HomeNewsArticle Display

No mountain too high, no bridge too far for Afghan PRT

Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team director Ben Lowenthal (left) listens in Aug. 4 as Senior Master Sgt. Roger Smith and Teresa Morales discuss the concrete joints being used at a school construction project in Afghanistan. Ms. Morales, a civil engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is deployed from Portland, Ore. Sergeant Smith is deployed from Langley Air Force Base, Va. Once completed the school will accommodate children from several villages in the province. The children are currently attending classes in makeshift tents overlooking the construction site. The project is one of several being monitored by the PRT in the Paryan district of Panjshir province, Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Jim Varhegyi)

Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team director Ben Lowenthal (left) listens in Aug. 4 as Senior Master Sgt. Roger Smith and Teresa Morales discuss the concrete joints being used at a school construction project in Afghanistan. Ms. Morales, a civil engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is deployed from Portland, Ore. Sergeant Smith is deployed from Langley Air Force Base, Va. Once completed the school will accommodate children from several villages in the province. The children are currently attending classes in makeshift tents overlooking the construction site. The project is one of several being monitored by the PRT in the Paryan district of Panjshir province, Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Jim Varhegyi)

Teresa Morales and 1st Lt. Lee Turcotte discuss the progress of a school construction project with contractors Aug. 4 in the Paryan district of Panjshir Province, Afghanistan.  Ms. Morales, a civil engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers deployed from Portland, Ore., and Lieutenant Turcotte, a civil engineer from McGuire Air Force Base, N.J., are members of the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team. The school project is one of several being monitored by the PRT. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Jim Varhegyi)

Teresa Morales and 1st Lt. Lee Turcotte discuss the progress of a school construction project with contractors Aug. 4 in the Paryan district of Panjshir Province, Afghanistan. Ms. Morales, a civil engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers deployed from Portland, Ore., and Lieutenant Turcotte, a civil engineer from McGuire Air Force Base, N.J., are members of the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team. The school project is one of several being monitored by the PRT. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Jim Varhegyi)

First Lt. Lee Turcotte discusses the progress of a school construction project with the contractor Aug. 4 in the Paryan district of Panjshir Province, Afghanistan.  Lieutenant Turcotte, a civil engineer from McGuire Air Force Base, N.J., is a member of the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team. The school project is one of several being monitored by the PRT.  Once completed the school will accommodate children from several villages in the province. The children are currently attending classes in makeshift tents overlooking the construction site. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Jim Varhegyi)

First Lt. Lee Turcotte discusses the progress of a school construction project with the contractor Aug. 4 in the Paryan district of Panjshir Province, Afghanistan. Lieutenant Turcotte, a civil engineer from McGuire Air Force Base, N.J., is a member of the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team. The school project is one of several being monitored by the PRT. Once completed the school will accommodate children from several villages in the province. The children are currently attending classes in makeshift tents overlooking the construction site. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Jim Varhegyi)

Senior Master Sgt. Roger Smith looks over the rebar grid Aug. 4 which will reinforce the concrete roof at a school construction project in the Paryan district of Panjshir Province, Afghanistan.  Sergeant Smith, a member of the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team, is deployed from Langley Air Force Base, Va.  Once completed, the school will accommodate children from several villages in the province. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Jim Varhegyi)

Senior Master Sgt. Roger Smith looks over the rebar grid Aug. 4 which will reinforce the concrete roof at a school construction project in the Paryan district of Panjshir Province, Afghanistan. Sergeant Smith, a member of the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team, is deployed from Langley Air Force Base, Va. Once completed, the school will accommodate children from several villages in the province. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Jim Varhegyi)

Members of the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team check on the progress of a school construction project Aug. 4 in the Paryan district of Panjshir Province, Afghanistan.  Once completed, the school will accommodate children from several villages in the province. The children are currently attending classes in makeshift tents overlooking the construction site.  The project is one of several being monitored by the PRT.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Jim Varhegyi)

Members of the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team check on the progress of a school construction project Aug. 4 in the Paryan district of Panjshir Province, Afghanistan. Once completed, the school will accommodate children from several villages in the province. The children are currently attending classes in makeshift tents overlooking the construction site. The project is one of several being monitored by the PRT. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Jim Varhegyi)

Staff Sgt. Julie Weckerlein plays a finger game with a local village boy at a school construction project Aug. 4 in the Paryan district of Panjshir Province, Afghanistan.  Sergeant Weckerlein is a print journalist deployed from the Pentagon and assigned to the U.S. Central Command Air Forces news team based in Southwest Asia. She is traveling with the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team operating in Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Jim Varhegyi)

Staff Sgt. Julie Weckerlein plays a finger game with a local village boy at a school construction project Aug. 4 in the Paryan district of Panjshir Province, Afghanistan. Sergeant Weckerlein is a print journalist deployed from the Pentagon and assigned to the U.S. Central Command Air Forces news team based in Southwest Asia. She is traveling with the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team operating in Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Jim Varhegyi)

PANJSHIR PROVINCE, Afghanistan (AFPN) -- Whether crawling over dirt mounds to inspect a school, hiking mountains 9,000 feet above sea level or handing out stuffed animals, members of the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team are pushing progress in Afghanistan.

