By Julie Bentley
DALLAS, Texas – The Southwestern Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has volunteered and deployed in support of military contingencies and humanitarian missions for more than 20 years.
Some of the missions have included support to Iraq and Afghanistan, Operations Just Cause in Panama, Restore Hope in Somalia, Support Hope in Rwanda, Uphold Democracy in Haiti, and Joint Endeavor in Bosnia. Even though the missions vary, there is one common thread: the men and women who volunteer to complete the mission.
One of those individuals is Keith Loos, real estate specialist, Little Rock District, who deployed to Afghanistan. Loos’s mission is to acquire, manage, and dispose of real estate in support of U.S. Forces.
“What I like most about the deployment experience are the people! They are dedicated, loyal and here to serve their country. Despite all the challenges, I like seeing things get done and knowing I was a major influence in the decisions that led to the best possible solution makes it all worthwhile,” said Loos.
Michael Mattera, project engineer, Tulsa District, currently works on a number of projects in Afghanistan. Most are difficult and dangerous to get to. Mattera can easily access two projects from his office; one is a 50-bed hospital and the other with 38 buildings on 88 acres. Mattera has to access the rest of the projects by helicopter, which he visits twice a month.
“For me, being deployed has been fantastic. I teach local Afghans everything from engineering, design, management and cultural differences between the US and Afghanistan. I also teach the junior engineers in our office process and procedures regarding construction, design, modifications and methods of adjusting to deployment,” said Mattera.
Christopher West, project engineer, Fort Worth District, is also deployed to Afghanistan. West serves as a contracting officer representative for two projects: the Afghanistan National Army and the Afghanistan National Police. The $45 million project site is located in Helmand Province, where West relies heavily on the Local National Quality Assurance team who oversee the project sites.
“Interaction with the LNQA is a very eye opening experience as we each learn about the other’s culture and customs. I have enjoyed this experience because I have been able to gain from becoming a COR, and the responsibilities that go along with it,” said West.
Bruce Barrett, regional safety officer, Southwestern Division, deployed to Afghanistan from December 2011 to March 2013. Barrett worked alongside 110 people at his post, where he led the safety team on several projects.
“The safety program was in poor condition upon arrival; with the help of a professional and dedicated team of safety personnel we turned it around and met all goals. I’m glad I was able to support this important mission,” said Barrett.
During his deployment, Barrett encouraged the safety staff to get professional certification. Two of them did with Barrett’s support, months of study and discussion. This was a first for anyone in safety, while deployed.
“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers support to Overseas Contingency Operations would not be successful without the unwavering dedication and support to our nation by the brave men and women who volunteer to deploy. We will continue the proud tradition of supporting contingency and humanitarian operations whenever called upon. The overall success of the mission always depends on our great volunteers,” said Julie Bentley, deployment coordinator, Southwestern Division.