With a long legacy of delivering solutions in one of the most complex engineering and construction environments on earth, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Division remains the 'partner of choice' throughout the Middle East and Central Asia by building relationships on a foundation of commitment to excellence.
This past month, the Transatlantic Division's Team of Teams hosted Lt. Gen. Scott Spellmon, the 55th Chief of Engineers and commanding general of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in Kuwait and Iraq, for an action-packed week of project site tours and vital engagements with U.S. and allied nation mission partners. With more than 140 ongoing projects totaling nearly $4 billion throughout the U.S. Central Command area of operations, there was plenty to see.
Over the course of the week, Spellmon talked with hundreds of military and civilian professionals, including engineers from the Transatlantic Division's two districts, the Transatlantic Middle East District and Transatlantic Expeditionary District, He also met with both U.S. and host nation partners to discuss bilateral ties, cooperation, and issues of common interest, especially in the military field and ways of boosting military coordination.
U.S. Army Col. Philip M. Secrist III, Middle East District commander, and Tom Waters, Middle East District director of programs, also traveled to Kuwait with Spellmon to see first-hand the complex work being accomplished by their district.
“The bulk of our current program is work on behalf our allied nation partners,” Secrist said. “They don’t have to work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, they choose to work with us. That speaks to both the quality of the work we’ve delivered for 70 years and just as importantly, to the relationships we’ve built with those we work with.”
U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Delfin J. Romani, Transatlantic Division command sergeant major, coordinated the week-long trip, ensuring all the moving parts lined up allowing the teams to focus on engagement.
“The Transatlantic Division has a large span of diverse stakeholders who maintain a strong interest in our program. In addition to CENTCOM and U.S. Special Operations Command, we coordinate regularly with the service component commands like U.S. Army Central, U.S. Naval Forces Command and U.S. Air Forces Central.
Additionally, we support the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Assistance for International Development, the Missile Defense Agency, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Our international stakeholders include 18 of the 20 countries comprising the CENTCOM area of responsibility as well as the Combined Joint Taskforce and North Atlantic Treaty Organization. It’s no small endeavor ensuring we remain connected and engaged with our partners,” Romani emphasized.
Scott Sawyer, the Transatlantic Division Program Integration Division Chief, who oversees the integration of program and project data from the districts ensuring the division sees a holistic picture of the mission, shared his thoughts on the importance of seeing the projects first-hand.
“To really be in touch with the mission you have to walk the ground, talk to the people and see up close the great things going on. Photos in briefings and reports and updates on the projects really come to life when you have seen them for yourself. You get a much better grasp of the magnitude of what we are accomplishing for our mission partners and the challenges we are overcoming to deliver the program so successfully over the course of the better part of a century.”
While in Kuwait, Spellmon also had the honor of meeting with the division’s Kuwaiti partners including Brig. Gen. Hazza Al-Alati, the Chief of Kuwait Naval Forces, Brig. Gen. Mohammad Al-Eid, the Deputy Commander of Kuwait Naval Forces, Maj. Gen. Adel Al-Hafedh, the Kuwaiti Air Defense commander, and the Kuwait Army Chief of Staff, Lieutenant-General Khaled Saleh Al-Sabah, and their staffs and delegations.
“Hearing how well we are doing and how much we are contributing directly from our mission partners, both U.S. and allied nation, really has an impact,” Spellmon expressed. “Partnerships for the Army Corps of Engineers are unique in the Middle East and Central Asia. They are built first and foremost on relationships and on our legacy of commitment.”
In the Middle East, there is a choice,” Spellmon continued. “A lot of the work the Transatlantic Division is executing is for our host nation partners and they decide where they channel their money and who they partner with to execute their engineering and construction needs. They are under no obligation to choose the Army Corps of Engineers. We earn their partnership by delivering the highest quality projects on time and on budget and prioritizing building and maintaining relationships.”
The value this Division and its Districts places on relationships and their commitment to their mission partners can be seen in the time and energy they put into engagement and the overall long-term success of their mission.”
