Recently U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Expeditionary District leadership and staff met with subject matter experts from their higher-level headquarters, the Transatlantic Division, as they came together to complete the first Staff Assistance Visit (SAV) ever performed for the district, at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, March 20-23, 2022.
With the challenges of operating in a COVID-restricted landscape, which prevented more than half of the staff assistance team from traveling to Kuwait, Lt. Col. Peter Ammerman, the Expeditionary District’s deputy commander, appreciated the evaluators that traveled for an onsite visit to the newly formed district. The rest of the Division evaluators, stationed in Winchester, Va., performed their assessments virtually with their counterparts at the Expeditionary District.
“An outside source looking in can bring fresh ideas and constructive recommendations to increase productivity,” Ammerman said. “With the evaluators having boots on the ground, they were able to sit next to our staff and delve into their battle rhythm routines. They could look through our continuity binders, analyze our business practices, and verify our internal audits.”
That verification is crucial as the Expeditionary District, formed in May 2021, is the youngest district in the Army Corps of Engineers. The district leadership and staff welcomed this evaluation as a mechanism to form a baseline for improving our business processes and procedures, necessary to meet the high standards of the Army Corps of Engineers and Transatlantic Division.
During the SAV, as it’s commonly called, the evaluators reviewed the district’s staffing functions like IT, human resources, safety, resource management, logistics, public affairs, and other administrative functions, along with engineering, construction, contracting and program management.
The Expeditionary District is actually quite unique in its personnel challenges as it’s entirely made up of active duty and reserve component military members, along with many Department of the Army civilians, quite a few of which are geographically separated.
District staff and employees are split between a large segment of personnel that are voluntarily deployed to Kuwait, Iraq, and Syria, and a smaller U.S.-based support staff of financial, engineering and construction experts that provide reach-back capacity for the forward team.
Col. Kenneth Reed, commander of the Expeditionary District, and his senior enlisted advisor, Sgt. Maj. Jun Tomagan, took reins in June 2021, as the district was transforming and transitioning from two legacy wartime-focused districts.
In his comments to the staff assistance team, Reed told the evaluators that the district overcame significant challenges to get to the success achieved during the SAV.
“When we arrived, it was still basically two organizations,” Reed said. “It’s the hard work from the staff in this room, in this building, along with those deployed forward and our reach-back personnel in the states, that have given us the success we’ve achieved.”
Scott Cilley, Transatlantic Division’s Business Integration Division chief and the staff assistance team lead, expressed the team’s appreciation for the sense of family that the Expeditionary team and staff exhibited, along with an openness and willingness to learn.
“Your openness, sense of family, and comradery, we couldn’t help but notice,” Cilley said. “We were especially glad to see the significant opportunities for theater security cooperation that we saw and heard when we sat in some of your customer meetings.”
One of the programs that Cilley and his team highlighted were the contracting team efforts, led by Yvette Walker, the Expeditionary District contracting chief, who spearheaded the effort to close-out all the legacy Afghanistan contracts.
“Your efforts in closing out two decades worth of Afghanistan contracts, more than 560 in total, and now down to only 36 contracts to go, that’s an outstanding job,” Cilley commented.
Cilley concluded with minor administrative findings and many best practices to take back to the Transatlantic Division headquarters in Winchester, to share with the entire division staff, and the Expeditionary District’s sister district, the Middle East District.
“Our focus is to always get better, to have continuous improvement,” Reed stated. “I appreciated your findings and comments. Our books are always open.”
Editor’s Note: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Division’s Expeditionary District was formed from the merger of the Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Afghanistan District, which managed Afghanistan construction projects supporting Operation Enduring Freedom, and the Army Corps of Engineers Task Force Essayons, which managed Iraq construction projects during Operation Iraqi Freedom.