WINCHESTER, Va. – The recent completion of several school renovations in Lebanon and the construction of two medical clinics in Jordan are only the latest examples of work the Middle East District has performed in support of U.S. Central Command's humanitarian efforts.
As the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' engineering and construction representative supporting the USCENTCOM area of operations, the district takes on a variety of projects in the region for the U.S. military and friendly foreign governments. Few, however, may be as satisfying as the small humanitarian assistance projects.
"These projects really foster good will with the people," said Tom Jackson, a construction representative for the Middle East District. "It shows them that the two countries can and do work together for good."
Since taking on the first one in fiscal year 2007, the Middle East District has completed six projects in Lebanon, including construction of two dual-purpose fire station and community centers in Dmit and Ehmej, reconstruction of an emergency room and renovation of the operating and recovery rooms at Badero Hospital, and developing a sanitary sewer collection system in Rimat.
The district's Egypt Area Office and resident engineer in Lebanon, Essam Guirguis, oversaw the most recent efforts: the expansion of one school and the improvement of two others. The humanitarian assistance projects were funded by the U.S. Department of Defense in conjunction with the U.S. Embassy's Office of Defense Cooperation for a total of $1.19 million, and undertaken in cooperation with the Lebanese Ministry of Education and Higher Education and the Lebanese Armed Forces.
The Department of Defense Humanitarian Assistance Program administers a variety of activities funded by the Overseas Humanitarian, Disaster and Civic Aid appropriation. OHDACA supports the Secretary of Defense's security cooperation strategies to build indigenous capabilities and cooperative relationships with allies, friends, and potential partners, according to a Department of Defense Security Cooperation Agency briefing posted on DoD's website. Established in 1986, this program is designed to assure friendly nations and allies of U.S. support, and provide basic humanitarian aid and services to populations in need.
U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Maura Connelly participated in a ribbon cutting ceremony for the $698,000 expansion of the Haret Sakhr School. Started in June 2010, the project included construction of a new three-story building that houses a conference hall, library, computer lab, and multi-purpose room. Previously, the school had to restrict student enrollment due to lack of space. The community now has safe and adequate facilities to accommodate all its children, according to a U.S. embassy press release.
"We are very proud to have been able to provide assistance to your school – to help improve the facilities that benefit your sons and daughters every day," said Connelly during a speech at the school's opening ceremony.
A plaque at the Haret Sakher School reads: "This center is dedicated to the people of Lebanon and reflects a strong partnership between the Lebanese and American People."
"All of the children attending these schools will see plaques featuring the U.S. and Lebanese flags side-by-side," said Jackson. "Beyond the obvious benefit to the local residents, [humanitarian assistance] projects also present U.S. personnel the opportunity to open up a dialogue with government officials in these communities."
Renovation of the Sin El Fil School in Mount Lebanon was valued at $262,000 and included construction of a steel roof structure with tiling; a new kitchen and restrooms; a new generator, an electrical system and lighting; rehabilitation or replacement of windows, doors and tiling; external and internal painting; insulation; and application of security devices on windows and doors. It is the only elementary school in the community, serving students in kindergarten through fifth grade, and the upgrade expands the school's capacity from about 150 students to 225.
Renovation of the Almat School was valued at $230,388 and included construction of a new vehicle ramp, metal shed, entrance lobby and staircase. New walls and finishes on the basement level, a new kitchen, new restrooms, and new plumbing, heating and electrical systems were also added. The facility was painted and waterproofed, and security devices were placed on windows and doors.
The medical clinics constructed in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, located in Madaba and Shuna, will provide health assistance to some of Jordan's rural residents who may have previously travelled great distances to receive medical care. Both facilities were completed on time and within the $1.28 million budget, all while maintaining excellent safety records with no accidents in approximately 60,000 work hours by the Jordanian contractor Hiba Engineering Establishment.
"These clinics could not have been completed without the effort, cooperation, support and coordination provided by all parties involved, including the Royal Medical Services, the contractor, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers," said Salem Fares, the Middle East District's resident engineer in Jordan.
Each clinic – approximately 920-square-meters each and designed to accommodate future expansion, if needed – includes a lab, lobby area, pharmacy, X-ray room, offices, changing rooms and bathrooms, and obstetrics and gynecology facilities. They also house designated treatment areas for surgical procedures, pediatrics, ophthalmology, and dental care. Additional features were built in to house utilities and to provide for service and support personnel, such as the electrical room and supply storage rooms.
"The clinics are being well received," said Fares. "Throughout the life of these projects, many residents living near the construction sites would walk up and ask when the clinics were scheduled to be completed. They have shown their satisfaction with having state-of-the-art medical facilities and health care available closer to their communities."
"It is … the good deeds and great efforts of our friends from United States of America that make providing high-quality health services to underprivileged Jordanians in remote areas possible," said Director General of Jordan's Royal Medical Service Maj. Gen. Abdelaziz Ziadat, during a construction completion ceremony at the Shuna clinic. "I would specifically like to thank the Humanitarian Assistance Program of the U.S. Department of Defense for kindly donating funds for the construction of both centers, here and in Madaba." Ziadat specifically thanked Fares for his "hard work in making this project a reality."
"It was very satisfying to hear the customer complement USACE on these facilities," said Fares, who went on to express his appreciation for the support his office received from the Egypt Area Office and district headquarters personnel, specifically mentioning Tom Jackson, Christy Loy and Robert Strom.
The next planned humanitarian assistance project is a National Health Disaster Management Center, also located in Jordan. Fares said that the efforts of the Jordan Resident Office – specifically Amani Al-Najar, Arafat Abu Khadra and Dwayne Cook – have been vital in the early stages of this project.