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Memphis Reachback Engineering: Helping to Combat Afghan Insurgency

USACE Memphis District Public Affairs Office
Published July 6, 2016

Six members of the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Memphis District are helping the Afghan National Police (ANP) combat insurgency from the comfort of their Memphis office through a process called Reachback Engineering.

Reachback Engineering allows Department of Defense personnel deployed around the world to “reachback” to USACE personnel back home in the States for engineering expertise not available in the deployed location.

Matthew Turner (Lead), Jordan Bledsoe (civil engineering), Daniel Rocha (structural engineering), Marnisha Richard (structural engineering), Mallory Harvey (structural engineering), and Neal Newman (value engineering) are part of a Mississippi Valley Division (MVD) team providing Reachback Engineering support to U.S. personnel on the ground in Afghanistan. The team is participating in a project (with a somewhat cumbersome name) called the Afghan Reachback Gender Project: Female Police Town (Phase 1).

Construction of the Female Police Town is an important part of an Afghan-led endeavor to increase the number of trained female police officers. Increasing the number of women in a police force that mostly consists of men, enhances its capability to combat the insurgency. Jordan Bledsoe, civil engineer on the project, explained the project’s cultural and practical significance.

Bledsoe said cultural propriety does not allow male officers to enter homes or rooms that belong to females or to enter the female section of a mosque because it’s considered dishonorable. Female officers can go places male officers can’t go. Female officers can also forge connections with other women in the community and gain information that their male counterparts may be unable to obtain. Therefore, increasing the recruitment and training of female officers is considered a force enhancement.

Phase 1 of the project includes the construction of three family housing facilities and security perimeter. Subsequent phases (a total of four phases) of the project will include more family housing facilities, a school, community center, market, medical clinic, day care facility, fitness center, and security building and guard tower.

Neal Newman, value engineer officer on the team, spoke about his part in the project.

“It has been a great opportunity to work with the different multi-discipline teams in MVD as well as Transatlantic Division and Transatlantic District. Everyone on these teams had a ‘get it done’ attitude with open and honest communication.” Newman added, “It seemed to me that team members would listen to issues and try to formulate a group decision to move forward.”

When asked about the impact Reachback Engineering has made on the project, Newman said, “I believe that Reachback Engineering is a great way to get projects completed, especially when resources are limited and the design time is restricted. He continued, “This is a very proactive method that can be used to help balance resource or funding issues within the Corps of Engineers. I would encourage everyone to look for opportunities to be on a Reachback Engineering team.”

Mallory Harvey is one of three structural engineers from the Memphis District participating in the project.

“I was asked to assist in the design of the Visitor Control Center for the Afghan Reachback Gender Project: Female Police Town (Phase 1). This structure is a one story, seismic force-resisting, masonry facility.”

Reachback Engineering allowed Harvey to leverage her expertise in an area of practice not typical for her team.

“It's rare for the Memphis District to be able to work on building design and I am very excited to have gotten the opportunity,” Harvey said.

With the Memphis team’s support, the ANP will bolster its capacity for training and housing female police officers to combat the insurgency. Reachback Engineering makes it possible for the Memphis District to extend its reach and impact by supporting a wider range of operational and natural disaster projects.