No one likes to do the maintenance. That’s true whether talking about a house, a car or multi-million-dollar missile defense infrastructure. Or so says Brian Ball, the chief of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Middle East District’s (TAM) Procurements and Services Branch.
The branch can provide regular and corrective maintenance for facilities, equipment, procurement of spare parts & consumables, and new or replacement construction for facility related equipment, building renovations as well as training and professional services support.
“We build some really great facilities for our mission partners,” said Ball. “But even the best facilities only last if you maintain them. Our District has had a presence in the Middle East for over 70 years and some of our early projects are still around today. But we’ve also seen cases where we built something, no one does the maintenance on it, and even just a few years later its fallen into a state of disrepair.”
TAM is unique among USACE districts in that most of it’s work is done on behalf of U.S. allied nation partners. When the U.S. sells weapons systems or military equipment (aircraft, missile defense, etc.) through foreign military sales cases, those nations will often pay TAM to build the infrastructure for those systems. Using USACE helps ensure what’s known as a “total package approach and means that the FMS partner will not only receive the actual equipment but that the infrastructure to support it is built by an organization familiar with the requirements. It can also include follow on material such as spare parts and training to help ensure everything is kept in good working order.
Ball said that using his branch benefits his district and USACE as well as their mission partners.
“It's in our best interest to see the facilities we build reach their full service-life potential and not fall into disrepair,” Ball stated. “Our customers benefit from that increase in facility lifespan and from not having to dedicate their own time and personnel to maintenance activities. We benefit because these big, fancy, impressive buildings we’ve built remain in good condition and can serve as showpieces and points of advertisement for USACE’s design and construction quality.”
According to Ball, one of the biggest challenges of his job is convincing the district’s mission partners to use his services.
“It’s sometimes hard to measure success in a program that’s meant to prevent something bad from happening rather than just building something. What I will say is that I’ve yet to see an instance where a mission partner has asked us to stop providing O&M services on any facility once we’ve put a program in place."
Ball was also quick to attribute much of the success his branch to the district’s contracting section.
“Anything you could say about the uniqueness of our mission in (TAM) Programs and Project Management, you can say about them in the context of the USACE Contracting Community and our contracting section. “What we do is not unique but the expertise with which we are able to do it providing our mission partners with what they need when they need it is. This is something we’ve developed over time and we’d love to see utilized more and more.”
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."
Romanian and U.S. officials joined together at Air Base 71 today to celebrate the completion of three new facilities intended to increase the capacity of the Romanian Air Force base here to host operations in support of regional security. The three projects are part of a larger, more than $100 million construction program at the base funded through the United States’ European Deterrence Initiative.
Air Base 71 Commander, Romanian Air Force Brig. Gen. Micloş Cătălin-Eugen noted that though he only recently took command of the base he has spent a great deal of his career there and seeing the improvements means a lot to him.
“I have dealt with a lot of projects like this… building a new air base with squadron facilities, hangars, shelters and when I see this, I see the new face of this base,” said Micloş, who hosted the ceremony with U.S. military officials. “This is a growing base and everything is becoming better and better. I think in the air base history this is the best time ever. This project shows us how a special partnership should look like.”
Miclos was joined by U.S. Air Forces in Europe Director of Logistics, Engineering and Force Protection Col. Christopher Leonard, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Europe District Chief of Engineering and Construction Roger Vogler, U.S. Air Force Mission and Support Center Detachment 4 Commander Col. Richard Martin, U.S. Air Force 31st Fighter Wing Deputy Commander Col. Beau Diers, U.S. Air Force Maj. Emily Trop from the U.S. Embassy in Bucharest’s Office of Defense Cooperation and others to celebrate the recently completed projects and the partnership between the United States and Romania at the base.
“Today, we celebrate that commitment and recognize the strides we have made to develop the alliance’s infrastructure through $34 Million in military construction here at Campia Turzii, including parking aprons, a hangar, and the Squadron Operations Facility,” Leonard said. These facilities, along with another 9 Military Construction projects, will enable our partnership to secure regional stability, enhance interoperability between Romania and the United States, enable future joint exercises between our nations’ forces, and, if the need should arise, fight, and win together.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages the construction of the projects at Air Base 71, which are funded through the U.S. European Command’s European Deterrence Initiative using U.S. Air Force military construction funds. The projects are coordinated closely with the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Embassy in Romania and Romanian Air Force partners.
