Following a successful 11-month deployment to Afghanistan, P1 Group Project Engineer Zach Kittle has finally made his way safely back to the United States, P1 Group, and first and foremost, his family. Armed with a potent blend of wit, leadership and mental toughness, Kittle proved that no job is too difficult to handle.
While on leave, Kittle served as Executive Officer, the equivalent of a senior project manager, for an engineering company for the National Guard. Kittle faced a steep learning curve and, similar to P1 Group’s expectations of excellence, was required to accomplish missions accurately and on a strict timeline.
For his first mission, Kittle had to construct housing for 16 soldiers. He and his crew built the structure, installed all of the electrical and duct board, and set a five-ton Environmental Control Unit. Following the three-week-long project, Kittle next managed the construction of four new guard towers and relocation of four existing towers.
Later in his stay, Kittle kept busy with multiple other projects, some of which included the renovation of an old dining facility into VIP houses and dining, the construction of four Billet Southeast Asia (SEA) Huts, Bill of Material (BOM) yard and Lwara Border Control Center (LBCC), and the expansion of Forward Operating Base (FOB) Sharana that provided housing and offices for 6,000 additional soldiers.
“We didn’t really get days off here,” Kittle said. “I typically got half a day off on Sundays and was in the office by 11 a.m.”
Limited free time was certainly a struggle, but missing special occasions was even more challenging. Kittle was on duty for the five-year wedding anniversary of him and his wife Sara. He also missed the early development of his newborn son, Liam, who was born during his deployment.
“It was really hard for Sara to be at home alone, especially trying to raise a newborn, and trying not to worry about me,” Kittle said.
The possibility of getting hit was something that could never be totally avoided. Kittle said multiple projects experienced indirect fire and one project came under a complex attack. Kittle remembers one instance where he narrowly missed a sniper bullet by 5 to 10 feet. On another mission, Kittle was the assistant convoy commander for a 169-mile journey of ten mine resistant vehicles. Intel suggested they might get attacked, but fortunately nothing happened. However, Kittle recounts seeing many IED blast holes in the roads and several burned out and blown up vehicles.
Despite the challenges, Kittle stands by his decision to serve his country.
“I have learned not to take time with my loved ones for granted as you never know what will happen,” Kittle said. “I have learned how lucky we are in America and how good we have it. We had some local nationals that ran heavy equipment for us that earned $2 American a week.”
Kittle also noted that most of the local population was illiterate and lived in mud huts. While Kittle is glad to be back in the States with his family, the P1 Group family is equally glad, and proud, to have him back with the company.
By Ken Erickson
RELATED STORIES: Kittle adapts to life’s change orders