Palmer-Moloney Sees deployment as a Benefit to ERDC

Published Sept. 5, 2012
ERDC-GRL Senior Research Geographer Dr. Laura Jean Palmer-Moloney.

ERDC-GRL Senior Research Geographer Dr. Laura Jean Palmer-Moloney.

Dr. Palmer-Moloney provides watershed management advice to local Afghani officials.

Dr. Palmer-Moloney provides watershed management advice to local Afghani officials.

Public Affairs Office

ALEXANDRIA, Va. In describing her deployment to Afghanistan, ERDC-Topographic Engineering Center (TEC) Senior Research Geographer Dr. Laura Jean Palmer-Moloney said, “It was the only way that I could work in the Helmand River watershed to extend the research being performed with the Civilian-Military Operations/Human-Environment Interaction (CMO-HEI).”

The CMO-HEI collects information to better understand the interconnection between water, environmental security, and stability in areas of operation and how these elements relate to the civilian-military operations which are carried out in theater.  Palmer-Moloney is the lead for this work package at TEC.

“The deployment allowed me to experience the type of field work that I believe is necessary to accomplish the CMO-HEI mission.  This deployment was invaluable for establishing a reason for extending research in the area of operations and throughout the region of the Helmand River watershed,” she said.

Palmer-Moloney served as an Afghanistan-Pakistan Hand (through the Pentagon’s Pakistan/Afghanistan Coordination Cell) and was the senior adviser/planner in watershed management to the commanding general, Regional Command (RC) Southwest (SW).  “My primary mission was to support and advise the commander on issues pertaining to the overall watershed and courses of action and programs for water management in the area of operations.

“Over time my work evolved to focus on development of a transition plan for water in the Regional Command Southwest that included water monitoring (river discharge, as well as surface water and groundwater levels) and water harvesting efforts.  This required on-going collaboration with the Regional Platform (Department of State/U.S. Agency for International Development), the Helmand PRT, and a variety of Government of the Islamic Republic Afghanistan (GIRoA) ministries at the provincial and national levels,” she said.

According to Palmer-Moloney, her deployment has been unique.  “The work of the CMO-HEI in this area has afforded me with the opportunity to work with the Marines in the lower Helmand River watershed.  The Marines have played a key role in establishing relationships with provincial government leaders in both the Afghani provinces of Helmand and Nimroz in helping to integrate water resource management,” she said.

For her performance of duties as the watershed management adviser from July 2011 to May 2012, Palmer-Moloney received a Certificate of Commendation from Marine Corps Commanding General Maj. Gen. Charles M. Gurganus, I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward).  She was cited for her subject matter expertise and the key role she played in setting up and leading a series of water education meetings (“water shuras”), informing both coalition forces and Afghan government officials on the time and place implications of water use.

Palmer-Moloney received extensive Dari language training.  Dari, the Afghan dialect of Farsi (Persian) is one of Afghanistan’s two official languages.   Most often provincial and local government officials used Dari when working with Palmer-Moloney and her translator.

The commander, RC SW Afghanistan, recognized Palmer-Moloney’s performance of duties which included routine travel to highly kinetic areas within the battle space to conduct studies on Helmand River watershed water use and water monitoring (surface and groundwater).  Palmer-Moloney noted, “As a result of these water monitoring/water use efforts and with collaboration of the Regional Platform, I was able to spearhead an overarching water monitoring strategy acceptable to GIRoA officials from both Nimroz and Helmand Provinces,” she said.  “This was just a first step in a process that ultimately must be driven and sustained by Afghans.”

The Provincial Governor of Nimroz Province, Abdul Karim Brahawi wrote in a citation, “I thank you for taking the time to assemble my Water Management delegation, along with the Helmand Province and the ministers from the GIRoA, Ministry of Energy and Water, the Helmand Arghandab Valley Authority and representatives from the Rural Rehabilitation and Development.  The work you have accomplished to develop and bring fresh water to all my people and our many canal projects bestows upon Nimroz Province the necessary abilities to make my province stronger.”

“I had been researching the Helmand System as a research geographer at TEC before deploying to Afghanistan.  With my background in anthropology and human geography, as well as wetlands ecology and hydrology, this assignment is an ideal fit to benefit ERDC,” Palmer-Moloney said.