Posts Tagged ‘Gulf Region Division’

A New Era in Iraq

October 26th, 2009

On Friday, we inactivated our division headquarters in Iraq, the Gulf Region Division, which I’ve mentioned in this blog several times. This is good news! It means we’ve come a long way, and that we’re that much closer to being able to leave the country much better than we found it.

Maj. Gen Michael Eyre (left) and Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Mitch Prater (center) prepare to case the United States Army Corps of Engineers’ Gulf Region Division colors during an inactivation ceremony at Al Faw Palace, Baghdad, Iraq.

Maj. Gen Michael Eyre (left) and Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Mitch Prater (center) prepare to case the United States Army Corps of Engineers’ Gulf Region Division colors during an inactivation ceremony at Al Faw Palace, Baghdad, Iraq.

From the day the division stood up on January 25, 2004, our selfless, dedicated team of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Civilians and contractors has been helping to rebuild a war-torn nation that had few essential services.  Today, GRD has completed more than 5,200 projects that are providing electricity, clean water, transportation, police and fire stations, medical care, educational opportunities and – most importantly – hope, to the people of Iraq. 

I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has deployed in support of our mission in Iraq, past and present – AND their Families – I am so unbelievably proud of your service – and your accomplishments!

We are not finished in Iraq – in fact – we still have two district offices – the Gulf Region District and Gulf Region South district – which have a lot of work to do to finish up our efforts there and complete our remaining projects. But, the division inactivation brings us one step closer to closing this chapter, and opening another – one that we hope will include a life-long, positive, diplomatic relationship between our two great nations. 

In addition to the inactivation of GRD today, yesterday we dedicated the USACE compound on Camp Victory, Iraq – now officially designated “Camp Wolfe” in honor of Navy Cmdr. Duane Wolfe. Wolfe was the officer-in-charge of the Al-Anbar Area Office, who was killed when an improvised explosive device (IED) struck the vehicle he was riding in outside of Fallujah, Iraq, earlier this year.  The designation ceremony was broadcast live via the internet to Wolfe’s family and friends in Los Osos, CA. Two other friends of GRD were killed in that attack, Terry Barnich, the deputy director of U.S. State Department’s Iraqi Transition and Assistance Office, and a USACE employee from the Jacksonville District – Dr. Maged Hussein, who was serving as director of the Office of Water Resources, Public Works and the Environment at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

Cindi Wolfe, wife of Cmdr. Duane Wolfe, speaks to the guests via the internet at the ceremony to rename the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers compound on Camp Victory in honor of her husband.

Cindi Wolfe, wife of Cmdr. Duane Wolfe, speaks to the guests via the internet at the ceremony to rename the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers compound on Camp Victory in honor of her husband.

We have come a long way in Iraq – but at great sacrifice. Today, as we look forward to a bright future for Iraq, those people who remain deployed in service of this great nation – and their Families – are very much in my prayers.

Contingency Operations, International and Interagency Services, Iraq , , , ,

Iraq Reconstruction

February 13th, 2008
(Originally Posted Feb 13, 2008) 
When I first took command, I sat down with all of my senior leaders and developed the priorities and tenets that will drive this organization during my tenure. One of the tenets was to have transparent communication, and thanks to technology, that’s easier than I thought!  So I’d like to dedicate my first posting to one of our Corps priorities – supporting the Global War on Terror.
A couple of weeks ago, I visited the Corps offices in Iraq and was able to tour a few of the projects our dedicated servicemembers, Civilians and contractors are working so hard on. I was there to mark the Gulf Region Division’s (GRD) 4th anniversary in Iraq, and it was awe inspiring to reflect on how much this organization has done for Iraq and its people. With more than 800 Civilian and military personnel currently deployed to the region, we have completed more than 4,300 projects along side some 40,000 Iraqis. When talking with our teammates at GRD, I found that their experiences in Iraq have given them a new and positive perspective on life. I am humbled by their sacrifices.
We had big plans for the trip with lots of projects to see, but unfortunately, the weather had other things in mind, so we had to pass on some of our original scheduled site visits. But in addition to our time in Baghad at GRD, I was able to visit Balad Air Base and As Sulaymaniyah.
One project I’d like to talk about is the renovation of Cham Chamal Prison in As Sulaymaniyah, in northeast Iraq. The facility was built years ago under Saddam Hussein, who used it as a prison to lock away thousands of Kurds; still a very sensitive subject for the Kurdish people in the region. Today, a Kurdish contractor is doing the renovations and upgrades, and work is well under way and on schedule, to make it into a high security confinement facility that the government of Iraq can use for years to come.
But one thing you just don’t see much of in the mainstream media, is the quality of life improvements I was able to see first hand: busy streets, markets overflowing with fruits and vegetables, and people going about their daily routines – all very positive signs of progress for that region.
Throughout Iraq, there is major progress to report. The country has more capacity to generate power today than during the Saddam Regime, and we’re spreading it more equitably across the country. Our efforts have almost doubled Iraq’s ability to generate power. There are families in Anbar Province that have never had power before – and now they do! Essential services, like hospitals, water sewage pump stations and fire stations have power 24 hours a day. There’s a 3 tiered approach to distribution, which is that first, essential services get power, then what remains is filtered to the government buildings, and then to the residents and private businesses, so that’s why some people, in Baghdad for example, who used to get power all the time, are experiencing less than before – but throughout the country it is a major improvement.
Add to that the fact that we are chasing an ever-changing goal – demand has increased more than 70 percent since 2004 because Iraqis are purchasing more energy-intensive products such as air conditioners, refrigerators, computers and other electronics. This is a good thing! It means the economy is growing stronger.
I was really disappointed that we were unable to visit the Basrah Children’s Hospital, which was one of the stops nixed for weather issues. But, the progress there is really promising – it’s now close to 80% complete. Along with Project HOPE, we are committed to complete the hospital project on schedule, and I am going to try again next time to be able to see it in person.
Looking ahead to the future, we remain committed to integrating Iraqi women and women-owned businesses as a component of building the workforce and infrastructure as Iraq gets closer to managing all of these services on its own.
In my view, winning in Iraq and Afghanistan takes more than military efforts alone. The work our leaders and teammates are doing on the infrastructure, in direct coordination with the Iraqi ministries, is building capacity and strengthening their own capabilities. I am extremely proud of the men and women of the Corps, who have a key role in this fight.
Thanks for letting me share my thoughts with you. I look forward to the dialog!
Best, Van

Contingency Operations, Corps Projects, Infrastructure, International and Interagency Services, Iraq, Military Programs , , , , , , , , , , , , ,