The Clermont County Commissioners welcomed Sgt. First Class Raymond Kraft home from Afghanistan Wednesday.
Kraft is a 28-year veteran of the Ohio Army National Guard and recently returned from a year in Forward Operations Base Sharana, Afghanistan. Kraft has worked in construction when not on active duty and served as a building inspector in Afghanistan. He said most of the projects he was assigned to involved concrete work such as helipads and maintenance facilities with concrete floors.
Kraft worked mostly with Afghan national contractors.
“Once I got by the language barriers and things I did well,” Kraft said.
"When I got there if a contractor was two to three months late there was no penalty," Kraft said. "I held them to the standard to make sure projects were done on time. Some of them began to realize that if they got their project done on time they could get their name right back out in the hat and get more work."
Kraft said one contractor in particular went out of his way to ensure that the Army purchased concrete from him. He needed to move his concrete batch plant and Kraft said the Army had made plans to purchase from another supplier while Kraft and assisted him with the move. Kraft said the contractor purchased a larger batch plant and assembled it at the new location before disassembling his smaller plant for the move and was able to supply the Army throughout the entire move. Kraft said he reassembled the smaller plant right next to the new plant to use for menial projects and was awarded a contract for an airstrip with his new larger plant.
"He was very willing to learn capitalism and he realized that if he spent money he would make more," Kraft said. "He picked up the ball and ran with it."
Kraft said there were some that were unwilling to change the way they operated, but those that did realized they could make more money by doing so.
"I'd say I definitely made a difference in our little world in Sharana," Kraft said.
Kraft said the National Guard has been a way of life for him and he is working to get promoted one more time before he retires.
The career weekend soldier also served as a platoon sergeant in Iraq in 2004 and 2005. He said he has been in some bad areas in Iraq and Afghanistan, but he has been fortunate to never have any problems during his deployment.
"I've felt that I've had a guardian angel over me all the time," Kraft said. "I've never had any bad issues, I feel like I've been blessed because I've had a good trip each time."
Kraft said he was very grateful for the support the residents of Clermont County provided him while he was deployed.
"People were constantly sending me stuff from Eastern Hills Rod and Gun Club and local churches, and of course my wife and family," Kraft said. "Any time I needed anything somebody jumped right forward and made sure I had it."
He said Emmanuel United Methodist Church in Batavia Township was especially diligent in sending him several nice packages. Kraft encouraged Clermont County to keep supporting the local troops and all U.S. troops.
"I want to thank Clermont County for your continued support of American soldiers abroad," Kraft said. They need it."