Creating an environment for stability and growth
Today, around 1.5 billion people live in countries affected by conflict. Over the past decade, while great strides have been taken in securing economic growth for developing countries, those living in fragile and conflict affected states remain in extreme poverty. Rebuilding the infrastructure of a nation post conflict is one of the first steps in creating the environment for economic growth and job creation needed so people can be lifted out of extreme poverty.
One of the countries most affected by conflict in recent years is Afghanistan. Before withdrawing almost all its troops from the country in 2014, Britain had around 8,000 British troops deployed to the region with military efforts focused on supporting the Afghan people in bringing security and stability to the nation while helping them re-build. Our forces worked closely with the Provincial Reconstruction Teams that were in place to improve security, support good governance, and enhance provincial development across the country.
Enhancing the capabilities of local people
The UK Works Group (Royal Engineers) remained at the forefront of infrastructure delivery across Afghanistan. They were responsible for the ongoing development and running of the military estate in Afghanistan from the Main Operating Bases (MOBs) to the Forward Operating Bases (FOBs). Since 2009, the Group was responsible for all construction undertaken by the Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Helmand Province, one of the largest provinces in Afghanistan, working with them to steadily improve the capabilities and competencies of local Afghan contractors.
Due to the scale of operations in Afghanistan, the support of a scalable civilian team capable of efficiently and effectively responding to the changing requirements and delivery of services was needed to assist the UK Works Group. In May 2012 WYG was awarded the Civilian Engineering Support Team (CEST) Contract to do just that. Our main role was to provide support to the UK Works Group by undertaking projects within the camps in support of military operations.
We provided design, procurement, construction supervision and supporting environmental and engineering services, as part of the CEST team and are responsible for the delivery of the information and knowledge management functions to maintain continuity to the military units who rotated through their deployment in Afghanistan.
As well as working alongside the UK Works Group to manage and maintain the infrastructure throughout Camp Bastion and on other operating bases, we also assisted the Provincial Reconstruction Teams by providing civil and structural programme design for projects involving Force Protection as well as the construction of a new bridge.
A tailored approach
As a team, we had to deliver a high volume of projects. To date, we have been engaged on hundreds of projects at varying stages of completion, many in remote locations and under adverse environmental conditions to demanding timelines. This has required a huge effort from all our employees, based both in Afghanistan and the support team in the UK. Our involvement in Afghanistan is a prime example of how we tailor our resources to meet the individual needs of our clients and how we deliver an agile response as priorities change often at the last minute.
Bringing stability to the region
Before a nation can rebuild following conflict, there needs to be stability and security. The UK Forces’ based in Afghanistan helped the local people develop the ability to maintain their own security by providing training, advice and technical assistance. By supporting the UK Works Group in maintaining the infrastructure of our military operating bases in the region, our troops were able to carry out vital work to help the Afghan people take control of their country’s security.
Following WYG's appointment, Col. Tony Tait, MoD, said: “I am very pleased to have WYG on board supporting us in our vital role in Afghanistan. Not only providing the infrastructure to enable ongoing military operations, but also in developing the opportunity for the local Afghan community to transition to a self sufficient status.”
Great efforts were taken to ensure minimum intervention at Camp Bastion before it arrived back in the UK. A large amount of kit went by sea because flying wasn’t always cost effective; some land movement was attempted but this took a long time and could only address low-risk items such as tented camps. All this had to be done without compromising the troops on the ground.
Up until its handover to the Afghan National Army, Camp Bastion kept evolving. Infrastructure was still being built two months before it closed because it was needed for military capabilities. Every decision made was in the spirit of supporting military capability. The result marks an incredible achievement both in construction and decommissioning. Our staff were among the last of the Civilian Contractors to leave when welfare facilities were at the most austere.
Our staff all received the Civilian Service Medal: Afghanistan, the medal was awarded to civilians in recognition of their contribution to the government’s work towards a stable and secure Afghanistan. The team has flourished since its return from Camp Bastion and its members are now deployed on projects as far afield as Kenya and Anguilla.