When you work for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the figurative bridges you build are often just as important at the literal ones. This is true in local communities when helping people recover from natural disasters and it’s true around the world when partnering with U.S. allies to improve their defense and engineering capabilities.
The 55th Chief of Engineers Lt. Gen. Scott Spellmon recently had a hand in building those bridges while visiting the Kingdom of Jordan and the State of Qatar – two long-standing U.S. allies currently working with USACE’s Transatlantic Middle East District (TAM) on defense infrastructure projects.
Spellmon visited missile defense and aircraft infrastructure projects in Qatar as well as projects USACE is undertaking for the Jordanian Air Force. Spellmon said that although the visits to the project sites were eye-opening, it was the relationships District personnel had cultivated with their partners overseas that were most impressive.
Through TAM, the Army Corps of Engineers has had a permanent presence in the Middle East for more than 70 years, partnering with U.S. allies in the region on engineering, design and construction projects ranging from early road systems and airports to modern day state-of-the-art defense infrastructure.
Currently most of this work is done through foreign military financing, where partner nations like Qatar and Jordan fund the oversight of construction on some of their defense infrastructure.
“It’s important to note that our Middle East District mission partners are the ones paying for these projects, so they’ve got a choice on who they want to design and build them. Time and again they choose USACE. That’s a testament to both our reputation for providing high quality design and construction services and the trust that the Middle East District has built with our allied partners year after year,” said Spellmon.
In Qatar, Spellmon met with members of the Qatari Emirati Air Defense Forces, Qatari Emirati Air Force and Qatari Emirati Engineering Corps.
“USACE recently hosted Qatari Engineers in [Washington] DC and we talked about strides they’ve made in expanding the capacity of their own engineering corps to include things like disaster response. It’s great to be able to come here, continue our discussions and see that great work we’re doing with them,” said Spellmon. “It’s been great witnessing firsthand the strength of the relationships our engineers and program managers have cultivated with their allied nation counterparts over the years.”
In addition to meeting with Qatari defense forces, Spellmon also met with U.S. military commanders to discuss how USACE can continue supporting U.S. joint forces in the region. Recent efforts include the construction of new dining and housing facilities, utilities infrastructure and runway repair.
“We appreciate our partnership with USACE at Al Udeid Air Base” said Col. Dennis Cummings, 379th Air Expeditionary Wing deputy commander. “We are one team with shared goals, committed to building innovative solutions that optimize our resources and deliver results.”
USACE is divided up by Divisions and Districts with each Division matching up with a combatant command, the military commands responsible for each region of the globe. The Transatlantic Division is aligned with U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM).
“This Middle East is vital to security and stability around the world,” said Spellmon. “USACE isn’t the warfighter, but we enable the warfighter. It’s great to get feedback from commanders in the field on our ability to provide what they need. Sometimes that’s a better bunker that can save lives, sometimes it’s building a dormitory that makes their deployment just a little bit more comfortable.”
Spellmon also had a chance to meet with USACE personnel in the field, present awards and get their feedback on how they view their contributions to the USACE mission.
"The USACE Qatar Team was very proud to host the Chief of Engineers and showcase the work we have done over the almost last 20 years here in Qatar and all we are currently doing. His input regarding the future of USACE and where we are going as an organization was also highly appreciated," said Capt. Alfred McQuirter, TAM project engineer in Qatar.