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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has a rich history of support to the nation and its military forces in vital overseas regions. Corps of Engineers organizations have functioned in the Middle East and Africa since the early 1950s with one constant mission – to provide engineering design and construction management services to support U.S. policy and defense objectives overseas.
The Corps of Engineers was tapped to manage military construction projects in Turkey on behalf of the U.S. Air Force in 1952. The program expanded to include air base work in Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Morocco. As the U.S. government programmed aid to strengthen the military forces of select allies, the Corps of Engineers constructed military facilities in Pakistan and Iran. U.S. programs also provided economic assistance, resulting in non-military projects such as civilian air terminals in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Iran; a road system in Afghanistan; and port facilities in Somalia.

The mid-1960s brought projects in northeastern Africa and the NATO countries of Southern Europe. Projects were accomplished for the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard, and the U.S. Agency for International Development, with work completed in Greece, Turkey, Italy, Ethiopia, Somalia, Libya, and Saudi Arabia.

The division became increasingly involved in Saudi Arabia, with design and construction of a countrywide black-and-white television system and a radio station complex. The Engineer Assistance Agreement, signed in 1965 between the U.S. and Saudi Arabian governments, allowed for the Corps of Engineers to assist the Kingdom with its military infrastructure development. This emerging work necessitated a major organizational change in the Corps of Engineers: military construction in the NATO countries of southern Europe was assigned to the Europe Division (formed in 1974), and a new division would replace the Mediterranean Division for the Saudi Arabian program.

The Middle East Division was activated on April 20, 1976. The division was organized to meet the demands of the growing Saudi Arabian-funded engineering and construction program. Its headquarters with full division staff was located in Riyadh, with these subordinate organizations:

• Three districts – Riyadh, Jeddah, and Al Batin – to supervise construction programs throughout the Kingdom.

• An Engineer Logistics Command, responsible for directing and coordinating all logistics activities.

• An Ordnance Program Division that worked with the Saudi Arabian Army Ordnance Corps in operating and maintaining its logistics systems for wheeled and tracked vehicles.

• And a rear echelon near Winchester, Virginia, to manage the large volume of design work and award contracts on behalf of the division headquarters and its districts.

The Corps of Engineers assisted the Saudi Arabian government with a $14 billion design and construction program that included military cantonments, headquarters complexes, housing, air bases, navy bases, port facilities, hospitals, military training centers and schools, and all associated utilities and roads. This construction formed a portion of the major infrastructure that supported U.S. military operations in Saudi Arabia during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in 1990-1991.

As the program in Saudi Arabia drew to its expected closure, the Corps of Engineers reorganized to meet the changing workload. The rear echelon in Winchester evolved into a headquarters, serving customers throughout the Middle East and Africa. On September 30, 1986, the Middle East/Africa Projects Office (MEAPO) was formed as a district-level element of the South Atlantic Division.

MEAPO had a large geographic expanse. In Oman, it managed the design and construction of $300 million in facilities at four locations for use by the U.S. Air Force, with permission of the Sultanate.

Under the Defense Department’s foreign military sales program, the organization supervised projects that supported the defense forces of Egypt, Bahrain, and Kuwait, with smaller projects in Sudan and Liberia. Under a U.S. security assistance program, the Corps of Engineers supported the Africa Civic Action Program with technical and procurement services provided to host nation military forces engaging in beneficial projects for both military and civilian sectors of their populations.

Additionally, MEAPO served the Voice of America with its modernization program to upgrade broadcast stations overseas and the Department of Defense Dependents Schools with its worldwide asbestos abatement program. MEAPO was also instrumental in assisting Third U.S. Army with the development of the earliest LOGCAP (Logistics Civil Augmentation Program) service contracts and awarded the first package, for a petroleum distribution project in the Middle East.

Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm: Within days of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990, MEAPO began its deployment to Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, to provide design, construction, and real estate services to support U.S. forces.

