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Engineers helping restore Iraqi border posts, police stations

By BJ Weiner

AL BASRAH, Iraq (Army News Service, Dec. 2, 2004) -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is helping boost law and order in Iraq through construction and refurbishing of military facilities, border posts, police stations and fire stations, said Col. Roger Gerber, commander of the Corps' Gulf Region Southern District.

"We now have to rebuild Iraq's strength," said Anton Datillo, construction manager for a sector under the Corps' Southern District.

Datillo cited the border post project as an example of the first step to protecting the country from the influx of insurgents. About 94 border posts are either under construction or complete, he said, explaining that construction continues on Iraq's borders with Iran, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia in the south.

Iraq's border posts along the Saudi border are manned on a rotational basis, Datillo said, adding that the Iraqi border police seem to be "very self-reliant. I'm amazed how anyone is able to facilitate himself at these locations. We were visiting a site and got a flat tire. They fixed it for us, with seemingly no tools, in the dark and got us on our way again very quickly."

The head border officer, a brigadier general, makes final selections of the sites, according to Datillo. His assistants and he involve themselves in all aspects of the project, and make the final site and construction selections, within the funding limitations.

"The general has asked the primary contractor for construction that would allow supply loading and unloading at the entry points for the posts," said Datillo. "He would also like to see the roads refurbished and built to allow easier access for the border police to patrol the borders. He remains very involved in the construction process."

Refurbishing police stations also remains a big focus of the reconstruction, according to Datillo. At least 27 stations and 10 vehicle check points have been identified in a province in southern Iraq. Moreover, police cadet training has started on a military base in south central Iraq, and work continues on the many police stations in the southern district. Teams have started to assess the needs in different areas, and a direct funding apparatus has been put in place in order to enable rapid construction of the facilities.

Five fire station sites have been identified, and 13 more are being assessed in both the Maysan and Basrah provinces. "One is a new project and the other four are renovations," Datillo said. "As for the others, we need to wait until the assessments come in."

He added that the Corps "is currently working with the MND-SE (Multi-National Division Southeast: British forces) to prioritize these facilities."

"One of the privileges I have had is being able to organize and attend project delivery team meetings in the provinces," Datillo said. "We are starting to meet the people who are in the ministries and government. It's starting to pay off, because now we can go into an area and adjust our construction strategy to where it is needed."

The leaders of the different provinces and ministries have given lists of areas where their concerns lie, Datillo said.

"Now we can expedite things and have gotten some of the restrictions, at least from our organization, lifted on some of these projects," Datillo said. "Before now, the process hadn't been clearly defined on either side - not by our process or by the Iraq process. But now, I think hopefully, we're getting quick results."

(Editor's note: BJ Weiner serves with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer Gulf Region District South.)


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