Innovation, particularly in the realm of engineering, design, and construction programs, is more than just a buzzword—it's the key to the future in regions as diverse and dynamic as the U.S. Central Command’s area of operations across the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Levant.
For the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Division, innovation is the essential energy that drives success. From the initial development phase of a project, through the design and construction, and well into the operational phase, innovation drives the relentless pursuit of excellence, supporting sustainable strategies and fostering the development of long-lasting, reliable solutions.
Why is this important? Because the CENTCOM region is one of the most dynamic construction environments in the world, spanning more than 4 million square miles. This vast area is populated by more than 560 million people from 25 ethnic groups, speaking 20 languages with hundreds of dialects, and confessing multiple religions that transect national borders.
Factor in the extreme weather conditions that range from scorching desert heat to unpredictable flash floods, and it's evident that constructions here face unique challenges. Add to this the evolving security threats, and it becomes clear why there is an urgent need to stay agile and forward-thinking. Innovation isn't just an option; it's essential for success.
At USACE, 'Building Strong' means continuously embracing innovation. It ensures that infrastructures are not just built but are durable even in the harshest conditions. It's about fortifying military facilities for the utmost security and streamlining project timelines for cost-efficiency. The Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Divisions’ commitment to innovative solutions is instrumental in achieving strategic objectives for both the U.S. and its allied nations in these regions.
Edward “Ted” Upson, the Transatlantic Division’s Engineering and Construction chief, outlined the division's approach in meeting the unique challenges of the CENTCOM AOR.
"The Transatlantic Division has risen to the diverse geographical challenges of the CENTCOM AOR," stated Upson. "Given the dynamic landscapes of our AOR, innovation becomes even more crucial as we strive to maintain a strategic competitive edge and support CENTCOM’s mission to promote stability and protect U.S. national security interests.
By leveraging new technologies and innovative ideas, we stay ahead in the face of both environmental and security challenges."
One of the most compelling examples of this innovative drive is the Transatlantic Division’s partnership with the USACE Engineer Research and Development Center. This collaboration extends beyond immediate solutions, enabling strategic reach back to the home front for advanced research and development capabilities.
"The Army Corps of Engineers possesses significant research capabilities," said Upson. "They not only help us develop innovative solutions swiftly, but they also provide us with a deep well of knowledge and expertise, which is crucial in addressing the unique challenges of the CENTCOM AOR."
This partnership has resulted in key initiatives such as the development of a groundbreaking 3D modeling system.
"We use this system to map and model remote areas of the CENTCOM AOR," Upson said. "This technology allows us to develop projects or present the terrain to potential contractors who can't conduct site visits due to remoteness or security situations."
Another significant project Upson highlighted is in collaboration with ERDC, "The Distributed Low-Energy Wastewater Treatment System is a scalable, somewhat mobile solution that effectively bridges the gap between basic wastewater systems and full-scale wastewater treatment plants. It's tailored for bases transitioning from expeditionary to permanent status."
“Projects like the Falcon-3 Facilities and Infrastructure, as well as the Falcon-5/F-15QA beddown support facilities under construction in Qatar, showcase our commitment,” Upson said. These facilities, which support the Qatar Emiri Air Force, incorporate advanced construction techniques, state-of-the-art infrastructure design, and modular construction methods.
It's all about enhancing flexibility and expediting construction processes," Upson continued. "These projects also stand as a testament to our division’s legacy of strong partnerships, especially with component commands such as U.S. Air Forces Central and the Air Force Security Assistance & Cooperation Directorate."
Building on that foundation of collaboration, the division's impact extends even further.
"Our division is unique compared to the rest of the Army Corps of Engineers," stated Col. William C. Hannan, Jr., Transatlantic Division commander. "We provide engineering, design, and construction not just for our nation and military partners, but also for allied nation mission partners through Foreign Military Sales, Security Cooperation initiatives, and related facilities and infrastructure design and construction, increasing capacity and enhancing security throughout the entire region."
Emphasizing the division's critical role, Hannan explained how capacity-building enhances regional security. "With military construction, we are increasing readiness and modernization through projects supporting the warfighter, enabling steady-state military operations, and sustaining our nation’s ability to fight and win wars, while also addressing the operational, training and maintenance needs of our allied nation partner’s military efforts, increasing interoperability and enabling sustainable security and continued stability within the region."
As the Transatlantic Division looks to the future, it is steadfast in its commitment to reinforcing its legacy of strong partnerships, embracing innovation, and building strong for decades to come.
"Our mission partners are pushing innovation as much as we are, and we’re working together to expand our capabilities and explore new technologies," Upson concluded. "Our legacy of enduring commitment to the region ensures that we continue to deliver innovative, resilient, and sustainable engineering solutions for our partners and allies."
A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on Sept 12. to celebrate the opening of the new Grafenwoehr Elementary School.
With the aid of half a dozen Grafenwoehr Elementary students, distinguished guests, and leaders across the military and Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA), the ribbon was cut, signifying the newest 21st-century school in Europe.
