Bridging Cultures and Meeting the Mission: A Filipino Engineer’s Journey with the Transatlantic Middle East District

Ryan Manalo Alaman, a mechanical engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Transatlantic Middle East District (TAM), has spent 13 years working with the Bahrain Resident Office. Alaman’s role as a foreign service national positively impacts both local communities in the Middle East and broader U.S. strategic interests. His adaptability to diverse working conditions enhances TAM’s mission effectiveness.

Reflecting on his journey, Alaman acknowledges the historical support the U.S. provided to the Philippines, motivating his contributions to U.S. government missions abroad.

Alaman says, “Once upon a time, the U.S. government helped my country during the Japanese occupancy and implemented a universal formal education system, which helped increase the number of Filipinos working in business, educational, and governmental sectors. In return, I proudly serve the U.S. government and their mission working for TAM.”

Originally from the Philippines, Alaman’s journey into engineering began during a high school tour of an open-pit mining company.

“I noticed a well-dressed man without any dirt on his hands and face, which was not typical of people working in the mining industry,” Alaman recalls. “I asked my teacher, ‘Who is that person and how come he is so clean and supervising those workers?’ My teacher responded, ‘He is the mechanical engineer and a supervisor in that department.’ From that day on, I promised myself that I would be like him in the future.”

Ryan Manalo Alaman, a foreign national and mechanical engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Transatlantic Middle East District (TAM). USACE PHOTO BY SHANNON MOECK

That moment ignited Alaman’s interest in mechanical engineering, leading him to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering at Saint Louis University in Baguio City, Philippines. After completing his degree and passing the Engineering Board Exam, he officially became a mechanical engineer, laying the groundwork for his professional career.

Growing up near the U.S. Naval Base in Subic Bay, Alaman was familiar with the presence and influence of the U.S. military. This familiarity fostered a desire to work with the U.S. military as a civilian. While working in Bahrain for an international engineering firm on high-rise building projects, Alaman saw a job advertisement that seemed like the dream opportunity. Seizing the opportunity, he applied and secured the position.

“I always aspired to work with the U.S. military,” Alaman recalls. “When I saw the job posting for Naval Support Activity Bahrain (U.S. Naval 5th Fleet) looking for a Foreign National Mechanical Engineer with USACE, I didn’t think twice. It was the perfect opportunity to align my career with my aspirations.”

Alaman’s role at TAM has evolved over the years. Initially, he served as a Quality Assurance (QA) mechanical engineer, ensuring construction works met USACE’s rigorous standards through meticulous three-phase inspections. His dedication and expertise led to his promotion to Project Engineer. In that capacity he ensured that safety, quality, and contract requirements are met within budget and schedule constraints for various construction projects USACE does for the U.S. Navy in the region. As a Contracting Officer’s Representative (COR), he monitors contractors’ performance, making sure they adhere to contract terms.

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“Being COR is a very delicate job,” he says. “I make sure to monitor the contractor’s performance specified in the appointment letter without making any commitments or changes that will affect the contract.”

Alaman’s work on military bases in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia significantly contributes to TAM’s mission of ensuring high-quality construction executed safely and on time, benefiting U.S. military and allied nation partners in the region.

Whether working on things such as housing and medical facilities that provide a better quality of life for U.S. military in the region or supporting U.S. mission partners national defense needs, Alaman says his work gives him a great sense of purpose.

“I have worked on Bahrain and Saudi military bases on U.S. military and allied nation projects,” he said. “I’m proud to provide our mission partners with the absolute best product I can.”

A group of diverse USACE TAM employees and contractors pose for a photo at a project site. The image highlights their unity and collaboration, reflecting a strong commitment to their shared mission. USACE PHOTO BY SHANNON MOECK

Working in an international environment, Alaman has honed his ability to navigate cultural differences and collaborate effectively with colleagues from diverse backgrounds. His quick learning and respect for various cultural beliefs have facilitated smooth cooperation in achieving project goals. As a Filipino professional, Alaman is proud to represent both his home country and the United States, especially during Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Month. His participation highlights the importance of diversity and and the value different perspectives bring to the organization.

“Being able to work with colleagues from various backgrounds has enriched my professional experience,” Alaman says. “Respecting and understanding cultural differences is key to successful collaboration.”

His journey from a high school student inspired by a mechanical engineer to a key player in TAM’s operations is a testament to dedication, hard work, and the power of education. His contributions as a Filipino engineer not only fulfill his personal dreams but also enhance TAM’s mission, demonstrating the profound impact of diversity and the essential role of our foreign service nationals in supporting TAM’s projects.

“In every project, I see a chance to make a difference,” Alaman concludes. “It’s about building futures and bridging cultures, one engineering project at a time.

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