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Dozens of electrical workers and members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers are providing essential services in the war zone in Afghanistan and Americans know very little about the conditions they live and work in. The primary job the electricians perform is to make military bases in Afghanistan safer for U.S. and allied troops. In performing their job, they ride along with troops and face many of the same dangers that troops face. Housing conditions are very basic and far from living at home in the U.S. and violence is a constant fear. Like the soldiers fighting in combat, the electricians often forge close friendships over months and years with people lost in combat or who face severe injury and disability. With little to no training on dealing with the conditions of war, they work on a daily basis to make sure the troops can do their job in as safe an environment as possible, which they say is the most rewarding aspect of the job. And the troops are much more appreciative of the work that they do that people back home are, since things as simple as lighting in the dark are much more important in a war zone.
IBEW chronicles some of these stories on their website:
When the Air Force needs large construction work done quickly in and around combat zones, the men and women of RED HORSE ride in.
Members of the construction squad formally called "Rapid Engineers Deployable: Heavy Operations Repair Squadron Engineers" handle upgrades on airfields, drill wells, and complete large projects involving demolition and construction—all to ensure that U.S. troops have the infrastructure to do their jobs in Iraq, Afghanistan and surrounding countries.
Allentown, Pa., Local 375 member Bruce Snyder served as superintendent of the 1st Expeditionary RED HORSE's electrical division in Afghanistan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. There, he and fellow IBEW members joined other skilled trades workers to construct and electrify medical stations, communications centers and other structures.
"We take pride in being able to build anything the Air Force needs here," said Snyder, who joined the National Guard after four years of active duty in 1986. "IBEW members are a valuable part of this effort, and we don't take our responsibilities lightly."
Fellow RED HORSE member Gavin Fisher, a reservist and meter reader with Reading, Pa., Local 777, worked with Snyder as part of a convoy team to deliver bulldozers and heavy equipment to construction sites in the Kandahar province of southern Afghanistan.
"It was tough work, and you always had to keep your eyes open," said Fisher, 27, who is looking to become a lineman with Metropolitan Edison Co.
A typical RED HORSE squadron is made up of more than 400 servicemen and women, including members of the carpenters, masons, sheet metal workers, plumbers and various other trades. Squad members stay on the move, often connecting with other RED HORSE groups at various sites.
"I met many of my fellow members from around the nation doing similar work," said Snyder, who returned home last spring. "It was always a thrill to get to a new place and ask around if anyone was IBEW."