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Division Engineers Provided Backbone to Iraqi Building Projects

By Spc. Josh LeCappelain
Multi-National Division – Center

CAMP VICTORY, Iraq – The physical reconstruction of Iraq is an all encompassing project that requires the cooperation of many different groups of people. Even the task of paving a road or building a bridge requires supplies, manpower, quality control, planning and coordination to make it work right.

Acting as a facilitator, the Multi-National Division – Center Division Engineers cell is the catalyst for making these projects work. Comprised of many different subsections, the DIVENG section all works towards a common goal: making Iraq better, one day, one piece of wood and one slab of rock at a time.

“We cover a lot – from basing and facilities, to infrastructure,” said Maj. Jason Borg, deputy division engineer. “We understand the blueprint of where everyone is at and track facility management. What we’ve seen since coming into country is mainly constructional builds … an [emphasis] on managing construction efforts.”

One of the main struggles DIVENG members face is the fact that everything in Iraq has a definite timeline, said Borg, a native of Renton, Wash. How to piece together the puzzle of managing the entire footprint, while gathering and transport the necessary materials needed can almost be as difficult as getting key structures built.

“Let’s face it – there isn’t a Home Depot down the road you can go get whatever you need,” added Borg with a laugh.

While managing the raw materials is important, it’s also important to know who is doing what. Air Force Maj. Brent Hyden, a reservist with the 810 Civil Engineer Flight located at Naval Air Support Joint Readiness Base-Fort Worth, works as the DIVENG strategic infrastructure officer-in-charge. His responsibilities help the section realize their limitations and boundaries.

“We do a lot of good things for reconstruction in Iraq,” said Hyden, a native of Arlington, Texas. “I do technical analysis on what agencies are doing what things. It’s all part of a bigger picture – as Gen. [Jefforey] Smith [MND-C deputy commanding general for support] says it is all ‘spokes in a wheel – you need all of them to turn.’”

Hyden listed a water network as an example, saying that you have to have canals built to traffic the water, pumps to keep it moving, electric networks in place to supply energy, etc. If one of the areas – the spokes – breaks down, the entire wheel stops to move. To counteract this, Hyden tries to pinpoint weaknesses early on, so they don’t lead to shattered spokes down the line.

A large effort that is currently ongoing for Hyden is power factor management within the Iraqi national grid.

“Every network in the United States manages their power factor – because it means a lot more power output from networks. But no one in Iraq does it,” added Hyden. “We are demonstrating to the [government of Iraq] how many more hours of power they could get from their existing generation capacity. Once we have the demonstration project in place, we will engage at increasingly higher levels within the Ministry of Electricity.”

While projects designed to improve Iraqi citizens daily lives are of the highest priority, it’s also important to make sure their safety – now and in the future – is secure. To this end, DIVENG also works with basing.

“Basing covers opening, closing and transitioning bases within the MND-C AO,” said Air Force Reserve Maj. Kevin McCue, engineer officer from Houston. “We collect requirements, then work out ways to construct projects to meet the needs of the units we support.”

One of the most difficult aspects of basing is that the operational environment is constantly changing. “We’re always trying to meet the needs of the maneuver units as the situation changes,” he added. “It’s about juggling limited engineering resources, while tracking to make sure it goes through.”

McCue works closely with many sections inside MND-C Headquarters including G4 Logistics/LOGCAP, G5 Planning, G8 Finance and the staff judge advocate, as well as Multi-National Corps - Iraq, to coordinate resources, keep on top of trends and assure smooth approval of projects.

A common issue that comes with base transfers is private land and how it affects the areas comprising and surrounding bases.

Air Force Cpt. Jeffrey Farmer, DIVENG real estate, from Bartlett, Tenn., handles these issues as well as deeds and claims that affect them.

“It’s about figuring out the process and getting the permissions to use the land from the private citizen or the government,” he added. “It is very important to know if the base is on government or private property, so when know whether to transfer the base back to the government of Iraq or close the base that is on private land.”

“I’ve helped solve some big real estate issues in our area of operations” said Farmer, who serves with the 932nd CES out of Scott Air Force Base in Illinois.

The DIVENG section seamlessly combines members of different services, as well as coalition counterparts. Members of the DIVENG fondly remember a colleague of theirs, Kazakh Cpt. Yerbol Zhaxylyk, who recently left their section.

“We went out to do assessments,” said Sgt. Maj. John Henry Barnes Jr., DIVENG senior enlisted leader and a native of Bridgeport, Conn. “That was my most memorable moment so far [this deployment] -- being out there, with a coalition partner.”

“We’ve worked closely with foreign allies – including Iraqis,” said McCue. “We had a Kazakh officer here who was great to work with. We also worked with Brits … they’re too cool.”

So next time a base transfers in Iskan, a bridge is completed in Basra, a new water canal helps farmers water their animals near al Kut or a courthouse opens in Dhi Qar, remember that it began and was guided by the MND-C DIVENG section. Every journey begins with a footstep. Rebuilding Iraq begins with simple sheets of plywood and the dedication and heart to make a change.

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