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Transatlantic Division Leads the Way in Contingency Support [Building Strong® 2020-2021]


“Essayons!” is the motto of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). It means, “Let us try.” However, if you’re saying the translation correctly, it is more accurate to say, “Let us try,” meaning USACE will get it done “Essayons!” when others can’t. That’s true in the continental United States, where USACE builds and maintains locks and dams, responds to natural disasters, and builds emergency hospitals in response to a global pandemic. And it’s also true in the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) area of responsibility, where USACE’s Transatlantic Division (TAD) provides engineering, construction, and related services to the U.S. military and allied nations in one of the most volatile construction environments in the world.

With oversight of well over $6 billion in projects critical to U.S. and allied nations’ national security, two districts, a task force, and several specialized capabilities, TAD is truly USACE’s tip of the spear, when it comes to supporting the warfighter.

TAD provides services to U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) forces and other U.S. government agencies operating in the Middle East. Additionally, TAD members provide these services to allied nations as part of the Foreign Military Sales program and provide construction support in Iraq and Afghanistan to help promote regional stability.

They accomplish this through two districts, the Transatlantic Middle East District (TAM) and the Transatlantic Afghanistan District (TAA), as well as Task Force Essayons (TFE), which specializes in providing “just in time engineering solutions” directly to the warfighter.

One of the major projects completed under the Transatlantic Division in 2020 was a headquarters building that was part of the SHIELD 5 Missile Defense Project in Qatar. (Photo Courtesy of USACE Afghanistan District)

One of the major projects completed under the Transatlantic Division in 2020 was a headquarters building that was part of the SHIELD 5 Missile Defense Project in Qatar. (Photo Courtesy of USACE)

The Transatlantic Middle East District is currently executing approximately $5.3 billion worth of military construction and Foreign Military Sales projects across an area that’s almost as large as the continental United States, crossing multiple time zones. With projects in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, Jordan, Oman, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Iraq, TAM supports not only CENTCOM and its components but plays a valuable role in work critical to the national defense strategies of allied nation partners.

Additionally, the district is home to several specialized capabilities including: the Aircraft Hangar Fire Protection Technical Center of Expertise, Center of Standardization for Nonpermanent Facilities (COS), the USACE Contingency Deployment Center (UCDC), and an Army Facilities Component Systems (AFCS) branch.

These capabilities are available not only to the DOD but also to allied partners, non-governmental organizations, and other government agencies that might have a need for their expertise.

The Aircraft Hangar Fire Protection Center of Expertise provides gold-standard advice on fire suppression systems, testing, and inspection used in aircraft hangars, where a single fire can cause damage in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

These capabilities are available not only to the DOD but also to allied partners, non-governmental organizations, and other government agencies that might have a need for their expertise.

The Aircraft Hangar Fire Protection Center of Expertise provides gold-standard advice on fire suppression systems, testing, and inspection used in aircraft hangars, where a single fire can cause damage in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

The COS can provide off-the-shelf designs to meet virtually any facilities requirement from barracks to medical facilities to hardened operations centers (Hardened refers to a facility being designed and constructed to withstand direct or indirect fire. The significance of operations centers or any facility is that it makes them less vulnerable to disruption by enemy forces). Utilizing the COS can save customers valuable time and construction costs on facilities that can last up to 30 years.


According to its website, the UCDC provides “soup to nuts” support for USACE personnel deploying for contingency operations. This includes screening resumes and hiring, conducting medical screenings, and other pre-deployment processing as well as administrative actions while deployed and all post-deployment actions, ensuring those who deploy with USACE are taken care of at every step in the process.

The AFCS branch, one of only four in the DOD, has design agents who work underneath the Engineering Research and Development Center’s Construction Engineering Research Laboratory. The AFCS program helps TAD support combatant commands and the Army service component commands by providing them with theater construction planning and designs.

As TAD’s enduring district, TAM’s role in national defense and its stable presence in the region make it indispensable to USACE’s ability to provide frontline support to the warfighter.

“One of the things I’m most proud of is our history,” said TAM Commander Col. Philip Secrist. “We’ve been around for almost 70 years. In many cases, our stakeholders can choose whether or not to utilize the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for their projects, and we wouldn’t exist if they didn’t choose us time and again. We are not always the cheapest option, and we’re up front about that. But we are the best value option and bring with us the expertise and reputation of the entire U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.”

The Transatlantic Afghanistan District is a contingency district that has existed since 2004. It supports operations Resolute Support and Freedom’s Sentinel by accomplishing construction for U.S. Forces Afghanistan Combined Security Transition Command and for the departments of Defense and State.

