NAVAL SUPPORT ACTIVITY BAHRAIN, Bahrain – From the spirited chants of 'Go Army, Beat Navy' on football fields to the synergistic teamwork in the sands of Bahrain, the rivalry between the Army and Navy takes on a new dimension—collaboration for a common mission. At the heart of this mission are dedicated professionals reaping both career and personal rewards from serving in one of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' most dynamic locations.
When the Army faces off against the Navy on the football field, the competition is fierce, the rivalry time-honored. Yet, thousands of miles away in Bahrain, members of the Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Division and U.S. Naval Forces Central Command set aside inter-service rivalries to partner on vital projects for the U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility. But the collaboration isn’t just about projects; it's also about people. For professionals considering a career with the Army Corps of Engineers, Bahrain offers a compelling package: challenging work that makes a real-world impact, valuable experience in a strategic region, and a unique chance to be part of a team that's defining what Army-Navy teamwork can accomplish.
In a series of key leader engagements, U.S. Army Col. William C. Hannan, Jr., Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Division commander, visited Bahrain on Sept. 11, to fortify the already strong inter-service partnerships with the Naval Forces Central Command and Naval Support Activity Bahrain.
Naval Forces Central Command is one of the U.S. Navy's regional commands and is responsible for naval operations in the Middle East and parts of South Asia. They are the naval component of CENTCOM, which oversees U.S. military operations across 20 nations in the aforementioned regions. Their area of responsibility is strategically critical and includes some of the world's most important maritime chokepoints, such as the Strait of Hormuz and the Suez Canal.
Headquartered in Bahrain, NAVCENT plays a pivotal role in a variety of missions, including maritime security operations, anti-piracy efforts, and partnerships with regional navies to ensure freedom of navigation in international waters. Given the geopolitical complexities of the region, which include ongoing conflicts, regional rivalries, and significant U.S. national security interests, their role is often multifaceted.
They coordinate with other U.S. military branches, allied nations, and regional partners to achieve shared objectives. This can range from direct military intervention to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions. They also work closely with other U.S. military services, like the Army, through collaborations like the one with the Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Division to achieve its goals in the region.
Hannan initiated his series of visits by meeting with the Transatlantic Middle East District’s Bahrain Area Office personnel. The discussions focused on ongoing and future initiatives aimed at enhancing the operational capabilities of both the Army and Navy in the region.
Building on Hannan's focus on inter-service cooperation, Jeffrey Pohlig, Bahrain Area Office resident engineer, elaborated on the specific infrastructure projects that exemplify the Army-Navy partnership in Bahrain.
“Right now, we are working on two base infrastructure projects,” Pohlig explained. “One provides additional electrical capacity to the base, as well as resiliency and redundancy within their electrical grid. The other project provides hotel stations for ships and all the infrastructure and utilities needed for telecoms, electricity, water, sewage, as well as waste oil. These significant infrastructure projects not only enhance the Navy's operational capabilities here but also offer considerable cost savings.”
Accompanied by Pohlig and key Middle East District personnel, Hannan toured the ongoing projects that serve as linchpins for the collaboration between USACE, NAVCENT, and NSA Bahrain.
"These projects are pivotal in elevating both the strategic interests and security architecture in the region, serving as a testament to effective Army-Navy cooperation," said Hannan.
In separate meetings with U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, and U.S. Navy Capt. Zachariah D. Aperauch, Commanding Officer of NSA Bahrain, Hannan discussed the current state and future trajectory of projects aimed at supporting naval operations and regional stability.
These strategic engagements underscored the collaborative energy and shared focus of the Army and Navy in Bahrain.
Echoing the sentiment of effective collaboration between the Army and Navy, Pohlig delved into the specific factors that have made the partnership so successful in Bahrain.
"The Navy has been great. We have built some strong relationships and partnerships,” Pohlig stated. “And we have great contractors here in Bahrain, so we have been very successful in all of our projects. "The majority of our projects in Bahrain, many of which were completed before my arrival, consistently meet deadlines, stay within budget, and prioritize safety. The Navy has recognized the expertise of USACE, allowing us a significant degree of autonomy in our operations. This trust has been built over the years, confirming our capability and success in what we do."
Discussing the challenges of adaptability and agility, especially in extreme weather conditions, Pohlig added, "In these environments, it's really important for our staff to be flexible, not only because of weather—with temperatures reaching extremes in the summer—but also because we are working night shifts, weekends, and long hours. Flexibility is really important, not just on a day-to-day basis but also for longer terms as we flex our staff to other Middle East District offices to help support those that need more resources."
Echoing Pohlig’s sentiments on the importance of adaptability, VADM Cooper commended the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bahrain Area Office personnel, saying, "Keep up the great work!"
Hannan underscored the broader strategic context, stating, "The strong alliance between the Army Corps of Engineers and NAVCENT as a cornerstone for effective military cooperation throughout the CENTCOM AOR. As a crucial hub for naval operations, Bahrain has become an integral part of robust collaborations with CENTCOM component commands. These engagements provide an invaluable opportunity to enhance regional security and develop critical infrastructure."
Pohlig provided insight into his own career journey with USACE. "I started out with USACE in 2009 as a GS-5 with the Savannah District as a materials testing specialist. I then transitioned to construction in the Jacksonville District, working in Puerto Rico and South Florida. After various roles, I accepted an area engineer position here in Bahrain."
"The work here is probably the most interesting work that I've done,” Pohlig said. “The variety is greater than in other locations. I work on everything from munitions storage facilities to runways, aprons, hangars, military construction, and air traffic control towers. It’s also rewarding working with the various installations, supporting the Air Force, the Army, the Navy, and our host nations."
"I enjoy working overseas with the Middle East District,” Pohlig continued. “I would recommend it to anyone looking for a professionally and personally rewarding experience. It's a great place to advance your career and there are lots of opportunities and job openings. The work here is challenging, diverse, and complex. And it looks great on your resume. You're also only a short distance from Asia and Europe and can visit those places pretty cheaply. My wife and I just got back from Malaysia and Vietnam, and next, we are going to Barcelona. The Middle East District’s Bahrain Area Office is a just a cool place to be in the world."