Today I’m going to talk about some of the PRT challenges we faced. This is the last piece for my PRT series. If you missed Part 1, start here. It will be mainly a look from the engineering/female standpoint. There were a number of other issues faced by the team. I did not go into the detail of the whole team and just based this story on my experience as a Civil Engineer in Afghanistan.
One of the first challenged dealt with the day-to-day work of managing construction projects. With the opportunity to see most projects only once a month or less. It was hard to manage the work being done by the contractor. And all of our projects were created by previous teams. Most often not even the team before us, but two or three teams before us. This carry-over from the previous teams caused the who, what, why and other important information to be lacking or just missing.
Another issue was the lack of tools and technology available to us. About halfway through the deployment, the roads were starting to get asphalt on them and although we were receiving core samples from the contractors with limited tools we were unable to truly test the quality of the road. We learned that the weight of the MRAP gave a good indication of the durability of the road.
My co-worker was so excited after on mission the team made a three-point turn on the road and it exploded. She had found a way to test the durability of the road. We were able to use this information to analyze the durability of the road and test to see if the road was built by quality standards.
PRT Challenges: Lack of Skilled Workers
The brickwork picture above shows another major challenge. The lack of skilled workers. This is poor construction. We would constantly have the contractors redo the work they had completed because it didn’t meet construction standards. The lack of skill and understanding was found in so many different aspects of the construction. The picture below shows the fill material the contractor used for an expansion joint. Can anyone guess what material they used?
Styrofoam. When we questioned the contractor on why they used Styrofoam they said it was just a temporary solution, but they would fix it. At what was supposed to be the final inspection, the Styrofoam was still in place and was added to the list of things needing to be corrected for final payment.
PRT Challenges: Being a Female in Afghanistan
The number one question people ask me is what my experience was like as a female. I didn’t have any real issues. In some parts of the country, the men and boys wouldn’t look at me. All our contractors were from Kabul (The capital of Afghanistan) and didn’t seem to have a problem working with American women.
The contractors knew that we were in charge and would have to work with us to get paid. The other engineer I was with was also female. We had a few people who worked below us that were males, but they never tried to defer to them. They knew we were in charge and having an engineering degree is something they hold in high regard. It is similar to the respect given to doctors in America. Being American engineers was more important to the Afghans we worked with.
Being sent on a PRT was an experience and I am proud of the work we did. I know that we were not prepared and probably did not make as big as an impact. But I am hopeful something we did is still sticking around to help change the lives of the Afghan people. I have recently learned about ways to help from home. Kiva is a great organization and they allow people to set up micro-lending loans for people in parts of the world that are less fortunate. There were many challenges, but we can still make a difference. Even from home. Check out their site for more information. Kiva.org