USACE Middle East Tour Provides Rewarding Experience

Transatlantic Middle East District
Published June 14, 2024
Updated: June 14, 2024
A man and a woman standing in front of an ancient building.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Middle East District (TAM) Resident Engineer Jeff Pohlig and his wife Laura visit the UNESCO heritage site of Petra while traveling in Jordan. Pohlig enjoyed the ability to travel during his tour with TAM as a resident engineer in Bahrain.

Four men eating outdoors at a round table with an umbrella.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Middle East District (TAM) Resident Engineers Jeff Pohlig and Larry Ryan meet with leadership from the Egyptian Navy to discuss construction projects. TAM provides engineering, construction and related support services throughout the Middle East for U.S. military and allied nation partners in the region.

A group of men in PPE at a TAM project site.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Middle East District (TAM) Resident Engineer Jeff Pohlig (second from right), team members from the district’s Bahrain team and TAM Commander Col. Philip Secrist visits a ship to shore utilities project site at Bahrain Naval Base. When complete the project will enhance U.S. and allied nation Navy capabilities at the base by providing navy ships with greater connectivity to utilities on shore. In addition to Bahrain Pohlig supervised numerous construction projects in United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Jordan during his time as a resident engineer in the region.

Although the Middle East is typically associated with a military deployment in the minds of many, Jeff Pohlig, an  Area Engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District, said he found the two years he spent there far from the stereotypical austere environment many think of.

Pohlig, who just wrapped up a tour in Bahrain with USACE’s Transatlantic Middle East District (TAM) found his job there to be both personally and professionally rewarding and encouraged others to consider similar opportunities if available.

“There were so many great things that I loved about the assignment.  As an engineer you will rarely get the opportunity to experience such complexity and the variety in your projects.  I got to build munition storage facilities, air traffic control towers, aircraft hangars, aprons and taxiways, infrastructure for naval ships, command centers, simulator facilities and more.   And on the personal side of things, I was fortunate enough to work with colleagues from 6 different countries and got to learn about their customs and traditions.  Lunch time was always an exciting time to learn about new foods,” he reminisced.

TAM is unique among USACE districts in that a majority of its projects are for U.S. allied nation partners in the Middle East. Most are funded by those nations helping to provide for their national defense. Additionally, the district supports U.S. military forces around the region through infrastructure improvements to U.S. facilities used by U.S. forces such as the Bahrain Naval Base.

The projects are executed by a team of engineering, construction and related support professionals through TAM’s headquarters in Winchester, VA as well as offices located in countries throughout the Middle East.

As TAM’s Area Engineer in Bahrain, Pohlig not only worked on projects there but also United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Jordan. He said that working across multiple nations with military officers from those countries gave him a better appreciation for the diversity of cultures across the region which in turn helped him better understand the needs of the various mission partners USACE works with.

“Just as an example, UAE is a relatively new country flush with cash, with a small population and modern cities. Its largest tourism draw is the world’s tallest building the Burj Khalifa built in 2010.  Egypt on the other hand, is an older country with a huge population and far less wealth per capita.  Its largest tourism draw are the Pyramids, which were built 4500 years ago.  Both country’s militaries have vastly different budgets, threats, and goals. Understanding the history, culture and current state of the countries helped me to understand what mattered most to stakeholders,” said Pohlig.

Pohlig, who brought his wife with him to Bahrain, said they both found the two years spent in the Middle East to be personally rewarding as well.

“My wife and I loved to take advantage of the central location and traveled to other countries.  In addition to traveling with me to the countries within my area of responsibility, we also we were able to visit Vietnam, Malaysia, the Maldives, and Spain.  We saw a total of 8 new countries during our tour with the Middle East District.  With the Doha and Dubai airports nearby, travelling is cheap,” he said. “She was also able to take classes with the University of Maryland Global campus including an Arabic elective.”


Asked about some of the misconceptions about the assignment Pohlig mentioned concerns for his safety and that people seemed to think it was a “hardship.”

“People automatically assume every country resembles a dangerous, war-torn country because of what they see on the news.  This is far from reality.  The majority of countries in the middle east are safe. Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait all have lower crime rates than the United States. It’s also not hot all the time, there are seasons and relief from the heat.  From December to March in Bahrain the average high is around 70F, it even snows in Jordan in the winter. There are also churches, and some countries have alcohol at hotels, bars, and restaurants.  Just because they are Muslim countries, doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t tolerant of other cultures and religions.”

Col. Philip Secrist, TAM’s commander said he appreciated Pohlig’ s willingness to speak positively about his experience and hopes it will encourage more people to consider an overseas assignment with his district.

“We try really hard to get the word out that we have some great opportunities for people. You are working directly to support our U.S. military personnel around CENTCOM, contributing to over arching U.S. policy goals in the region and you’ll work on a portfolio of projects virtually unmatched anywhere else. When you factor in paid housing and other benefits that come with an overseas tour, it’s hard to beat,” said Secrist.

“There are some minor inconveniences, that may take some getting used to but nothing anyone with a sense of adventure wouldn’t adapt to quickly, I’d encourage anyone looking to expand their resume and see a bit of the world to give it a shot,” said Pohlig.