"It's a very unique job," said Lt. Col. Christopher Luedtke, PRT commander who deployed from Hill Air Force Base, Utah. "No day is ever the same here in the Hindu Kush."

A combined team of Airmen, Soldiers, U.S. civilians and Afghans make up this PRT north of Kabul. They support the construction of micro hydro plants for electricity generation, new roads, bridges, wells, schools, district centers and even a radio station through Task Force Cincinnatus, Combined Joint Task Force-82 and the International Security Assistance Force. Since 2005, a Panjshir PRT has delivered radios, cement, humanitarian and medical aid throughout the province.

It's a job that requires lots of energy, said Teresa Morales, an Army Corps of Engineers civil engineer, who visits the various construction sites. She climbs over piles of bricks and bounds up partially-constructed stairs to conduct inspections of PRT-funded projects.

"I try to be as thorough as possible during the inspections," she said. "Sometimes that takes up a lot of time, but it's important because the earlier you spot potential problems, the easier it is to fix them."

The construction projects are funded by the PRT, but contracted to Afghan businesses. This means all the work is done by the Afghans themselves.

"That is a win-win situation," said Colonel Luedtke, who added that all projects are worked through the local district managers and other officials. "The Afghans have control over the project and they build it themselves, which instills pride too. They invest the time into it, so they want the project done right."

Of course, doing something right takes a little bit of time. When a need is brought to the attention of the local officials and the PRT, it can take about six to nine months for a project's completion. The PRT helps with contract negotiation, planning, inspecting and the gathering of resources. But it is the Afghans who put it all together.

"For a long time they used clay for their buildings," said Ms. Morales, "so the buildings weren't built to last. Since we're supplying them with bricks and cement now, the workers have had to adapt to the new material." 

First Lt. Lee Turcotte, a civil engineering officer from McGuire AFB, N.J., said he and Ms. Morales are impressed with the Afghans'  work.

"They work very quickly," he said, pointing out that all the work needs to be completed before the winter comes, which can be very harsh in the Hindu Kush. "They listen to our recommendations too. They are proud of their work, and they should be. These schools, bridges and micro hydros are very important to them."

When not visiting construction sites, the PRT members also are providing humanitarian and medical aid for the local citizens. The Panjshir PRT benchmarked a cement self-help program. Loads of cement are delivered to local district centers for distribution on community projects. The team also may load donkeys with rice, tea and personal hygiene kits to be carried over mountains to remote villages.

"We always try to bring something to the places we go," said Capt. Kevin Kubly, medical officer for the PRT who is deployed from Elmendorf AFB, Alaska. "There is always a need for whatever we can bring."

In all, more than $30 million in projects have been spearheaded by Panjshir PRT to increase Afghans' capacity for governance, security and development.

Whether PRT members are on a hill in a high mountain village to meet with local elders and leaders, or driving along to a construction site, they always make the effort to establish relationships with the people they contact.

"If I'm waiting around at a site and I notice a couple kids, I'll go over and talk to them," said Senior Airman David Weidman, who is deployed from Altus AFB, Okla., and provides transportation for the team. "I'll hand out pens or candy and try my best to communicate with them."

Colonel Luedtke said he's most impressed with how his Airmen have adapted to the unique mission at the PRT.

"Where in the Air Force do we train specifically for this kind of work?" he asked. "The truth is, there is no specialized PRT training. Everything we do is based on the basics of all those leadership classes and lessons we get along the way in our military career," he said.

"All of us came here with specialized knowledge about our career fields, but at the end of the day it comes down to all of us trusting each other, respecting each other, doing our best every day and instilling a can-do attitude to solve ill-defined challenges."

