MED in charge of Iraq projects

Published June 9, 2011
Maj. Gen. Kendall Cox, commander, Transatlantic Division, speaks during the transfer of authority ceremony in Iraq. USACE Photo by Marcus Spade.

WINCHESTER, Va. -- The Middle East District’s Iraq Area Office officially became the sole U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project manager in Iraq during a transfer of authority ceremony June 2 at Camp Wolfe on Victory Base Complex, near Baghdad.

Transatlantic Division Commander Maj. Gen. Kendall Cox officiated the guidon transfer from Gulf Region District Commander Col. Jon Christensen to MED Commander Col. Ron Light.

“MED’s mission is to assume responsibility for any projects GRD did not complete, and finish them well,” said Light. “It’s an arm-in-arm accountability and all about teamwork.”

MED’s IAO took charge of 24 GRD legacy projects, including 18 Economic Support Fund projects either active or in planning. According to the U.S. State Department’s website, the ESF’s stated purpose is to consolidate security gains made by the military and help Iraq’s transition to be a self-reliant country. The project turnover coincides with the U.S. forces’ continued drawdown in Iraq.

“The USACE heritage in Iraq is extraordinary,” said Cox. “I am proud of every volunteer who serves our great nation in the cause of freedom. And I know that MED will continue to add to that noble legacy.”

The change in USACE presence began more than 20 months ago with the inactivation of the Gulf Region Division (once composed of three districts and a division headquarters), and the September 2009 activation of the Transatlantic Division. As the sole remaining Corps district in Iraq, the Gulf Region District is scheduled to be officially inactivated this summer.

The hand-off to MED of certain GRD projects began last year. According to Bill Ryals, Iraq Branch chief and MED’s transition team leader, DoS and FMS were the first programs to transition, with a concentration on maintaining the flow of project work.

“Service to customers was not interrupted by the past year’s transition and the final GRD transfer. MED continues to accept work, and we are still in the project business,” said Ryals. “Transitions are never easy but our continued perseverance and drive with the highly talented team here at MED will continue the USACE legacy of excellence in Iraq under difficult circumstances.”

“We were already handling other portions of the DoS program from Winchester,” he added. “The project management and contract administration portions transitioned to MED in the summer of 2010 and set the path for the future transition of projects to follow. So, picking up the construction management was the next and the last piece of the DoS program to be MED’s responsibility. We are working through many challenges such as documention and funding issues and expect all will be fully on track with other MED programs and projects in 90 days.”

MED initially established the Iraq Area Office to manage the DoS and FMS programs as they transitioned during the last year.

“We are managing four projects in Iraq for the State Department, totaling $220 million,” said Gary Klein, MED project manager for the DoS program.

“One of the DoS projects includes expansion of facilities at the embassy compound, including a helicopter landing zone, parking apron, taxiway and maintenance facilities, and another for perimeter security, an air traffic control tower, guard towers, refueling stations and entry control points.

“A third project is an overhead cover project for housing and other offices at the embassy compound,” said Klein. “And, the ongoing work for State at the East End Housing complex.”

“The newly established Iraq Area Office inherited FMS projects at three different phases: awarded, pre-award, and planning,” said Manuel Napenas, project manager for FMS work in Iraq. “There were 10 awarded projects totaling $167.4 million.”

Most of the awarded FMS contracts support the border roads program for Iraq’s Director of Border Enforcement. According to Napenas, the border roads are adjacent to a large portion of Iraq’s borders with work being completed by local firms, broken down by segment.

GRD awarded the largest contract, valued at $51.8 million, for a portion of road on Iraq’s western border. This project is under construction. GRD also awarded contracts for additional sectors valued at $27.6 million, $16.7 million, $32.8 million, and $19 million.

“These border roads and other FMS projects, including a dining facility and simulator building for the Iraqi Air Force, transitioned to MED last November,” said Napenas.

“Now that we are fully operational, we anticipate an area office in Baghdad of about 30 Department of Army civilians to carry out the work,” said Roger Thomas, Construction Operations Division chief. “We are working closely with the Office of Security Coordination, or what used to be called the Office of Military Cooperation.”

Thomas explained that the Iraq Area Office would remain as long as the project work made the office viable.

Julie Shoemaker

Release no. 13-026