Army Engineers: Supporting the Warfighters and Reconstruction Efforts

By Flowers, Robert B. | Army, October 2004 | Go to article overview

Army Engineers: Supporting the Warfighters and Reconstruction Efforts


Flowers, Robert B., Army


In western Iraq at the Euphrates River, the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment pursues insurgents. The unit needs to know if a bridge will support an Abrams tank. A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers forward engineer support team (FEST) assigned to Combined Joint Task Force-7 travels to the bridge with tele-engineering communications equipment. The FEST inspects, measures and photographs the bridge. Then they use the tele-engineering equipment to transmit data and photos to the Corps' Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) in Vicksburg, Miss. ERDC's bridge experts provide advice and assistance to the on-ground team. The assessment is completed in about two hours. Once again, the engineer regiment has met a critical need by using field force engineering-deploying a small footprint forward and using real-time video-based technology to leverage the entire regiment's capabilities to support the war fighter.

During the past year, my dual role as the chief of Engineers and commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has offered me a front row view of the great contributions of the entire Engineer Regiment-active duty, National Guard, Reserve, civilian employees and contractors. The vignette above is just one example of how the regiment is applying field force engineering to support the joint team in the global war on terrorism.

As the chief of Engineers, I advise the Chief of Staff of the Army on military engineering, topography, crisis response and other issues. In that role, I have seen engineer soldiers show their talent and versatility, most recently during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. More than 86,000 active duty and Reserve engineers deployed. While fighting alongside combat units, they built and repaired roads, bridges, airfields and bases. Following initial combat, engineers took on reconstruction missions, provided force protection and collected and destroyed enemy ordnance.

As commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, I have been proud to witness our primarily civilian organization support the warfighter and reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since the global war on terrorism began, approximately 1,700 civilian and military employees have deployed, some of them for two tours.

Several of our civilian leaders deployed to serve as senior advisors to several Iraqi ministries. Through field force engineering, civilian employees, reserve component and 249th Engineer Battalion (Prime Power) engineers have used their technical, engineering and scientific expertise to solve numerous engineering challenges.

The FESTs and their tele-engineering systems have assisted in airfield repair, bridge and infrastructure assessment, force protection measures, water control structures analysis and dam breach analysis. In addition, reach-back capability has allowed researchers to provide maneuver units with mobility, terrain and drop zone analysis. FESTs are proving invaluable to the joint team; one FEST was attached to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force with great success.

Our contingency real estate support teams (CRESTs) have supported every military contingency for the past 10 years, and Iraq and Afghanistan were no exception. CREST members handled numerous real estate activities, including leasing and acquiring space for operations and coordinating real estate issues between military forces and the host nation.

In January, we stood up a provisional Gulf Region Division in Iraq to consolidate the many efforts under way. In support of the Department of Defense and the Coalition Provisional Authority, our current reconstruction efforts include:

* oil restoration. Initial efforts were directed toward fighting fires and making emergency repairs to restore operation of the oil infrastructure. oil production is steadily increasing, and we will continue to work with the Iraqi oil Ministry and the Coalition Provisional Authority to repair damage to the oil infrastructure and to assist Iraq in returning the system to full operation. …

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