the people of Afghanistan,” said Ice, who is deployed as a Safety Specialist in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Ice recalls a time when he was able to use his safety expertise to help and improve Afghan communities. "The Afghan contractors were erecting scaffolding like toothpicks to work off of,” said Ice. “The most common safety incident at construction sites are falls.”

He promptly made copies of a photo that showed how a scaffold should be properly erected to be safer for workers and distributed it to various construction sites. "When I came back to the project sites, I noticed that their scaffolding now looked like the photos I left with them," said Ice with pride.

What Ice and other deployees are doing is providing the Afghans the tools they need to maintain their communities. Ice said, “In Afghanistan I’ve had the opportunity to work with what I consider raw material. The material is the culture of workers that do not understand the importance of safety.  We are presenting to these workers a golden opportunity to learn and absorb mechanisms in incident prevention with life saving elements.”

He continued, “We are providing the people of Afghanistan with a new way of building and constructing, using equipment they have never seen before and performing job tasks in a way they never conceived as methodically possible.  It’s like the first few steps for a baby.”

 And the Afghan people want to learn from us. “I’ve learned that with a little patience people of a depressed society such as this one hunger for new knowledge and adapt to the means and methods provided by the Army Corps,” added Ice.

When a society is receptive to what people are willing to offer them, positive changes can occur and this can be very gratifying. Eric Leuffgen, Project Manager, New York District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said, “I like working on projects that help the local Afghans. It’s rewording to know that your effort is going to a good cause.” Leuffgen is deployed in Kandahar, Afghanistan with the 553rd EN DET, Forward Engineer Support Team – Advance (FEST-A).

It’s not only educational for the Afghans, but also for our deployees. The deployees are living in a different country, working in a fast paced environment, completing a wide variety of projects, using different equipment, and working side by side with employees from other Army Corps Districts. The deployees say that what keeps them going is knowing that they are supported by their coworkers and families at home and the friendships they develop while away.

Glenn Chinnery, New York District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who recently returned from being deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan said, “Being with co-workers from the New York District and working with others from different districts was very rewarding. It felt good to know that the New York District folks were thinking about us by sending us their care packages.”

Roland Tajalle, New York District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is currently on his 4th deployment with the FEST-A team said, “There is a special bond that you build with a group of people that can only be built here.  We came together as strangers and we will leave here as a family.”

Interested in deploying? Many positions are needed.

To get more information, contact Christine Carney,