Dr. Michelle Howard-Brahaney, Director of Student Excellence for DoDEA Europe, stated it was designed to promote critical thinking, collaboration, communication, creativity, citizenship, and culture.
The new facility in Grafenwoehr will serve up to 400 preschool through fifth-grade students each school year. The Army Corps of Engineers and German contractors started building the school in 2018 and completed it with a soft opening in April 2023. Grafenwoehr Elementary School cost approximately $37.5 million to build. The school was built with ample space, transforming the traditional school into a global classroom concept in a two-story building.
The current students at the school will put together a time capsule that future generation of military connected children will open. “The future is firmly rooted in today. Today is significant for so many reasons with this new beautiful facility we have taken an important step in securing the future of the school and ensuring the DoDEA vision of providing excellent education for every student, every day, everywhere”, stated Howard-Brahaney.
The ceremony included remarks from the Director of Student Excellence for DoDEA Europe, Dr. Michelle Howard-Brahaney, current Principal of Grafenwoehr Elementary School, Michael Defrancesco, Brig. Gen Steven Carpenter, commander of the 7th Army Training Command, Col Daniel Kent, commander of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Europe District, the mayor of Grafenwoehr, and a 5th-grade student.
"This may be one of the nicest schools you attend," said Kent to the audience of 5th-grade students. He encouraged students to look for signs of how the school was built, stating the building itself is a teaching tool with cool secrets.
The school maintains the DoDEA’s continuing theme of 21st-century schools for 21st-century learning. 21st-century facilities allow educators to create flexible and adaptable spaces to facilitate multiple learning modes. Additionally, the school includes sustainability-related teaching tools, including a wind turbine, photovoltaic system, and energy dashboard depicting real-time energy consumption and generation data at the school that teachers can incorporate into lesson plans.
Some of the school's unique features include an interactive nature path, student-maintained gardens, amphitheater-style steps for music events and outdoor learning, and two playgrounds.
Carpenter closed with an old proverb, "Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere," expanding on it with, "If you dream more, you will learn more, then you will do more, and you will become more and, in that process, you will become more."
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Division made a significant impact at the U.S. Central Command's State Partnership Program Adjutant General Conference, held at the CENTCOM Headquarters, May 4-5, 2023.
Scott Cilley, the Transatlantic Division’s Plans and Operations chief, represented the division at the conference, which convened Adjutant Generals from Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia, along with senior CENTCOM officials and representatives from U.S. Army Central, U.S. Air Forces Central, U.S. Special Operations Command Central, U.S. Space Force Central, and the U.S. National Guard Bureau.
The event focused on synchronizing State Partnership Operations, Activities, and Investments for fiscal years 2023 and 2024, aligning them with CENTCOM priorities, and developing Theater Security Cooperation plans.
Cilley delivered a compelling presentation on the potential of the Transatlantic Division’s involvement in Theater Security Cooperation Operations, Activities and Investments which was well received by the approximately 80 participants.
"We can leverage the subject matter expertise of our 36,000 civilians across the USACE Enterprise to add value to Theater Security Cooperation Operations, Activities and Investments,” Cilley noted during his address. "There are literally hundreds of disciplines where USACE can contribute to enhance our relationships with our partners and allies."
Cilley went on to illustrate specific areas where the USACE could contribute to upcoming Operations, Activities and Investments for fiscal years 2023 and 2024, particularly in regions like Central Asia, the Persian Gulf, and the Levant.
“The Transatlantic Division can significantly contribute to Theater Security Cooperation workshops, forums, mil-to-mil exchanges, travelling contact teams, and key leader engagements with partners and allies,” Cilley continued. “Our expertise can assist in everything from water management to building partner capacity and infrastructure development. As part of our Theater Security Cooperation planning, we are strategically poised to augment existing State Partnership Program events across all regions in the CENTCOM area of responsibility. With this involvement, the division can foster closer ties with partners and allies, promote regional stability, and contribute to shared security objectives.”
Col. Craig S. Baumgartner, the Transatlantic Division deputy commander, expressed his commitment to the State Partnership Program.
"Our participation in this conference underscores our growing engagement with the State Partnership Program. Over the past 18 months, the Transatlantic Division has proactively reached out to all eight State Partnership Program senior leaders and coordinators, highlighting our potential contributions. The Adjutant Generals have warmly welcomed our value proposition, leading to plans for supporting Operations, Activities and Investments in Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan."
The conference's outcomes set the stage for USACE's upcoming attendance at the CENTCOM Security Cooperation Working Group scheduled in Germany, June 12-16, 2023.
The CENTCOM State Partnership Program is a key component of the U.S. defense strategy, fostering mutual cooperation and building long-term relationships with partner nations. It has been instrumental in strengthening military and civilian relationships between the U.S. and partner nations, enhancing regional stability, and contributing to a broader understanding of national and international security issues.