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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Division

Transition in Afghanistan means business as usual.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Transatlantic Division (TAD), headquartered in Winchester, Va., is USACE’s ninth major subordinate command, responsible for construction, engineering, and project management support for U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM). CENTCOM’s area of responsibility (AOR) spans 20 nations in the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia, and Southwest Asia.

Originally established in 1991 to support increased reconstruction activities following the Gulf War of 1990-1991, TAD was reactivated on Sept. 29, 2009, reflecting changes related to both the U.S. withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq and increased operations in Afghanistan. Since then, it has experienced major changes in organization, structure, and programs, a continuing response to ongoing developments in Southwest Asia.

The creation of two districts in Afghanistan enabled the Corps of Engineers to better support the expanded demands on USACE from the U.S. surge.

“I would call it more a realignment than reorganization,” TAD’s commander, Maj. Gen. Michael R. Eyre, explained. “As we inactivated the Gulf Region Division [GRD], that was an enabler to allow TAD to stand up, due to limitations on how many divisions we can have. At that point, we had two districts left in Iraq, which fell under the command of the new TAD.

“We also had a single district in Afghanistan – the Afghan Engineer District [AED] – which fell under the mission command of TAD. We then split Afghanistan in two, with AED-North [AED-N] and AED-South [AED-S]. That realignment really provided for a continuity of operations for Afghanistan. The Middle East District [MED] also came under TAD, having previously been an independent functional organization. It had all the other field offices throughout CENTCOM, based on work requirements.”

twin incinerators Bagram Afghanistan

A new $5.5 million trash disposal plant features twin incinerators that were shipped to Bagram, Afghanistan, from Richmond, Va. Photo by Mark Rankin

Prior to being moved under the newly created TAD, MED was known as the Transatlantic Programs Center, but the change of name and command did not alter its primary mission: Provide engineering and construction services to CENTCOM throughout its AOR.

Overall, the changes gave CENTCOM its first direct support from a single USACE division, improving efficiencies and enabling some consolidation of USACE efforts in the region.

“MED, more than any other district – and all districts are unique – I would say is probably the most adaptable,” MED Commander Col. Jon Christensen said. “We expand and contract, based on the workload, and have changed the name of our organization many times over the years.

“We can take an engineer out of Saudi Arabia and put him in Egypt without missing a beat – and frequently do that. In Afghanistan, even before 2009, our mission was to provide reach-back support and be the ‘enduring district’ – keeper of knowledge as folks change out across the years.”

The creation of two districts in Afghanistan enabled the Corps of Engineers to better support the expanded demands on USACE from the U.S. surge. Their efforts primarily fell into several broad categories of design and construction, including:

  • Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) – operating bases, training ranges, hospitals, and police headquarters compounds for the national army and national police;
  • U.S. military construction (MILCON) – airfields, barracks, warehouses, and medical facilities serving U.S. and coalition forces;
  • Afghanistan Sustainable Development Program – public works, including roads, water, bridges, electrical, and other essential service and energy projects;
  • Capacity building – by hiring Afghan nationals as an integral part of its project manpower and technical capacity development program, increase skilled Afghan human capital; and
  • Counter-Narcotics/Border Management Initiative – oversee the construction of forward operating bases and border crossings and support other projects, including the National Investigative Unit, judicial center, and joint aviation facilities in Afghanistan.

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J.R. Wilson has been a full-time freelance writer, focusing primarily on aerospace, defense and high...