SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Second Lt. Sarah Bodenheimer, 375th Civil Engineer Squadron, stands above a karez - a part of an ancient water system, in Afghanistan. She inspected several of these while deployed in addition to overseeing millions of dollars worth of construction. (Courtesy photo)
by Roger Drinnon
Air Mobility Command Public Affairs
6/16/2010 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- When 2nd Lt. Sarah Bodenheimer deployed to Afghanistan last year, she considered it a worthwhile challenge when she found herself responsible for $450 million in construction projects to build up more than 260 Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) essential to U.S. and coalition operations there.
"During her tour here, she touched every FOB and supported all service members - Airmen, Marines, Sailors and Soldiers - superbly," said Col. Tori Bruzese, chief of basing and facilities for Joint Forces Engineer Command, U.S. Forces - Afghanistan (USFOR-A).
Although this might have been a daunting task for some, the lieutenant said she was up to the challenge. Deployed as a civil engineering project manager from July 8, 2009 through Feb. 16, 2010, she wore several hats to oversee key civil engineering projects, ensuring austere FOBs like Shindand, Farah, Herat and Bala Morghab were fortified with the buildings, living areas, plumbing, latrines and runways necessary to accommodate the initial increase of troops in Afghanistan who deployed during the latter part of 2009.
Lieutenant Bodenheimer described the initial troop buildup last year as the "surge before the surge." Her work in Afghanistan, especially while serving as the USFOR-A Detachment West Engineer, expanded the facilities and airfields at the FOBs to allow for the overall 30,000 troop plus-up called for by the President in December.
Colonel Bruzese said Lieutenant Bodenheimer not only managed multiple operational projects for the FOBs during her deployment but also projects to help better the quality of life for the Afghan people.
"Her first assignment was working the Commander's Emergency Response Program (CERP) for the entire theater," said Colonel Bruzese. "CERP is a program to build projects that will primarily benefit the Afghan people. Lieutenant Bodenheimer interacted with USAID and the Afghan embassy to ensure this program worked effectively."
The Colonel said Lieutenant Bodenheimer's management of CERP initiatives provided oversight of more than $250 million worth of projects designed to provide modern amenities like plumbing and safe drinking water for people in remote areas of Afghanistan.
While successfully managing the CERP, Lieutenant Bodenheimer was also given responsibility for the Weatherization Program for FOB facilities throughout the entire country.
"She had oversight of the FOBs to ensure each site had the proper equipment and means to endure the harsh Afghan winters and to address other seasonal weather issues (flooding, extreme winds and extreme heat)," said Colonel Bruzese. "She managed this program flawlessly."
Lieutenant Bodenheimer, currently a project manager for the 375th Civil Engineering Squadron at Scott AFB, said it was also rewarding to work with coalition partners at Regional Command-West (RC-W) headquarters, including Spanish and Italian service members, to coordinate construction efforts in the region.
"We planned and discussed FOB expansions and project locations to ensure we were meeting the International Security Assistance Force commander's intent for the region," she said.
One of those expansions occurred at the Shindand FOB, where an AMC 615th Contingency Response Wing team from Travis AFB, Calif., deployed last fall to restore an airfield built in 1961. The airfield, which was originally used as a Soviet fighter base,
is now the home of Afghan National Army Air Corps undergraduate pilot training. As a result, an Afghan aircrew was able to fly a C-27 aircraft from Kabul to Shindand during training missions in late May.
The expansion of facilities and restoration of the airfield at Shindand also allowed for the beddown of the U.S. Army's 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade helicopter unit and a General Support Aviation Battalion to maintain the helicopters. The Army helicopter crews fly combat support missions for RC-W, including aeromedical evacuation of wounded service members.
"She ensured the completion of quality-of-life projects while also coordinating construction on (airfield) ramps, C-17 runways and waste management facilities totaling over $150 million," said Colonel Bruzese.
Colonel Bruzese praised Lieutenant Bodenheimer's ability to handle civil engineering responsibilities well beyond what is normally expected of a junior officer.
"Lieutenant Bodenheimer performed at the level of a major" said the colonel. "My interpretation of her tour is that we just began to tap into the talent and potential of this officer. If I could serve with her again, I would in a heartbeat."