By MC1 Patrick Gordon, NMCB 25 Public Affairs
From left, interpreter Amy Adl translates for Cmdr. Jennifer Donahue, NMCB 25 commanding officer, to Brigadier Gen. Khalililullah, Afghan National Engineer Brigade commanding officer, Kabul, Afghanistan. Donahue and other ISAF officers met with leaders from the NEB to tour their camp and address issues facing the NEB training mission. Photo MC1 Patrick Gordon
Senior officers of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) met with officers of the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Engineer Brigade (NEB) for a key leader engagement (KLE) at Camp Ghazi, Kabul, Afghanistan, April 15.
Officers present for the KLE visit represented coalition nations including Turkey, Great Britain, Afghanistan, Canada, Italy, France and the United States. The meeting included tours of the NEB barracks, dining facilities, motor pool and working areas.
This KLE comes as the NEB is beginning to be a viable engineering force in Afghanistan. The NEB will be the only engineer brigade in the ANA, and will provide the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA) with an overall engineer command and some specialty engineer capabilities.
The NEB is not, however, without challenges ahead. As a relatively new brigade within the ANA, supply and logistics issues have been difficult to overcome for the NEB, and basic infrastructure improvements are needed at the camp, as well. But in spite of these problems, the NEB forces have persisted in their efforts to learn and lead to provide a better future for themselves and their nation.
“The NEB is a specialized construction battalion that will be able to execute missions and projects such as bridges, water wells, and horizontal and vertical repairs, so theirs is a very important mission,” said Lt. Cmdr. Alfonso Patlan, commander, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 25 November Company. “They have been training since November of 2013 for this mission, and just graduated their initial training. They will be starting their advanced training shortly, and pretty soon will be doing their own projects while we just advise.”
The key leaders met after the tour to discuss the challenges facing the NEB and solutions to better facilitate their mission. Each officer involved brought valuable expertise in order to ensure the best possible training and conditions for the NEB soldiers. Solutions presented at the meeting included improved ISAF advisor interaction at the Central Supply Depot and stronger asset control to ensure material and equipment is reaching those in the NEB who need it most.
“We have created several stopgaps to prevent such supply problems from happening, for instance we have used the FEPP [foreign excess personal property] process to donate tools to the NEB,” said Cmdr. Jennifer Donahue, commanding officer, NMCB 25. “We should have those inventoried by the end of the week so that we can begin rehabilitation of the 200 buildings at the beginning of next month. We are dedicated to help in any way that we can and start as soon as we can.”
Once these challenges were addressed, an action plan was agreed upon to ensure fast and effective solutions.
“The plan needs to be aggressive, both in the timeline for execution and about holding people to account for these actions,” said British Army Maj. Gen. James Hockenhull, director, Ministry of Defense Military Advisory Group. “What we should do, as the generals in here, is to make sure both the ANA, the general staff, ministry of defense and the coalition are held to account to make sure that we deliver against that action plan. I know that there are already some actions in hand, but I really want to drive this forward as a sort of ‘get well’ plan for the engineers today.”
After the tour, ANA Brig. Gen. Khalililullah, NEB commanding officer, commended the hard work of his troops and those of coalition forces in the effort to train and equip the NEB.
“I’m very pleased and thankful of you gentlemen and lady who came here, and thank you for the collaboration that you are providing us,” said Khalililullah. “It’s very clear that the coalition forces are focusing on the ANA in order to sustain this brigade. We would like to continue your support with us that we should gain the capacity to move forward.”
At the end of the KLE, the ISAF and NEB officers parted ways confident in each other’s abilities to provide the NEB with the training and tools it needs for mission accomplishment in the future.