TAA provides engineering solutions and expertise in support of U.S. efforts to help build a stronger Afghanistan. Roughly 125 members in total, these deployed civilians and service members perform project management, engineering, and construction throughout Afghanistan and provide Afghanistan with facilities and infrastructure to strengthen its security posture and create economic opportunities for years to come.

Among its major programs are:

• The Afghanistan Infrastructure Fund program, which helps improve security, increase governance, and promote economic development by providing reliable and sustainable infrastructure to the people of Afghanistan. Projects deliver water and electrical infrastructure.

• The Afghan National Defense Security Forces program, which is geared to provide quality facilities, improve infrastructure management systems, and enhance combat and general engineer capabilities for the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police.

The Afghanistan District uses its engineering expertise to assist in building a stronger Afghanistan by focusing on the following priorities:

• Executing the program: Design, contract for, and construct facilities and solutions for Afghanistan’s engineering challenges.

• Building capacity: Provide opportunities to grow the Afghanistan construction sector.

• Managing transition: Turn over facilities and infrastructure to the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to use, operate, and maintain independently.

Task Force Essayons was developed as an agile and responsive organization that provides forward-deployed engineering and comprehensive services to the warfighter. The TFE model includes lines of effort that provide project management, technical design, construction and environmental contract oversight, base camp master planning, geographic information system (GIS) mapping, environmental compliance, real estate, and operational services for deployed U.S. and coalition units. TFE is the “One door to the Corps” for the warfighter in support of the Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF) and Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR). Its Project Management Branch is currently tracking 83 operations and maintenance-Army-funded projects totaling $40.1 million, and four counter-Daesh Train and Equip Fund (CTEF) projects totaling $2.9 million at various phases of development.

CENTCOM issued a request for forces in April 2017, asking for the support of TFE for CJTF-OIR, Special Operations Joint Task Force- OIR, U.S. Army Central (ARCENT), and other mission partners in the combined joint operations area (CJOA), which includes Iraq and Syria. Since that time, TFE has completed 321 projects, 19 base camp master plans, and 90 environmental reports. The TFE model has been such a successful supporting unit that ARCENT is looking to maintain its capability and capacity going forward in its enduring mission.

Within the Transatlantic Division, there are several unique capabilities such as the Technical Center of Expertise for Hangar Fire Protection. (Photo Courtesy of USACE)

“Our coalition partners recognize TFE as an invaluable asset to the mission,” said Col. John Haas, the TFE commander. “They recognize that TFE provides USACE quality on the warfighter timeline.”

This is true of many projects in theater, with one example being Erbil Air Base in Iraq, where TFE is bringing that USACE quality to the deteriorating airfield. The taxiway enables many coalition partners in their mission success, and this project will support continuity of operations and the defeat of Daesh.

Primary support for the warfighter includes force protection; life, health, and safety; power surety; storm water management; and quality of life. TFE maintains the multiyear integrated priority list for the CJTF Engineer (CJENG) based on whether the project is mission critical, essential, or enhancing. These imperatives are the foundation of the Joint Facilities Utilization Board (JFUB).

Of significant importance to CJENG is that TFE provides cradleto-grave oversight of all projects as they progress through the JFUB process. This process helps mission partners get involved in the execution of their requiring activities to accomplish construction effects within the CJOA and to provide base operating support integrator engineer focus on requests for support.

Through TFE’s tremendous ability, CJTF-OIR is now in the latter stages of their mission and have claimed success in the degradation of ISIS’ capabilities and the building of partner capacity for the Iraqi security forces, so they can maintain the security and safety of the Iraqi people. The TFE team is proud to have been a part of the accomplishment and is poised to provide the agile responsive model for our mission partners. TFE is building strong to support the warfighter.

The final and most recent piece of the Transatlantic Division’s mission scope is dedicated support to U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM). Different divisions within USACE are responsible for different combatant commands within the U.S. military. TAD acts as a liaison to facilitate those command-to-command relationships when SOCOM is involved in order to synchronize those programs across USACE.

“TAD’s day-to-day execution for SOF [special operations forces] is relatively small compared to other major subordinate comands; however, we offer a unique and dispassionate perspective of SOF engineering,” said Brandon Chance, a TAD program manager who works SOCOM programs in the division. “Also, TAD’s wealth of contingency engineering experience, combined with a robust operations staff, provides significant insights and resources for the SOF engineer.”

Currently, SOCOM is leveraging TAD’s experience in crafting its internal engineering standards document, titled, “SOCOM Spearbook,” which will supplement other COCOM standards (including CENTCOM’s “Sandbook”), as well as serving as a “how-to” reference for the SOF engineer.

With ongoing support to contingency operations, TAD continues to look for ways it can provide value to CENTCOM, SOCOM, and other key stakeholders.

This article appears in the 2020-2021 edition of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: Building Strong®, Serving the Nation and the Armed Forces


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