WINCHESTER, Va. - The Qatar Emiri Corps of Engineers plans to improve its organization and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is in a good position to help.
Three years ago, the Middle East District learned that the Qatar Emiri Corps of Engineers wanted to make improvements and started discussions on potential support. The District invited a contingent of Qatari engineer leaders to visit the United States to hear about specific organizations, processes, structure, and training opportunities that could benefit the QECE.
“When Gharib Ibrahim, our Qatar Area Engineer, first mentioned that the QECE was interested in our technical assistance, I realized this was an excellent opportunity for us to establish a professional partnership and help an important Gulf ally further shape its Corps of Engineers,” said Rich Dickson, Program Development Engineer. “We offered them an opportunity to visit the United States and the Middle East District to help them understand how they could collaborate with USACE. The QECE leadership was very interested.”
The official portion of the trip began April 22 when six Qatari generals arrived at the District headquarters in Winchester: the Qatar Emiri Corps of Engineers Commander Engineer Brigadier General Yousuf Ahmed al Mannai; the Projects and Maintenance Unit Commander Engineer Brigadier General Ghazi Muhammad Ali al Amri; Construction and Manufacturing Unit Commander Engineer Brigadier General Issa Ali Issa al Kubaysi; Landscape, Planning and Design Directorate Manager Engineer Brigadier General Ali Muhammad Husayn al Hayal; Field Engineering Unit Commander Staff Brigadier General Abdallah Mhanna Hammud al Rami Al Mannai; and Finance and Supply Branch Chief Engineer Brigadier General Fahd Hamad Rashid al Nuaymi.
The group was greeted by USACE Deputy Commanding General for Military and International Operations Maj. Gen. Kendall P. Cox, Transatlantic Division Commander Maj. Gen. Michael R. Eyre, Middle East District Commander Col. Jon Christensen and Deputy for Programs and Project Management Deborah Duncan.
“We are excited you have been able to visit and we are thrilled to have this opportunity to enhance the relationship between Qatar and the United States as well as the partnership with the Army Corps of Engineers,” said Cox. “We want to assist in answering all your questions.”
The Qatar Emiri Corps of Engineers Commander thanked Cox and added, “Our purpose here is to see what you have, how you can provide technical assistance and build cooperation, and how you can support the Qatari Corps of Engineers. Our main goal is to find ways to work together and mutually benefit both of us.”
Everyone around the table was introduced. Along with the greeting party, others attending from the District included Qatar Area Office Engineer Gharib Ibrahim, Chief of Engineering Division Roger Vogler, Chief of Construction Operations Division Roger Thomas, project managers Steve Markland and Matt Reagan, and Dickson. To ensure effective communications and overcome any potential language barriers, the District provided a contracted interpreter. He translated all the briefings into Arabic, although the generals’ questions and discussion points were asked and answered in English.
Christensen began by saying that the District welcomes the partnership and trusts that this will be a learning experience for both of our organizations. He then described USACE missions.
One general explained that the Qatari Corps of Engineers, with about 950 members, is involved mainly with military buildings, although they are planning for a larger role in emergencies and power shut downs, with an ultimate goal of broader mission areas similar to USACE in the future.
Christensen also described the work of the Transatlantic Division and Middle East District, showing photos and describing accomplishments throughout the region. He concluded by answering questions about which portions of the USACE mission were handled by civilians, military or contractors; whether emergency/disaster relief teams are full-time or if the participants have regular daily jobs also; and which field manuals covered USACE operations.
Duncan’s slides described the USACE business doctrine, project management business process and imperatives, and explained the make-up of a project delivery team. She also discussed life cycle project management, project controls and lessons learned.
Questions from the Qatari officers were centered on training availability, personnel, and expected daily workload for individual project managers.
“Qatar has expressed interest in maintaining facilities in order to make them last,” said Duncan. “They have made great progress by implementing the base level operations and maintenance structure and processes and are now interested in developing a robust Engineer Regiment that has expertise similar to USACE: response to national emergencies, design and management of large projects, Explosive Ordnance Disposal and training of military engineers to serve Qatar.”
The second day’s presentations began with Vogler, who addressed District engineer duties, engineering division staffing and structure, quality management, software systems and architect-engineer management. The Qataris were interested in the type of savings attained through the Value Engineering process, how technical centers of expertise work, and how training is obtained.
During the Construction Operations presentation, Thomas described the safety milestone one contractor reached of 5,000,000 man hours without an accident and the stringent safety program that contributed to that accomplishment. He discussed field office structure, coordination meetings and change orders. The Qataris asked questions about what circumstances would prompt a change order versus issuing a new contract.
The Chief of Resource Management Suella Smith discussed financial management. The generals had questions about tracking money at any point, and Smith explained that the financial management system is reconciled everyday so there would always be an updated accounting of all funds.
The Contracting Division Deputy Lt. Col. Edward Ospital discussed the contracting responsibilities at the District.
“There was a consistent thread of interest throughout the briefings,” said Ospital. “In particular, the Qatari general officers were very interested in our training program and in learning how to get their engineers and acquisition professionals certified. They wanted to learn our processes and were very interested in attending some of our same courses.”
When the briefings concluded, the Qatari contingent departed for a tour of Fort Lee, Va., to see explosive ordinance disposal and public works. Later in the week, they traveled to Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., to answer some of their military engineering questions.
“In my view, the Qatar Emiri COE visit was very successful,” said Christensen. “Matt Reagan and Steve Markland expertly laid the groundwork for the trip and were very successful in getting support across a wide spectrum of engineer organizations. The trip solidified an already strong relationship with our Qatari partners, and set the conditions for increased interactions and partnering in the future.”