USACE Supports Safe Military Infrastructure in Europe Through Bridge Inspections
By Christopher Gardner
USACE, Europe District
February 15, 2023
Engineers Gerardo Velazquez and Sabrina Kingston-Miles are two of several experts from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Engineer Research and Development Center that were inspecting bridges owned by the U.S. Army at installations throughout Germany at the end of 2022.
The routine inspections were done in support of the U.S. Army Installation Command’s Army Dams & Transportation Infrastructure Program and are part of ongoing efforts to ensure these key pieces of base infrastructure are properly maintained so they remain safe for their users. As needed, ERDC experts can also support IMCOM’s need for inspections of other infrastructure in the program as well, including dams, rail infrastructure, waterfront structures, airfields and more.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Physical Scientist Sabrina Kingston-Miles and Research Civil Engineer Gerardo Velazquez from the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center based in Vicksburg, Miss., conduct a routine inspection of a pedestrian bridge just outside of the Hainerberg portion of U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden in Germany September 12, 2022. They are part of a team of ERDC subject matter experts that are conducting routine inspections on all of the bridges in Germany owned by the U.S. Army in support of the Installation Management Command Europe’s Army Dams & Transportation Infrastructure Program.
(U.S. Army photo by Chris Gardner)
“The infrastructure covered by ADTIP provides the pathways needed to move the equipment from storage, link up the Soldiers with it, and enable them to move forward to conduct Army operations,” said Installation Management Command Europe Deputy Chief of Logistics Benjamin Witt. “Working with our partners in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers greatly enhances our ability to understand our facilities and to efficiently care for them. This ensures the facilities will be ready and able to serve effectively whenever called upon by the Army.”
Bridges recently inspected across Germany range from pedestrian bridges like the one here associated with U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden to railroad bridges like the ones common at the Miesau Army Depot in the Kaiserslautern Military Community to the many bridges traversed by heavy loads of tanks and other vehicles regularly training at the sites that make up U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria.
In Germany, the experts from ERDC recently inspected all of the more than 60 bridges at 10 sites in the Army’s inventory. Velazquez said the goal is to inspect them all at least every four years. These inspections, combined with data pulled from separate inspections conducted by local German authorities every five years or so, help with the planning and execution of maintenance projects for the bridges.
“When we’re inspecting these bridges as well as other infrastructure through the ADTIP program, we’re working as a part of IMCOM in support of their important missions to manage and maintain infrastructure for our Soldiers and their Families,” Velazquez said. “It’s a good feeling knowing that ERDC and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers can lend our expertise to our partners in IMCOM.”
Inspectors look for and document a wide range of potential deficiencies or signs of problems in the bridges and report their findings to the garrisons and IMCOM to help inform their maintenance efforts and long-term planning.
“Here in Germany and across Europe, it’s apparent during our inspections that the IMCOM-E and garrison teams are very proactive and do a great job of maintaining their bridges,” Velazquez said. “When we do find something over here, it’s usually in an early stage and is addressed fairly quickly to ensure the infrastructure remains safe and installations maintain readiness.”
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers experts support the ADTIP, and specifically bridge inspections, all over the world at installations across the United States as well as in Germany, Italy, Korea and anywhere else the U.S. Army owns bridges.
Velazquez noted that in addition to playing a key role in maintaining the Army’s bridges around the world, having the opportunity to inspect such a wide range of bridges – and bridge designs – helps the experts in ERDC’s Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory broaden their knowledge bases and benefits other missions.
This can be especially valuable as ERDC’s experts are regularly called upon to support troops deployed all over the world calling for assistance into the USACE Reachback Operations Center, or UROC. Soldiers coming across an unfamiliar or damaged bridge anywhere in the world can contact the UROC for quick, on-the-spot assistance. Using satellite imagery and observations relayed by troops on the ground they can assess the safety or traversing a bridge or recommend other options be looked into.
“We see stuff that gives us a broader background in different international designs and standards as well as different damage and maintenance issues to look for because we get calls from Soldiers in countries all over the world,” Velazquez said. “In addition to calls from Europe, Asia and elsewhere around the world, we also get calls from Soldiers supporting emergency responses in the states after say a hurricane or other disaster as well.”