You’re doing that how?

FOB Apache is growing in population; meaning our once quiet little FOB is getting busier and more crowded.  The upside to the population growth is a corresponding increase in amenities.  For instance, they opened a full-service, free laundry service in early January (maybe late December, I don’t remember).  It is great, you drop your dirty clothes off & within a few hours you can pick up clean, folded clothes.  You can’t beat that.

Another improvement being added is a full-size basketball court & also sand, volleyball courts.  The FOB Mayor (the Mayor role on FOB Apache is filled by a young Captain, the Headquarters & Headquarters Troop Commander) recently hired an Afghan contractor to build these, Afghan style.

Watching them come in and start preparing for the job was very interesting because it is so different from how it is done at home.  The biggest difference is instead of a large concrete plant and ready-mix trucks, they came in with two (and later added a third) large cement mixers, hundreds (thousands?) of bags of cement and several truckloads of the dirt/sand that is the soil all over Zabul Province.

They did minimal prep work.  The reality is they did none.  They just started setting up forms, on grade.  The used 2×12 planks; yes, that is right, the slab (approximately 60’x104’) was poured in 2×12 forms placed a couple of inches above grade.  That makes the slab about 13-14 inches thick!  For a basketball court?!  That equals about 250 yards of concrete!  Holy mackerel, that is a lot of concrete…poured by hand with wheelbarrows and shovels…amazing.

By my rough calculations they mixed over 250 yards of concrete in concrete mixers that probably only make about 1 yard of concrete at a time.  Then hauling it to the slab by wheelbarrow (the furthest slab was about 130 feet from the mixers), dumping it in a little pile and spreading it by shovel.  Using a typical American-style wheelbarrow it takes 12-15 wheelbarrows to hold a yard of concrete.  The Afghan wheelbarrows are smaller, so I would guess it took 20 or wheelbarrows for a yard.  That means it took 5000 or more wheelbarrow trips to pour the slab…wow!

It was quite a sight to watch.  More than once I shook my head as I watched them do things that just seemed ‘wrong’.  They placed the 2x12s using a 12 inch level…for a 104 foot slab! They poured it in 8’x60’ foot sections, doing every other one & then doing the alternate slabs the next day.  They did 2-3 sections per day.  There was no way it would turn out.  Well, it did.  It is actually really nice.  In fact, we ‘hired’ them to pour a slab deck in front of our building to replace the old wooden one.  They should finish it today.

I will take more pictures & post them soon.


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