Comment on this story (comments may be published on Air Force Link)

Click here to view the comments/letters page 

Engage

Twitter
#ICYMI, the DAF has worked to optimize air & space capabilities in the Arctic region, supporting @DeptofDefense obj… https://t.co/rEi19ZLmjs
Twitter
Airmen and Soldiers transport a simulated patient to an Army HH-60M Black Hawk medevac helicopter during a joint em… https://t.co/EMMEQBDbyA
Twitter
RT @AirNatlGuard: .@SD_Guard F-16s with the 114th Fighter Wing fly over South Dakota during #CombatRaider 21. Various @usairforce & ANG uni…
Twitter
.@RamsteinAirBase Airmen worked w/ @USAfricaCommand and Tunisian Air Force personnel to provided 310 canisters of o… https://t.co/RY83o75XAQ
Twitter
RT @AFSOUTH: SrA Luis Pratts a @usairforce F-16 Crew Chief at #RelampagoVI not only launches airpower daily during his time in #Colombia bu…
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: Secretary Kendall’s first message to @USAirForce #Airmen & @SpaceForceDoD #Guardians: “If there is one phrase that summa…
Twitter
Since 1973, the remains of more than 1,000 American service members killed in the Vietnam War have been identified… https://t.co/6ZrdLbl8dP
Twitter
Frank Kendall was sworn in as the 26th Secretary of the Air Force! As the department's highest-ranking civilian le… https://t.co/Fe5CXpdDlj
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: Secretary Kendall has hit the ground running on his first day, meeting with Under Secretary Jones, Gen. CQ Brown, Jr. (@…
Twitter
Northern Strike, one of @DeptofDefense's largest reserve exercises, is preparing to launch. 5,100 participants from… https://t.co/VaRCeWFnb3
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: (1/2) The Secretary is in the building! The Honorable Frank Kendall arrived to the Pentagon this morning and was admini…
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: After over six months in the role, A/SecAF Roth sent a farewell letter to #Airmen & #Guardians this evening: “I am in co…
Twitter
Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams at @TeamEglin, @TeamTyndall, and @HurlburtField, Florida, test a new X-Ray system… https://t.co/bombk9WqhD
Twitter
Gina Ortiz Jones was sworn in as the Under Secretary of the Air Force. The second highest-ranking civilian leader… https://t.co/9aMOfEDv6A
Twitter
RT @USAF_ACC: "The balance between capability and capacity is delicate. That’s why our new Fighter Roadmap outlines the way to do both. Th…
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: USecAF Jones attended the unveiling ceremony at the Pentagon for the 2021 National POW/MIA Recognition Day poster. #YouA
Twitter
.@AF_Academy cadets completed the Basic Cadet Training assault course in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The six-week t… https://t.co/o4hTS4B1x8
Twitter
"We were chasing the sun. We actually saw the sunset for 8 hours." - Maj. Cassidy Helregel, 89th Airlift Squadron… https://t.co/QkxIMT8CDq
Twitter
The #DAFArticStrategy discussion happens today. Register for free: https://t.co/A1r9lOlW0y https://t.co/WTLtyEt8jX
Twitter
A new Tactical Air Control Party program is now combat ready. Using multi-channel communications equipment in Humve… https://t.co/ihY1nXf9X2
Facebook
The newest Air Force Podcast recently dropped. Listen to a small snippet of CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright talk with Staff Sgt. New about resiliency. Listen to the entire podcast on Youtube: https://go.usa.gov/xpnAD or Subscribe to The Air Force Podcast on iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/podcast/the-air-force-podcast/id1264107694?mt=2
Facebook
Our mantra, "Always ready!" It's the spirit we fly by! #B2Tuesday
Facebook
Need some motivation to get your week started off right? Listen as CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright weighs in...
Facebook
The U.S. Air Force Academy gives its cadets some unique opportunities. Ride along one of this opportunities.
Facebook
A United States Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker refuels an F-22 Raptor over northern Iraq, Nov. 6, 2019. U.S. Central Command operations deter adversaries and demonstrate support for allies and partners in the region. (Video by Staff Sgt. Daniel Snider)
Facebook
Although the Silver Star is the third-highest military medal, it's not given often. Today, TSgt Cody Smith was the 49th Special Tactics Airman to receive this medal since Sept. 11th, 2001. Read more of TSgt Smith's amazing story: https://www.airforcespecialtactics.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2024815/special-tactics-airman-battled-through-injuries-awarded-silver-star/fbclid/IwAR2LZWwx1VHdTnQe39rIEBOuJS_0JvMQBBGt7I-E6zsxxn-Lx9387yu43Bc/ Cannon Air Force Base Air Force Special Operations Command United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)
Facebook
Tune in as our Air Force musicians along with other military musicians are awarded the National Medal of Arts.
Facebook
Like Us
Twitter
1,354,871
Follow Us