“Here in Campia Turzii, these new projects are part of a larger construction program we’re proud to be managing in close coordination with our Romanian, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Embassy partners that overall includes an investment of more than $100 million in projects on this great base and more than $220 million at military installations across Romania,” Vogler said. “The projects here at Air Base 71 and across Romania contribute to the readiness and responsiveness of U.S. forces in Europe, reinforce the collective defense and security of NATO allies, and support of our shared goals of regional security.”
The three recently completed projects include a new squadron operations facility, aircraft hangar and parking apron.
The squadron operations facility will be used as a nerve center for planning and directing missions operating from the base. The new, more than 1,300 square meter aircraft hangar includes space for an aircraft maintenance bay, other functions in support of aircraft and can support parking and maintenance for modern international aircraft used by NATO Allied air forces. The new parking apron provides space for the safe parking and maneuvering of several additional operational aircraft.
By increasing the capacity of the base for operations, these projects help ensure the base can support operations of U.S. and NATO aircraft and crews.
The more than $100 million in projects at Air Base 71 are part of more than $220 million in United States-funded European Deterrence Initiative construction the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is managing at Romanian military installations in close partnership with Romanian Allies. Additional investments outside of Air Base 71 are mostly at the Cincu Training Area and Air Base 57, commonly referred to by many as Mihail Kogălniceanu Air Base or MK Air Base.
On June 24, 1948, with the Cold War in its early stages, the Soviet Union blocked access for all supplies going into portions of West Berlin. This cut roughly 2 million people living there off from the most basic necessities. Gen. Lucius D. Clay was the commanding general of U.S. Army forces in Europe and the military governor of American zone in Germany at the time and quickly and decisively called for what is now known as the Berlin Airlift.
It was an ambitious idea and involved using war-torn infrastructure and limited resources to execute the largest airlift in history to provide basic necessities to the men, women and children living in the sectors of Berlin overseen by Western European allies. The newly formed U.S. Air Force made the first deliveries via the one runway available at Tempelhof Airstrip just two days later on June 26, 1948. Between June 26, 1948 and September 30, 1949, the airlift delivered more than 2.3 million tons of cargo according to the U.S. Air Force Historical Support Division. This included everything from food to medicine to coal to support those behind the blockade.
It was immediately obvious that more than one runway would be needed and U.S. Army engineers began work building two additional runways at Tempelhof Airstrip right away. The first new runway, along with taxiway improvements, were in use by September 1948 and the third runway was in use by Thanksgiving that same year.
While the improvements at Tempelhof were underway, crews also began building the new Tegel Airport on the site of a former German artillery range in August 1948. In addition to two new runways, crews there also built administrative facilities, a hangar, a warehouse, a control tower and more. The first new runway at Tegel Airport was operational by Christmas 1948 and the second was in use the next summer.
Maj. Gen. Norman Delbridge retired as the Deputy Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1986. In the earliest days of his career though, he was one of those Army engineers overseeing crews building and maintaining runways and other facilities at Tempelhof Airport and later Tegel Airport in Berlin.
Delbridge shared his experiences in Berlin with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Office of History in 1991 and provided a detailed look at the unique way Army engineers delivered key air infrastructure in war-torn West Berlin to ensure the success of the airlift.
“We had 20,000 (people) per shift and we worked 24 hours a day with lights, generator sets -- so there were 60,000 people,” Delbridge said. “We had more women than men that did all of the earth moving… and they moved the earth by hand.”
In all, records from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Office of History estimate that more than 9.8 million work hours went into the effort between military personnel and local Germans. Local Germans – mostly women according to Delbridge - accounted for the vast majority of that figure (more than 9.6 million work hours).
Delbridge said eventually they were able to incorporate small rail cars and earth movers to support operations and limited heavy equipment was also airlifted in over time.
“The Germans have these little, it looks like the mine cars, that can lay these little tracks all over everything, and that was how, essentially, they cleaned up the country after the war. They'd lay these little tracks and they'd throw the bricks in these little cars and push the cars by hand,” Delbridge said. “Well, on this site what you did was you laid the little tracks over… we’d pull together a group of people, generally mostly women -- there weren't very men left in Berlin during that time -- and they would go out there with shovels and they would shovel this sand into the little carts and push it where we said, and then dump it and go back.”
Delbridge also described using rubble from war-damaged Berlin as material for the base of the runways.