Ultimately, the Corps of Engineers designed and constructed facilities totaling approximately $300 million and executed leases with private Saudi Arabian land owners and businesses totaling $135 million in annual rental fees.

Events in Europe and the Middle East prompted the Corps of Engineers to realign the overseas elements serving these regions. In February 1991, the Transatlantic Division was formed with its headquarters in Winchester, Virginia, multiple area and resident offices in the Middle East, and a single district – Europe – in Germany.

In addition to the engineering missions that had been managed by its predecessor, the first half of the decade brought several new programs to the Transatlantic Division:

• Assisting Kuwait’s government with its recovery operations after it was liberated from Iraq. Civil repairs totaling $330 million were made to electricity, water, and sanitary systems; public and state buildings, including the Parliament; and roads and transportation systems. Repairs were made to Kuwait’s two air bases, with that work valued at $131 million.

• Assisting with Operation Provide Comfort, providing engineering assistance for relief efforts to Kurdish refugees in Turkey and northern Iraq.

• Expanding its engineering support to U.S. Central Command, a major unified command, for its operations in the Middle East.

• Working in the former Soviet Union for programs ranging from embassy renovation to assisting with projects to reduce the threat of chemical and nuclear weapons.

• And developing, awarding, and administering the Army’s first worldwide Logistics Civil Augmentation Program contract from 1992-1997, used to provide logistics and engineering services to U.S. forces deployed to Somalia, Rwanda and Zaire, Haiti, the Middle East, Italy, and the Balkans.

In 1995, the Transatlantic Division was renamed the Transatlantic Programs Center as a result of division restructuring in the Corps of Engineers. An organizational change in 1998 reassigned Europe District to the North Atlantic Division.

The Transatlantic Programs Center continued the operations of its predecessor. In the late 1990s, the Center assisted the U.S. Agency for International Development with construction projects in Kenya and Tanzania, and assisted the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy with designing and building a nuclear storage facility in the Ural Mountains.

As a result of the global war on terror, the Transatlantic Programs Center expanded its operations to meet the engineering requirements resulting from the troop buildup for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fall 2002, the Center initiated a program to build barracks and related facilities for graduating battalions of the Afghanistan National Army and concurrent established the Afghanistan Area Office, which later evolved into an independent district reporting to the Corps of Engineers headquarters. As the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan increased, the Center provided project management, technical, contracting, and business support services to the Gulf Region Division and its three districts in Iraq and to the Afghanistan Engineer District. It also established the USACE Deployment Center to prepare civilians for deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Throughout this period, the Transatlantic Programs Center continued to provide engineering and construction services to U.S. Central Command and its component services; to other Defense Department customers; and to foreign defense forces and other U.S. government agencies. In early 2009 it completed construction of the King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Center, a state-of-the-art counterterrorism training facility designed to make the world a safer place.

On October 1, 2009, the Transatlantic Programs Center was renamed the Middle East District, following the activation of its new higher headquarters, the Transatlantic Division. The renaming did not affect the organization’s mission of providing products and services to its customers in the Middle East, Central Asia, and other areas.

Today, the Middle East District continues to provide engineering and construction services to U.S. Central Command and its component services to meet their operational requirements. The District also provides logistics services to U.S. forces deployed in the Balkans region, a mission performed on behalf of U.S. Army Europe since 1995. These contracted logistics services include base camp operations and maintenance, life support services (food, water, sanitation, and laundry), and vehicle maintenance and transportation.

In addition, the Middle East District supports a wide range of U.S. and foreign customers, including the U.S. Air Force Materiel Command and the Egyptian defense forces for various foreign military sales projects in that nation; and it supports other foreign military sales customers, such as Jordan and Kuwait.

The Middle East District also continues to provide in-depth project management, technical, contracting, and support services to the USACE district in Afghanistan which is focused on reconstruction projects that improve the lives of citizens and help establish the conditions for stability in those nations.