Afghan First initiatives paying off for ANSF (23 Sept. 2010)
Afghan First initiatives paying off for ANSF
By G. A. Volb

CAMP EGGERS, Afghanistan – The International Security Assistance Force initiative of going Afghan First regarding contracts is paying off with newly established local factories turning out goods in support of security forces, while employing hundreds.

Kabul’s Safi Apparel Corporation is one such success story, employing 700 locally and producing up to 100,000 Afghan National Army, Afghan National Police and Afghan National Civil Order Police uniforms per month. Fifty percent of its workforce is women.

“Most companies excelled rapidly through the learning curve to achieve very high standards as rated by the Clemson Apparel Research Institute and Natick Soldier Center Team who have recently conducted an assessment of the Afghan Military Apparel Industry,” said Army Col. Anthony Pelczynski, NTM-A’s chief of acquisitions and contract management.

It’s a win-win situation, as far as he’s concerned, as security forces are provided quality equipment and businesses have the chance to “participate in the growth of the new Afghanistan.”

“The manufacturers know how important it is to deliver a quality product that meets specifications, on time and on cost,” the colonel emphasized. The program is successful due to a combined effort between Afghan Ministries of Interior and Defense, NATO Training Mission – Afghanistan and Combined Security Transition Command - Afghanistan.

“Expectation management and open communications between the government and the manufacturers are important to the development of the industries and economy as a whole,” offered Pelczynski. Like elsewhere in a global economy, businesses have to offer quality products at an affordable price.

Safi’s ability to compete for business, according to its 32-year-old General Manager Abdul, hinges on its ability to stay competitive; the challenges he faces now are in securing the raw materials needed to make the uniforms. Currently these materials come from the U.S., Pakistan, and China, but he’d prefer to obtain them here in Afghanistan.

“It takes us about two hours to produce one full standard uniform set,” Abdul offered with obvious pride is his voice. Pelczynski thinks he knows why Safi employees are proud of what they do.

“Their workers are very much aware that these uniforms and other clothing items are for their brothers, fathers, uncles and sisters who serve in the security forces across the country,” said Pelczynski, a 1983 graduate of Virginia Tech.

“It also shows they take pride in producing quality uniforms for the men and women who provide security for their country,” said Air Force Capt. Danilo Dingle Jr., program manager for the uniforms branch. “It gives Afghan security forces Esprit de Corps, an identity, something they’re proud to wear every time they put on their uniform.” Safi, however, is far from leveling off.

“They all look forward to the opportunities to find new markets that build upon their capacity, efficiency and high-quality standards that have become their trademark,” said Pelczynski. To realize these opportunities, companies must do several things.

“The companies must have a long-range plan to find new markets and other opportunities to at least sustain, if not grow, their production beyond the ANSF orders,” said Pelczynski. “They must look out for the welfare of their work force. The initial orders are very large in order to meet the high demands of initial issues, but as we reach our goal of a fully trained ANSF, the requirements will become sustain quantity buys over time. Cost, schedule and performance are the important factors we are emphasizing in our programs.”

“I’m amazed at how they continue to look forward, toward improving and advancing their business opportunities,” added Dingle, a Sacramento State graduate assigned to the Pentagon’s Air National Guard Bureau when not deployed. “They have invested in different manufacturing machines to handle additional production capacity and to expand beyond uniform production -- they’re looking at markets outside of Afghanistan.”
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