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Pope Airmen Report from the Front: CE Airman oversees Afghan construction projects

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Cammie Quinn
  • 43rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
More than just building infrastructure and pouring concrete is the life of the deployed civil engineer. For one Airman, the job consisted of overseeing dozens of projects between a string of six bases, ensuring a high quality of work and maintaining a heightened standard of living for Afghan nationals, all the while attempting to ignore the sound of bombs exploding and the ever-present thought of never seeing home again.

1st Lt. Curt Lloyd, 43rd Civil Engineer Squadron, recognized the importance of friends and family a little better after his deployment to Camp Eggers, Afghanistan. This was his first deployment since commissioning into the Air Force, in May 2007.

He originally joined because he felt the call to serve. "The job has got to be done, someone has to do it, that someone should be me," he said. He understood the in's and out's of his job and was eager to see what a civil engineer does in another country.

In his day-to-day job as Pope's Chief of Operations Support, Lieutenant Lloyd supervises six sections within the 43rd CES. His sections include: geobase, that is, making maps and plotting around Pope; planning; customer service, service contracts; material control, and computer support.

While deployed, Lieutenant Lloyd retained his supervisory roles, and became a project manager for the Afghan National Army construction projects. He managed civilian contractors who then sub-contracted the physical work to civilian Afghan companies, who then built facilities for the Afghan Army.

Anxious to broaden his CE knowledge, the lieutenant volunteered for the deployment.

"I wanted it to be a challenging deployment," he said. "I wanted to fill a spot that not very many people wanted to volunteer for, so that somebody who didn't necessarily want to go wouldn't have to."

Although he'd seen pictures and scenes from the news and movies, Lieutenant Lloyd wasn't sure what to expect when he stepped out of the plane. "I didn't have much of a picture in mind," he said, aside from the dirt and cold and then the heat, he was most surprised by the infrastructure. The country had substandard construction practices compared to the U.S. He also commented on the Afghan way of life.

"They're so different," Lieutenant Lloyd said. "Some villages were made of mud - there's a string of mud buildings next to a string of trenches." He also noted that he began to miss the little things that he so easily took for granted in the United States; things like concrete and reliable parking lots.

The lieutenant was able to enjoy and appreciate the quiet beauty of the Afghanistan wilderness. He was surprised at how pretty the landscape was outside the city. He remembers thinking he'd like to go there to visit and camp out sometime. "Except that," he added, "it's not a safe place to vacation yet."

On the job, Lieutenant Lloyd expressed a frustration in the amount of time it took to complete one project. He was particularly proud of his participation in building the Afghan Army Intelligence School. The school was only 25 percent complete and finished out the week he left Camp Eggers.

As imagined, however, circumstances were rarely ideal.

"It would take months before we could even start a project to de-mine an area." To de-mine their work area, the crew took armored steam rollers which pat down the land to detonate the mines.

Another challenge was the minimal level of experience from the Afghan workers. Some workers lacked the initial skill set to even begin the job, forcing the contractors to teach them. Lieutenant Lloyd explained that in a group setting, where jobs are being handed out to electricians and plumbers, a person with a starving family back at home would often raise their hand just to have a job. The balance between humanity and a need to get the job done was one of his most surprising lessons.

Lieutenant Lloyd described the daily scene of seeing families whose only source of income was the money they gathered from selling trinkets on the side of the street. It was while he was among the crowds and during convoy trips that he was most concerned for his and his team's safety.

Although the base encountered sporadic attacks, it was one fallen Airman who most affected him. 1st Lt. Roslyn Schulte worked as an intelligence officer assigned to the 613th Air and Space Operations Center there. She died from wounds suffered from an improvised explosive device during a convoy and was a close friend of Lieutenant Lloyd. After her death, he was nervous for his next convoy. He explained that attacks occur routinely, but because she was the first female from the academy to be killed, it was more somber than most.

Deployed February through August, he missed the summer here and visiting his family in Louisiana. His honesty and genuine sincerity are evident during the times he discussed his family and friends. The most difficult aspect of the deployment, Lieutenant Lloyd said, was being away from home.

While Lieutenant Lloyd was excited to embark on the new adventure, he couldn't help but think if there is something bigger he is meant for and a way he could help others have an easier deployment. Since returning, the lieutenant applied and has been accepted to the Explosive Ordinance Disposal technical school at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. where he will learn how to diffuse explosives. He is looking forward to his next series of deployments.