149th VCC builds home in Afghanistan

NOTE:  As often as we can, kentuckyguard.com publishes stories by Kentucky National Guard unit public affairs historian representatives, also known as UPAHRs.  This is an additional duty taken on by a Soldier or Airmen with the intent of telling their unit’s story.  This is one such story ….

Story and photos by Spc. John Rader, 149th VCC Unit Public Affairs Historian Representative

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1st Sgt. Grayden Colegrove and Sgt. Justin Stegall of the 149th Vertical Construction Company discuss changes over the blueprints inside the temporary command center during construction at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, May 7, 2013. The building is the largest project the unit has been tasked with according to the commander, Capt. Adam Evans. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. John Rader)

BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan — When the 149th Vertical Construction Company arrived in Afghanistan in March 2013, it was still undecided where the unit would establish its base of operations. A few options were discussed and the decision was made that the 149th would operate out of Bagram Air Field for the duration of their nine-month deployment.

Although Bagram Air Field is one of the largest areas in Afghanistan that the U.S. operates out of, it is very limited on space. The unit was given a five acre piece of land to begin the construction of a large two story structure that will house the unit’s office space, as well as that of the 122nd Engineer Battalion from South Carolina.

“While finding the five acres to build on was a task all its own, we now have a more satisfying task of finally settling in to a space that we can custom build to suit the needs of our company, as well as the South Carolina Battalion we are now a part of,” said Capt. Adam Evans, Commander, 149th VCC.

The 149th has been anticipating of the arrival of the 122nd South Carolina Guardsmen, who began their nine month deployment just one month after the 149th arrived. The 149th will fall under the command of the South Carolina Battalion and assist in missions as one of the two vertical construction companies in the Regional Command East Territory of Afghanistan.

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Sgt. Jacob Estes of the 149th Vertical Construction Company applies sheeting to walls in a construction project at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, May 7, 2013. The building will be the home to the 149th as well as Guardsmen from a South Carolina engineer battalion. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. John Rader)

In order to house an operating command center for the four companies under the South Carolina Battalion, including the 149th, the two story structure will include more thn 60 offices. There will now be office space for all the sections of the Battalion such as supply, personnel, communications, and the Battalion Chaplin, along with many other sectors.

“This is the largest project the 149th has ever tackled. With a very tight construction timeline and many design changes, the Soldiers of the 149th have once again proven they can accomplish any mission. I am very proud of the work ethic and dedication our troops have displayed. This structure will be the enduring symbol of our engineering efforts and it will stand as the tactical operations command center for future Engineering Battalions operating in Afghanistan,” Evans proudly said.

The 14,000 square foot structure has each detail carefully planned out by the Senior Chief Warrant Officer in charge of planning and construction, Chief Warrant Officer Robert Woita. Woita temporally left his Nebraska National Guard Unit to fill an opening with the 149th as the Senior Chief Warrant Officer for the deployment. His accomplishments from his last deployment in Afghanistan include many large structures in the Regional Command East Territory such as a holding facility for detainees and a building material yard for lumber and other construction supplies.

“I believe all of our skill sets are coming together very well with this project,” said Woita.  “On the spot changes to the plans are coming in often and we are able to be flexible to suit needs of each individual office space. I’m very privileged to have a dedicated and experienced crew like the engineers of the 149th that seem to not mind the long hours and on the fly changes.”

The lumber and supplies for the project are coming all the way from Forward Operating Base Sharana where the 149th has a detachment that runs the building material yard that Woita constructed a few years ago. The inventory of the yard includes not only lumber, but a wide variety of plumbing and electrical supplies as well.

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Sgt. Milford Adkins and Spc. Mary Early of the 149th Vertical Construction Company work together to cut sheets of plywood for the walls of a new 14,000 square foot structure on Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, May 7, 2013. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. John Rader)

“Having access to a supply yard in a centralized area within our range of operations makes for rapid and accurate shipments of any materials that we need to complete any missions we’re tasked with such as this one,” said Evans. “Having our own engineers filling orders means we know when the shipment arrives- it will be carefully filled and accurate down to the last bolt.”

Progress of the two story command center is just passed the midway point according to Woita.

“In just a couple more weeks we will be operating and tracking missions out of a permanent structure along with our horizontal construction counterparts from South Carolina. We know that we have built our space to suit every need so we can work very effectively and efficiently to ensure that highest quality of engineering our Soldiers in the field can achieve,” said 149th’s 1st Sgt. Grayden Colegrove.

“We now have a permanent place to hang our hats and call our home until we conclude our time here and begin our trip back to Kentucky.”

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