FISC lieutenant employs multiple skill sets in Afghanistan

For Lt. Jarred Henley, assigned to Fleet and Industrial Supply Center Puget Sound in Bremerton, being flexible is crucial in his current IA duties in Afghanistan as a contracting support officer with the U.S. Army.

For Lt. Jarred Henley, assigned to Fleet and Industrial Supply Center Puget Sound in Bremerton, being flexible is crucial in his current IA duties in Afghanistan as a contracting support officer with the U.S. Army.

Henley, who has been in the Navy for 12 years and is originally from Covington, has participated in more than 11 humanitarian aid missions in western Afghanistan during the last 10 months.

The inherent dangers of these missions of humanity are many, especially the transit between aid sites in armored vehicle convoys. Many of the convoys are conducting other missions not having to do with humanitarian aid, and telling the difference between those and an HA convoy are difficult with both being susceptible to gunfire, rocket attacks and improvised explosive devices. Henley is often directed to drive the lead vehicle in the convoy which also entails scanning the road for suspicious objects or road patterns, people and vehicles.

But that is just a small, albeit dangerous, portion of his duties in Afghanistan, a world away from his duties at FISC Puget Sound as a contracting intern.

“Humanitarian aid missions are not my primary duty. I volunteer for and participate in those regularly, but my primary position is Officer in Charge of Contract Support for the western region of Afghanistan, working as a staff section head for the Regional Commander,” Henley said. “My CO is an Army Special Forces colonel. I’m responsible for service and supply contracts for 12 bases. This job has me meeting with a lot of local national contractors and Afghan National Army and police in order to coordinate and contract for services to U.S., Coalition and Afghan Forward Operating Bases.”

Those working relationships he has culled result in savings of U.S. government funds instead of having to contract for more expensive services from Kabul or other distant cities.

Back to the humanitarian side of his duties, Henley has to put his protocol and or diplomatic hat on when dealing with the many remote villages he and his convoy visit.

“We have meetings with village elders and Mullahs in order to get a sense of what they need most. In addition to dropping off food and clothing, our humanitarian aid mission provides wells, schools,  roads and bridges for the local population, to name a few things we’ve provided,” Henley said.

He is constantly aware of the tremendous need of everyday basics by many villagers, especially during a visit to a village last winter.

“We did a humanitarian aid mission on Christmas Day last year. It was quite cold out and there may have been snow on the ground. Within the village we visited there were a lot of children without pants and shoes.

Fortunately, we were able to provide children’s clothing to them that day, but that was just one village. We cannot possibly do  enough for everyone here with our limited resources,” Henley said.

Other visits require Henley’s contracting skills and the basic knowledge of an engineer, public works officer, agriculture specialist and an educator to bolster a village’s stability.

“When we dig a well or build a road we are making a long term positive change for one or a group of villages. We have also delivered wheat seed in order to provide an alternative crop to poppy. Education is what the people are lacking most, with the majority of the population being illiterate,” Henley said.

There are similarities to his duties at FISC Puget Sound, but it has been a new experience across the spectrum of supply for Henley.

“The humanitarian aid portion of what I do is very different from  anything I have ever experienced in the Navy. The contracting  component is similar in a lot of ways to what I do at FISC, but  different in a lot of ways as well. For one, I’m carrying at least  one loaded weapon at all times,” Henley said. “I wear full protective gear and body armor every time I’m off the base. I have to utilize interpreters to talk to local nationals, Afghan National Security Forces and contractors in order to coordinate contracted services and I have to teach Afghans how we do business and by what standard we expect contracted services to be performed.”

Henley has been in Afghanistan for nearly 10 months. Including his training at Fort Riley, Kan., his IA duty will be about 14 months. He offers the following sage advice to Navy personnel enlisted or officers who may be taking on an IA assignment in the future.

“Be flexible. Don’t expect to be doing exactly what you think you will be doing based on your original orders. You might be reassigned to another mission, in another location. Be prepared to play Army for a while. Get used to wearing an Army uniform and carrying a weapon. The Navy has been  very good at seamlessly integrating with Army chains of command in Army units,” he said. “It’s a matter of pride for many of the Navy personnel that I’ve talked to that we are highly adaptable and willing to do whatever is asked of us. The Army appreciates us very much for  those qualities.”