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Deployed Army engineers complete massive culvert project at Bagram

By Sgt. Courtney D. Champagne, UPAR March 13, 2017

BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan -- Deployed Army engineer units from across the force teamed up to complete a 14-week long culvert project at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan during the month of November 2016.

The Coyote Creek serves as the primary drainage point for an intricate system of water diversion trenches, retention ponds, and culvert systems in the south perimeter around and underneath the base.

"The ultimate issue was that when the base got heavy rains, it was more water than the culvert system could handle," said Maj. William A. Yount, construction operations officer-in-charge, 368th Engineer Battalion and resident of Cranberry Township, Penn.

Prior to reconstruction, the culvert system at Coyote Creek was not able to handle the volume of water accumulated during Afghanistan's rainy months between December to May, causing a multitude of security and drainage issues.

"Several factors contributed to worrisome conditions at Coyote Creek in addition to the considerable amount of excess water. Previous attempts at construction and repair of the culvert system had caused structural compromise, defective material stability, and obstructed water flow," said 1st Lt. William G. Gentzsch, Coyote Creek Project Officer of the 312th Engineer Company.

Afghan local nationals use Coyote Creek to feed a system of irrigation channels for their farms and homes. The locals' arrangement of dams and restrictions prevented adequate water flow away from the outfall point, causing erosion of the ground and cement footings.

Erosion of the cement footings is dangerous because they serve as a stabilizing structure for the base perimeter.

"The flow issue became a base security integrity issue in addition to an environmental risk," said Gentzsch.

"The immediate concern was to prevent the culvert and surrounding ground from getting saturated during the rainy season and to prevent the wall footers from washing out. This has been a problem in the past but hadn't been permanently addressed, and it was a serious force protection concern," said Gentzsch.

During the early planning phases of the project, a contract with local civilians projected a $2 million cost to complete and address concerns which included a complete culvert system overhaul. Due to the high cost the project was instead assigned to troop labor and projected to cost about $300 thousand.

"The culvert needed to accommodate several factors, to include the discharge from the water treatment facility on Bagram, irrigation field and drainage requirements from locals and farms north of Bagram, and lastly environmental considerations and runoff during the wet season and follow-on snow melts from the mountains from April to May," said Gentzsch.

The new culvert system required a higher volume capacity without eroding the surrounding area or compromising the perimeter. It also needed to minimize disruption to local population water use downstream. To tackle these issue engineers built larger headwalls raised from six feet to 10 feet to prevent flooding.

The 204th Engineer Detachment construction management team from the 16th Engineer Brigade of the Ohio National Guard completed the initial design of the Coyote Creek outfall point construction and repair in the spring of 2016.

"Just before excavation and construction began, the perimeter walls at Coyote Creek had fallen causing the security issue at the site to intensify," said Gentzsch.

To assist in the excavation of the creek bed Soldiers of the 312th Engineer Company of the U.S. Army Reserve based in Duluth, Minn., created the proper grade and slope to allow water to flow away from the base.

"Our phrase in the 312th has been 'The best in the Midwest.' It's nice to be able to go out and do our job," said Sgt. Michael A. Gallagher, heavy equipment operator, 312th Eng. Co. and native of Duluth, Minn.

Once the 312th Eng. Co. completed excavation the 461st Engineer Company of the U.S. Army Reserve based in Fargo, N.D., began the construction of a dam and spillway using recycled concrete and clay.

"The dam was high enough to force enough water through the irrigation system and allow overflow to drain the area and prevent future flooding. The local farmers fill and drain their fields at different times of the season. The end state added 40 percent more outflow ability with the added two pipes," said Gentzsch.

The 461st Eng. Co. built concrete footings 18 inches thick and five feet wide to encompass and support the weight of the entire culvert structure. They also placed recycled crushed concrete, or "riprap" on the up and downstream creek bottoms and sides with geomat used to prevent erosion from underneath.

"The product that the green suit construction team was able to provide was of professional quality at a fraction of the cost that a contractor would have been able to provide in the same time frame with similar equipment, coordination, and materials constraints," said Gentzsch.

"The Soldiers in the 312th and 461st Engineer Companies found innovative solutions. They worked very closely with other entities on Bagram Air Field and they leveraged the Training Advise and Assist Command-East (TAAC-E) to help them solve problems," said Yount.

The units are assigned to the U.S. Army Reserve's 368th Engineer Battalion (Task Force Granite) based in Londonderry, N.H. and under the Texas National Guard's 176th Engineer Brigade (Task Force Chaos) from Grand Prairie, Texas. All units served or are currently serving a nine-month deployment in support of Operation Spartan Shield and Operation Freedom's Sentinel.

"The Coyote Creek project is just one example of the exceptional work being performed by Task Force Chaos Soldiers throughout the CENTCOM Area of Responsibility. This project is a testament to the skills the 312th and 461st Engineer Companies bring to the fight, as well as the dedication and professionalism they put into every project," said Col. Charles M. Schoening, Commander of the 176th Engineer Brigade and Task Force Chaos.

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