SEH DU-KAHN, Afghanistan (August 13, 2011) — As part of the ongoing process to transition the Detention Facility in Parwan (DFIP) to eventual Afghan control, engineers from Combined Joint Interagency Task Force (CJIATF) 435 conducted a survey of the surrounding area in Parwan Aug. 10 in an effort to connect part of the complex to Afghanistan’s national power grid.
The project, when complete, will bring 220-volt/50-megahertz power, the standard electric setup used throughout Afghanistan, to the Afghanistan National Army (ANA) Life Support Area and the Justice Center in Parwan (JCIP).
U.S. Army Lt. Col. Mark Martinez, of Ft. Leavenworth, Kan., and Chief of Engineers for CJIATF 435, leads the coordination effort to bring sustainable power to the complex. He said it is important for the ANA and JCIP to have access to Afghanistan’s power grid because the equipment used by the ANA and personnel at the JCIP is designed to operate on the 220v/50MHz setup.
“This project will be critical to the transitioning of the Parwan Complex to Afghan Control,” Martinez said. “Currently, the Afghan National Army Life Support Area and Justice Center in Parwan are powered by generators. The fuel and maintenance costs are not Afghan sustainable. ”
For U.S. State Department representative Vince Juaristi, the Justice Center Program Manager, the connection of the ANA life support area and the JCIP to the Afghan power grid is about more than just hooking up equipment to electrical circuits.
“All infrastructure has three big sustainability questions – electricity, water, and sewer. Once in place, these power lines will let Afghan workers at an Afghan facility use Afghan power instead of relying on generators that use a huge amount of fuel every day, require constant maintenance, and frequently fail,” Juaristi said. “The Afghans at the JCIP will be able to pay a monthly power bill instead of worry about filling the 22 generators’ tanks every day.”
As part of the project, power lines will be constructed near villages, like Seh Du-kahn, that are dotted around Bagram Air Field and along the route to the JCIP.
Martinez and Juaristi both said this project would provide an opportunity to connect Seh Du-kahn and the other villages with sustainable electricity and more.
“By reaching out to local villages, we do more than string wire and move electrons,” Juaristi said. “We make friends, and we offer a basic service – electricity – that helps these local people with daily living, but it does something more. It lets them start businesses or build new facilities of their own.”
Juaristi said by providing the villages with sustainable electricity, local Afghans will have an opportunity to prosper both socially and economically.
“I called this a ‘Power to the People’ tour, both in reality and in metaphor, because the electricity gives them more options in their lives to expand their capabilities, build an economic corridor, and provide jobs,” Juarisit said. “That’s good for us, for them, and for our mission in Afghanistan.”
Once the CJIATF 435 engineers finish the project proposal, it will go out for bid to local Afghan contractors. The expectation is to have the project complete sometime this winter, connecting one more Afghan village to the nation’s infrastructure and providing yet another step in the eventual turnover of the Parwan facility to full Afghan control.
For Martinez, that desire to see this project through is personally important.
“Walking through the villages that are just outside the hard perimeter fence of Bagram Air Field, one can see how our Afghan neighbors must see us,” he said. “The greatest nation on earth, protected and pampered, while its neighbors, no more than a stone’s throw away, struggle to keep their wells from drying up and their generators from running out of fuel. By connecting this village and sharing the electricity through this project, I hope in some small way, this blurs the line that separates ‘them from us.’”
CJIATF 435, headquartered at Camp Phoenix in Kabul, includes U.S. service members from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force, as well as coalition partners and civilian members from the following agencies: U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the U.S. Department of Justice, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, International Security Assistance Force Joint Command, the U.S. Marshals Service and the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan.
CJIATF 435, in partnership with the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and U.S. interagency and international partners conducts operations in detention, corrections, judicial and biometrics in order to transition detention operations to Afghan control and promote Rule of Law.