One of the Division closest partnerships in Kuwait is the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing, at Ali Al Salem Air Base. While there, Spellmon met with U.S. Air Force Col. Clinton Wilson, the commander of the 386th to review current projects being managed on the base.
“I got an up-close look at the ongoing renovations of the base dining facility, along with runway repairs and the installation of aircraft barrier arresting systems,” Spellmon said. “Ali Al Salem Air Base is a vital Army Corps of Engineers partner as it’s the primary tactical airlift hub and gateway for delivering combat power to joint and coalition forces in the CENTCOM area of responsibility.
It is also one of the busiest aerial ports in the region supporting ongoing Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve missions,” Spellmon continued. “Taking care of the warfighter downrange is an honor and a privilege, and the Corps of Engineers works with CENTCOM and all its components to ensure soldiers and civilians have what they need to get the job done.”
Spellmon also viewed the construction inside one of five APS-500 buildings, located at Area Support Group - Kuwait's Camp Arifjan. When completed the five facilities will provide critical environmental protection for Army Materiel Command's pre-positioned stock, part of a U.S. Army program in which equipment sets are stored around the globe for use when a combatant commander requires additional capabilities.
U.S. Naval Forces Central Command is another important partner in Kuwait. U.S. Navy Lt. Chris Quatroche, the officer-in-charge of U.S. Navy Construction Battalion sailors, Seabees, and members of his team, briefed Spellmon and the District leadership on the application of a hardware and software system to form and assemble cold-rolled steel framework to build semi-permanent buildings at Ali Al Salem Air Base.
The joint team of Navy Seabees and Army Theater Engineer Brigade engineers demonstrated how utilizing this modern capability allows them to build quality structures faster and cheaper than traditional wood-framed structures.
“We don’t just support construction projects,” Tom Waters, Middle East District director of programs, said following the project tour, “we are supporting regional security, we’re supporting stability operations, interoperability with our allied nation mission partners, and most importantly we are supporting U.S. service members across the CENTCOM area of responsibility”
While in Kuwait, Spellmon also hosted held two townhalls attended by more than 100 military engineers, emphasizing the importance of taking care of people.
COL Kenneth N. Reed and his team at the Expeditionary District who are located in Kuwait, picked up the tour from there and accompanied Spellmon on to Iraq to review ongoing projects in that region.
The Expeditionary District has ongoing projects in Kuwait and also serves as a Contingency Provisional Forward Postured District, delivering design, construction and related engineering services in support of named operations like Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve.
The “Always Forward” District’s capabilities include providing small-scale, low-risk, and high visibility services to combatant commanders on the ground in the CENTCOM and SOCOM areas of responsibility
Alongside the Expeditionary District’s command team, Spellmon assessed projects in Erbil including the Logistic Support Area, the dining facility, an alternate taxiway, and west taxiway road.
Spellmon also had an in-depth look at a Bunker prototype. The Bunker prototype is a joint research and development project with the Army Corps of Engineers Research and Development Center and is designed to reduce blast pressures inside bunkers, reducing risk of traumatic brain injuries. USACE is now working with ARCENT to finalize the prototype and implement the bunker design at military installations in Iraq, Jordan, and Kuwait.
While in Erbil, Spellmon took a moment to thank U.S. Army Col. Andrew Steadman, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division Brigade commander, for ensuring the team’s safety during the trip.
“Without your security support,” Spellmon said, “we would not be able to complete important assessments like these.”
Spellmon summed up the trip with an acknowledgment of the magnitude of the Division’s mission and meaningful impact the districts create through their projects.
“The physical working environment in the Middle East is unlike anything I’ve encountered in the U.S.,” Spellmon said. “The Transatlantic Districts are executing engineering and construction projects in regions where foundations are built on sand and stone and structures have to stand up to intense heat and unpredictable winds and rain.
The opportunity to tackle and overcome these challenges and deliver projects that improve not only the functionality but ultimately increase the security and stability across the region is unparalleled,” Spellmon continued. “And the depth of the relationships with our allied nation partners is just amazing to witness.
The Division and its Districts are truly living up to its legacy of being the engineering services and solutions organization of choice throughout the Middle East and Central Asia.”