|U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan Richard E. Hoagland and Aeromobile Forces Commander-in-Chief Maj. Gen. A. Aldabergenov jointly cut the bright red ribbon held across the center’s entrance during opening ceremonies April 27. MED Project Manager Kan Nain, in the background between the two women in traditional dress, captures photos of the ceremony held in Almaty, Kazakhstan. U.S. Department of State photo.
A new Language and Staff Training Center was opened during a festive ceremony April 27 in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
Among the attendees were Kazakhstan Peacekeeping Brigade soldiers, sometimes referred to as KAZBRIG and the beneficiaries of the new training center; Kazakhstani military leaders; U.S. Embassy personnel, including the ambassador and Office of Military Cooperation personnel; Middle East District project manager Kanwal Nain; and contractor personnel and other guests.
“There are many reasons the opening of this facility is important,” said U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan Richard E. Hoagland, who along with Aeromobile Forces Commander-in-Chief Maj. Gen. A. Aldabergenov cut the bright red ribbon held across the center’s entrance. “It is a reflection of the commitment of our two nations to develop and enhance our mutual cooperation and understanding.
“The renovation of this facility enables KAZBRIG to improve English-language skills, operational readiness, and planning capabilities to conduct peacekeeping operations as part of United Nations-sanctioned multinational operations,” he said. “Achieving these critically important goals is important to local, regional, and global security and stability.”
The training center also “represents an important element in our efforts to ensure KAZBRIG is trained, combat-ready, and deployable in order to support our mutual goals,” the ambassador said. “But even more important, it supports the strategic interests of Kazakhstan as well as its allies and partners. This training center increases KAZBRIG’s capacity to contribute to multinational operations.”
According to Nain, “The project goal was to repurpose an existing facility to support the Republic of Kazakhstan’s Global Peace Operations Initiative.”
This U.S. initiative addresses major gaps in international peace operations support and aims to build and maintain capability, capacity, and effectiveness of peace operations. According to the State Department, since mid-2004 this program has contributed some $660 million to train and equip 75,000 foreign military troops for peacekeeping operations.
Along with Nain, the project delivery team included construction manager Ted Upson; contracting officer Daniel Lillard; program analyst Steve Hake; and program manager Doug Hopper. The team also included the chief of the Office of Military Cooperation Lt. Col. Jim Yentz and program manager Zhalgas Ospanov.
“We developed, wrote and managed the FMS (foreign military sales) case here at the Middle East District,” said Hopper. “But at the time, the project site was within AED’s (Afghanistan Engineer District) area of responsibility so AED was responsible for contract development, award, and construction and contract management.
“Last fall, when the Transatlantic Division was activated, AED’s area of responsibility was redefined and limited to within Afghanistan’s borders,” he said. “That’s when MED resumed responsibility and oversight of this project in Kazakhstan.”
AED had awarded the contract to a local construction company, Prime XXI Too of Almaty. Notice to proceed was issued Aug. 14, 2008, with an originally scheduled project completion date of August 2009. When MED resumed oversight in October 2009, the $786,000 project was only 50 to 60 percent complete.
|Members of the Kazakhstan Peacekeeping Brigade tour the Language and Staff Training Center.
Communication was the major obstacle we needed to overcome, said Nain.
“That became clear to me during my first trip over there,” he said. “I didn’t speak either of their two languages – Kazakh or Russian – and they didn’t speak any English. We could not communicate; I had to hire an interpreter.
“I learned that the contractor had never heard of the National Electric Code, or NEC, by working with the interpreter, Dinara Rustemova,” Nain said. “They had never worked for the Corps of Engineers before and were not familiar with U.S. construction standards. They were working to older Russian codes and standards.”
On his next trip to Kazakhstan, Nain took electrical engineer Danny Agulto with him to ensure that all the electrical work was safe and complied with the NEC. The contractor’s electrical work was in compliance with contract requirements.
“Our interpreter was vital to completing this project,” Nain said. “Between my four trips to the project site, Dinara assumed more responsibility. I would tell her what I needed to know from the contractor, and she would ask the questions for me. When she returned with the answer, sometimes I would ask her to take photos of some very specific areas. She would send those to me so I could comment, and she would share my comments with the contractor. She was absolutely crucial to the successful completion of this project.”
The renovation included major civil and architectural, mechanical and electrical work.
“The contractor removed existing walls, floors, and windows and completely renovated the third floor of the existing building,” Nain said. “They installed new acoustical ceilings and terrazzo flooring, added new windows and doors, replaced all plumbing fixtures and drains, and added a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system.
“The electrical distribution system was replaced, new lighting and an alarm system were installed, and conduits for a communication system were added. Everything was finished on Feb. 28th,” Nain said. “The training center had new classrooms, language labs, a conference room, storage room, office space and more.”
“This facility has already been used for (military to military) events and will provide a good platform for upcoming Global Peace Operations Initiative training and annual (joint military) exercise Steppe Eagle,” said Yentz, also noting the outstanding job Nain did as project manager pulling together a quality project that endured many initial difficulties.
Following the ceremony, the Ambassador gave Nain the State Department medal for his efforts.