Conn. ANG engineer BEEFs up projects in Afghanistan

  • Published
  • By Navy Lt. j.g. Cheryl Collins
  • ISAF Public Affairs
Building a bunker wall at an Afghan base in northern Afghanistan may seem like a typical engineering task, but this was no ordinary project for Staff Sgt. Arthur Mitchell, a civil engineer with the 577th Expeditionary Prime BEEF (Base Emergency Engineer Force) Squadron. This project was an opportunity to partner with Afghan Soldiers, a highlight of his recent deployment to northern Afghanistan.

"We helped the Afghan National Army build two bunker walls that were 200 meters in length. In addition, we helped build a sidewalk that was 300 meters in length," Mitchell proudly stated with details, as any engineer would do.

Working shoulder-to-shoulder with fellow Afghan soldiers helped Mitchell experience the Afghan culture. "I got a chance to learn a little bit of Dari, and I got a chance to have a traditional tea with local Afghan nationals. It was an honor."

Mitchell is a Connecticut Air National Guardsman from the 103rd Airlift Wing based in East Grandy, Conn., who recently finished his deployment to Afghanistan as a part of the Prime BEEF Squadron. Their mission is to support engineering projects at the Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) throughout northern Afghanistan.

"We're looking to improve the quality of life at the actual FOBs. It could be installing tents, simple Latrine-Shower-Shave (LSS) units, anything to make the Soldiers' lives better," said Senior Master Sgt. Douglas Margelony, the Operations Superintendent with the 577th EPBS who worked with Mitchell. And as a Utility Systems journeyman, Mitchell held a critical role within the unit.

If you've ever gone without water at your home for a day, you can understand how important Mitchell's job is. "Air Force Utility System technicians provide water supply and waste systems at different bases. We plumb toilets, showers, and bathrooms," Mitchell said while describing his job. But as a civil engineer, Mitchell also augmented other trades like carpentry, heavy equipment operations and electrical work during his time in Afghanistan.

The Hartford, Conn. native felt the call to serve with the Connecticut Army National Guard when he enlisted in 2001 after September 11th. He later transitioned to the Connecticut Air National Guard in 2007.

His time in the National Guard has taken him to Afghanistan twice. The first time, he deployed to Kandahar for 15 months. During that deployment, he was a petroleum specialist and fueler for Chinook, Blackhawk and Apache helicopters.

When Mitchell arrived at Camp Marmal in August 2011 for his second deployment, the Prime BEEF engineers quickly began working on one of their first big projects. "We went over to Meymaneh, a Norwegian forward operating base, where I worked with the Structures shop building a LAMS-V (Large Area Maintenance Shelter for Vehicles) from the ground up," he said when describing the structure that usually houses equipment or aircraft. "When we flew out of Meymaneh, and I looked out the window and saw this gigantic structure, you know it felt good that we brought all of our talents together and built this large structure."

Like the other National Guardsmen who were called up for this deployment, Mitchell has finished his time here in Afghanistan with a sense of accomplishment. He now looks to his future and how he can continue to use his construction skills to help others.

"I want to re-enlist and finish my 20-year career and eventually use what I've learned with civil engineering to go back to either Jamaica or Africa to help engineer people's lives," said Mitchell whose family is from Jamaica. "I've been given opportunities, so I want to provide a way other people can have just as many or more opportunities than I've had."