VAFB awards Airman bronze star

Staff Sgt. Chad Louis and an interpreter cross a broken bridge at the site of a future project to replace bridges in Rakh, Afgahnistan. Sergeant Louis and the interpreter
were members of a 25 person provincial reconstruction team stationed in Afgahnistan.

Staff Sgt. Chad Louis and an interpreter cross a broken bridge at the site of a future project to replace bridges in Rakh, Afgahnistan. Sergeant Louis and the interpreter were members of a 25 person provincial reconstruction team stationed in Afgahnistan.

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Staff Sgt. Chad Louis, 30th Civil Engineer Squadron, was presented a bronze star for his achievements while stationed at Baghram Air Base, Afghanistan from September 1, 2005 through January 15, 2006. 

Sergeant Louis was part of a Provincial Reconstruction Team that consisted of interpreters, Army, Navy, Air Force, United States Department of Agriculture, US AID, and State Department. This PRT was in charge of civil affairs, civil assistance, humanitarian assistance and reconstruction.

"We were the newest PRT and the smallest in Afghanistan," Sergeant Louis said. "We only had 25 people for this mission where more established PRT's had up to four times that many. We became a family away from family. No one did just their job, we were just too small for that and for that reason we shared many duties and jobs." 

Sergeant Louis was personally responsible for managing the quality standards on 12 projects valued at 6.5 million dollars. The projects spanned seven districts and affected 70,000 people. 

"The projects consisted of bridges, roads, micro hydro-electric generators, irrigation canals, district buildings, and renovated our safe-house. We didn't have too much money per project so we had to think outside of the usual construction technique," Sergeant Louis said. 

The PRT and Sergeant Louis did think outside of the usual construction techniques and found ways of re-using the war debris that littered the Panjshir, a providence Afghanistan valley.
 
"Old rusty hulls of Russian trucks, tanks and other vehicles littered the valley," Sergeant Louis said. "For example the treads of the tanks became speed bumps and tank shells became planters for seedlings. It was fun to make that stuff useful again. 

Sergeant Louis also helped maintain emergency communications between the United Nations representatives and the PRT during Afghanistan's parliamentary elections when riots had broken out in the major cities and had begun to trickle into the outer providences. 

"We were emergency communications and protectors of the UN officials," Sergeant Louis said. "Outside the UN building there were only 10 Afghan National Police with two rifles between them. So we had them as a warning and then it was us. Those few days were some of the most stressful days I had over there." 

In addition to helping maintain emergency communications between the UN representatives and the PRT, he helped design improvements to the safe house to increase the morale and welfare of the geographically isolated PRT.
 
According the Sergeant Louis's bronze star citation, "His ability to communicate and empathize with the Afghan people made him an invaluable team leader. Sergeant Louis gained the trust and friendship of the governor of the Panjshir Providence and the people of Afghanistan." 

"I still keep contact with my Panjshirian family via email and the occasional phone calls. I can still hear the children over there in my head asking for pens, food, or radios," Sergeant Louis said. 

"The experience of the Afghan culture was life changing and I will always remember it," he said.