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Published on November 23rd, 2015 | by Millennium Magazine Staff

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US Army Central engineers vital to success

By Sgt. 1st Class Luke Graziani
USARCENT Public Affairs

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. – Ever since the American Revolution, engineers in the military have played a vital role in the success of our Nation and our Army. Then, as now, though the instruments they used were different, they would map terrain, build fortifications to protect fellow Soldiers from opposing forces, build bridges, and many other types of buildings and fortifications to protect the force and enhance their capabilities.

Since their inception engineers have been called upon to perform in some of the most inhospitable environments, under the worst imaginable conditions, and many times under direct or indirect fire. When the Army needs an engineer it has many occupational specialties within the Corps of Engineers to choose from: combat engineers, construction engineers, plumbers, firefighters, prime power, electricians, and carpenters to name a few. Engineers are so vital to a mission or operation that one of the arguably most elite fighting force in the world, the Special Forces, has engineers in their small 12-member teams.

Engineers assigned to United States Army Central are equally vital to the success of the overall mission here and abroad, and also in support of U.S. Central Command. USARCENT engineers are involved in nearly every order, strategy, or mission that is planned and executed across USARCENT’s area of responsibility. Everything from replacing temporary structures here at Patton Hall in South Carolina to building warehouses in Iraq.

“Much of what we do in the theater is related to USARCENT’s Campaign Plan line of effort – Set the Theater. Within this line of effort, engineers are important in assisting with facility and infrastructure development that support the Theater Army’s role within the CENTCOM AOR,” said Col. Jerry Farnsworth, of Sweet Home, Oregon, USARCENT chief, engineers. “Whether we are working to develop large-scale construction projects or assisting in quality of life upgrades for Soldiers within the AOR, engineers are an important enabler that support the busiest AOR in the world.”
When USARCENT was called to support operations overseas in Southwest Asia, USARCENT engineers were among the first to answer the call. Not long after settling in as ‘USARCENT Forward,’ they had to transition to the combined joint task force.

“Since I’ve been here, a large maintenance facility and the Army prepositioned stock warehouse expansion were approved,” said Lt. Col. Mark A. Winkler, USARCENT deputy engineer. “Another site for a missile defense battery to occupy and a mission training center were also approved for Shaw.”

“For a period of about 8-9 months, we served as both the Amy service component command and a combined joint task force. We had to manage the AOR and we had to manage everything going on in Iraq. The uniqueness of what that brought was we were dealing with everything from military construction and non-appropriated-funded cycle at the (Department of the Army) level to well drilling operations on Al Asad Air Base in Iraq.”

“Every meeting you go to, that’s related to missions in theater, the (commanding general) is likely to turn to engineers and say, ‘what’s the status on ______,’ and then (we) fill in the blank,” said Winkler. A hot topic the engineers are focused on is developing route clearance packages to be used in theater in case there is a call for them. This is where engineers use their vehicles and equipment to clear improvised explosive devices, vehicle parts and other obstacles that may be on the roadway. They also recently orchestrated the project to have Air Force personnel move into the headquarters building at Shaw Air Force Base.

No task is too small, or too big, for USARCENT engineers to tackle. They are the metaphorical Swiss Army knife of an organization; many specialties and every one useful to some degree or another.

Engineers are hard-wired to see an obstacle, attempt to overcome that obstacle, by any means necessary. Being an engineer at the Army service component command level is no different in many ways.

ASCC’s are operational headquarters that serve as Army components for combatant commands. An ASCC can be designated by the combatant commander as a joint forces land component command or joint task force.

“The commanding general of U.S. Army Central has been delegated several Title 10 authorities. The engineer directorate provides oversight on the CG’s behalf – environment, real estate and real property. “So on top of providing this oversight, we also work to shape policy in the AOR through coordination with Headquarters, Department of the Army,” said Farnsworth. “We work with these responsibilities and the full spectrum of engineer support in order to best support Warfighters throughout the AOR.”

It’s a difficult occupation. Compared to other MOSs in today’s Army this military occupational specialty is one of the Army’s most or more difficult, especially on the combat side.

“Every engineer that you run into is proud to be an engineer,” Winkler said. “It’s one of those specialties that everyone looks to for a certain set of expertise or abilities.” The senior noncommissioned officer of USARCENT engineers, Sgt. Maj. Derek O. Harvin, said he is proud of his section and his team.

“I’m very proud that I am value added to this directorate,” said Harvin. “A sergeant major has to find his way of contributing to the team. Because of my background as prime power, and because I brought a lot of prerequisite knowledge in contracting, I’ve been able to be value added to my staff members. As they execute those tasks I can actually advise with a little expertise, if you will.”

USARCENT engineers are present in every mission, every operation, and just about every meeting. Their technical knowledge and expert advice is readily available. A building doesn’t get built, a bridge couldn’t be constructed and an obstacle would surely be impassable without them.

The epitome of Army professionalism, the sergeant major said, “Less is more when it comes to speaking; I like to be known for what I do.”

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