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Building up Bulgaria

Sep 14, 2009

By Carol Davis (USACE Europe District)

NEVO SELO TRAINING RANGE, Bulgaria - Sitting in a sunlit office poring over a Cyrillic-scrawled map of the Bulgarian countryside that lies just outside his window, Patrick Klever, the resident engineer at the newly formed Bulgaria field office, is adapting to his new environment - one that he's busy planning for incoming U.S. Soldiers.

Klever oversees the $50-million contract to construct expeditionary structures at a 135-acre forward operating site near the city of Sliven, Bulgaria, that will support about 2,500 soldiers during joint military training activities. The site will include 77 facilities in all, including 23 barracks buildings, a chapel, post office, fitness center, several administrative, operational, maintenance, storage, dining, and medical facilities, and basic infrastructure such as utilities, roads, walkways, and parking areas, all of which are expected to be used for at least 20 years.

In effect, he's creating a military training base that resembles what U.S. Soldiers find at their home bases.

"The main priority of the FOS is to provide a training platform where U.S. and Bulgarian Soldiers can train together, learn from each other and learn a different culture," said Armando Solis, acting area engineer for Eastern Europe.

Living and working in a culturally different country where nothing, including the alphabet, is familiar would create a challenge for more people, Klever said. But he believes he is in the right place at the right time.

"I love muddy-boots construction management and I've been happiest in my professional life when I'm doing this," said Klever who spent approximately 10 years in the Army and 32 years as a government employee during various engineering jobs. "I love it here and I feel as though I'm making a real difference here, the only thing missing in Bulgaria is my wife. Then it would be perfect."

Klever, a Toledo native, said his journey began when Ron Miller, a math teacher at St. John's Jesuit High School, asked him what it was he was passionate about. When Klever responded drawing and building things, Miller suggested he consider engineering. It has been Klever's focus ever since.

A former Boy Scout and West Point cadet who later transferred out to University of Toledo, Klever said his journey thus far - his "crucible" - has taught him to think independently and creatively. "I believe that engineering is not a degree, it's not a profession; it's a thought process," he said. "West Point and the Boy Scouts taught me to look at the total solution. ... Anyone can design something but only an engineer can look at all of parameters, cost, time and aesthetics and come up with the best solution."

Finding solutions is something Klever said he does on a daily basis in Bulgaria.

"Here in Bulgaria we are taught that everything we do, we have to come to the same result," said Magdalena Rabina, contractor management assistant. "But it turns out that the way we are used to doing things and the way Americans way is quite different, and it's nice to have Pat to ask advice or explain things."

Contracting differences are not the only differences to deal with in Bulgaria. Here, something as simple as the way Americans shake their heads to indicate yes or no is the exact opposite. All of which makes construction management in Bulgaria challenging.

"Pat is doing a great job," said Solis. "He has a warmth, which is needed to do the job completely, he's a good engineer and most importantly he's patient," said Solis.

Patience is exactly what it will take to see the project through to completion. The facility is expected to be complete late 2010.

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