Army Corps of Engineers Helps to Restore Iraqi Facilities
By BJ Weiner
Special to American Forces Press Service
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Dec. 3, 2004 The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working to help rebuild Iraq's infrastructure and to help restore law and order by building and refurbishing military facilities, border posts, and police and fire stations.
"There are some aspects of military training that fall under the Security and Justice Sector," said Anton Datillo, construction manager for the sector in the southern district. "There is a big push for training and prisons. We now have to rebuild Iraq's strength. We are already using the new Iraqi army in Fallujah and other hot spots. Their military is strong."
Datillo said Iraq's border-post project is one of the first steps to protecting the country from the influx of insurgents. Construction continues on the borders between Iraq and Iran, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. More than 90 border posts are either under construction or complete, he said.
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."
He said he is amazed at how the border police seem able to handle anything. "We were visiting a site and got a flat tire," Datillo related. They fixed it for us -- with seemingly no tools, in the dark -- and got us on our way again very quickly."
The head Iraqi border officer, a brigadier general, makes final selections of border-post sites, according to Datillo. The general and his assistants involve themselves in all aspects of the project and make the final site and construction selections within the funding limitations.
"(The general) would also like to see the roads refurbished and built to allow easier access for the border police to patrol the borders," Datillo said. "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 checkpoints have been identified for refurbishment in a province in southern Iraq.
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 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 working with the Multinational Division Southeast, led by British forces, to prioritize these facilities.
"We are starting to meet the people who are in the ministries and government," Datillo said. "It's starting to pay off, because now we can go into an area and adjust our construction strategy to where it is needed. It is all about developing relationships and listening to the people tell us what they need and where they need it."
He said there are areas in which sites have already been identified and that the leaders of the different provinces and ministries have given lists of areas where their concerns lie.
"Now we can expedite things and have gotten some of the restrictions, at least from our organization, lifted on some of these projects," he 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."
(BJ Weiner is assigned to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region District South.)