“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ response to Sept. 11, 2001, began on day one. Only a few hours after the terrorists struck, engineers from Corps of Engineers’ headquarters in Washington, D.C., went to the Pentagon to assess the damage, and personnel from North Atlantic Division and New York District made their way to the World Trade Center to assist rescue efforts and begin planning the ensuing support operations,” said Bernard Tate, Corps’ headquarters, in a recent article about deployments.
He added that Corps personnel have served in Afghanistan and Iraq in every capacity short of combat. The Corps’ mission to support the Overseas Contingency Operation, or OCO, in rebuilding the countries’ infrastructure has been unprecedented in size and scope. Kris Fairbanks, OCO deployment manager and district family readiness coordinator, said the Corps has deployed approximately 9,000 civilian employees to Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003, and the district’s contribution to this effort has been significant.
Support to the OCO mission from the district began with the first deployment in April 2003. Since then, the St. Paul District has deployed 81 employees on 128 deployments, 25 have served more than one deployment and 21 employees have served more than one-year terms. Throughout the history of this program, the district has provided employees who have filled a vast variety of positions in-theater to include IT-specialists, construction representatives, administrative assistants, program managers, electrical engineers, safety and occupational health specialists, realty specialists and the commander of the Afghanistan District, to name a few.
Since the first deployee left the district to support the mission, Fairbanks said the only thing that has remained constant has been change. Deployments changed from primarily Iraq to exclusively Afghanistan; deployment durations have changed from three months to six month/one-year mandates; and deployees began leaving originally from Fort Bliss, Texas, until the development of the Corps’ Deployment Center in Winchester, Va. Deployees are again departing from Fort Bliss since the Corps’ Deployment Center closed in September 2013. Additional changes included building Family Readiness programs for Army civilians.
Fairbanks said there have been many changes to the program, but St. Paul District employees have stood ready to meet the ever-changing needs of the mission. “Although funding has been in short-supply for the support of this priority program, the district has answered the call. We meet the requirements of deployment cycle support and provide deployees with a family readiness program that is supported by the generosity of the entire district.”
The St. Paul District currently has five employees and two Rock Island District employees who are physically located in the St. Paul District, deployed to Afghanistan. The commitment of these individuals and all who have served both the Corps and their country are to be commended, said Fairbanks.