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CALL Newsletter 04-13
Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF)
CAAT II Initial Impressions Report (IIR)

Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF)
CAAT II Initial Impressions Report (IIR)

Chapter 3: Engineer
Topic E: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)

Observation Synopsis

One of the most formidable challenges faced by a maneuver commander during Operation Iraqi Freedom was that of establishing a forward operating base. After an area of operations was secured, forward operating bases had to be established to house and support troop occupation as well as provide adequate force protection. These facilities were constructed in urban areas with many fixed structures and areas completely void of any hardened structures. Commanders had to make decisions concerning base camp footprint, resource requirements to construct each camp, and facilities to support the Soldier. Decisions had to be made concerning the utilization of containerized troop housing versus tent cities. Electrical and communications grids had to be designed and constructed. Water for shower facilities had to be piped to the correct areas and gray water accumulated at the proper discharge points. Dining facilities had to be constructed to protect food processing areas and troop service areas. And once completed, these facilities had to be maintained for extended durations.

Because of the size of the battlefield, commanders have had to develop many separate plans and requirements for beddown of Soldiers in the area of operations. These plans include the layout of the basecamp, the type of facilities necessary to support the Soldiers during their occupation, and the cost of completing the facilities. USACE recognized early on that the commander, with his many and varied requirements, might need help in designing and developing basecamps. This provided the incentive to develop the base development team (BDT) to do contingency master planning for base camps. Unfortunately, most commanders were/are not aware of the best method for contacting U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). In addition, many felt that the cost of using USACE was not justified. USACE needs to improve the communication process so that maneuver commanders know how to reach the right person with the right question. This communications simplification should reap broad benefits for USACE as long as the products/services that USACE provides can be shown to add value to the finished product/objective.

TOE units do not have a good grasp of the capabilities of the USACE. They are focused on the mission capabilities of combat engineers. Units have described USACE capabilities as that of a large organization managing infrastructure in CONUS such as lakes, rivers, and dams. They know that some mapping and aerial photography capability is provided by the corps. In addition, there is general knowledge that the corps is involved at a very high level with reconstruction of infrastructure in the AOR. Some units were familiar with the FEST capability because they had worked with a team during a war-fighter exercise or during Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). At the division level, FEST-A (augmenting) resources have been used in some instances to support BDE level construction efforts. Task Force (TF) Restore Iraqi Oil (RIO) and TF Restore Iraqi Electricity (RIE) have been recognized by many as being the major players in accomplishing those missions with civilians, but much outside of the war-fighter efforts and activities.

To achieve the best utilization of USACE, LNOs need to be embedded at the brigade and battalion level. USACE LNOs would provide the communications link necessary for reach-back and would open the door for problem solving using the many and varied centers of expertise the corps brings to the table. The portable tele-engineering kit used by corps LNOs provides the link-up to these centers of expertise in both a secure and non-secure mode. It not only allows for real time visual communication, but can be used to send data from stateside to the AOR without using internet capability.

Providing these LNOs with a contracting warrant and the capability to originate and develop both large and small projects would significantly enhance the war fighter's ability to use any funding pool made available. The amount of money saved in the past would have more than paid for any cost associated with using the resources available from USACE.

In one BCT's AO, security for route #1 is a high priority. Several abandoned structures along this route provide cover and concealment for potential sniper operations. One structure in particular has been recognized as a prime sniper location. On more than one occasion, convoys and BDE personnel have been the target for small arms fire. The dilemma faced by the commander was how to secure this structure to eliminate the sniper problems. Sending a team to constantly police the building was out of the question due to lack of personnel. The best alternative was the destruction of the building. Two alternatives were evaluated to complete the destruction of the building. The first alternative for leveling the building was through the use of air bombardment. Issues of collateral damage to the roadway and other structures and possible injury to civilians made this solution difficult to execute. The second alternative focused on a controlled demolition of the structure using C-4 or other explosives. The problem faced by the brigade centered around engineering expertise on how and where to place charges to affect a total collapse, how much explosive needed to be placed at each critical location, and what work would be needed to clean up the site after demolition.

The brigade asked the division engineer for help in solving the problem. The division did not have the structural engineers or explosive experts to develop a solution. The division reached back to USACE at its headquarters, stateside. USACE immediately forwarded the request for help to their center of expertise on demolitions and explosives. Structural engineers were called in to review photos of the building and determine the critical explosive locations. Other engineers determined the explosives necessary to drop the structure. Within a matter of days, the solution and subsequent results were forwarded back to the division HQ. The division was very complimentary to USACE for their quick response.

Lessons Learned

  • Liaison with the corps should be directed through the FEST-A embedded with the division
  • Simplifying communications between maneuver commanders and USACE is an important objective.
  • Engineering expertise in the areas of base camp development is a plus to maneuver commanders. USACE has this expertise, but has to get the message out to the commanders in the AOR.
  • Embedded USACE LNOs would enhance communications between USACE and the BCT commanders.
  • FESTs bring added value to the AOR. Technical assistance to the division commander and the ability to reach back has been invaluable. This capability needs to be better advertised to the commanders in the AOR.
  • Forward engineer teams (FETs) would be a valuable asset for base camp facility management prior to the arrival of contract operations.
  • Demolition of structures may cause extensive collateral damage and injury to civilians if not done correctly.
  • The USACE has experts in structural engineering and explosive demolitions.
  • Response time for solutions from the USACE is rapid after base information is received and the problem identified.
  • USACE needs to educate leaders at all levels about resources they bring to the table.
  • USACE needs to be more flexible in providing those resources to insure that there is value added in their contributions.
  • USACE LNOs need to be attached at every HQ and those LNOs have to be aggressive in advising and assisting commanders at all levels.
  • The expertise USACE has in the contracting arena needs to be distributed to all levels of command. These contract agents need to be both civilian and military to be able to adequately support the manuever commander.
  • The tele-engineering kit is an asset that commanders at all levels could profit by. Information concerning its capabilities and reach-back potential both in secure and unsecure environments must be advertised. This includes its portable capability.

Table of Supporting Observations


Observation Title CALLCOMS
File Number
USACE mission in the AOR 10000-91728
Reach-back to USACE 10000-03667
Utilization of FETs and FESTs 10000-05292
Contract support 10001-37280
BDTs 10000-92308

Table of Contents
Chapter 3-Topic D: Commander's Emergency Response Program (CERP) Contracts and Construction
Chapter 4: Combat Service Support




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