“We would find -- of course the whole city was level -- and so we tried to find as much of the bombed-out buildings that had little structural steel in it,” Delbridge said. “We would load these little two-and-a-half-ton dump trucks with this rubble from wherever we could… there was very, very little in the way of the major buildings standing, so there was lots of rubble. But you just tried to find that which was clean. And we brought it in and we laid it down on the runway, in 10 inch lifts.”
They would then use dozers going back and forth to break the material and then they would compact it and grade it. Between both airports, they brought in and used an estimated 755,000 cubic yards of brick rubble.
That initial layer was then covered with additional layers including asphalt that had to be flown in and a surface coat made from fine crushed cobblestones gathered from the cleaning up of the city followed by a “quick, fine” seal coat. Approximately 2.2 million gallons of asphalt was flown into Berlin and used for the new runways.
In the years after Berlin, Delbridge commanded several other U.S. Army Corps of Engineers offices all over the world, including operations in Turkey (now part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Europe District’s mission) from 1960 to 1963, the Pittsburgh District from 1972 to 1975, the Europe Division (now the Europe District) from 1976 to 1978 and the Pacific Ocean Division from 1978 to 1980.
While the Berlin Airlift was near the beginning of Delbridge’s career, the man known for calling for the airlift and administrating it was wrapping up his illustrious military career at the time. Most people don’t realize though that Gen. Lucius D. Clay was a key leader with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers prior to his World War II and post-war heroics and he credits his time with the Corps of Engineers for his later successes.
Before World War II, Clay was serving at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Headquarters in Washington, D.C. The 1930s was transformative for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, with its mission greatly expanding as a result of the Flood Control Act of 1936.
“The flood control act made the Corps of Engineers into a much broader engineering organization than it had been because it involved it for the first time in the construction of major dams and reservoirs,” Clay told historians in a 1977 interview. “Up to that time we had only constructed reservoirs and things of that type and kind as a part of a channelization approach and not as part of a flood control approach.”
As part of that growing mission, Clay was sent to Texas to oversee the construction of the Denison Dam on the Red River to supply water, hydropower and reduce flood risks near the border of Texas and Oklahoma.
Then Capt. Clay set up the now-defunct U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Denison District essentially from scratch and went to work. He said that experience helped prepare him for his later roles.
“I think this is where you really get the experience that helps the engineer officer in war,” Clay told historians, referring to being assigned to Denison to build a District and a dam. “I was sent to Denison, Texas to build Denison Dam by myself. I went out and looked at a river where there wasn’t any water. I immediately began to borrow men from other organizations, other Districts.”
He said he pulled engineers from construction of what is now known as the Conchas Dam in New Mexico where construction was winding down, personnel from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Little Rock District and other places and within a few months had an operational organization.
Together, the team he pulled together oversaw construction of what at the time would be the largest rolled-earth fill dam in the United States. Today, the dam is still operated by the U.S. Army Corps pf Engineers, Tulsa District and is generally better known as Lake Texoma, the name of the lake created by its impounded water.
To this day the dam still supplies water for millions of people living in an arid region, produces up to 100 megawatts of hydropower energy to customers of Rayburn Country and the East Texas Electric Cooperative power companies in the surrounding communities thanks to upgrades over the years and has prevented an estimated $844 million in damages through its flood risk management benefits.
Clay credits his experience both managing large-scale infrastructure projects and having to do so with limited support to begin with for his successes later in his career.
“I owe everything I have in life to the Corps of Engineers,” Clay told historians when asked if his time with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers served him well later in life.
While Delbridge was working in Berlin, the materials flown there were coming from airfields in West Germany. Much of that came from the Wiesbaden Air Base, which is still in use today and is located on what is now Lucius D. Clay Kaserne – part of the larger U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden.
In fact, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Europe District – headquartered in Wiesbaden - is currently managing the replacement of the airfield’s air traffic control tower so it can continue to support U.S. military operations going forward.
The air traffic control tower is just one of 100s of projects the Europe District is managing in Europe as well as in Israel and Africa supporting regional security.
“From the beaches of Normandy to the Berlin Airlift through the Cold War and now through the delivery of our more than $7 billion design and construction program across Europe – Army engineers have a legacy of delivering solutions when called upon in Europe,” said Europe District Commander Col. Pat Dagon. “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is proud of our role in that legacy and delivering for U.S. forces, allies and partners.”
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.